12 Child Actors Who Stole the Show at the Oscars

5 minute read

Jodie Foster. Jacob Tremblay. Haley Joel Osment. And now, Best Picture nominated-Lion’s Sunny Pawar. Every year, it seems, breakout child stars find themselves in the mix at the Academy Awards—often foreshadowing the start of interesting careers in showbiz, but mostly just making audience hearts melt everywhere as they cement their status as Oscars pros.

To get you ready for the ceremony, here’s a rundown of the adorable—and recognizable—young actors who started out at the top before they’d even reached their teens.

Tatum O’Neal (1974)

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Tatum O'NealRon Galella—Getty Images

The 1974 Oscars breakout star was a ten-year-old Tatum O’Neal, who starred in Paper Moon alongside her father Ryan—and managed to win the Best Supporting Actress prize for her turn as the sidekick of the con-man Bible salesman in the Depression-era story. Forty years later (and counting), she remains the youngest actor to ever win an Academy Award. She still acts in movies and television, but hasn’t made it back to the Oscars spotlight.

Jodie Foster (1977)

Foster was nominated for her supporting actress role in Martin Scorcese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver at the tender age of 14, where she controversially played the child prostitute Iris; child actors in Oscar-quality movies have often dealt with mature adult themes, despite their youth. Foster’s nomination foreshadowed a blockbuster career for the young veteran actor, who ultimately won Best Actress in 1988 for The Accused, and again in 1991 for The Silence of the Lambs.

Angelina Jolie (1986)

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Angelina Jolie, Jamie Haven, Jon Voight, and mother at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.Ron Galella—Getty Images

Angelina Jolie was born into a Hollywood family, and hit her first Oscars red carpet when she was just ten years old as the guest of her thrice-nominated actor dad, Jon Voight. Even then she stood out in the crowd, thanks to a bold lace dress. In 2000, she’d return to the awards show to take home the prize for Best Actress for her turn in Girl, Interrupted.

Anna Paquin (1994)

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Anna Paquin in Los Angeles, California, United States at the 66th Annual Academy Awards.Ron Galella—Getty Images

Rookie actor Paquin snagged a supporting role win for her debut performance in The Piano in 1993 at the age of 11. She has gone on to act in a number of movies and TV shows, including X-Men and HBO’s popular series True Blood—although she hasn’t repeated her early Oscar success yet.

Haley Joel Osment (2000)

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Haley Joel Osment during 72nd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)Ron Galella—Getty Images

An 11-year-old Osment was a Best Actor nominee for his breakout role in the unforgettable The Sixth Sense, the M. Night Shyamalan vehicle that quickly became a supernatural horror classic. Although Osment has continued to act since then, his youthful part remains his sole Oscar nomination.

Keisha Castle-Hughes (2004)

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Actress Keisha Castle-Hughes, nominated for Best Actress for her performance in "Whale Rider", poses for a picture as she arrives at the 76th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater on February 29, 2004 in Hollywood, California.Frank Micelotta—Getty Images

Keisha Castle-Hughes was just 12 years old when she was plucked from her New Zealand classroom to play the lead in Whale Rider, the 2003 movie about Maori heritage. She was ultimately nominated for Best Actress at the year’s Academy Awards. Most recently, Castle-Hughes appeared in TV hit Game of Thrones as fierce Dornish fighter Obara Sand.

Jaden Smith (2007)

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Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, nominee Best Actor in a Leading Role for "The Pursuit of Happyness" and Jaden Smith.Jeff Vespa—Getty Images

The 2007 Oscars were a family outing for Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and their then-7-year-old son Jaden. Father and son co-starred in that year’s critically-acclaimed movie The Pursuit of Happyness, and while Jaden wasn’t nominated, he did get the chance to present an award onstage alongside fellow child star Abigail Breslin. These days, the younger Smith is more often found in the fields of music, art, and activism than acting, though.

Abigail Breslin (2007)

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Actress Abigail Breslin attends the 79th Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 25, 2007 in Hollywood, California.Frazer Harrison—Getty Images

Everyone fell for the quirky charms of Little Miss Sunshine in 2007—and especially for a ten-year-old Abigail Breslin, whose mix of youthful confidence and insecurity as a wannabe child beauty pageant queen garnered her a Best Supporting Actress nod at the big awards show. Ten years later, Breslin is once again to set to star in a dancing role, this time in the Dirty Dancing remake.

Saoirse Ronan (2008)

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Actress Saoirse Ronan attends the 80th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre on February 24, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.Jeff Kravitz—Getty Images

Long before Ireland’s Saoirse Ronan nabbed an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in her role in the film adaptation of Brooklyn, the poised young star was noticed—and nominated—for carrying the early acts of Atonement, the sprawling war epic also starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. She was just 13 for her first go on the famous red carpet in 2008.

Quvenzhané Wallis (2013)

Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis arrives on the red carpet for the 85th Annual Academy Awards on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California.Frederic J. Brown—Getty Images

At nine, Quvenzhané Wallis was the youngest contender ever for the Best Actress prize, nominated for her performance as Hushpuppy in the magical-realist Hurricane Katrina tale Beasts of the Southern Wild. She was six when she made her movie debut in the indie that landed on favorite lists of everyone from President Obama to film critics. She followed it up with 2014’s Annie.

Jacob Tremblay (2016)

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Actor Jacob Tremblay attends the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California.George Pimentel—Getty Images

Room—the affecting movie about an imprisoned mother and her son, co-starring breakout duo Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay—produced plenty of Oscar buzz. It also brought into the spotlight the irrepressibly charming Tremblay, who lit up red carpets left and right at just nine years old.

Sunny Pawar (2017)

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Actor Sunny Pawar attends the 69th annual Directors Guild of America Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 4, 2017.Jason LaVeris—Getty Images

And this year, all eyes are on Best Picture nominee Lion’s littlest star, Indian actor Sunny Pawar. At just 8 years of age, Pawar can count the heavy-hitter movie starring Nicole Kidman and Slumdog Millionaire‘s Dev Patel as his first. But if his red carpet charisma is any indicator, it won’t be his last.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com