Ke Huy Quan received his first Oscar nomination for his brilliant and emotional supporting turn in the Daniels‘ absurdist comedy Everything Everywhere All at Once. The actor, who spent years away from the spotlight because of a lack of opportunities, is a former child actor who starred in iconic films like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies.
Like Quan, other former child actors have grown up to have successful and critically-acclaimed careers as adults. A few even managed to get AMPAS’ blessing, receiving Oscar nominations and winning the coveted statuette in a few lucky cases.
1 Ke Huy Quan
Ke Huy Quan starred in two of the most iconic films of the 80s. First, he played Short Round in Steven Spielberg‘s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The next year, he starred as Data in Richard Donner‘s The Goonies. After the 1992 release of Encino Man, Quan stopped acting because of a lack of opportunities.
Although he stepped away from the spotlight, Quan never left the film industry, instead working as a stunt coordinator and AD. He made a high-profile return to acting in 2022 with the maximalist comedy Everything Everywhere All at Once. His performance earned him rave reviews and numerous accolades, including the Golden Globe. Quan is the current favorite to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
2 Judy Garland
The now-iconic Judy Garland rose to stardom with her performance in Victor Fleming‘s 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. The film earned her a Juvenile Academy Award and launched her career throughout the 1940s as one of MGM’s top box-office draws.
Following her departure from MGM, Garland received her first competitive Oscar nomination for her tour-de-force performance in 1954’s A Star is Born. Groucho Marx called her loss at the 1955 Oscars “the greatest robbery since Brinks.” Garland received her last nomination in 1961 for her supporting role in Judgement at Nuremberg.
3 Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman made her acting debut at thirteen opposite Jean Reno in Luc Besson‘s 1993 thriller The Professional. Her career skyrocketed afterward, and she played numerous leading and supporting roles throughout the 90s. Portman’s career entered its mature stage, starting with Mike Nichols‘s 2004 romantic drama Closer. For her work on the film, Portman earned her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Portman won the 2011 Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Darren Aronofsky‘s psychological horror Black Swan. Six years later, she received a third nomination for her role as Jackie Kennedy in Pablo Larraín‘s biopic Jackie.
4 Christian Bale
Widely considered one of his generation’s most chameleonic actors, Christian Bale has been acting since the late 80s. His breakthrough role came at age thirteen with Steven Spielberg’s epic Empire of the Sun, later working with other prominent directors like Kenneth Branagh.
Bale became a global superstar in the noughties thanks to his work in Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy. He won the 2011 Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in The Fighter. He would receive three more nominations in 2014, 2015, and 2019 for his performances in American Hustle, The Big Short and Vice.
5 Sarah Polley
Canadian actor, director and screenwriter Sarah Polley rose to prominence thanks to her role in the children’s TV show Ramona. She successfully transitioned into adult roles, playing notable parts in films like Dawn of the Dead and Splice.
Polley made her directorial debut with 2006’s Away from Her, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Polley returned to the awards conversation in 2022 with her film Women Talking, earning another Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film also received a Best Picture nomination.
6 Kirsten Dunst
As one of the most recognizable child actors of the 90s, Kirsten Dunst starred in several iconic films throughout the decade. Among her most famous and acclaimed pictures are Interview with the Vampire, Little Women and Jumanji.
Dunst continued her success into adulthood, giving Oscar-worthy performances in films like 2011’s Melancholia and starring in critically-acclaimed shows like Fargo. However, it wasn’t until 2022 that Dunst received her first Oscar nomination for her supporting work in Jane Campion‘s neo-Western The Power of the Dog.
7 Jesse Plemmons
Dunst’s husband, Jesse Plemmons, also began his career as a child actor. Plemmons played supporting roles in films like Varsity Blues and All the Pretty Horses and appeared in numerous shows playing guest roles. Plemmons rose to prominence with his role in the teen drama Friday Night Lights.
Like his wife, Plemmons received his first Oscar nomination for his work in Campion’s The Power of the Dog. He will have another shot at the Oscar this year, thanks to his upcoming role in Martin Scorsese‘s highly-anticipated Western Killers of the Flower Moon.
8 Kodi Smit-McPhee
Plemmons and Dunst’s The Power of the Dog co-star Kodi Smit-McPhee is yet another child actor who found Oscar success as an adult. The New Zealand-born Smit-McPhee earned recognition as a child for his work in films like The Road and Let Me In.
Smit-McPhee earned further fame thanks to his take on Nightcrawler in Fox’s X-Men saga, playing the popular character in two films. His performance in The Power of the Dog won him the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and an Oscar nomination.
9 Scarlett Johansson
One of her generation’s most recognizable and bankable stars, Scarlett Johansson has dominated the silver screen since the early 2000s. The actor began her career as a child star in films like Manny & Lo and The Horse Whisperer. At nineteen, she won a BAFTA Award for her lead performance in Sofia Coppola‘s Oscar-winning slow-paced comedy Lost in Translation.
Johansson balanced blockbusters with smaller-scale productions throughout the 2010s, achieving international fame thanks to her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 2020, twenty-six years into her career, she earned two Oscar nominations in the same year: Best Supporting Actress for Jojo Rabbit and Best Actress for Marriage Story.
10 Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster became a star at fourteen following her Oscar-nominated performance in Martin Scorsese’s psychological drama Taxi Driver. She played lead roles in Disney hits like Freaky Friday and Candleshoe before taking a break from acting to attend Yale University.
Foster struggled to attract adult roles after graduating, but her adult career began with a splash with her Oscar-winning performance in 1989’s The Accused. Foster would win another Oscar two years later for her work in the now-iconic horror film The Silence of the Lambs.
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