Child actors are a tricky subject—their first appearances can be the start of a successful career or their one and only shining star moment. And while some actors might drift away in the long run, the roles they took once will forever be immortalized on the silver screen, leaving us with fond memories that we can look back on. This time, let's take a look at some of the all-grown-up actors and how their career developed after their more-famous appearances. The focus will be placed on shows and movies from the 1990s to mid-2000s, taking a look at the iconic roles (who knows, maybe it's time for a marathon of oldie-but-goodie movies).
Mara Wilson As Matilda Wormwood In Matilda (1996)
Mara Wilson played Matilda Wormwood, a curious and talented young girl, in Matilda (1996). Wilson became well-known for this role, but in 2000, she retired from acting for a while. After she finished university, she made a slow comeback, lending her voice to variety of projects.
Georgie Henley As Lucy Pevensie In The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe (2005)
Georgie Henley played Lucy Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) and its two sequels. Lucy was just a young girl who was transported into a magical world with her siblings, and for a long time, Henley was known for this role alone. Lately, she re-appeared in The Spanish Princess.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt As Tommy Solomon In 3rd Rock From The Sun (1996-2001)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt played Tommy Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001). Gordon-Levitt struck gold with the role of an extraterrestrial living on Earth, and after that, he successfully transitioned to more mature roles. He displayed leanings towards music, with several singles under his belt, and currently he owns HitRecord, an online collaborative media platform.
Christina Ricci As Wednesday Addams In The Addams Family (1991)
Christina Ricci played Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family (1991) and its sequel. The gloomy, loveable character was her breakout role and she proceeded towards more mature films, such as Sleepy Hollow (1999). She won plenty of awards for her roles as a child actress, and she's known to lend her voice to various animated projects.
Macaulay Culkin As Kevin Mccallister In Home Alone (1990)
Macaulay Culkin played Kevin McCallister in Home Alone (1990) and its sequel. The Christmas franchise was the big break for Culkin, after which he also appeared in the comedy-drama My Girl (1991). In 1994, Culkin retired from acting, but over the years, had small or episodic appearances in variety of projects and even tried out singing. Currently, he's a CEO of Bunny Ears, a satirical pop culture website and podcast.
Neil Patrick Harris As Dr. Douglas "Doogie" Howser In Doogie Howser, M.d. (1989–1993)
Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Douglas "Doogie" Howser in Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989–1993). The role of a young doctor that earned him a nomination for a Golden Globe was Harris' road to wider fame, such as being a main cast member on How I Met Your Mother (2005–2014). He also has experience in Broadway plays and musicals. Harris wrote his first novel, which was released in 2017, and even had time to release a single-player board game named Box One in 2020.
Haley Joel Osment As Cole Sear In The Sixth Sense (1999)
Haley Joel Osment played Cole Sear, a boy who could see ghosts, in The Sixth Sense (1999). This role was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards, and established Osment as a credible actor. He later appeared in more well-known movies such as Pay It Forward (2000) and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). Osment lends his voice to the video game character Sora from Kingdom Hearts in its English dub.
Ariana Richards As Lex Murphy In Jurassic Park (1993)
Ariana Richards played Lex Murphy in Jurassic Park (1993), for which she won several awards. She had several minor and episodic appearances in various movies and shows, but nothing that gave her the same recognition. Richards put her acting career on pause and focused on other artistic endeavors. Currently, she's a recognized artist with the first place in the National Professional Oil Painting Competition under her belt.
Anna Chlumsky As Vada Sultenfus In My Girl (1991)
Anna Chlumsky played Vada Sultenfus in My Girl (1991) and its sequel. She took some time off to attend university and returned with a prominent role of Amy Brookheimer in Veep (2012-2019), where she was a main cast member.
Jonathan Lipnicki As Ray Boyd In Jerry Maguire (1996)
Jonathan Lipnicki played Ray Boyd in Jerry Maguire (1996). He also appeared in Stuart Little and its sequel. The actor has a few more roles under his belt, but he should be equally as known for his philanthropy. He is involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and works with various animal rights groups.
Taylor Lautner As Sharkboy In The Adventures Of Sharkboy And Lavagirl In 3-D (2005)
Taylor Lautner played Sharkboy in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005). Before he was a werewolf in a vampire romance story, Lautner played the titular Sharkboy, a superpowered young boy who—surprise surprise—had to save the world from the bad guys with his partner in crime!
Nicholle Tom As Ryce In Beethoven (1992)
Nicholle Tom played Ryce in Beethoven (1992) and its sequel, as well as lent her voice to the animated series. She also played Maggie Sheffield in The Nanny (1993-1999). Tom also had some episodic appearances in variety of shows and movies.
