Being an actor who’s struggling to make it in show business is tough enough, but it's a lot tougher for a kid. Maybe that’s why so many former child actors turn to getting regular jobs after they’ve gotten a taste of the limelight at such a young age.
But some former child stars stuck with their creative crafts and continue to wow audiences on big and small screens. Some of these stars have even revived the roles that made them household names in recent years. You may not even recognize that some of the actors you love today were stars way back in the day!
Haley Joel Osment
Haley Joel Osment won viewers' hearts with his brief appearance as Forrest Gump's son in the 1994 film of the same name. He then went on to play a "seer" (a.k.a. someone who sees dead people) in the thriller “The Sixth Sense." He also played an android child in “A.I.” in 2001. After taking a brief acting break to go to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, he guest starred on the TV show “Silicon Valley” and played Mesmer in the anti-hero series, “The Boys.”
Kristen Stewart cemented herself in Hollywood by playing Jodie Foster’s onscreen daughter in the 2002 film “Panic Room.” She eventually landed other roles in films like “Zathura: A Space Adventure.” But the breakout role that made her a star was Bella in the “Twilight” franchise. She has since starred in films like “Charlie’s Angels,” “Underwater,” the LGBT Christmas rom-com, “Happiest Season,” and she is set to play Princess Diana in the 2021 film “Spencer.”
Shortly after appearing in the 1989 comedy film “Uncle Buck,” Macaulay Culkin became the main star in the film “Home Alone” and its sequel. He also wowed audiences in “Richie Rich” and “My Girl," a heartbreaking coming-of-age movie that delves into real life issues. While Culkin has only appeared in a few films in recent years, he is set to star in “American Horror Story” in 2021.
Mayim Bialik is best known for her 1990s lead role in the sitcom “Blossom,” and as the brainy scientist Amy Farrah Fowler on the long-running sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.” In 2021, she once again landed the lead role in a new comedy called “Call Me Kat,” which is based on the BBC comedy “Miranda.”
Thora Birch left quite an impression on audiences for her work in the film “Purple People Eater,” but she also starred in other memorable films like “Hocus Pocus,” "Patriot Games" and “Clear and Present Danger.” Her most recent role was a whisperer named Gamma on “The Walking Dead." But if you're dying to see Thora Birch on the big screen, we have great news! She's starring in the epic tornado action film, “13 Minutes” in 2021 alongside Anne Heche and Amy Smart.
Jason Bateman made young hearts swoon when he played Derek Taylor in “Silver Spoons.” This role helped Bateman transition to own sitcom “It’s Your Move,” and a movie role in “Teen Wolf Too.” As an adult, Bateman has starred in shows like “Arrested Development” and the highly addictive “Ozark.” Bateman has stayed busy throughout the years, making a cameo on SNL and gracing the big screen with comedic films like “The Switch,” “The Change-Up,” and “Identity Thief.”
Taliesin Jaffe made his acting debut playing Kenny Butler in the 1983 movie “Mr. Mom.” He then starred on the show “She’s the Sheriff” alongside Suzanne Somers. Today, he is known for his role as a voice actor in “Injustice 2” where he voiced The Flash. He has also appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons web series “Critical Role.”
Anna Chlumsky played the lead role in “My Girl” alongside Macaulay Culkin and also starred in the sequel “My Girl 2.” But she put her acting career on hold to go to the University of Chicago. Through the years, she has guest starred on “30 Rock” and “Law & Order” before landing a bigger role on "Veep" as Amy Brookheimer. Fans can look forward to seeing her again in “Inventing Anna” a TV mini-series slated for 2021.
Christina Ricci did a marvelous job as Wednesday Addams in the 1991 film “The Addams Family” and again in the 1993 sequel. But she proved she wasn’t done with the supernatural when she appeared in the 1995 film “Casper.” She has since starred on the small screen in “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles” and “Z: The Beginning of Everything.” And she’s set to star in the 2021 film “The Matrix 4” so there's still a lot of Christina Richie to go around.
