The 10 best child actors of the 80’s include some of the most beloved faces in retro cinema. However, many of the children who starred in movies and television in the decade ended up in jail, faced personal problems or wound up dead. However, that does not discount the effect they had on popular culture in the big 80’s.
Corey Feldman – When looking at the best child actors of the 80’s, none are much bigger than the Coreys. They two starred in numerous movies together, including "Dream a Little Dream", but Feldman, born in 1971, was the better actor and has endured, and lived, longer than his childhood friend.
Drew Barrymore – Drew Barrymore earned a key role in her godfather Steven Spielberg’s 1981 movie “E.T.” at the age of six. She impressed Hollywood as one of the best child actors of the 80’s, starring in “Firestarter” at the age of nine.
River Phoenix – One of the tragic stories to come out of the child actors of the 80’s, River Phoenix showed great talent when he appeared in the Stephen King adaptation “Stand by Me” at the age of sixteen. Phoenix overdosed and died in 1993 at the age of 23.
Macaulay Culkin – There isn’t a bigger child actor of the 80’s than Macaulay Culkin. He starred in “Home Alone” in 1990 at the age of ten but had his breakout performance in the 1989 John Candy movie “Uncle Buck.” Culkin also guest starred in various TV shows in the 80’s.
Jason Bateman – Jason Bateman began his acting career at the age of twelve on “Little House on the Prairie.” He became one of the best child actors of the 80’s thanks to starring roles on “Silver Spoons” and “Valerie.” Bateman also became one of the youngest directors ever in 1987, directing an episode of “The Hogan’s Family” at the age of eighteen.
Neil Patrick Harris – While he is best known to today’s audiences as Barney on the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” Neil Patrick Harris began his career as a child doctor in “Doogie Howser, M.D.” at the age of sixteen. He parlayed that into a career as a pop culture icon.
Winona Ryder – Winona Ryder was fifteen when she made her debut in “Lucas” and became a superstar at the age of eighteen in Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice.” She remains fondly remembered as one of the best child stars of the 80’s and still occasionally appears in movies as an adult.
Anthony Michael Hall – Anthony Michael Hall played the role of geek perfectly in the brat pack movies of the 80’s. He made his movie debut at the age of twelve and starred in “Sixteen Candles” when he was sixteen. Hall moved on to have a nice television career as an adult on the supernatural series “The Dead Zone.”
Molly Ringwald – Molly Ringwald set the template for every female in a teen romantic comedy since she broke out at the age of sixteen in “Sixteen Candles.” Her next two movies, “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink” makes her the best female child actor of the 80’s.
Sean Astin – Sean Astin hit it big with his role as a hobbit in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy but started out as a child actor in the 80’s. He made his debut at the age of fourteen in “The Goonies” and used that performance to secure himself a place in Hollywood. He later portrayed the lead character in “Rudy” in adulthood.