Movie Roles That Were Too Mature For Child Actors

By Grover Koelpin 100 comments

Making a movie isn’t child’s play — even
for a child actor. Throughout Hollywood history, kids in the
industry have been called upon to act in harrowing roles that push the limits of their abilities,
and according to some critics, the boundaries of good taste. Here are some of the most famous examples
of underage actors in mature roles. Dakota Fanning, Hounddog In 2007, 12 year-old Fanning shocked critics
and viewing audiences alike by taking the role of the neglected, abused Lewellen in
this coming-of-age drama — which includes a scene in which her character is taken. Though the violent act is strictly implied
with shots of Fanning’s face and hands, the film was subject to intense backlash from
viewers, critics, and activist groups who felt that the young actress shouldn’t have
been allowed to join the production. Fanning responded to the criticism by pushing
back, saying, “It’s a movie and it’s called acting. […] I wanted to do the film because I thought
it might help one person that has happened to and help them overcome adversity in their
lives.” Unfortunately, Fanning’s hopes of reaching
abuse survivors were effectively undermined by the controversy, which killed the film’s
buzz. Hounddog only earned $131,000 against its
$3 million budget after a limited release. Natalie Portman, The Professional Seventeen years before she danced her way
to an Oscar win, Portman made her big-screen debut in this 1993 thriller as Mathilda, a
little girl whose family is taken by a corrupt DEA agent. When she takes refuge with a neighbor — who
happens to be a hitman — he becomes her mentor in all things vengeance, a relationship
tinged by an uneasy chemistry between the two. At twelve years old, Portman was the exact
same age as the character she was playing — and watching her smoke, shoot, and even
hold a gun to her own head made for a shocking spectacle, albeit one that proved she was
a star who could handle the most challenging roles out there. “One shot, not bad. Huh?” Kirsten Dunst, Interview with the Vampire This list wouldn’t be complete without this
chilling performance by Dunst, in one of her very first feature film roles. In Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Dunst’s
character Claudia was only five years old when she was turned into a vampire — but
even for Hollywood, that would have been pushing it. Instead, the role went to the eleven year-old
actress, who went all-out to capture the anger, violence, and near-insanity of an adult woman
who’s trapped for eternity in the body of a little girl. As disturbing as it was to see Dunst tackle
the challenging material, she did do an amazing job, earning a Golden Globe nomination and
a permanent spot on the A-list for her performance. Christian Bale, Empire of the Sun Long before he became famous for American
Psycho, The Machinist, or The Dark Knight trilogy, Christian Bale won critical acclaim
for playing the role of Jim in the 1987 Steven Spielberg war film Empire of the Sun. The movie is essentially a coming-of-age drama
set during Japan’s occupation of China during World War II, and Bale was just thirteen when
he took on the challenging role of a boy who goes from living a comfortable life with his
family in Shanghai to growing up behind the barbed wire of a Japanese internment camp. Spielberg doesn’t pull any punches with Empire
of the Sun, and despite being just a child himself, Bale delivers an emotional and commanding
performance as a boy faced with the horrors of war. Macaulay Culkin, The Good Son Evil kids have been a staple of thriller and
horror movies over the years, but that didn’t stop audiences from being alarmed by the sight
of little Kevin McCallister from Home Alone playing this cold-blooded, pint-sized psychopath
in The Good Son. There’s no supernatural element driving Henry’s
penchant for mayhem. He’s just plain bad. When his cousin Mark, played by Elijah Wood,
comes to visit Henry’s family during winter vacation, things turn decidedly dark. It’s hard to decide what’s more disturbing
— watching a 12-year-old try to take everyone that crosses him… “Don’t f— with me” …or trying to pretend that it wasn’t hilarious
to watch this same little kid perpetrate savage acts of violence against two bumbling criminals
in a John Hughes Christmas comedy just three years earlier. “Ah” Because of the obvious Home Alone parallels,
The Good Son wasn’t really scary enough to make anyone scream… except maybe Culkin’s
parents, who had to watch Macaulay very convincingly attempt to murder his real-life little sister
Quinn in scenes like this one. Jodie Foster, Taxi Driver Foster stirred up quite a controversy when
she appeared as child walker Iris in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic Taxi Driver. “You talkin to me?” While not the central figure of the film,
Iris still plays an important part when her path crosses with the troubled Travis Bickle,
played by Robert De Niro — and Foster was just twelve when she played the role. For that reason, Scorsese took precautions:
his young star was subjected to psych evaluations to make sure she could handle the job, and
her older sister Connie was used as a stand-in for suggestive scenes. Olivia Hussey and Claire Danes, Romeo & Juliet Shakespeare’s famous play centers on a pair
of star-crossed teenage lovers — but it’s also full of sex, violence, and ending. That means that casting actual teenagers in
the lead roles has historically raised some eyebrows. First came Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 adaptation,
in which actress Olivia Hussey was only 15, and her Romeo, Leonard Whiting, was 17. Thirty years later, director Baz Luhrmann
went with an older Romeo in the form of Leonardo DiCaprio, who was 21 at the time. But Claire Danes, who played Juliet, was just
16 — which made her two years older than her character, but in some folks’ opinions,
still much too young to be playing a scene like this onscreen. Jacob Reynolds, Gummo Not many entries on this list can top 1997’s
