Take a walk down memory lane as we look back at the most popular child star the year you were born. These kids made us laugh, cry, and basically were our idols growing up.
Erin was as cute as can be when she was cast as daughter Tabitha in the hugely successful TV series . She originally shared the role with her fraternal twin sister, Diane. Erin appeared in 103 episodes by the time the show ended in 1972.
Okay, so this isn’t just one child star, but made these kids household names: Maureen McCormick, Eve Plumb, Susan Olsen, Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, and Mike Lookinland. In fact, Marcia, Jan, Cindy, Greg, Peter, and Bobby were like family to many fans during the show’s run and resulting spinoffs.
After a teen modeling career (and with no previous acting experience), Susan gained the role of Laurie on TV’s . Her wholesome good looks and snappy sibling banter made her a teen sensation. She acted in many movies and TV shows, eventually starring on the drama, L.A. Law, which earned her a Golden Globe.
Tatum was cast with her actor-father Ryan O’Neal in the movie . For her performance, she won an Oscar, becoming the youngest person at the time to win a competitive Academy Award at just 10 years old.
It’s hard to believe that one of Hollywood’s most prolific directors was once a kid with a role in and in 1960s movies such as The Music Man. By 1974, Ron was a seasoned actor and starred in the 1950s-based sitcom . He started directing in 1977, crafting many memorable movies including Backdraft, Apollo 13, and Cinderella Man.
With his first performance on at age six, Donny went on to entertain all over the world alongside his older brothers. His squeaky-clean image and all-American looks made him a teen heartthrob, and he debuted his own variety show with his sister, Marie, in 1975.
Debuting in a commercial at age 2, Jodie worked on many popular TV programs in the ‘60s including Mayberry RFD, The Doris Day Show, Adam-12, and others. But she drew critical attention as a child prostitute in the gritty movie , for which she received an Oscar nomination. She later won Academy Awards for her roles in The Accused and Silence of the Lambs. But we’re not sure she was ever able to enjoy fava beans and a nice Chianti again.
Melissa worked on dozens of TV commercials as a kid before being cast in the TV series in 1974. Reportedly, she was one of 500 little girls to audition for the part, according to . She actually grew up in front of the cameras and was well-known by the time the show ended its run in 1983. She has continued to work regularly on TV and on stage.
Discovered playing in local Chicago-area TV commercials, Gary was cast for guest appearances on popular TV sitcoms and . The network soon handed him his own show, , at the ripe old age of 10. His facial expressions and “Whatchu talking about, Willis?” wisecrack to his older brother, played by child actor Todd Bridges, quickly became a catchphrase.
Ricky made his screen debut at age 9 in the movie The Champ, for which he received a . He had a few other movie roles before going on to star in the sitcom , playing a rich kid with the usual problems (you know, like a millionaire father). He’s since had many recurring TV show roles, including on NYPD Blue.
first role was in an Ivory soap commercial, but she shook up the world as a child prostitute in the movie Pretty Baby. She went on to star in the popular teen romances and . She’s had many adult roles, including her own hit TV series Suddenly Susan in the ‘90s. And, of course, nothing ever came between her and her Calvins.
You can’t pick just one child star from the hit series because the ensemble cast is what made the show a success. The series, set in a boarding school, featured Lisa Whelchel, Kim Fields, Mindy Cohn, and Nancy McKeon, whose teenaged adventures kept viewers entertained for nine seasons.
, coming from a long line of showbiz greats who were 1930s and ‘40s theater and film stars. At 6-years-old, Drew talked her way into everyone’s hearts as the adorable Gertie in the blockbuster sci-fi movie . Since then, she’s starred in many movie roles and founded her own production company.
Michael had worked in Canadian TV and movies before he won the role of conservative teen Alex P. Keaton in the smash sitcom, . He soon won the lead in popular movies and the blockbuster and its sequels. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991, he has continued to act and founded his own non-profit foundation to further Parkinson’s research.
