Here we present our list of 20 favorite, super cool kid movie breakthrough performances - which actually includes both of our young stars, and 18 more to seek out and adopt!
Henry Thomas (E.T.)
Tear duct alert! Here comes Henry Thomas as Elliot, the boy who forms a special and life-changing friendship with alien E.T. in Steven Spielberg's classic sci-fi adventure. Thomas has managed to stay active, too, appearing in more than 40 films and snagging prime roles in projects like Legends of the Fall and Gangs of New York.
Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland)
As Peter Llewelyn Davies, the irrepressible kid whom "Peter Pan" writer J.M.
Barrie takes under his wing, Freddie Highmore makes such an impression that he
literally equals, in this humble opinion, the Oscar-nominated lead performance of
superstar Johnny Depp. There's a key scene at the end, with Depp and
Highmore on a bench, that is literally as good as cinema gets.
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)
It seems fairly obvious six movies in, but once upon a time, no one knew if
Daniel Radcliffe had the proper wizarding chops to pull off the big screen version
of literature's most famous child magician. So, it was with a huge sigh of relief
and much excited fan fervor to discover that there could only have been one Mr.
Harry Potter. No matter where he goes from here, we'll always remember Radcliffe as
the bespectacled Boy Who Lived.
MacCaulay Culkin (Home Alone)
Commercially speaking, it would be hard to find a bigger kid movie breakthrough
than MacCaulay Culkin's charming of the world-wide masses in John Hughes' first
Home Alone. Spirited, spunky, full of good and creative charm, Culkin had
us at an "aaaarghhhh" when he prematurely applied that aftershave to his
prepubescent, non-existent facial hair.
Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam)
Forget the Dakota Fanning who's become part of the high profile Twilight
franchise, and load your Netflix queue with this early effort co-starring Sean
Penn. As the six-year-old daughter of Penn's disabled Sam Dawson, she's a genuine
miracle - realistic, endearing and completely heartbreaking. We defy you to keep
the tears from flowing as this special father/daughter relationship - two
peas in a pod - struggles and triumphs against the powers that be.
Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire)
It must be tough to hold your own, let alone convey a tangible sense of world-
weariness, when you're surrounded by Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Christian Slater and
Antonio Banderas, and you're only 10-years-old. Kirsten Dunst, though, showed no
sense of nerves or jitters in her breakthrough role as vampire Claudia, who's stuck
through the centuries with her morose, heartthrob fellow bloodsuckers.
Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)
She showed her sassy side in 2009's Zombieland, but this prime time
youngster (she's still only 14) hit it big with her role as the title player in
Little Miss Sunshine. Critics and audiences responded to the endearing
Olive, and so did the Academy - making Breslin the fourth youngest nominated for
an Oscar for Supporting Actress.
Corey Haim (Lucas)
Anyone who doubts the late Corey Haim's acting talents should revisit his
role as Lucas, one of the most original teenagers ever created for
the big screen. He's lovable, he's infuriating, he's 100% real. It's sad now to
watch the scene where he's lying in the hospital hoping he'll still know pined-for
Maggie in the decades to come. But even more, Haim's is a timeless performance worth cheering.
Tatum O'Neal (Paper Moon)
She's still the youngest actor - age 10 at the time - to win an Oscar. It's been a
long and rocky road since then for Tatum O'Neal, who's been pretty absent on the
movie scene since the 1970s, but there is a very good reason she won the Academy
Award - she's absolutely priceless as the grifter-in-training
daughter of con man dad and real-life father Ryan O'Neal.
Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense)
If empathy for another human being could be bottled up and sold, then Haley Joel
Osment, playing the kid who sees dead people, would be a rich, rich human being. To millions upon millions, he'll forever be known as Cole Sear, the kid whom we pray Bruce Willis
will be able to help in The Sixth Sense.
River Phoenix (Stand By Me)
There's an eerie scene at the end of Stand By Me when River Phoenix's
reluctant group leader, Chris Chambers, waves goodbye to his friend and fades into
the air. Unfortunately, the seminal actor also died before his time at the
tender age of 23. His breakthrough work in Rob Reiner's coming-of-age tale lives
on, and is a reminder why this sensitive actor made an indelible impression on his generation.
Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver)
Just barely a teenager, Jodie Foster appeared in three films in 1976: Bugsy
Malone, Freaky Friday and Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. No
offense to Bugsy's Scott Baio, or the wholesome, fun Disney appeal of
Friday, but there was just something so supremely uncomfortable and
disturbing about Foster's turn as a child prostitute that it became forever etched
in our brain cells.
Anna Paquin (The Piano)
You may know her now as Sookie Stackhouse on HBO's "True Blood," but once upon a
time, before she was the object of bloodlust for Bon Temps' vampires, Anna Paquin
was drawing raves and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in The
Piano - all at the young age of 11.
Natalie Portman (The Professional)
Now causing a stir in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, Natalie Portman
arrived on the scene in full stride as a tough-talking 13-year-old who loses
her family and is taken in by assassin Leon (Jean Reno) in Luc Besson's The
Professional. The almost 30-year-old has continued to be amazing in films
as varied as Heat, Beautiful Girls, Garden State,
Closer and V for Vendetta.
Leonardo DiCaprio (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?)
It seems like eons ago. Way back in 1993,
two of moviedom's greatest titans, Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio,
co-starred as brothers in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Depp was the
headliner, but anyone who's seen it will tell you...DiCaprio steals the show as
Gilbert's mentally-impaired younger brother Arnie.
Christian Bale (Empire of the Sun)
After watching Empire of the Sun, you can see why Christian Bale is such
an intense and dedicated actor. He had an early start, headlining Steven
Spielberg's WWII-era epic. The tale follows a young boy who is
separated from his parents and ends up in a Japanese internment camp. Bale holds
his own amongst the adults, including heavyweight co-stars John Malkovich and
Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass)
Her work in the remake of Let the Right One is being properly noted, but
Chloe Moretz first kicked down the door big time in 2010's Kick-Ass, as
an R-rated assassin known as Hit Girl. The film didn't do much at the
domestic box office, but it's destined to be a cult hit for the ages.
Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road)
Kodi's also getting deserved kudos for Let Me In, but those who missed it
should catch his work alongside Viggo Mortensen in last year's apocalyptic drama
The Road. Kodi is the moral center of the film, and the reason
Mortensen's father should still have hope for the future. It's a performance full of depth and honest humanity.
Linda Blair (The Exorcist)
After her performance in The Exorcist (nominated for an Academy
Award and two Golden Globes), Linda Blair's name became forever linked to the
horror franchise. Seeing the 12-year-old being possessed by the devil was enough
to disturb moviegoers for decades, and is impossible to watch without getting
a severe case of the willies.
Elijah Wood (The Good Son)
He'll forever be 'Frodo' to the masses, but Elijah Wood was strikingly good
opposite the more famous (at the time) MacCaulay Culkin in the 1993 thriller The Good Son. In fact, he's the best thing about the
movie...playing the cousin to the nefarious Culkin. It's a bit ridiculous, but
one could sense Wood's talent, and burgeoning stardom ahead.