Frankie Muniz will always be remembered for his role in the hit comedy “Malcom in the Middle.” He also starred in the film “Agent Cody Banks,” which spawned a sequel in 2004. But he also dabbled in music and auto racing before he became a contestant on the reality show “Dancing With the Stars,” where he came in third place. He also guest starred in the police series “The Rookie” in 2021, and he is working on the film “Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink 2.”
Ron Howard went from playing Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show,” to playing one of the lead characters on the sitcom, “Happy Days.” And his future wasn’t necessarily in front of the camera, but behind it. Howard has directed Hollywood blockbusters like “Splash,” “Apollo 13,” and “The Da Vinci Code.” But he has also done voiceover work for shows like “This Is Us” and “Arrested Development.”
Jonathan Lipnicki was the adorable blonde kid with glasses in the 1996 film “Jerry Maguire.” He later landed roles on “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Jeff Foxworthy Show.” And he also starred in the 1999 film “Stuart Little” and its sequel before focusing on being an MMA fighter. But he also did work on independent films like “Boone: The Bounty Hunter” and on reality TV shows like “Worst Cooks in America.” He has also guest-starred on shows like “The Resident.”
Daniel Radcliffe was only 10 years old when he played a young version of David Copperfield, a real-life magician in BBC’s “David Copperfield.” Then he went on to play a fictional wizard in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in 2001. He has since played more grown-up roles in films like “The Woman in Black,” “Kill Your Darlings,” “Imperium,” and the TV series “Miracle Workers.”
Raven-Symoné won the hearts of her audience as the adorable Olivia Kendall on the sitcom “The Cosby Show.” She eventually went on to start in the sitcoms “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” and “That’s So Raven.” She later revisited her role of Raven Baxter in the revival series “Raven’s Home.” But she’s also known as a former TV host of “The View” and for voicing Valkyrie in the animated TV series “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Abigail Breslin made her film debut in 2002’s “Signs.” Then she starred in the film “Little Miss Sunshine,” which earned her an Oscar nomination. But over the years, she’s kept busy starring in films like “Final Girl” and “Zombieland: Double Tap.” She even starred on the TV series “Scream Queens,” and released an album titled “The World Now.”
Miko Hughes appeared in horror flicks like “Pet Sematary and “New Nightmares,” as well as other films like “Apollo 13.” He even had a recurring role as a sinister alien on the series “Roswell.” But while his roles have been far and few between, he is currently working on a film called “Floaty” and a short called “Dylan’s New Nightmare: An Elm Street Fan Film.”
While most young actresses had cute roles, Daveigh Chase scared the living daylights out of people as the wicked supernatural ghost named Samara in 2002’s “The Ring.” She also starred in films like 2001’s “Donnie Darko,” and she voiced Lilo in “Lilo & Stitch.” She also voiced the character Chihiro in “Spirited Away.” Her last credit role was voicing the character Kiwako Seto in the video game “Let It Die” in 2016.
The Spanish-born actress Ivana Baquero gained stardom as Ofelia in Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Her more popular roles included playing Eretria in the short-lived sci-fi scries “The Shannara Chronicles,” and in the series “High Seas.” She is currently starring in the film “Black Friday!” which is in post-production.
Alexander Polinsky had his breakthrough role on the series “Charles in Charge” and he appeared in over 100 episodes of the 1980s series. After the show’s finale, Polinsky went on to hone his other talents including singing, voiceover acting, painting and toy design. Currently, Alexander appears on animated shows like “Baby Shark's Big Show,” “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” and “Teen Titans Go!” His new band Make Magic released their debut single titled “Dusty Feathers” in 2020.
Tahj Mowry guest-starred on “Full House” as one of Michelle’s classmates. But the young actor later moved on to play T.J. Henderson, a genius on the show “Smart Guy.” As he got older, he starred in the sitcom “Baby Daddy” and he is set to star in the film “Welcome Matt.” And there’s even talks of a “Smart Guy” reboot in the works.
