This week sees the release of Cameron Crowe’s family offering We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon in the role of Benjamin Mee and Maggie Elizabeth Jones – a young girl who will probably go on to get addicted to prescription drugs, appear in various rubbish celebrity reality shows and be arrested for Driving Under the Influence – as his daughter. But right now she’s cuter than Ryan Gosling holding a basket of kittens, which has got us thinking about all the other butter-wouldn’t melt kids that have come and gone over the years. We Bought A Zoo is in cinemas on Friday 16th March
Maggie Elizabeth Jones (We Bought a Zoo – 2012)
Jones stars as Matt Damon’s seven-year-old daughter in this heart-warming true story about a journalist, who, after losing his wife, decides to renovate a dilapidated zoo. Possessing an adorable charm worthy of Judy Garland herself, Jones lights up the screen every time she appears and brings a wonderful sense of optimism and faith to her broken-hearted animal-loving father and his new bird Scarlett Johannson.
Drew Barrymore (E.T – 1982)
Melting everybody’s heart in the Spielberg classic E.T, Barrymore’s role as Gertie is undeniably, her most loved. As cute as a button, with adorable bunches, Barrymore’s Gertie is arguably the cutest child ever to have graced the silver screen. As the precocious little Gertie takes E.T under her wing, the results are some utterly delightful and laugh-out loud scenes. What’s more, her bright performance and careful delivery means that it never truns into cheese.
Jonathan Lipnicki (Jerry Maguire – 1996)
Lipnicki was only five years old when he found himself holding his own against one of the world’s biggest superstars. Becoming an overnight sensation as Reneé Zellweger’s five year old son in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, Lipnicki managed to win over entire audiences with his saccharine-free, talented film debut. Both funny and incredibly cute as Ray Boyd, Lipnicki is even credited with ad-libbing the famous line ‘the human head weighs 8lbs.’
Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone – 1990)
This incredibly popular film brought Culkin into the public consciousness as the young son left behind during the Christmas holidays. Taking a stand against two of celluloid’s most bumbling criminals, the blonde-haired, wide-eyed boy proved that you didn’t have to be big in stature to make an impact on the big screen. Perfect comic timing and a finely tuned performance in both Home Alone movies, meant that Culkin was the star kid of the 90s.
Sally-Jane Bruce & Billy Chaplin (The Night of the Hunter – 1955)
In a more obscure choice, Bruce and Chaplin had the unenviable task of escaping Robert Mitchum’s bogus Preacher Harry Powell, in Charles Laughton’s much lauded classic, The Night of the Hunter. Shot in 1954, the two adorable children, playing siblings, brought both heart and warmth to this dark classic, with Chaplin in particular, managing to produce a meaningful and intelligent performance, permitting him to command the screen, even when sharing it with the legendary Mitchum.
Mara Wilson (Mrs Doubtfire – 1993)
Starring as the daughter of Sally Field and Robin Williams, Wilson plays Natalie, the youngest of three children, caught in the middle of their parent’s divorce. The fact that the endearing young Wilson managed to hold the audience’s attention, even while sharing the screen with the famous rubber-faced and man of many voices, Robin Williams, proved that this little girl had the mettle to be a successful child star.
Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam – 2001)
Putting in a truly astonishing performance as Sean Penn’s seven year old daughter, it’s hard to believe that Lucy Diamond Dawson was Fanning’s first major role.
Steering clear of the schmaltz and creating a thought-provoking and broght performance, Fanning’s Lucy provides the emotional heart of the movie, tugging on the audience’s heartstrings regularly, with her sentimental turn as a young girl trying to understand her father’s mental disability.
Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland – 2004)
Highmore’s critically acclaimed performance as Kate Winslet’s youngest son in Finding Neverland is one of incredible charm and skill. Based on J.M. Barrie’s relationship with the Llewelyn-Davies family, it tells the tale of the inspiration behind the children’s classic Peter Pan. Highmore’s performance as the troubled young boy is remarkable, but none more so than within the last few moments of the film, where the young actor blows megastar Johnny Depp off the screen, with his touching and heart-breaking last line.
Shirley Temple – Various
Born Shirley Temple Black in 1928, this little girl was already a veteran Hollywood star by the age of 6 and is debatably the one of the most popular and well-known child stars of all time. Known all over the world for her ringlets, Temple was an accomplished singer and dancer from a very young age. Her signature tune ‘On the Good Ship Lollipop’ first appeared in the 1935 film, Bright Eyes and has been a part of popular culture ever since.
Christina Ricci (Mermaids – 1990)
Making her feature film debut as Cher’s youngest daughter Ricci took to acting as her character takes to the water in this 90s romantic comedy. With her large eye and lovable attitude, Ricci steals the show out from underneath both Cher and Winnoa Ryder, who plays her older sister, Charlotte. Smart, but never smart-arsed, cute but never cutesy, Ricci’s turn as Kate established the young star as a force to be reckoned with.