experimental dystopian art film Gummo when it comes to making audiences squirm. Written and directed by Harmony Korine, Gummo
chronicles the lives of several residents of Xenia, Ohio, following the effects of a
devastating tornado. The movie comprises an interconnected series
of scenes that offer a glimpse into depravity, demoralization, and the depths of poverty
— with a linchpin performance by thirteen year-old Jacob Reynolds as Solomon, a kid
whose hobbies include taking cats, huffing glue, and paying a developmentally disabled
girl to have relations with him. Most critics panned Gummo for its pervasive
graphic content, but it was lauded by a few filmmakers, including famed director Werner
Herzog —who particularly liked this scene featuring Solomon chowing down on junk food
in a bathtub. Sue Lyon and Dominique Swain, Lolita The premise of Vladimir Nabokov’s classic
novel about a middle-aged man’s obsession with an adolescent girl makes it tough to
adapt for the screen — especially when it comes to casting the title character. But that hasn’t stopped directors from trying. In 1962, Stanley Kubrick did a more oblique
take on the material, with James Mason as Humbert Humbert and Sue Lyon as Lolita. At fourteen, Lyon was two years older than
her character, and Kubrick was careful to skirt the content of Nabokov’s novel. “Have you told her anything about us?” “No, have you?” But the film and Lyon’s role in it still proved
controversial. And this is one topic that hasn’t become less
of a hot potato with the passage of time: when director Adrian Lyne made his own Lolita
more than thirty years later, with 15-year-old Dominique Swain in the title role, the movie
was forced to premiere on cable when it couldn’t find an American distributor — and critics
in England even tried to get the film banned. The entire cast of Kids This film centers on the lives of several
teenagers — and their lives — during the height of the AIDS epidemic, and it doesn’t
shy away from showing teenagers in some seriously disturbing situations. The characters in Kids engage in a lot of
risky behaviors, from doing drugs to having unprotected with folks, and
the cast was made up entirely of teenagers, which made for plenty of controversy when
the film premiered with an NC-17 rating. All these years later, it’s still a polarizing
work of art. Brooke Shields, Pretty Baby and The Blue Lagoon As a girl, actress Brooke Shields appeared
in two different movies that placed her front-and-center in the debate about children and on-screen
stuff. At age 12, she starred in Pretty Baby as a
child prostitute living with her mother in a New Orleans brothel at the turn of the 20th
century. The film — and Shields’ in it — was
criticized by many, and the movie was even banned in two Canadian provinces. “Well you certainly did it, didn’t you?” However, the backlash didn’t put the actress
off controversial material; just two years later, Shields appeared in The Blue Lagoon
as a shipwrecked girl growing up on an island with only her cousin, played Christopher Atkins,
for company. As they reach puberty, they eventually fall
in love, and even have a child — a plot point which raised eyebrows, as did several
scenes involving the fourteen year-old Shields. Linda Blair, The Exorcist Widely recognized as one of the greatest horror
movies of the 20th century, The Exorcist was also extremely controversial, with famed critic
Roger Ebert even suggesting it deserved an “X” rating instead of the “R” it was given
by the MPAA — even though he loved it. That’s partly because of its horrifying subject
matter, but the presence of an actual thirteen year-old girl in the role of the possessed
Regan MacNeil was also considered problematic. Linda Blair’s performance was central to some
of the most disturbing, disgusting, obscene, and vulgar sequences in the film, although
she pushed back against rumors that being in the movie had psychologically scarred her. She explained: “A lot of untruthful stories
were made up about me being mentally disturbed by the movie. I never was because I never bought into the
whole Devil thing.” Instead, it was the physical demands of The
Exorcist that had a prolonged impact; Blair fractured her spine while filming this levitation
scene, an injury that would later develop into scoliosis and cause the actress ongoing
health problems well into adulthood. Tatum O’Neal, Paper Moon This 1973 comedy-drama is a lot more tame
than some of the other entries on this list, but it definitely has its moments — like
this one, where its nine year-old star casually enjoys a cigarette before bedtime. Tatum O’Neal and real-life father, Ryan O’Neal,
play characters named Addie and Mose, a pair of unlikely partners in crime on a cross-country
road trip. Throughout the film, we watch the absolutely
tiny Tatum smoke, drink, and con people out of their money like an old pro. And when Mose starts to neglect Addie in favor
of an “exotic dancer” named Trixie, played by Madeline Kahn, the jealous girl even devises
her own con to get Trixie dumped. The movie might have been more controversial
if Tatum hadn’t been so talented in the role; her performance earned widespread acclaim,
and she ultimately won an Academy Award for the part, making her the youngest competitive
Oscar winner in history. Chloe Moretz: Kick-Ass At the age of 11, Moretz landed her most controversial
role: vigilante superhero Hit-Girl in the 2010 movie Kick-Ass. Compared to most little girls — and also
to most grown men and women — Hit-Girl is a hardened and nihilistic figure, punctuating
her frequent murders with obscenity-laden one-liners. Kick-Ass met with backlash for its violence
and language, with many critics especially horrified by Moretz’s character, and it received
a well-deserved “R” rating from the MPAA… which meant that its most hardcore tween-aged
hero wasn’t able to watch herself drop f-bombs in Kick-Ass without adult supervision. “Ohhhhkay, geez!” Thanks for watching! Click the Looper icon to subscribe to our
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Dec 12, 2017, 8:02 pm Reply

