The 20 Greatest Performances By A Child Actor
Many directors have spoken openly about the difficulties of working with child actors. Every once in awhile, however, a child actor brings forth a tour de force nobody saw coming and puts those directors to shame. Today, we’ve compiled our twenty favorite performances of all time by a child actor.
There are plenty of fantastic performances to choose from, but few have the power to truly take over a movie. On the other hand, how many times have you cringed at every word spoken by an unseasoned child actor?
20. Jamie Bell in Billy Elliot (2000)
Why So Memorable? Of course, the fact that he was a British young ‘un putting in an internationally lauded turn didn’t hurt – the general concept of a ‘child star’ seems so inherently tied to America, it’s easy to forget that we’ve been no slouches when it came to thrusting our vulnerable offspring into the limelight.
What really impressed about Bell’s performance, though, was its ballsiness: few of us would’ve dared admit an interest in dancing of any sort in the playground at that age, never mind on a global stage.
19. Christian Bale in Empire Of The Sun (1987)
Why So Memorable? One of Bale’s most overlooked achievements as an actor, his portrayal of a childhood JG Ballard was astonishing in its depth and boldness without ever coming across like a snotty prodigy showing off.
Many kids seem overly self-aware on screen, as if mentally running through all the tedious things their lamer friends are doing right now. Bale just gets on with it, and a bloody good job he does too.
18. Pascal Lamorisse in The Red Balloon (1956)
Why So Memorable? Lamorisse – son of director Albert – puts in an utterly beguiling turn in this curious, near-silent 34-minute meditation on the power of youthful imagination balanced against the fragile naivety of childhood.
He doesn’t say very much as he chases his sentient airbag around a washed-out Paris cityscape, but he really doesn’t have to: we get it, and him, immediately.
17. Christina Ricci in The Addams Family (1991)
Why So Memorable? Detached, disturbed, and showing an utter mastery of deadpan delivery that many actors twice her age struggle to achieve, her Wednesday Addams was so perfectly cast it really iced the cake.
Almost more impressive is the fact that, despite looking like she was born to play Wednesday, Ricci’s talents prevented her from being rigidly typecast in the Addams’ wake.
16. Jean-Pierre Léaud in The 400 Blows (1959)
Why So Memorable? François Truffaut’s classic distillation of the French New Wave was an emotionally fraught, semi-autobiographical mood piece that dealt in some tricky discourses on the nature/nurture origins of young troublemakers and the adults that pigeonhole them.
Léaud was so good, Truffaut cast him a further four times in the same (gradually older) role as he grew.