Daryl Sabara As Juni Cortez In Spy Kids (2001)
Daryl Sabara played Juni Cortez in Spy Kids (2001). He made several appearances in various movies and TV shows, but never reached the same level as his role in Spy Kids. Sabara even starred in some plays (most notably, an off-Broadway play The Library). He provided his voice for some animated characters as well.
Mackenzie Foy As Renesmee In The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (2011-2012)
Mackenzie Foy played Renesmee, the daughter of the main couple, in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 and Part 2 (2011-2012). After Twilight, she has been getting a steady stream of roles, with the most notable one being Clara Stahlbaum in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018).
Matthew Lawrence As Chris Hillard In Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Matthew Lawrence played Chris Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) alongside Robin Williams. Lawrence played the son of a father who pretended to be a nanny in order to fix his family situation. The actor was also known for this role in the TV series Boy Meets World.
Giorgio Cantarini As Giosué In Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Giorgio Cantarini played Giosué in Life Is Beautiful (1997). The Italian actor also appeared in Gladiator (2000). After that, he starred in some minor roles. He also appeared in the Italian version of Dancing With The Stars in 2005.
Alexa Penavega As Carmen Cortez In Spy Kids (2001)
Alexa PenaVega played Carmen Cortez in Spy Kids (2001) and it's sequels. Her acting career was steady after that, but there weren't many notable portrayals (at least not something that reached Spy Kids levels).
Raven-Symoné As Olivia Kendall In The Cosby Show (1989-1992)
Raven-Symoné played Olivia Kendall in The Cosby Show (1989-1992). Her career may have started with the TV show, but she eventually branched out into movies and other media, she is now a singer, songwriter, and director. One of her well-known shows is That's So Raven (2004) and its sequel.
Lisa Jakub As Lydia Hillard In Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Lisa Jakub played Lydia Hillard, a daughter of Robin Williams's character in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). In 2001, Jakub retired from acting, she took up writing, and currently has two books under her belt. Additionally, she is a qualified Kripalu yoga teacher.
Mary-Kate And Ashley Olsen As Michelle Tanner In Full House (1987-1995)
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen played Michelle Tanner in Full House (1987-1995). The twins actually played a single girl, mostly to comply with the child labor laws regarding working hours because they started filming at 9 months old. They appeared in their own show later on, and now are prominent names in the fashion industry.
Noah Hathaway As Atreyu In The Neverending Story (1984)
Noah Hathaway played Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story (1984). The NeverEnding Story is a classic in which Hathaway portrayed one of the protagonists who was destined to save the land from evil. He performed some of his own stunts and even won an award for his performance, and while he continued acting, the actor never reached his previous level of fame.
Lindsay Lohan As Annie And Hallie In The Parent Trap (1998)
Lindsay Lohan played Annie and Hallie in The Parent Trap (1998). Lohan played two separate characters, the separated twins who try to reunite their parents. After her breakthrough, the actress had a steady list of appearances in movies and shows, and even released several albums in early 2000's. Lohan didn't have a smooth transition to more mature roles and had to deal with health problems, but currently, the actress seem to be making a steady comeback.
Ivyann Schwan As Trixie Young In Problem Child 2 (1991)
Ivyann Schwan played Trixie Young in Problem Child 2 (1991), where she was a mischievous child that kept the adults on their toes (as the title would suggest). Schwan had various appearances in many other shows, including a role on Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Edward Furlong As John Connor In Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Edward Furlong played John Connor, the world-saving teen in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). After his adventure with the Terminator, Furlong made appearances in other movies and shows. He dabbled in music too, releasing an album in Japan. Unfortunately, the actor had some run-ins with the law due to substance abuse.
Jeremy Dunn Jackson As Hobie Buchannon In Baywatch (1991-1999)
Jeremy Dunn Jackson played Hobie Buchannon, son of the famous Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch (1991-1999). He appeared in more than 150+ episodes and even dipped a toe into the music industry. However, the former child star also had some unfortunate run-ins with the law, most notably a jail sentence for stabbing someone.
Patrick Renna As Hamilton “Ham” Porter In The Sandlot (1993)
Patrick Renna played Hamilton “Ham” Porter in The Sandlot (1993). The actor seemingly is best known for this role, with several episodic appearances in various shows and movies. As a side note, Renna is a Scientologist.
Madison Lintz As Sophia Peletier In The Walking Dead (2010-2012)
Madison Lintz played Sophia Peletier in The Walking Dead (2010-2012). After her small but impactful role as the daughter of one of the main characters, Lintz took up the portrayal of Maddie Bosch in Bosch (2015-2021).