As unbelievable as it sounds, Dec. 21, 2019, marks 25 years since former child actor Macaulay Culkin — best known for playing Kevin McCallister in the "Home Alone" film franchise — starred in the family comedy "Richie Rich." The movie, about an elementary-aged billionaire who's forced to rely on his wits and newfound friends to help save his parents, was Macaulay's last childhood role before he took a very necessary break from Hollywood. Macaulay reemerged nearly a decade later as an adult actor in films like "Saved!" and "Changeland" and TV shows like "Kings" and "The Jim Gaffigan Show," although he never pursued the same level of fame he had as a kid. In honor of the 25th anniversary of "Richie Rich," Wonderwall.com is taking a look at more iconic child stars like Macaulay who we'll never forget. Keep reading for more…
Around the same time Macaulay Culkin was taking the world by storm, actress Anna Chlumsky was doing the same. The two co-starred in 1991's "My Girl" — a film about a young girl named Vada who was struggling to understand the changes in her life during the early '70s — which was Anna's second film. Three years later, Anna was back in theaters with "My Girl 2" and the comedy "Trading Mom." She took a lengthy break from acting to go to college and spend a few years working in publishing then got back in the game mostly on television, appearing on shows like "30 Rock," "Cupid," "Law & Order," "Hannibal" and "Halt and Catch Fire." From 2012 to 2019, she starred on "Veep," earning six Emmy nominations during her run on the comedy. Up next, we'll see Anna on the TV drama "Inventing Anna."
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2001 marked the year three young, up-and-coming child stars — Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson — made their mark in Hollywood with the premiere of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." The film was Daniel's third and the first for Rupert and Emma, but shortly after it debuted, the three soon became some of the most recognized child stars in the world. They remained together throughout the entirety of the eight-part film franchise, finally bidding their characters adieu in 2011 with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." Daniel went on to reinvent himself as a Broadway and West End theater star, appearing in stage productions of "The Cripple of Inishmaan" and "Endgame" while also continuing to star in films like "The Woman in Black," "Kill Your Darlings" and "Victor Frankenstein." Emma graduated from Brown University and starred in films like "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," "Noah," "The Colony" and the 2017 blockbuster hit "Beauty and the Beast." Emma's also a U.N. Goodwill ambassador who's regularly spoken out against gender inequality. As for Rupert, the fiery-headed actor made a move to both film and TV, starring in movies like "Charlie Countryman" and "Instruments of Darkness" as well as on the series "Sick Note," "The ABC Murders" and "Snatch." In 2019, the three are busier than ever: Daniel starred on the series "Miracle Workers" and in the film "Guns Akimbo" and voiced a character in "Playmobil: The Movie." Emma stars in the "Little Women" remake and Rupert continued acting on "Snatch" and "Servant." The three have remained friends.
She was only a child star for about seven years, but during that time, Mara Wilson managed to become one of the most iconic young actresses of the '90s. Starring in films like "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Miracle on 34th Street," Mara was a lisping cutie who stole our hearts with her big eyes and gentle smile. Her fame skyrocketed in 1996 when she landed the titular role in the film adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel "Matilda." Sadly, shortly before the movie premiered, Mara's mother died of breast cancer, leaving the 8-year-old actress devastated. Mara would only star in two more films and make an appearance in three TV shows after her mom's death, retiring as a child actress in 2000 after the premiere of "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" when she was 13. Today Mara's a published author and a voice actress on shows like "BoJack Horseman" and "Big Hero 6: The Series."
One of the few child stars on our list who is more famous today than he was as a kid is Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Thanks to his youthful good looks, Leo was playing child-sized roles well into his late teens and young adult years on shows like "Parenthood" and "Growing Pains" and in movies like "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" — which earned him his first Oscar nod — and "This Boys Life" before transforming into a grown-up superstar. Today, Leo's best known for his roles in films like "Titanic," "Inception," "The Wolf of Wall Street" and the movie that finally earned him an Academy Award, "The Revenant." In 2019, Leo returned to the big screen in "Once Upon a Time In Hollywood." Up next, he's slated to star in three films including "Roosevelt" and on the TV series "The Devil in the White City."
