Top 25 Child Stars of All Time

I love me a good list, and this is one I was most pleased to trip over. Moviefone has gathered what they anticipate to be the Top 25 Child Stars of all time.

Cinematical reports:

With all of the little tykes and tots who have hit the big screen over the years, one would think that it might be one heck of a daunting challenge to narrow the list down to a top 25, but I think Moviefone may have done it. They’ve posted a list of the Top 25 Child Stars of All Time, and they’ve hit just about every child star I can think of, including a few I forgot about.

I would share that list with you now, as well as the movies they were best known for in their younger roles.


25. Kirsten Dunst – Interview with a Vampire
24. Lindsay Lohan – The Parent Trap (remake)
23. Sean Astin – Goonies
22. Keisha Castle-Hughes
21. Natalie Wood – Miracle on 34th St
20. Christian Bale – Empire of the Sun
19. Abigail Breslin – Little Miss Sunshine
18. Elijah Wood – Forever Young
17. Jodie Foster – Freaky Friday
16. Hayley Mills – The Parent Trap (original)
15. Freddie Highmore – Finding Neverland
14. Freddie Bartholomew – Toyland
13. Anna Paquin – The Piano
12. Christina Ricci – The Addams Family
11. Tatum O’Neal – Paper Moon
10. Haley Joel Osment – Sixth Sense
9. Elizabeth Taylor – National Velvet
8. Patty Duke – The Miracle Worker
7. Jackie Cooper – Skippy
6. Dakota Fanning – I am Sam
5. Drew Barrymore – ET
4. Mickey Rooney – Mickey McGuire
3. Judy Garland – Wizard of Oz
2. Macaulay Culkin – Home Alone
1. Shirley Temple – Glad Rags to Riches

This unique list spans generations, and as like many lists that detail the greatest, many of them harken back to days of black and white films, where child actors put out no less than 5 movies a year. But I was surprised to see Macaulay Culkin listed so close to the #1 spot. Many of the others on this list had gone on to greater careers than the homely Home Alone star.I do wonder if some of the more recent contenders on this list will have as aspiring careers as some of their peers.

Did this list leave anyone out?

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37 thoughts on “Top 25 Child Stars of All Time

  1. Margaret O’Brien for one. What is the criteria for this list? She won a special Oscar. Mary Pickford? The one who started it all. There isn’t any “of all time” unless you go all the way back.

  2. Jackie Coogan! At six, he was America’s first child star, starring with Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin’s first full-length film, “The Kid.” Jackie went on to star in many movies, and at age nine was the biggest box office draw in the world. Movie merchandising took off as a business largely because of him, and The Coogan Law, still in effect today, ensures that parents set aside a portion of their child’s earnings for them until they turn 21. Studios looked for and found other child stars such as Our Gang (The Little Rascals) and Shirley Temple as a result of Jackie’s success.

  3. Mara Wilson (Matilda)
    Hallie Kate Eisenberg (Disney’s The Miracle Worker)
    Justin Cooper (Liar Liar)
    Jayden Smith (Karate Kid, The Pursuit of Happiness)

    Anna Paquin was also great in Fly Away Home!

    1. The true test of a child actor is if they have a career after they are no longer children.

      We haven’t seen Radcliff accomplish anything outside of Harry Potter to justify giving him that credit even if he has shown potential (stage productions etc)

      Dan hardly deserves to be on this list until he has a career outside of Potter.

  4. I hate Macaulay Culkin. He sucks. Haley Joel Osment & Freddie Highmore deserve to be higher. Dakota Fanning should go a bit higher.If I could choose, I’d make Haley Joel Osment at least 4th or 3rd, Freddie Highmore 6th or 5th and Dakota Fanning 2nd.

    1. So an 8 year old (at the time of The Fall) who has never been in another movie and has not proven herself suddenly tops the list of very talented actors who have long since proven themselves in a variety of roles?

      Sorry. See if she is ever in a movie again then maybe after a few years in the industry she can be considered.

  5. What about that kid in Matilda? I don’t know her name, but i love that film.

    Also, AnnaSophia Robb as Loren McConnell in The Reaping. I think she portrays the character really well in so little words.

    Also Freddie Highmore in August Rush. I loooove that film

  6. Judy Garland was 17 years old when she filmed Wizard of Oz, I think that is really a bit too old to be considered a child star. Beyond that, this is a really amusing list!

  7. I would argue number 19, Abigail Breslin – Little Miss Sunshine, as she is still a child, and it was only a year ago the film was released. So her in a list of “all time” seems a bit premature. She is still a kid and only having a few films under her belt make me challenge the notion. Dakota Fanning, on the hand, although still a child, has greater experience. Have you considered the Olsen Twins? I dont know if you want to include television. Which, for that matter I would put Leonardo DiCaprio for Growing Pains, or minimally, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

  8. I understand this list is based on the celebrities’ popularity as children more than anything else, but if it were based on acting ability instead, I would put Eamonn Owens at the top for his role in the The Butcher Boy. That just might be the greatest performance by a child actor I’ve ever seen. And it was his very first film performance on top of that!

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