What other movie roles do you think should've made this list?


Mar 3, 2019, 5:48 pm Reply

I know she was 17 but I can’t believe they didn’t mention Ellen Page in Hard Candy..


Mar 3, 2019, 2:54 am Reply

did no one watch Hick? I'd hardly call Kickass Chloe's most controversial role in comparison.

Alana Valadez

Mar 3, 2019, 4:54 am Reply

Hold up, we just gonna forget about Jena Malone in Bastard Out of Carolina?

Philthy Tanks

Mar 3, 2019, 6:37 am Reply

Lol Kids got skipped over quick! I assume it’s Bc mentioning rape and AIDS would get this demonetized?

Britt Anne

Mar 3, 2019, 11:12 pm Reply

5:30 Louise…..Bob's burgers haha…

Aria Clements

Mar 3, 2019, 9:14 am Reply

Juliet was 13, not 14. "She hath not seen the change of fourteen years." So she's not yet 14.

Jamie Smith

Mar 3, 2019, 1:26 pm Reply

Hit girl is my favorite!!!

Lateralus 7007

Mar 3, 2019, 2:07 pm Reply

Yea well keep the tribe away from child actors and maybe Id be more supportive. Since the Tribe controls the industry they will always be at risk. Gotta love the chosen people.

Hannah Laurenzano

Mar 3, 2019, 5:34 pm Reply

I love Empire of the Sun!

Luke Bridger

Mar 3, 2019, 5:37 pm Reply

What about Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan?

