One of the most important ingredients for a good movie is that it creates characters the audience can connect with, respect and care about. Actors go to great lengths to provide viewers with this, from training to research – whatever it takes to be a believable and intriguing on-screen presence. What is more remarkable is when a child can do it.
The following is a list of not only great performances by child actors, but of child characters that inspire. These little ones manage to bring to life characters that can be admired for their triumphs, tenacity and overall humanities.
10. The Hunger Games
This blockbuster film series debuted in 2012 and took the world by storm. The intense young adult sci-fi flick has been praised for its story and characters with Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss Everdeen, catapulting her to a new level of stardom. However, there is another starlet among the cast. Amandala Stenberg plays Rue, the youngest girl to be thrown into battle. Although she doesn’t survive for very long, her wits, stealth and emotional strength is so admirable. She even saves Katniss’s life, only to be killed while bravely attempting to take down the bad guys. She dies, but she dies a little heroine.
9. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Cindy-Lou Who steals the show in the feature-length live-action of Dr. Seuss’ children’s book. Portrayed by Taylor Momsen, long before her rock career took off, Cindy-Lou proves to be the smartest in all of Who-Ville, and with the biggest heart. Her lack of fear and her sense of responsibility to her fellow “whos” can only be described as heartwarming. She stands up to the mayor without so much as a stutter, and fights for the Grinch’s right to be accepted among the people. As she teaches everyone the true meaning of Christmas, she also teaches them the meaning of compassion.
8. Little Miss Sunshine
Chasing after your dreams can be far more difficult than it sounds. When little Olive Hoover decides to take part in a national beauty pageant, her family doesn’t know what to say. Her awkwardness is only the first obstacle in achieving her dream, since they will also need to find a way to get her across the country in their unreliable VW bus. The adventure turns out to be just the wild ride they all need to reconnect, and Olive turns out to be the dose of positivity they all need to move past their pettiness and self-indulgence.
If there is one thing Chloe Moretz is known for, it is her mastery of roles far beyond her age. In Hick she tackled some very mature issues when she portrayed Luli, a Nebrasken teen who escapes her no-good alcoholic parents and sets off for Vegas (gun in purse, of course). Along the way, she is picked up by a young woman with her own set of problems and as Luli becomes more involved with Glenda’s complicated life, she realizes how quickly she will need to grow up in order to survive.
This Spielberg classic features a young boy who, upon discovering an alien in his backyard, goes to extreme lengths to keep him safe. The relationship between the two is simply beautiful and through this boy, the audience is given the chance to see how far you can get with an open mind and an open heart.
5. My Sister’s Keeper
In yet another touching performance by Abigail Breslin, Anna seeks medical emancipation when she refuses to continue to supply her dying sister with organ donations. While it may sound cruel, her character is very sympathetic. With a completely rational approach, Anna recognizes her own authority when she pursues the case, pointing out that her own health has been neglected by her parents at the expense of her sister’s. Giving donations throughout her entire life has left her weak and tired, but the story is a lot more complicated than that. A beautiful performance that carries a passionate story about figuring out how to do the right thing, in a very murky situation.
4. The Cure
When a young boy befriends the neighbor, he finds that his bigoted mother is not very welcoming and compassionate when hearing the news that the young boy has AIDS. Against her wishes, their friendship continues to grow, but so does the gnawing sensation that he may one day lose his only friend. When the boys read that a man in the distant New Orleans claims to have a cure for Dexter’s condition, Eric decides he will stop at nothing to help his ailing friend, and the two set off on a life changing journey.
Although this Dakota Fanning film did not receive a wide release (banned for some time due to a rape scene featuring the young actress), it is definitely a must-see. Set in the 50s, a young troubled girl dedicates herself to finding a way to get tickets to an upcoming Elvis show. Too young and naive to fully grasp the dangers she places herself in along the way, she is jilted to find that her big dreams and trustworthy nature is so easily taken advantage of. After a devastating experience, her anger begins to brew, but an unlikely friendship with her family’s land’s caretaker teaches her a lot about life, the power of forgiveness and most of all, the power of the Blues.
2. Billy Elliot
In Jamie Bell’s debut role, he portrayed Billy, a young boy whose unexpected love of ballet drives a wedge between him and his family. Deciding to pursue his dreams, even in the face of adversary, Billy sets out to show everyone just what he is made of. Throughout the course of the film, he must learn the importance in believing in yourself, trusting yourself and most importantly, not giving up.
1. Pay it Forward
When a troubled and sad boy (portrayed by Haley Joel Osment) takes an extreme interest in a social studies project to “change the world”, he decides to find a way to make the world a better place for everyone. His idea to pay favors forward, as opposed to back, means for every good deed done for you, you do three for three others. This forward motion of charity and thoughtfulness is so inspiring that soon the whole world seems affected by his vision. His kind do-gooder nature quickly becomes a revolution.