Long before Drew Barrymore was a rom-com queen and the star of the buzzy TV series "Santa Clarita Diet," she was one of Hollywood's most prominent child actors. Drew, who started working as an actress when she was just a toddler in 1978, won fans with her biggest childhood film role, Gertie in 1982's "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial." Drew, who was known for her sunny disposition and perfect movie scream, was thrust into the limelight at a young age, sending her down a dark road of partying, substance abuse and self-harm that led to her being hospitalized at 13. Thankfully, she eventually got clean and returned to Hollywood stronger than ever, captivating us in films like "The Wedding Singer," "Charlie's Angels" and "50 First Dates" while also working behind the scenes as a producer on films like "How to Be Single" and "Freak Show" as well as TV shows like "Rattled" and "Blooms." In 2020, Drew returns to the big screen in the comedy "The Stand-In."
Years before Elijah Wood's name became synonymous with the "Lord of the Rings" franchise, he was a popular child star appearing in some of the most heartwarming films of the '90s. Some of Elijah's early movies include "Avalon," "Paradise," "Forever Young," "Radio Flyer" (seen here), "The Adventures of Huck Finn" and "The Good Son" — the latter of which co-starred another child actor on our list, Macaulay Culkin. Following 1996's "Flipper," which came out when Elijah was 15, he found landing starring roles more difficult than before though continued to appear on the big screen in supporting roles in films like "Deep Impact" and "The Faculty" before he reemerged at 20 as a leading man in the "LOTR" film series. Today, Elijah's known for taking on eclectic roles on shows like "Wilfred," "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" and "Drunk History" as well as lending his voice to animated shows like "Over the Garden Wall" and "Star Wars Resistance." Up next, we'll get to see Elijah return to the big screen in the crime drama "L.A. Rush."
Remember in the early 2000s when it seemed like young Dakota Fanning was in just about every movie? Graduating from TV actress to film star in 2001, Dakota's first major movie role was in the Oscar-nominated drama "I Am Sam" alongside Sean Penn. A tiny powerhouse, Dakota began landing films left and right. Some of her best known credits include "Sweet Home Alabama," "Hansel & Gretel," "Uptown Girls," "The Cat in the Hat," "Man on Fire" (seen here), "Hide and Seek" and "War of the Worlds" — all filmed before she was even 12. More movies followed, including "Charlotte's Web," "The Secret Life of Bees," "Coraline" and three "Twilight" films, which all came before Dakota's 18th birthday. Now an established adult actress, Dakota's appeared in films like "Please Stand By" and "Ocean's Eight" as well as on TV series like "The Alienist." In 2019, she voiced a character on "Gen: Lock" and appeared in the films "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" and "Sweetness in the Belly." Up next, we'll see Dakota on the big screen in "Viena and the Fantomes" and "The Bell Jar" as well as on the "Alienist" sequel series "The Angel of Darkness."
Peter Billingsley's time as a child star was brief, but thanks to his classic 1983 holiday film "A Christmas Story," he's remained an icon. Following the movie, Peter returned to the big screen in films like "The Dirt Bike Kid" and "Russkies" and appeared on several TV shows like "Punky Brewster" and "The Wonder Years" before turning his attention to filmmaking. Today, Peter primarily works as a producer: He's worked on "Iron Man" and "Four Christmases" as well as shows like "Sullivan & Son" and "F is For Family." In 2019, Peter returned to the big screen for the first time in six years to reprise his "Iron Man" role as William Ginter Riva in "Spider-Man: Far From Home."