Julia K

Mar 3, 2019, 9:14 pm Reply

what about Chloe graze moretz in runaway girl? she got raped, sexually assaulted and ran around with a gun and killed someone

Genavieve C

Mar 3, 2019, 10:08 am Reply

Yup I hate rape movies or when they like kinda show it. They can just say it if they want to add that to a movie.


Mar 3, 2019, 7:05 pm Reply

It's acting and all fake lol!!!!


Mar 3, 2019, 9:52 am Reply

as a 17 year old this is ridiculous. you do realise doing drugs and having sex (and also being raped) are things that happen in every day life for some teenagers???? they’re trying to reach an audience that can relate to something like that. but yeah, we get it steve. you stayed in ur mums basement until you were 30 🙄

Daniel Vidal

Mar 3, 2019, 6:48 am Reply

It's called Léon: The Professional (1994) not just 'The Professional'

Victoria Clarke

Mar 3, 2019, 8:35 pm Reply

I was going to suggest Winona Ryder in the movie Mermaids but I just did some research and it turns out she was 19. I could’ve sworn she was younger.


Mar 3, 2019, 12:21 am Reply

You should take a look at children-toys ; the world is ruled by men !

Ima Go Apesht

Mar 3, 2019, 4:05 am Reply

“Too young” but yet all of these kids completely knocked these rolls out of the park.


Mar 3, 2019, 6:00 am Reply

Foster is definitely a witch. Didn't she also orchestrate someone to assassinate RR back in the day?? Why isn't that more well known lol

Jackie Aikin

Mar 3, 2019, 5:24 pm Reply

Today children are being exposed again like in the past because some most countries are very disturbing and teenagers are legal for an adult to be with. It's real life and it's creepy. Pedophile nation


Mar 3, 2019, 1:45 am Reply

my granddad and my family thinks i look like brooke sheilds but shes so much prettier than me lmao

Hunter Weeks

Mar 3, 2019, 2:24 am Reply

The Good Son is great! And I actually bought him as a psychopath


Mar 3, 2019, 5:11 pm Reply

omg Brooke Shields was gorgeous


Mar 3, 2019, 10:38 pm Reply

I would not call it protecting a child's innocence. Explain to me how child actors are allowed to be in dark R rated films, but if a parent plays pranks on their kid on YouTube, there is public outcry they loose custody.

Cåprice Pörtia

Mar 3, 2019, 12:42 pm Reply


Apple Shrubs

Mar 3, 2019, 4:15 pm Reply

As long as those kids aren’t making out with adults or smoking (for-real) I don’t really think it matters what role they play


Mar 3, 2019, 6:39 pm Reply

Yes, we must have 18 year olds playing 12 year old rape victims, because reasons….


Mar 3, 2019, 7:32 pm Reply

Let's not forget that many child actors are exposed to REAL abuse.Hollywood is a very dark place, and I'm not some religious nut, this is just a sad reality.

Michael Phillips

Mar 3, 2019, 5:20 am Reply

And I was thinking I had rough moments in childhood.

Maureen Seel

Mar 3, 2019, 11:44 am Reply

Empire of the Sun is one of the most touching and gut-wrenching performances from Christian Bale EVER…I love that movie…brings me to tears every time.

casey b

Mar 3, 2019, 3:41 pm Reply

all of these disgust me

Maddy Burtt

Mar 3, 2019, 9:55 pm Reply

Lmao I’m named after Madeline Cohn, but my mom spelled my name as “Madalynn” not the original spelling.

julia brummell

Mar 3, 2019, 1:05 am Reply

after seeing this in my recommended for 2 years i finally watched it.


Mar 3, 2019, 2:08 pm Reply

They are acting. What they do they do in het character. What happens in character you dont take with you in real life. If they cant do something that they shouldnt have taken the role.


Mar 3, 2019, 3:38 pm Reply

Paper moon is forever a favorite

It was me. I let the dogs out

Mar 3, 2019, 4:37 pm Reply

Did they really make a movie with a cousin romance?

Shayla Marie

Mar 3, 2019, 6:36 pm Reply

Who also likes kick ass

Belinda Garza

Mar 3, 2019, 9:40 pm Reply

Rape scenes never help people who have been raped. That is an absolutely preposterous idea. How can that possibly help?


