They’re sugar, spice, everything nice, and all points in between. Girls are one of this world’s most precious resources and should be nurtured, loved, and cared for. But when they’re not, you get a lot more of that in between and less and less of the sugar and spice. You also get lists like this one.
No matter how young actresses are, writers like to tell their stories, and every so often they involve young ladies either being too provocative for their age, too foul mouthed, too creepy, and most importantly too young for the situations that were written for them. But while plenty of films feature sweet little girls being precocious and saccharine, there are several performances that exist on the fringes.
No matter the role, these are all very memorable performances from some of the top actresses in the world. Here’s hoping that the real actresses behind the roles weren’t too traumatized by the events their characters go through. Here are 15 actresses who were way too young for their roles and these scenes.
16. Linda Blair – The Exorcist
It is one of the scariest movies ever made, if not the most scary. The story is fairly simple – 12 year old Regan MacNeil is possessed by the demon Pazuzu who Catholic priest Merrin had defeated once before and now has to do so again to save the little girl’s soul.
The film used a multitude of special and practical effects to scare the bejesus out of audiences when it was first released in 1973 and to this day, almost 50 years later. Based on a true story, the exorcism of Roland Doe, the actress who played Regan, Linda Blair’s career was made the day the film was released.
There is a dearth of terrifying and gruesome scenes in The Exorcist that Blair was most likely too young for, the famous spider walk scene, grabbing her mother’s face and jamming it into her crotch, twisting her head around, and abusing herself with a crucifix. But since the character was “possessed” at the time, the filmmakers were able to get away with all of it.
15. Alicia Silverstone – The Crush
She might have been 17 years old at the time, and on the verge of superstardom with Aerosmith videos and Clueless right around the corner, but in 1993, Alicia Silverstone played 14-year-old Adrian Forrester in The Crush.
Cary Elwes starred in the film as Nick Eliot, a writer who lives in the Forrester’s guest home. Adrian is instantly attracted to the writer, and secretly rewrites one of his magazine pieces, which earns a ton of praise from his editors. Despite constantly trying to throw herself at him, Eliot quickly realizes what is happening, and continues to rebuff Adrian’s advances.
Unfortunately, Adrian is deeply troubled and goes crazy trying to win Eliot’s affections, even undressing in his view, while he is hiding in the closet. The Crush is actually a pretty underrated, albeit unpredictable thriller, which should be seen by fans of both Elwes and Silverstone, who both played against type here and never did something like this again.
14. Mischa Barton – The Sixth Sense
Eighteen years after the film’s release, The Sixth Sense still has the power to captivate an audience, provided the viewer doesn’t know the mind-exploding twist. The film details the story of child psychologist Malcolm Crow and his attempt to help a young boy, Cole Sear who claims to be able to see dead people.
While initially dismissive of the boy’s claim, Crowe eventually comes on board and suggests that perhaps Cole tries to help the ghosts he sees. Mischa Barton, thirteen at the time played one of these ghosts – Kyra Collins, a young girl who seemingly died of an illness, but she was a clearly a victim of abuse and led Cole to a video tape that showed Kyra’s own mother poisoning her food.
Mrs. Collins clearly had a lot of issues, specifically Munchausen’s Syndrome and murdering Kyra was just the beginning. Luckily, the tape helped stop her and save Kyra’s younger sister. But the scenes of Kyra consistently vomiting helped sell the point home that even the tragic ghosts scared the bejesus out of young Cole.
13. Drew Barrymore – Poison Ivy
By the time Drew Barrymore was 17, she already was part of an instant classic (E.T.), and falling victim to the wild life that Hollywood had to offer. To further cement her status as a wild child, she starred in Poison Ivy, the first in an odd film series that starred young starlets playing lolitas of sorts, driving older men’s desires into frenzies.
The first one, and the only one that is worth watching saw Barrymore as Ivy, a girl from the other side of the tracks befriend prep school kid, Sylvie (Sarah Gilbert). Within seconds of meeting Sylvie’s father, Darrel, she’s already working her teenage feminine wiles, revealing her thighs on a ride home. Ivy also begins to charm Sylvie’s mother as well and then she’s pretty much always at the house, all part of a diabolical plot to try and have Darrel all to herself and frame Sylvie for killing her mother.
With a story that batcrap crazy, you know there are a ton of scenes young Drew was too young to be involved in. But the biggest one would certainly be getting Darrell drunk and taking advantage of dear old dad.
12. Kirsten Dunst – Interview With The Vampire
When Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) couldn’t stave off the hunger for human blood any longer, he fed on someone who had died in the plague. She left behind a little girl, and to entice Louis to continue to stay with him, Lestat (Tom Cruise) turns the girl into a vampire as well, and Claudia is born.
