Best performance by a child actor/actress

At long last, I finally saw the extraordinary Leon (The Professional) the other day. As wonderful as the movie was, Natalie Portman was truly remarkable. Her performance was stunning - exhibiting a range and depth totally beyond her youth (I understand that at the time it was filmed, she was eleven years old!). I can’t recall a better performance, ever, from a child actor.

Until two days ago, that is, before I saw Leon, I would have answered River Phoenix in Stand By Me if asked what was the best performance by a child (he was either 14 or 15 when the movie was filmed). That was an opinion I’d held since the seeing it at the time of its initial release - years before Phoenix OD’d.

So, pray tell, what do you think has been the best performance by a child actor/actress (let’s define ‘child’ as under age 16).

Agreed. Natalie Portman’s performance (especially her goodbye to Leon) has to rank as one of the most honest, most emotional scenes I’ve even seen. Unfortunately, I think that role was her best to date. Kind of hard when you peak at age 11.

In a similar vein, Kirsten Dunst in Interview with the Vampire, was dominating performance and completely took over the film in the second half. Again, like Portman, it was probably her best work so far.

Carrie Henn in Aliens, possibly the best child performance in an action movie, though I credit the writing a lot, too.

Anne Paquin in The Piano was excellent. It’s depressing now to think that there are two Oscar winners in the X-Men movie casts, and none of them are Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, or Brian Cox.

I remember seeing “Terms of Endearment” and being absolutely bowled over by the actor who, according to IMDb, was Huckleberry Fox, and he must have been 9 when the movie was made.

There was that goodbye scene with Debra Winger in the hospital room. I was fresh out of an MFA acting program at the time and thought, “Good lord, how did they get that kid to do that?”

I boo-hooed big time at that scene then and can’t imagine the melt-down I’d have now, with a kid of my own who’s not much older than Huckleberry Fox was then.

Shirley Temple, if nothing else she was as cute as could be and made me smile.

The little girl who played Keanu Reeve’s sister in The River’s Edge.

And Ponette.

Patty Duke in the Miracle Worker. That was one great performance – I had no idea who Patty Duke was when I saw that movie, and I was half convinced she really was blind.

Of course, the big complaint around awards times are that roles like that (anything big and dramatic with some kind of handicap for an actor to impress with) are given unfair consideration. So for a more naturalistic but still great performance, I’d nominate Henry Thomas, Elliott in E.T.

I thought Portman was fantastic BUT my fave is also Kirsten Dunst in INTERVIEW.

How about Tatum O’Neal’s Oscar-winning performance in Paper Moon?

Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I think she deserved the Oscar.

Those mentioned are excellent choices. I would also have to add Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense and Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver.

I think that the boy who played Edward, in the Chronicles of Narnia did a very good job and whomever played Lucy is one to watch.

Haley Joel Osmet is already established as very talented and it will be interesting to see how he makes the transformation as he is now 18.

Melissa Gilbert comes to mind as well as being the personification of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The boy who played Liam Neeson’s son in Love, Actually I thought was brilliant.

Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot owned that movie.

The boy who played Liam Neeson’s son in Love, Actually I thought was brilliant.

OP by Shirley Ujest

I agree and I love that movie!

I thought most of the kids in School of Rock did a good job, but Miranda Cosgrove, who played Summer was a standout.

Now that I think about it, Lucas Black as the kid in Sling Blade is my pick for best performance by a child actor.

You beat me to it!

I also loved Dakota Fanning in I Am Sam. She was excellent!

It’s really too bad that you set the limit at age 16, as Ellen Page was 17 when Hard Candy was filmed. Her performance was just plain scary.

For the rest, I completely agree with the nominations of Kirsten Dunst and the Love, actually boy.

I came to this thread to nominate this kid. He was amazing.

That girl in Whale Rider was astonishing. That recital scene had me bawling.