Mar 3, 2019, 11:42 am Reply

Its pronounced zeen-yaa ohio

Bhavesh Marathe

Mar 3, 2019, 3:13 pm Reply

2:18 tom Cruze?

myah melis

Mar 3, 2019, 11:57 pm Reply

In the second one she had to kiss Brad Pitt (the one with the long hair) at her age and she said in a interview that She didn’t want to kiss him😂😂 she didn’t kiss another guy until she was 16

Lyrissawesome sauce

Mar 3, 2019, 12:21 am Reply

Sasha Pieterse!

David Davis

Mar 3, 2019, 4:54 am Reply

Its acting means nothing, nothing is real.

Grimble Grumble

Mar 3, 2019, 4:13 am Reply

Kids? Alright. But what about Ken Park then?


Apr 4, 2019, 1:10 am Reply

Lolita should be the number one

Kiyah Pritty

Apr 4, 2019, 1:15 am Reply

Lolita might be controversial… but it was such a great film. One of my favourites. The actors did such an amazing job playing the characters and bringing the book to life💕

oikawa tooru

Apr 4, 2019, 10:14 pm Reply

I was like 9 when I watched The Good Son and I was very disturbed 😂

Rainmaker Amadeus

Apr 4, 2019, 5:05 am Reply

The exorcist..the most hilarious movie around..they mean.

Joo Journal

Apr 4, 2019, 1:37 am Reply

Kids was so uncomfortable to watch which is why I watched like 5 mins lol

Elliott Platt

Apr 4, 2019, 4:42 am Reply


Rose Tyler

Apr 4, 2019, 6:16 am Reply

RoMeo WaS noT A cHilD!!

Destiney Brooke

Apr 4, 2019, 4:36 pm Reply

Hound dog was such an intense, touching movie. It’s sad and hard to watch, but i think Dakota fanning was perfect for the role. She did such a good job

Evie Ashton

Apr 4, 2019, 4:34 pm Reply


Raquel Leon

Apr 4, 2019, 3:43 am Reply

Born Innocent and Lord of the Fly's.


Apr 4, 2019, 5:17 am Reply

You mention Olivia Hussey and say that Claire Daines covered in blood is "too much" not even mentioning that Olivia was 15 and had a topless scene? C'mon.


Apr 4, 2019, 8:25 pm Reply

Two Harmony Korine movies on this list.

Either he's like writing controversial films or he's got a hangup about children.

Or both.

Alice Stockli Stockli

Apr 4, 2019, 10:25 pm Reply

I absolutely love the empire of the sun

Alice Stockli Stockli

Apr 4, 2019, 10:26 pm Reply

Also to be fair kevan in home alone is also kind of a phycopath


Apr 4, 2019, 5:20 am Reply

Lord of the Flies and City of God deserved some honorable mentions.

Lovely Girl

Apr 4, 2019, 1:28 pm Reply



Apr 4, 2019, 3:52 pm Reply

I hate when people get pissy about controversial movies. Your neighbor’s little girl is probably be assaulted by her uncle, but that’s not too close to home. This movie is.. ok

мαкι ηιsнιкιησ

Apr 4, 2019, 10:33 pm Reply

I feel bad for the NPAA for going through these films just to rate them…

Zachary Siple

Apr 4, 2019, 3:24 am Reply

Jodie Foster was 12 in Taxi Driver? Dang! What's her secret?


Apr 4, 2019, 5:59 am Reply

Blue Lagoon was an amazing movie!


Apr 4, 2019, 10:05 am Reply

I am always wary of child actors. It's so easy for them to be exploited. Take Brooke Shields for example. 😥

Nikola Khmara

Apr 4, 2019, 6:41 pm Reply

Хорошая подборка, но не ленитесь добавлять название фильма и год, к примеру, в левом нижнем углу, чтобы потом можно было купить этот фильм и посмотреть.

