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Favorite films featuring outstanding performances by a child actor

  • Oct 14, 2010
Child performances are seldom mediocre, particularly in dramas. Dramas tend to demand an emotional range that children typically cannot produce predictably (so the story goes).

This list covers films (mostly drama, but a few dramatic comedies) that are either entirely carried by a child actor, driven carefully by a cast of young actors, and the occasional movie where the child is an equal part of an impressive ensemble. Many of the movies will link to reviews I have posted here; however I list movies that I adore but either have not yet, or will not review in full.

All will have comments or quick tips and many will have questions ... What good is using an opinion networking site that doesn't open the way for sharing?

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December 30, 2011
Great list, there are some good ones on here.
November 07, 2010
Interesting list. INK is a fascinating film but I think a lot of people will be put off by it's low budget. For me that only made it more intriguing. Big budget special effects tend to turn me off and draw attention away from the story. Not the case with this film's effects which were something I hadn't seen before. Very creative.
October 19, 2010
I've only seen a few of these- the popular ones like Interview with a Vampire, Sixth Sense, Peter Pan, Bridge to Terabitha...which one of the others should I put on the top of my Netflix queue?
October 19, 2010
The Fall first and foremost--if you do streaming, then you can stop reading this and stream it and come back to the list (lol).

From there, it depends on your mood and your tolerance for foreign films. So:

"Feel Good" movies mostly in English: probably best in this order
Billy Elliot (not on the list yet but will be shortly),
The Whale Rider
Paper Moon

"Feel Good" foreign language -- with comments, the order here is not important since the summary should indicate if you are even remotely interested
The Italian (in Russian, pretty much standard feel good plotlines)
Keys to the House (in Italian, it is a personal emotional journey for the filmmaker; as you watch it you may think there is no way to feel good about it but .....)
For a Lost Soldier (in Dutch; this is a gay film that goes into the difficult region of the age of the couple -- a young teen and a Canadian soldier--in structure it is very much like Keys, but if the idea makes you uncomfortable the movie will too).
You Are Not Alone (in Danish, this is another gay film this one also has a bit of an age thing, but all involved are not yet adults--it does have nudity and frank sexuality beyond gay themes, but again, if this makes you uncomfortable, then avoid it).

Fables: The Fall fits this category (most of the film is shown from the child's perspective)
Ink (in English, this story is too tight that if I say anything in brief, I will give too much away, it is also on streaming, so you can watch it right after The Fall, if you trust me to this point).
Northfork (In English, similiar to Ink, but starker and darker in many ways--I would start with Ink and if you dont like it, then probably best to skip this one too).
In Desert and Wilderness (largely in Polish, 4 kids have to make it through the wilds of parts of Africa, it is essentially an advernture story, but the age of the protoganists make it more Peter Pan fable than not).

That leaves (at least I think this covers all the ones you didn't list)
The Piano (in English) this is in the list for the same reason as Interview: the child actor is so strong that they stand out as equals, or first among equals, to strong adult actors. All performances are strong, the story may be a bit blah but only because it moves at a measured pace that fits the theme of the film (how is that for a circular reference lol).
12 and Holding (in English, it is emotionally complicated and messy but shouldn't require more than a couple of tissues and a little ice cream at the end).
Mirage (in Macedonian). This is the bleakest film I have ever seen. If you would rather not see a sad film no matter the quality of the story and acting, then no harm no foul here. The story and its impact are overwhelming by itself, but the reason I prasie it in the review and add it here is that the quality of the acting puts the film in the category of "ATTENTION MUST BE PAID" no matter the emotional ringer you are pulled through. My advice here is to get what my mom calls a crying-towel and get Billy Elliot ready to replay to balance the mood.

Along with Billy Elliot, I realized some other films are also missing from the list (I'm still getting used to some of the quirks on the site).  So I will be updating it--and please update me on your opinions of the rarer films, I am always happy to chat with someone who has seen one even if they hated it.
About the list creator
Paul Savage ()
Ranked #56
I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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