For nine seasons, Jaleel White played the geeky but adorable Steve Urkel on the sitcom “Family Matters.” After the show ended, White appeared on various shows like “House” and “Psych.” As he got older, he has continued to pop up as a guest star here and there and host TV series, like "Ever After with Jaleel White." His most recent role was voicing Gene the Genie in the rebooted “Duck Tales” series.
AnnaSophia Robb graced us with her beauty in the 2005 film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” The Tim Burton film opened the door to other films like “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Race to Witch Mountain” for the young actress. But Robb looked all grown up when she played a young version of Carrie Bradshaw in the “Sex and the City” prequel, “The Carrie Diaries.” In 2020, she starred in the series “The Expecting,” and she is currently filming the series “Dr. Death.”
“Drake & Josh” fans recognize the name Josh Peck, though maybe not necessarily his face. And that’s because the actor turned into quite a stud as he got older. He later starred in the sitcom “Grandfathered” alongside John Stamos, which only lasted one season. But he’s currently set to star in his own show called “Turner & Hooch,” which is based off the film starring Tom Hanks.
Tania Raymonde played Cynthia Sanders, one of Malcolm’s classmates on “Malcom in the Middle” in 2001. But when fans saw her pop up again in the Amazon series “Goliath,” she looked virtually unrecognizable and obviously all grown up. The actress has also done films such as “Dirty Lies” in 2016 and she even had a recurring role in the popular ABC series “Lost.”
Taylor Momsen went from the sweet innocent looking Cindy Lou Who in the live-action film “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” to the rebellious teen Jenny Humprey in the CW’s “Gossip Girl.” But she left acting behind to work on her music with her band, The Pretty Reckless, who released the hit single “Heaven Knows,” and a studio album called “Going to Hell.” Recently on Instagram, she shared the link to her music video “Only Love Can Save Me Now.”
Cole Sprouse worked with his twin Dylan on “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody,” its sequel series “The Suite Life on Deck,” and the TV film “The Suite Life Movie.” Then the twins went to NYU to get college degrees before Cole returned to acting to take on the role of Jughead in the popular series “Riverdale.”
In 2008, Demi Lovato became a hit thanks to the Disney Channel film “Camp Rock” and TV series “Sonny with a Chance.” She then released a debut album called “Don’t Forget." But she suffered a series of mental health issues and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Lovato continued to make music that reached the top of the charts like “Sorry Not Sorry.” And in 2021, a documentary called “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil” was released and it focused on her musical journey and past traumas.
Zac Efron and his hairstyle became pretty popular in the early 2000s in “High School Musical.” But his pretty boy looks eventually evolved into a muscular Adonis style, which he had to emulate to appear in the film version of “Baywatch.” He also took on the role of serial killer Ted Bundy in “Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile.” Some of his latest projects include films like “Firestarter,” “Gold,” and a TV series called “Killing Zac Efron.”
Bella Thorne made an impression when she starred in the Disney series “Shake It Up” alongside Zendaya, a show about two girls who want to be professional dancers. She has since divided her time between acting and modeling, but some of her more prominent roles include films like the 2015 film “The Duff” and the 2018 film “Midnight Sun.” Her latest role was in a TV series called “Paradise City.” And despite a series of scandals like temporarily dating Kourtney Kardashian’s ex, Scott Disick and dating YouTuber Tana Mongeau, Thorne has stayed pretty busy in Hollywood.
Nick Jonas was a not-so-typical pimply faced kid when he and his two brothers became the super popular boy band the Jonas Brothers and released platinum albums left and right. And although the band took a break in 2013, he started pursuing acting in TV roles like “Kingdom” where he played an MMA fighter who was in the closet. He has also starred in films like 2019’s “Jumanji: The Next Level.”