Jime Diez

Apr 4, 2019, 7:00 pm Reply

You should have put the girl from orphan

natt noot

Apr 4, 2019, 9:57 pm Reply

I was named after natalie Portman no joke why dad

Conman 200605

Apr 4, 2019, 12:33 am Reply

Even more proof the Kevin became saw theory is true

Jaymee Renee

Apr 4, 2019, 11:36 am Reply

I don’t understand what’s wrong with kids playing in mature rolls??? It’s acting and they’re acting on a movie set like tf idk what’s the big deal

Mandi Tierney

Apr 4, 2019, 7:42 pm Reply

The fact that Dakota Fanning actually thought that a rape survivor would even watch much less be inspired by some tasteless child rape scene just shows how ignorant she is. Talk about self importance


Apr 4, 2019, 12:14 pm Reply

How about Kristen Stewart in Speak ?

Lady Stardust

Apr 4, 2019, 1:27 pm Reply

Autant dire film et scènes pédophile ! C'est ça qu'ils aiment à hollywood le satanisme la pédophilie et j'en passe!


Apr 4, 2019, 11:56 pm Reply

This only confirmed the child stars who's parents were comfortable with pimping their children out to Hollywood pedophiles!

Maxwell Howig

Apr 4, 2019, 2:54 am Reply

Child Bride (1938). A 12 year old Shirley Mills has a lengthy nude swim scene. No body double, no nothing! The only reason the film got away with it was it was independent and "educational".


Apr 4, 2019, 1:25 am Reply

come on people
16/ 17 is close enough
i do see how people might still be shocked but just putting it out there
ok second thoughts
that "kids movie" is fair enough to get picky about

RealLife #Reality Campos

Apr 4, 2019, 9:15 pm Reply



Apr 4, 2019, 9:48 pm Reply

Kids is one of the best movies


Apr 4, 2019, 4:33 am Reply

5:03 it's me or it's Marie? xD


Apr 4, 2019, 12:53 pm Reply

I was a kid once. Art imitates life. End.


Apr 4, 2019, 4:14 pm Reply

The premise might make more sense if any example of actual problems experienced by any of these very talented actors, could be given.


Apr 4, 2019, 1:41 am Reply

2 Harmony Korine films on one list.


Apr 4, 2019, 4:58 am Reply

If Shirley Temple isn’t on this list


Apr 4, 2019, 6:27 pm Reply

Harmony korine is on this list more than once, kids is a really fucked up film.

Lapin Féerique

Apr 4, 2019, 8:15 pm Reply

Kristen Dunst should have won an oscar for that performance. I'vet to see most adult actors come close to her skill at 11 years.

Lee Monahan

Apr 4, 2019, 8:34 pm Reply

these captions are consistently wrong in commonly pretentious ways.

Guided Hand

Apr 4, 2019, 1:24 am Reply

Empire of the sun was an amazing movie!

Jasmine Singh

Apr 4, 2019, 11:01 pm Reply

Paper moon is one of my favorite movies 😂👌🏾✨


Apr 4, 2019, 1:10 am Reply


Theron Wagner

Apr 4, 2019, 2:46 am Reply

Disturb behaviors ie what really happens irl that people don’t like hearing about xD


Apr 4, 2019, 2:00 am Reply

The Outsiders

Liam Alistarr

May 5, 2019, 1:55 am Reply

8:20 he looks like that boy that played in the Peter Pan movie.

Zohar Sarig

May 5, 2019, 7:29 pm Reply

Chloe Mortez in hick was also pretty shocking

Elvis Van

Jun 6, 2019, 12:52 pm Reply

🌆7PM Jun 4 2019~

Kaneda Shotaro

Jun 6, 2019, 4:22 pm Reply

So 19 is too young to act Juliette ?? wtf

Az Lean

Jul 7, 2019, 10:00 am Reply

Linda Blair did damage her back on the levitation scene either. It was the start when she is being flogged up and down on the bed.

سجاد – Sejad

Sep 9, 2019, 2:41 am Reply

Great Video.
Jodie Foster 🤩

Random Animations

Sep 9, 2019, 3:24 am Reply

Teens wouldn't count on this list because they shouldn't be considered child actors and they do have a choice unlike actual children.

Random Animations

Sep 9, 2019, 3:31 am Reply

I like how Dakota Fanning speaks the literal truth about how it is just a movie and that people shouldn't fight over something so stupid.

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