Kirsten Dunst in her breakout role plays Claudia and was only ten years old during the filming of Interview with the Vampire. Because of her age when turned, Claudia forever stays a little girl in appearance but continues to mature mentally, and her bloodlust matches Lestat’s. The role showcases just how good Dunst is and her age is actually part of the plot of the second half of the film, as the coven of vampires that Claudia and Louis meet in Paris cannot stand the fact that one was turned so young.
Every scene that Claudia is featured in is slightly jarring as she continues to mature in mindset but stays a little girl, slaying entire families, telling Lestat that she’ll help get rid of the bodies and even sharing her first onscreen kiss with much older Louis, as she will look like a porcelain doll forever.
11. Natalie Portman – Leon
One of the most popular films of the mid-nineties, Leon actually came out the same year as another film about professional hitmen and bad guys, Pulp Fiction. Directed by Luc Besson, it tells the story of Leon Montana, a Cleaner (movie mafia slang for hitman) who lives alone in the heart of Little Italy, Manhattan.
A twelve year old girl with terrible parents, Mathilda lives right next door and while she is out shopping for groceries, her family is murdered by corrupt DEA agents, and she unfortunately comes back during the raid on her home and wisely decides to walk to her neighbor Leon’s door instead. The Cleaner reluctantly opens the door for her.
Played with poise by Natalie Portman in her first film role, she showcases a talent that still is growing to this very day. In one of the weirdest father/daughter type of stories in cinema history, Leon begins to teach Mathilda, who in turn teaches him how to read and cleans his apartment.
10. Dafne Keen – Logan
The newest addition to the list is 12 year old Dafne Keen, who played cult Marvel Mutant favorite, X-23 in the supposed last Hugh Jackman Wolverine movie, Logan. In the comics, Laura Kinney is depicted more as a teenager or in her late twenties. But in Logan, she’s just a scared, but certainly far from helpless, clone of Wolverine.
The final film of this series of Wolverine flicks is the most brutal. As an R-rated movie, director James Mangold was able to take the character and the world and bring a violence that wasn’t seen before. Flashbacks show Laura relentlessly trying to slit her wrists with her own claws, only to instantly heel.
It’s that violence where Keen’s character shines – she is every bit the savage mutant that Logan is, as she feverishly slices, dices, and stabs her way through an entire hit squad that has come to take her, but not before heaving one of the team’s severed bloody head at the leader, Donald Pierce.
9. Chloe Grace Moretz – Kick-Ass
At eleven years old, most children get chastised for uttering any sort of bad word – even tame ones like “damn.” But when certain “C U Next Tuesdays” are uttered by a girl who barely is a preteen yet, it’s going to pique the ire of plenty of special interest groups. Critics would cite this kind of language in Kick-Ass as one of the film’s failings.
Oddly enough, there wasn’t a lot of shade tossed on Chloe Grace Moretz’s character Hit Girl killing dozens of people throughout the film, but more about the fact that she swears more than a gaggle of sailors – that’s a commentary for another day.
Roger Ebert though did take the film to task, in particular the scene where Hit Girl is nearly killed by D’Amico. While he did enjoy the performances, Ebert thought showing young girls and boys be violent towards one another in a world where this is really actually happening, was just too jarring.
8. Maria Schneider – Last Tango In Paris
While you might be considered an adult by the age of 19, especially in France where supposedly, the French are a lot more open to all kinds of ideas for all kinds of ages – no one at any age should ever have to experience the behind the scenes drama that Maria Schneider experienced during the filming of Bernardo Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial Last Tango in Paris way back in 1972, where boundaries were a hell of lot more strict.
The film in any year is borderline pornography, but since it starred the highly respected Marlon Brando, it was able to be seen by most filmgoers. The film stars Brando as a recently widowed American having sexual relations with a girl in Paris, which eventually turns violent.
To some it’s bad enough having a very young woman having a sexual relationship with a man that’s old enough to be her father, but toss in the film’s most controversial rape scene, involving sodomy and butter and you have one of the most controversial scenes in film history – film that the actress claimed ruined her life, a feeling that she took to the grave with her when she passed away at 58 in 2011.
7. Maisie Williams – Game Of Thrones
In literature, it’s a lot easier for your protagonists to be any age needed to tell your story. Evidentially, on HBO it’s just as easy. Maisie Williams was a mere 14 years old when Game of Thrones debuted, which meant she was at the oldest thirteen when she, as her character Arya Stark has to flee the capital or suffer the same fate as her father and his decapitated head.
Aside from the characters who get slaughtered on the show, Arya is one of the characters who is consistently put through the ringer every season, as she endlessly works towards gaining her vengeance.
When she cannot give up her own identity she is rendered blind, left to beg on the streets of Braavos, but eventually gets her act together, murders Walder Frey’s sons, cooks them and serves them to Walder before slicing his own throat – what were you doing when you were a teenager?