Even though it's been more than 80 years since a young, curly-haired Shirley Temple made her film debut in 1932's "Red Haired Alibi," she's still regarded as one of the most iconic child stars of all time. Before her 18th birthday, Shirley starred in more than 35 films, including her most famous movies, "Curly Top," "Captain January," "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," "Poor Little Rich Girl" and "The Little Princess." By 1940, the 12-year-old tap-dancing cherub's popularity had started waning due to her simply growing older. Although Shirley continued to work in Hollywood, her roles were fewer and farther between and in the 1960s, she refocused her efforts on humanitarian work and politics. During the latter part of her life, Shirley was a U.N. ambassador and a foreign service ambassador as well as an author (she published her autobiography, "Child Star," in 1988). Shirley died at 85 in 2014.
It's only been a few years since Abigail Breslin transitioned from one of the most beloved child stars of the 2000s to a young adult in Hollywood. The Oscar-nominated actress's big screen debut came in 2002 with the sci-fi thriller "Signs." From there, she appeared in numerous films including "Raising Helen," "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement," "Little Miss Sunshine" (seen here), "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," "Definitely, Maybe," "Nim's Island," "Zombieland," "My Sister's Keeper" and "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl." During her later-teen years, Abigail continued to land roles in films like "August: Osage County" and "Ender's Game" before officially becoming an adult in 2014. Over the last half-decade, we've seen Abigail on the small screen on two seasons of "Scream Queens" and in the TV movie remake of "Dirty Dancing." In 2019, Abigail returned to the big screen in the sequel "Zombieland: Double Tap." Next, fans will see her in the 2020 film "Stillwater" and the comedy "Saturday at the Starlight."
From the late '70s to the mid-'80s, no child star was more famous than young Gary Coleman, thanks to his leading role on the popular sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes." When the series ended in 1986, Gary — then 18 — struggled to find new roles. The actor, who was born with a congenital kidney disease, maintained a childlike appearance throughout most of his life, which ultimately made being cast as an adult difficult in Hollywood. Gary persisted, however, and over the years made appearances on shows like "The Ben Stiller Show," "Martin," "Unhappily Ever After," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "Married… With Children" and "Wayhead." His on-screen opportunities became fewer and farther between throughout the 2000s, forcing Gary to take more mediocre roles. Sadly, in 2010, Gary died at 42 following a fall in his home caused a hemorrhagic stroke.
Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen are the twins who took over the world. After making their on-screen debut as infants on "Full House" in 1987, Mary-Kate and Ashley developed an adoring fan base that supported them as they made their own popular movie franchises, "The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley" and "You're Invited to…" The girls also appeared on other TV shows like "Two of a Kind," "7th Heaven" and "So Little Time" as well as in the movies "Passport to Paris," "Winning London," "Holiday in the Sun," "Getting There," "When in Rome," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and their final childhood movie together, "New York Minute," which debuted in 2004 — the same year the girls turned 18. As adults, the fraternal twins led more private lives and turned their attention away from Hollywood to their true love: fashion. They've worked as designers and businesswomen at the helm of fashion brands The Row, Elizabeth and James, Olsenboye and StyleMint.
Brooke Shields, who was born in 1965, began her career in Hollywood in 1974. She landed a highly controversial role as a child prostitute in 1978's "Pretty Baby" (seen here) in which she did nude scenes at 12. As she got older, she continued to star in major motion pictures including "King of the Gypsies," "An Almost Perfect Affair," "Tilt," "Wanda Nevada," "Just You and Me, Kid" and "The Blue Lagoon." By the time Brooke was 18, she'd already starred in 12 films and had spent time modeling for Calvin Klein. As an adult, Brooke — who graduated from Princeton University — continued to act, starring on shows like "Suddenly Susan" and "Lipstick Jungle." In 2005, Brooke published her memoir about postpartum depression, "Down Came the Rain," which she followed with the 2014 memoir "There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me," a book that dives into the difficult relationship Brooke had with her mom, who was also her manager. In 2019, the mother of two returned to the small screen on "Jane the Virgin" and in the TV movie "Glamorous." Brooke will next appear in the comedy film "My Boyfriend's Meds."