Unlike some child stars who left the spotlight and later reemerged as adults, Ariel Winter grew up in front of everyone’s eyes as the star of the sitcom “Modern Family.” Winter has also done a great deal of voiceover work on animated television shows like “Elena of Avalor.” And she recently announced on Instagram that she’s going to be working in the comedy film “Pools.”
In 2001, Alexa PenaVega starred in the family film “Spy Kids,” which led to three sequels. And as a teen, she had already landed several appearances in TV films, too. But in 2013, she proved she was no longer a little girl when she showed off her impressive abs in the film “Machete Kills.” She then put acting on the back burner, but was a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars.” Today’s she’s married to fellow actor Carlos PenaVega and they have three kids. She can also be heard voicing several characters in the series “The Casagrandes.”
In the early 2000s, Drake Bell became a household name alongside his co-star Josh Peck in the sitcom “Drake & Josh.” He went on to voice Peter Parker in the animated series “Ultimate Spider-Man" and he even made some music. Drake Bell later revealed that he changed his name to Drake Campana and he moved to Mexico to pursue his music career. But in 2021, he was arrested in Ohio for attempted endangerment of a child. He pled not guilty.
Angus T. Jones
Angus T. Jones will forever be known as Jake Harper, the young character on the sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” In 2012, Jones got baptized and announced that he wanted to quit the show because it contradicted with his faith. He then called the show filth on YouTube and was temporarily replaced on the series by Amber Tamblyn. But he did make a cameo in the season 12 finale. Jones then focused on his education at the University of Colorado Boulder but he has not done anything in Hollywood since 2016.
Anthony Michael Hall
Some of Anthony Michael Hall’s most epic films included “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” and "National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Aside from starring with Brad Pitt in the 2017 film “War Machine,” Hall has kept busy appearing as Mr. Perott in the sitcom “The Goldbergs,” and he just completed work on the film “Halloween Kills” slated for release in 2021.
Mackenzie Rosman played Ruthie Camden in the series “7th Heaven,” which lasted 11 seasons before she landed a recurring role on “Secret Life of the American Teenager.” But fans were shocked that she did a revealing photo shoot for Maxim magazine given that she played a preacher’s daughter on “7th Heaven.” And although her acting career stalled after 2015, she is still the proud founder of Fletch Athletica, which made the Doli Belt designed to carry all kinds of tools.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
Although Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are fraternal twins, they looked so much alike that they were able to take turns playing the role of Michelle on the sitcom “Full House.” And they became so popular that they released a home video series that earned them millions. The sisters’ final role together was in the 2004 film “New York Minute.” Mary-Kate's final acting role was in the 2011 film “Beastly.” Both sisters declined to appear in “Fuller House,” but their fashion designing career has continued to keep both sisters very busy since the opening of their label The Row in 2006.
Hilary Duff became popular among teens when she starred in Disney’s “Lizzie McGuire,” a series that spawned a movie spinoff in 2003. But aside from acting, she’s also a singer who released the 2015 album “Breathe In. Breathe Out.” She also recently wrapped up playing Kelsey Peters in the series “Younger,” and is set to star in the upcoming series “How I Met Your Father.”
Aside from playing a hybrid alien in the mini-series “Taken,” Dakota Fanning has appeared in films like “I Am Sam,” “Man on Fire,” and “Twilight.” After graduating high school in 2011, she continued acting in films like “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Ocean’s 8.” In 2018, she starred in the TV series “The Alienist,” and she is currently working on the film “The Nightingale” and the TV series “The First Lady.”
Alisan Porter will always be known for her lead role in the 1991 film “Curly Sue.” Although her acting career seemingly stalled, she was a contestant on “The Voice” in 2016 and won! This allowed her to release her popular single “Down That Road.” In 2019, she released her third album titled “Pink Cloud.”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the adorable kid on the thriller vampire series “Dark Shadows" in the early 1990s. But most people remember him for playing Tommy the alien on the sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun.” He took a bit of a break from acting to go to college but he has since returned to Hollywood to do films like “500 Days of Summer” and “50/50.” He is currently playing Josh in “Mr. Corman,” a TV series that is currently in production.
