In Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman’s rom-com The Switch, which came out in August, their cute-enough-to-eat (you know what we mean) pint-size costar Thomas Robinson had big-time presence, maybe even enough to steal the spotlight away from two A-listers … This got us to thinking: who are the cutest child film stars to ever grace the silver screen?
Here’s our top ten … in alphabetical order.
1. Drew Barrymore : Seven-year-old Barrymore burst onto the scene with a very memorable scream as Gertie in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. in 1982 and hasn’t taken a Hollywood hiatus since. Although she certainly struggled with many of the demons that seem to plague child stars, Drew has established her own production company, tried her hand at directing, and has emerged as one of the most relatable, likable, and successful actors in the business.
2. Peter Billingsley : In the pantheon of classic holiday films, A Christmas Story certainly holds one of the top spots. Case in point: is there any movie quote more recognizable than “You’ll shoot your eye out”? Billingsley starred as bespectacled Ralphie Parker, who, more than anything else, just wants a Red Ryder BB gun from Santa. Billingsley moved on from the world of fishnet-stocking-covered-leg lamps to production and work behind the camera (his directorial debut, Couples Retreat, with Vince Vaughn, came out in 2009).
3. Thora Birch : In the early ’90s, Birch was one of the most sought-after child actors after her high-profile roles in All I Want for Christmas, Patriot Games, and Hocus Pocus. Sharing the screen with big names such as Harrison Ford and Bette Midler never seemed to faze preteen Birch, who has continued to expand her résumé by venturing into more provocative material with subsequent roles in Ghost World and American Beauty.
4. Macaulay Culkin :The unprecedented success of Home Alone shot Culkin (aka Kevin McAllister) to worldwide fame and turned him into a household name, but it was his turn as pancake-loving Miles opposite funnyman John Candy in Uncle Buck that first put him on Hollywood’s radar. He returned to the role that made him famous in the film’s popular sequel (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York) and has continued to pursue acting as well as other artistic projects.
5. Dakota Fanning 
The road from ingénue to bona fide movie star can be a bumpy one, but Fanning seems incapable of hitting the potholes. Her work as Lucy, the daughter of a mentally retarded man (played by Sean Penn), in I Am Sam moved moviegoers across the country to tears and provided her with a launching pad for future work. Her list of costars—Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, and the aforementioned Mr. Penn, to name a few—reads like a veritable “Who’s Who” in Hollywood … and she’s only a teenager.
6. Jonathan Lipnicki : No list would be complete without the inclusion of Lipnicki, whose work as Ray in Jerry Maguire almost managed to outshine his adult costars. The love story between Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger and the friendship between agent (Cruise) and player (Cuba Gooding Jr.) were the predominant story lines, but Lipnicki’s one-liners (“Do you know that the human head weighs eight pounds?”) and unforgettable face definitely contributed to the film’s overwhelming success.
7. Tatum O’Neal : Ten-year-old Tatum remains in Hollywood lore as the youngest competitive Oscar winner ever (Best Supporting Actress) for her work in Paper Moon as a convincing child con artist. Additionally, O’Neal starred in films such as Bad News Bears and International Velvet, but her most famous (and most highly praised) work was her first film, where she played opposite her father, Ryan.
8. Haley Joel Osment : Although the subject matter was a bit heavy for an eleven-year-old, Haley Joel Osment’s turn as terrified ghost-believing Cole Sears in The Sixth Sense skyrocketed him to fame. His whispered confession (“I see dead people”) to Bruce Willis was, of course, one of the most memorable lines in the popular film. Osment actually made his big-screen debut a few years before opposite Tom Hanks, playing Hanks’ adorable and surprisingly bright son Little Forrest in Forrest Gump.
9. Jaden Smith 
Certainly his enviable genetics (Jada and Will) deserve some of the credit, but Jaden has proved that he’s destined to be as bankable a star as his father is. With his role as the new face of The Karate Kid franchise as well as his emotional performance in The Pursuit of Happyness, Jaden’s acting chops have put him in the position to embark upon an impressive career.
10. Shirley Temple 
Arguably the most popular (and cutest) child star of all time, Ms. Temple ruled the roost in the 1930s. Her trademark curls and undeniable performing skills (dancing, acting, and singing) cemented her as a triple threat and caused a sensation (the film Bright Eyes was created specifically for her) that led to an eventual honorary Academy Award. Shirley Temple truly defined the term “child star.” As for her life post-Hollywood life, well, that hasn’t been too shabby either: she’s worked for the U.N. and as a U.S. ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
Honorable Mention: Lindsay Lohan (The Parent Trap); Mara Wilson (Mrs. Doubtfire, Miracle on 34th Street, Matilda); Anna Chumlsky (My Girl); Anna Paquin (The Piano); Hayden Panettiere (Remember The Titans); Christina Ricci (The Addams Family); Dylan and Cole Sprouse (Big Daddy); and Elizabeth Taylor (Lassie Come Home).
Originally published on Tonic