In 1994, 6-year-old Haley Joel Osment made his big screen debut as young Forrest in the blockbuster film "Forrest Gump." From there, we saw Haley just about everywhere. From his Oscar-nominated role as Cole Sear in "The Sixth Sense" to his inspiring performance as Trevor McKinney in "Pay it Forward," Haley was Hollywood's new It boy. As so often happens to beloved child stars, as Haley grew, his starring-role opportunities became fewer and by the time he was 18, he was mostly working as a voice actor. But he never completely walked away from acting. Over the years, we've seen him on the big screen in films like "Sex Ed," "Entourage," "Me Him Her," "Sleepwalker" and "Clara's Ghost" as well as on TV shows like "Silicon Valley" and "Future Man." In 2019, Haley appeared in the Netflix Ted Bundy crime-drama film "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile" and in the movie "The Devil Has a Name." He also appeared on TV's "Teachers," "The Boys" and "The Kominsky Method." Up next, we'll see Haley back on the big screen in the 2020 thriller "Death of a Telemarketer" as well as the comedy "Judy Small."
Keshia Knight-Pulliam began her career as the adorably sassy Rudy Huxtable on "The Cosby Show" back in 1984. The 5-year-old actress remained a beloved character on the series until it ended in 1992 while also appearing in numerous TV movies — like "The Little Match Girl" and "Polly: Comin' Home" — as well as on "The Cosby Show" spinoff "A Different World." Following the show's end, Keshia remained out of the spotlight for nearly a decade, only returning once in 1997 — at 18 — to make a cameo on the 1997 series "Cosby." From 2002 to 2015, Keshia appeared in a handful of films including "Beauty Shop" and "Madea Goes to Jail" and on TV shows like "Psych" and "House of Payne." More recently, we saw Keshia on the 2018 comedy series "3 Year Plan" and as Tori in the holiday special "Jingle Belle." 2019's been just as busy, with Keshia — who in recent years turned her love of cooking into a Keshia's Kitchen seasonings line — acting in the TV movies "Pride & Prejudice: Atlanta" and "Radio Christmas" and the movie "The Waiting Room." Next, we'll get to see her in the movies "Redeemed" — a film she also produced — and "My Brother's Keeper."
Thanks to reruns, Jerry Mathers will forever be known for his childhood character, Beaver Cleaver on the family sitcom "Leave it to Beaver." Prior to landing the classic role, Jerry earned acclaim for his work as Arnie Rogers in the 1955 film "The Trouble With Harry," which ultimately led to his casting as Beaver in 1957. The show continued until 1963, ending when Jerry was 15. The young actor wouldn't return to Hollywood until he reached 18 and from there, while serving in the Air Force Reserve and attending college, he made occasional appearances on TV shows and in made-for-TV movies. In 1983, Jerry reprised his role as Beaver on the modern reboot of the show, "The New Leave it To Beaver," which featured him as an adult divorcée living with his mom and two kids. When the series ended in 1989, Jerry performed occasionally, landing minor roles in films like "Down the Drain," "The Other Man," "Better Luck Tomorrow" and "Will to Power." We haven't seen Jerry since his 2015 appearance on the TV show "Dad Dudes" and in the comedy short "Lucky Day."