6. Jodie Foster – Taxi Driver
Twelve years prior to her highly praised role of a victim in The Accused, the incomparable Jodie Foster was a 14 year old prostitute on the streets of gritty seventies New York in Michael Scorsese’s epic noir, Taxi Driver.
Her character helps to continue to remind De Niro’s Travis Bickle of the rampant corruption and while not much is shown, anytime a young girl is onscreen as a prostitute, it’s a whole lot of wrong. Thankfully, Bickle hires her, not for sex but to try to convince her to get clean and leave the life behind. Although she doesn’t initially do so, Travis does receive a letter from her father thanking him.
5. Ellen Page – Hard Candy
A lot of male dominated action flicks are revenge fantasies – Commando, the Death Wish series, most recently Inglourious Basterds comes to mind. Take a young female and put her into a revenge situation and you get something you’d probably never see Schwarzenegger take on – the 2005 thriller, Hard Candy, starring a then 18 year old Ellen Page as 14 year old Hayley Stark (no relation to Arya).
Stark lures a 32 year old man, Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson), via online chat to his house, where she drugs him, chains him up, and tortures the heck out of him because she believes Jeff to be a pedophile, rapist, and murderer who has kidnapped another young girl, Donna Mauer, who of course denies any involvement.
The movie is essentially a twisted version of little red riding hood as Stark continues to threaten Jeff to confess his crimes, at one point even threatening castration. For people who find Page to be charming and funny, she is and she lures Jeff in with those charms, but she’s also real scary as someone who could be a believable real life vigilante, constantly luring sickos in before destroying their personal lives.
4. Dakota Fanning – Hounddog
Dakota Fanning was able to wow audiences and draw water from many filmgoers’ eyes when she starred alongside Sean Penn in the 2001 drama, I Am Sam. Several years later, a now 13 year old Fanning again was able to wow audiences, only in a much more shocking way in the film, Hounddog.
The movie has Fanning star as Lewellen in the deep south of Alabama where she plays a victim of abuse who finds comfort in the music of Elvis Presley. For those of you keeping score at home, yes, this is the “Dakota Fanning Rape Movie.”
In order to get tickets to see her idol, Lewellen agrees to dance naked for a neighbor, who sadly takes much more advantage of the 12 year old than anyone should take advantage of anyone else. While critics panned the whole movie, mostly because of this sequence, not a whole lot is shown, just close-ups of Fanning’s face, which leaves a lot of horror and trauma to the imagination.
3. Evan Rachel Wood & Nikki Reed – Thirteen
Underage sex, underage drugs, underage just about every deviant behavior that could be conceived of, Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen is still one of the most controversial coming of age stories ever. The film details being a rebellious, raucous preteen growing up in the alluring Los Angeles.
For anyone that thinks the film’s depiction of topics like shoplifting, sex, smoking pot, piercings or anything else seem far-fetched, remember that the film is star Nikki Reed‘s memoir, and she was only a few years removed from all of this when the movie came out!
Even though both the film’s stars are slightly over thirteen when the film came out, they’re both still underage and engaging in all kinds of questionable behavior that even people who are the age of consent or older wouldn’t indulge in.
2. Emma Kenney – Shameless
Still not 18 yet, Emma Kenney has spent the last six years playing little cute in appearance but definitely not cute in terms of actions and mouth Debbie Gallagher on Showtime’s Shameless. To be fair though, the entire family is just a bunch of troublemaking degenerates.
But out of all of the Gallagher brood, Deb is probably the most sweet natured and sometimes naive. While she plays the role with pluckiness, Deb’s barely 11 when the show starts and after all her character has seen, you’d think she’d know better.
She should know a heck-of-a-lot better, but that didn’t stop her from experiencing peer pressure to have sex, get pregnant, and keep the baby, at her crappy deadbeat drunk dad’s urging, try to seduce a much older man and his wife to try and get lodging for herself and the baby.
1. Honorable Mention: Jessica Biel – Gear Magazine Shoot
While it might seem commonplace for little hot young things to participate in photo shoots and take their own shots for Instagram these days, waaaaay back in 2000, when the extra fit and extra yummy Jessica Biel wanted to shed her extra good girl image, she posed semi-nude for Gear magazine, a rag that no one had ever heard of before or since.
While it might not be a role or a scene, the pics bordered on child pornography, considering Biel’s age of 17. Which is exactly what her TV dad on 7th Heaven, Stephen Collins said (ironic considering what happened to him). There was another issue with these pics, too.
Biel was under contract to the WB network and 7th Heaven, which was a show about a Pastor and his family, so you see the big problem of the eldest daughter becoming a woman right before everyone’s eyes. Biel’s pics were considered a big scandal, and a lesson in how to torpedo a career – true, she’s Mrs. Justin Timberlake now and has acted in a ton of movies, but her star was on a meteoric rise and these pics, while they helped her get out of a contract, also left a stigma on her that she can’t be trusted.