Soleil’s career kicked off at 8 years old when she got the role of in the TV series about a little girl abandoned the supermarket with her dog. It had a strong following, running for five seasons. Soleil had many other guest roles on ‘80s TV shows.
Starting out in TV commercials at the age of 9, Kirk eventually won the role of Mike Seaver, the charming but not-so-bright teenaged son on . He later starred in the Left Behind series and other faith-based projects, and he and his wife founded a camp for terminally-ill children. Interesting side note: His sister, , played on the sitcom Full House, and he appeared on one episode with her.
Molly first appeared on stage at age 3 in a local theater production, but her big acting break was in a West coast production of the Broadway show, Annie. She had a brief stint on the TV series, The Facts of Life, but established herself as the teen queen of the ‘80s when she starred in the now-iconic movies , , and .
Okay, technically this is not one child star; it’s two. But you can hardly separate Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who were hired to play the role of Michelle Tanner on the TV series As adults, they created their own fashion lines together.
Cast in the lead role of young Kevin Arnold in , 12-year-old Fred’s appealing wide-eyed angst and pre-teen trials made the coming-of-age TV series set in the 1960s a huge hit. He’s had many recurring roles on TV shows and in movies and played in the pop culture classic,
With his trademark thick frames and grating character voice, Jaleel made super-nerd Steve Erkel on the TV show annoyingly likable. He originally was meant to make a guest appearance but the audience response was so positive that he was kept on as a regular. He also did the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog in the animated series.
Macaulay started his acting in off-Broadway shows at the age of 4, winning a part in the movie a few years later. His next role in the movie, , showcased his baby-faced innocence and comedic timing, and he played in several more popular movies including My Girl and Home Alone 2 before leaving acting.
Reese began modeling at age 7, winning her first major acting role at 14 in the movie . Her acting won rave reviews, which enabled her to gain other movie roles, later scoring huge hits with , Sweet Home Alabama. and , for which she won an Academy Award. She continues to work in movies and TV and founded her own lifestyle brand, .
Starring in the hit movie and its sequel a few years later, Anna gained early fame for her role in this poignant coming-of-age story. Side note: Her young co-star was Macaulay Culkin. After taking a break from Hollywood for college and working briefly in publishing, she returned to acting in TV series such as Veep, for which she earned several Emmy nominations.
At 9 years old, Anna won the role of the child lead in the movie . She earned positive reviews for her work, earning an Academy Award. Later, she achieved box-office success with X-Men and its sequels, and continues to act, most notably in the TV series .
Hollywood’s long fascination with twins strikes again when real-life teenage twins Tamera and Tia earned their own TV series,. The show was about, well, what else? Twins separated at birth who are later reunited. It was a hit that lasted six seasons, followed by a grown-up reality series that traced their adventures as moms, wives, and actresses.
Tatyana appeared on the talent show, Star Search, when she was only 7 years old. But her big break came when she won the role of Will Smith’s cousin, Ashley Banks, on .
Melissa worked in commercials as a child, then gained fame on the Nickelodeon series, in the early ‘90s. But her acting career took off in 2006 when she garnered the lead role in the popular TV series . She continues to work on stage and screen.
Alicia’s career started in commercials at 6 years old. She had a guest spot on and later starred in and Clueless. At 16, she appeared in a string of Aerosmith videos, making her a teen idol. By 1997, Alicia played Batgirl in the big-budget film Batman and Robin. She also has founded her own clean living lifestyle brand.
Starting her career as a child model at age 3, Lindsay did many TV commercials and had a recurring part on the soap Another World before winning the lead in the popular remake of the film The . That role led to work on several Disney TV movies before she launched her music career.
Haley got his first role in a commercial at the age of 4, following up with guest appearances on many ‘90s TV shows and minor roles in blockbusters such as . His breakout role was starring as the troubled child in . He’s continued to act, and, as far as we know, he really doesn’t see dead people.