Although her show, "Punky Brewster," was only on the air for four short years, Soleil Moon Frye became one of the most recognizable and beloved child actors of the '80s. Playing the titular character — an abandoned girl taken in by a kind-hearted father figure — Soleil enchanted audiences and kicked off numerous fashion trends. After the show ended in 1988, Soleil remained in Hollywood, making numerous one-off appearances on TV shows like "The Wonder Years," "Saved by the Bell" and "Heaven Help Us" and landing supporting roles in made-for-TV movies like "Cadets" and "Summertime Switch." It wasn't until 2000 that Soleil would land her first recurring role since "Punky" ended — as Roxie King on the sitcom "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch." She spent three years on that show and also landed voice-acting work on shows like "The Proud Family" and "Bratz." In 2019, Soleil — who's also a mother of four, an author and an organic kids' boutique founder — announced that a "Punky Brewster" reboot was in the works and would feature Punky as a mother with two kids. Soleil also starred in the Lifetime holiday movie "Staging Christmas" in 2019.
Admit it, the only reason any of us watched "Family Matters" was to see Jaleel White as Steve Urkel — the impossibly nasal-y nerd who somehow won our hearts each and every episode. Jaleel was 13 when he landed the role and continued playing the geeky part — as well as his alter ego, Stefan Urkel — until the show ended in 1998 when he was 22. As an adult, Jaleel's landed roles on TV shows like "Grown Ups," "Fake it Til You Make It," "Drunk History" and "Me, Myself and I" as well as in movies like "Big Fat Liar," "Dreamgirls," "Kissing Cousins," "The Preacher's Son" and "The 15:17 to Paris." In 2019, Jaleel — who competed on "Dancing With the Stars" in 2012 — appeared on the series "Historical Roasts," "Family Reunion" and "Raven's Home" as well as in the movies "When Vows Break," "5th of July" and "Staging Christmas." In 2020, we'll see Jaleel on an episode of the comedy series "The Big Show Show."
Throughout most of the '90s, Christina Ricci was the child actress to watch. After making her big screen debut alongside Cher in the family drama "Mermaids," Christina quickly landed roles in popular films of the decade like "The Addams Family" and "Addams Family Values," in which she played the dark and doomy Wednesday Addams (seen here). Other films included "Casper," "Now and Then," "Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain" and "The Ice Storm," to name a few. As an adult, Christina's remained a presence in Hollywood, starring in movies like "The Gathering," "Penelope," "Black Snake Moan," "Speed Racer" and "After.Life." Christina's also appeared on numerous TV shows including "Grey's Anatomy," "Saving Grace" and "Pan Am." From 2015 to 2017, she took on one of her most noted roles, as Zelda Fitzgerald, the novelist and wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, on the Amazon Prime biopic series "Z: The Beginning of Everything." In 2019, Christina starred in the made-for-TV movie "Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story" and has several new projects on the way, including the movies "Percy" and "Faraway Eyes" and the 2020 TV series "Yellowjackets."
In "The Wonder Years," young Fred Savage stole our hearts as Kevin Arnold, a boy coming of age in the late '60s and early '70s. Fred — who'd already become quite the Hollywood star thanks to his earlier roles in films like "The Boy Who Could Fly" and "The Princess Bride" — remained on the show for five years until it ended in 1993 when Fred was 17. After taking some time away to focus on his education, Fred returned to acting in 1996, landing roles in TV movies like "No One Would Tell," "Area 52" and "Single White Millionaire" and on shows like "Working," "Crumbs" and "The Grinder." Fred even made a cameo on younger brother, Ben Savage's series "Boy Meets World." In addition to working on camera, Fred's been steadily working behind the scenes as a director on shows like "Modern Family" and "The Connors" and as a producer for shows like "What Just Happened??!" In 2018, Fred made a playful cameo as himself in "Deadpool 2" and in 2019, he returned to the small screen as Max Adler on the comedy series "Friends From College." Fred's also voiced characters on shows like "BoJack Horseman," "Bob's Burgers" and "American Dad!"