“Mrs. Doubtfire” fans still remember Mara Wilson as Robin Williams’ adorable onscreen daughter. Her work in the film was so amazing that she landed a role in the 1994 version of “Miracle on 34th Street,” and the title role in the 1996 film “Matilda.” As she got older, she turned to writing her 2016 book “Where Am I Now: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame.” And in 2018, she voiced Liv Amara in “Big Hero 6: The Series.”
Jennette McCurdy earned not one but two Kids’ Choice Awards for Favorite TV Sidekick on the show “iCarly.” So naturally, she accepted to reprise her role in the spinoff “Sam & Kat” in 2013. She also appeared in the film “Between” in 2015 and the web series “Adam and Wiley’s Lost Weekend.” And although she hasn’t been active in acting since 2018, she has 7.7 million followers on Instagram and she continues to be both a writer and director.
“Full House” fans will immediately recognize Andrea Barber as the annoying dim-witted neighbor Kimmy Gibbler. But most people don’t know that she played Carrie Brady in the soap opera “Days of our Lives” in the early 1980s. She reprised her role of Kimmy in “Fuller House” and also took on the role of Principal Willingham on the show “That Girl Lay-Lay.”
Melissa Joan Hart
From “Clarissa Explains It All” to “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Sabrina: The Animated Series,” Melissa Joan Hart did it all at an early age. But her biggest success was as Sabrina on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” which ran for seven seasons and later on the sitcom “Melissa & Joey.” She has also directed TV shows like “The Goldbergs." She also voiced the character Mrs. Chang in the series “The Casagrandes.”
Soleil Moon Frye
Soleil Moon Frye became famous in the 1980s for playing Punky on the sitcom “Punky Brewster.” She eventually landed film roles in “You Ruined My Life” and “The St. Tammany Miracle.” She recently reprised her former role in the “Punky Brewster” revival series, but fans weren't too surprised to see her playing a feisty divorced mom of three. Also, spoiler alert: the character finally discovers why her mother abandoned her.
Fred Savage was popping up here and there in the 1980s like in the film “The Boy Who Could Fly.” But his most memorable role was as Kevin Arnold in the series “The Wonder Years.” Over the years, he has starred in other shows like “The Grinder” in 2015 and he also guest starred on “Modern Family.” He has also appeared in “The Princess Bride” and “Once Upon a Deadpool.” And he has even voiced various characters in the animated series “American Dad!”
Danica McKellar will always be remembered for her role as Winnie Cooper, a.k.a. Kevin’s love interest on “The Wonder Years.” After the show ended, she guest starred on shows like “Walker, Texas Ranger.” But she has since used her knowledge of mathematics to write books about math like “Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape.” She has also done some voiceover work as Miss Martian in the animated series “Young Justice.”
Drew Barrymore won people over in 1982’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” This led her to land other roles in the 1980s like “Babes in Toyland” and “Firestarter.” As she got older, she appeared in films like “Boys on the Side,” and even produced a few films like “Whip It,” “Animal,” and the 2019 film “Charlie’s Angels.” She also starred in and produced the Netflix series “Santa Clarita Diet” and is currently the host of her own talk show “The Drew Barrymore Show.”
Anna Paquin started out playing Flora McGrath in the film “The Piano,” which earned her an Oscar. This led to other roles later in life like playing Rogue in the “X-Men” films. But her most popular role is playing Sookie Stackhouse in the vampire series “True Blood.” Since then, she has appeared in other projects like “The Affair,” “The Irishman,” and “Flack.”
Tiffani Thiessen became everyone’s crush when she played Kelly Kapowski on “Saved by the Bell.” As she got older, she took on a more adult role on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” playing Valerie Malone. She also played Elizabeth Burke on “White Collar” and appeared on the sitcom “Alexa & Katie.” But she has recently reprised her role of Kelly on the “Saved by the Bell” revival series.