Although Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Tamera Mowry-Housley began acting in 1991, it wasn't until they landed the roles of Tia Landry and Tamera Campbell — long-lost twins who find each other by accident — on the sitcom "Sister, Sister" that they became household names. When the series ended five years later in 1999, the actresses — by then 21 — continued to work together, appearing on shows like "Detention" and in TV movies like "Twitches," "Twitches Too" and "Seventeen Again." Eventually, Tia and Tamera began landing roles separately, with Tia appearing on shows like "Love Inc.," "Girlfriends," "The Game" and "Instant Mom" while Tamera picked up parts on "Strong Medicine," "Roommates" and "Things We Do For Love." For a time, the sisters reunited as the stars of the reality series "Tia & Tamera," which ran from 2011 to 2013. Today, both women are married moms continuing their successful careers. Tia is a star on the comedy series "Family Reunion" while Tamera is a co-host on "The Real." Both sisters also star in holiday movies in 2019: Tia's in "A Very Vintage Christmas" and Tamera's in "A Christmas Miracle."
Ron Howard might be known today as an Oscar-winning director, but long before he was a filmmaker, he was in front of the camera as a popular child actor on several sitcoms. Ron, who started acting when he was 2, took on his first recurring role at 5 in 1959 as Stewart on TV's "Dennis the Menace." The same year, Ron also picked up a recurring role on the comedy series "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." It wasn't until 1960, however, that Ron landed one of his most notable roles — Opie Taylor on the feel-good sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show" (seen here). Ron remained on the series for eight years, leaving when he was 14. A year later, Ron made his directorial debut with three shorts, kicking off his passion for making movies. While he continued to direct, Ron returned to the comedy stage at 20 as Richie Cunningham on the popular series "Happy Days," where he remained for a decade. While on the show, Ron made his feature film directorial debut with 1977's "Grand Theft Auto." Today, Ron's a highly regarded filmmaker with beloved movies including "Splash," "Cocoon," "Parenthood," "Apollo 13," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," the Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind," "The DaVinci Code," the Oscar-nominated "Frost/Nixon," "Rush" and "Solo: A Star Wars Story" on his resume. Ron's also continued to act, making appearances on shows like "This Is Us" and narrating "Arrested Development."
While Lindsay Lohan is better known today for being a tabloid star, as a child, she was one of the most sought-after young actresses in Hollywood. She started acting in 1992 and scored her first major role as twins Hallie Parker and Allie James in the 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap." As a teen, she continued to land great roles in movies like "Freaky Friday," "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," "Mean Girls" and "Herbie Fully Loaded," catapulting her to superstar status. But as Lindsay got older, issues surrounding her on-set behavior and substance abuse issues led to her eventual downfall in Hollywood. As an adult, Lindsay's made several comeback attempts, including launching a fashion and accessories line, attempting to become a pop star, opening a nightclub, starting a production company and becoming a reality TV star. In 2018, Lindsay — who's spent recent years living in London and Dubai — made a brief return to the small screen in the crime-comedy series "Sick Note." The following year, she launched the MTV reality show "Lindsay Lohan's Beach Club" and starred in the supernatural crime thriller "Among the Shadows."
If the '80s had an iconic child star, it was, without question, young Corey Feldman. The actor, who began working in Hollywood when he was just 2, was a fixture in many of our favorite films of the decade including "Gremlins," "The Goonies," "Stand By Me" (seen here), "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter," "Friday the 13th: A New Beginning," "The Lost Boys" and "License to Drive." Like other child stars including Lindsay Lohan and Drew Barrymore, Corey's superstardom led him to a life of partying and drug abuse that affected his career. Today, Corey's sober and has continued to act, albeit with less success, in films like "Maverick," "The Million Dollar Kid" and "We Will Rock You" and TV shows like "Dweebs," "Splatter" and "Easy to Assemble." He also starred on the short-lived reality series "Two Coreys" with close friend and former child star Corey Haim, who died in 2010 at 38. Feldman — who's also made music for years — published four books, including his 2013 memoir, "Coreyography," two children's books and a romance novel. He's long been an advocate for ending childhood sexual exploitation and holding abusers in Hollywood accountable and has gone on record to discuss the abuse he experienced as a child star.