22 Child Stars We Expected To Be More Famous Today

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It seems like some actors peak very early in their careers, and even the best child actors don’t become major stars in Hollywood. To be clear, this is not to say these actors are not currently working or talented, but they didn’t rise to the level of stardom we all thought they would, given their talent.

For example, child stars who did grow up to be prominent Hollywood figures are folks like Ryan Gosling, Leonardo DiCaprio, Drew Barrymore, Emma Roberts, and Christian Bale. However, these child stars plateaued early.

1. Michelle Trachtenberg

Harriet the Spy (1996) Michelle Trachtenberg
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Michelle Trachtenberg did the majority of her acting as a teenager in Disney Channel movies, and she also appeared as a guest star in top-notch shows like Gossip Girl and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, she hasn’t done much since the 2010s.

2. Dakota Fanning

Dreamer Dakota Fanning
Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.

Dakota Fanning still pops up in stuff every now and then, but the best moments in her career seem to be behind her. As a little girl, she enchanted all of us in films like Uptown Girls and Charlotte’s Web, but we don’t see too much of her anymore, and it seems her sister, Elle, is doing more nowadays.

3. Haley Joel Osment

The Sixth Sense Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Haley Joel Osment was one of the most impressive and adorable child stars. His performances in movies like The Sixth Sense, Secondhand Lions, and Forrest Gump stole all our hearts, but he didn’t grow up to be the big star we all thought he would be. The same goes for his sister, Emily Osment, who had a main role in the Hannah Montana series.

4. Abigail Breslin

No Reservations Abigail Breslin
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Abigail Breslin also starred in some of our favorite movies when she was little, including Signs, My Sister’s Keeper, Definitely, Maybe, and Little Miss Sunshine. She’s done a few things as an adult but isn’t as prominent in the industry as many of us thought she would be.

5. AnnaSophia Robb

Bridge to Terabithia 1
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

AnnaSophia Robb was one of the most beautiful and charming child stars and pulled at our heartstrings in films like Bridge to Terabithia, Race to Witch Mountain, and Because of Winn-Dixie. However, nothing she’s done in recent years has been as successful as those films.

6. Alexa Vega

Spy Kids Alexa PenaVega, Darryl Sabara
Image Credit: Dimension Films.

Alexa Vega, now Alexa PenaVega, played Carmen in Spy Kids, and while she did a few other cute movies as a kid, she’s basically disappeared from the acting scene. Along with Daryl Sabara, who played Juni, she has stepped back from working and didn’t rise to superstardom.

7. Madison Pettis

Cory in the House Madison Pettis
Image Credit: It's a Laugh Productions.

Madison Pettis was precious when she was a little girl and stole the spotlight in films like The Game Plan. I thought for sure she had a successful career ahead of her, but she hasn’t done anything impressive or prominent in over a decade. Maybe she’ll get another big role down the line!

8. Frankie Muniz

Agent Cody Banks Frankie Muniz
Image Credit: MGM Distribution Co.

From Malcolm in the Middle and Agent Cody Banks to Big Fat Liar, Frankie Muniz was the it-boy of the early aughts, and I know I had a crush on him. However, he lost a lot of his appeal as he grew up and didn’t quite grow into his features well. He’s only done a handful of projects in the last ten years.

9. Sara Paxton

Aquamarine Sara Paxton
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Like Michelle Trachtenberg, most of Sara Paxton’s work came from her teen years. She was in lovable movies like Return to Halloweentown and Aquamarine. However, none of her recent roles have been particularly notable despite her sweet and alluring demeanor.

10. Mara Wilson

Matilda (1996) Mara Wilson
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Mara Wilson is basically synonymous with Matilda, as she brought that character to life. She did a few other cute movies, like A Simple Wish, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Miracle on 34th Street, but has barely worked in the industry since the turn of the century.

11. Anna Chlumsky

My Girl Anna Chlumsky
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Anna Chlumsky is very much still working and is as talented as ever, but she just didn’t rise to the level of popularity and success many thought she would. She’s best known for her childhood role in My Girl, but I highly recommend Veep and Inventing Anna. I think she deserves to be more well-known.

12. Josh Hutcherson

Zathura: A Space Adventure Josh Hutcherson
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Josh Hutcherson is by no means done acting, and he just starred in Five Nights at Freddy’s! However, considering how handsome and talented he is, we all thought he would be as big as Leonardo DiCaprio or Ryan Gosling. He’s definitely not a nobody, but I don’t know if he’s an A-lister.

13. Georgie Henley

The Chronicles of Narnia The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Liam Neeson, Georgie Henley
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Georgie Henley is best known as Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia franchise. She was cute and talented but hasn’t done anything particularly notable since. The same goes for the other Narnia kids, which is surprising because they were all wonderful in the films.

14. Amanda Bynes

She's the Man Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Amanda Bynes’ fall from the A-list has been a sad story. She gave us movies like She’s the Man, What a Girl Wants, Sydney White, and Big Fat Liar, not to mention The Amanda Show. But her struggles with mental health have caused her to stop acting, and I miss seeing her on screen.

15. Rupert Grint

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint have all dealt with being stuck in their Harry Potter roles, but Emma and Daniel have been able to break out a little more. Ruper Grint hasn’t been as successful in his other endeavors as many would’ve thought.

16. Alicia Morton

Annie (1999) Alicia Morton
Image Credit: Walt Disney Television.

Alicia Morton played Annie in the 1999 version of Annie and gave an adorable and lovable performance alongside the likes of Sarah Hyland, Kathy Bates, and Victor Garber. But following that film, she has done almost nothing else, which is a shame.

17. Aly Michalka

Easy A Emma Stone, Aly Michalka
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Aly Michalka was one of Disney Channel’s sweethearts, with roles in Phil of the Future and Cow Belles. She was also in Easy A. While she’s very talented and likable, she’s mostly stopped acting to focus on her music, along with her sister AJ, who also pulled away from Hollywood.

18. Khleo Thomas

Holes (2003) Shia LaBeouf, Khleo Thomas
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Khleo Thomas is best known for playing Zero in Holes, one of the best movies to come out of the early aughts. His performance was wonderful, and I thought for sure we’d be seeing a lot more of him, but ever since, he’s only had small roles in mediocre films.

19. Miranda Cosgrove

iCarly Miranda Cosgrove
Image Credit: Nickelodeon Productions.

I don’t know if Miranda Cosgrove is the most talented actress, but people adored her in shows like iCarly and Drake & Josh and movies like School of Rock. She still works, and her most successful projects have been voice gigs, but I thought she’d be more prominent in Hollywood as an adult.

20. Tia and Tamera Mowry

Sister, Sister Tamera Mowry-Housley, Tia Mowry
Image Credit: Paramount Network Television.

The Mowry twins were beyond adorable when they were on Sister, Sister and did some cute movies like Twitches. But they haven’t been in anything major in a while despite working rather consistently. They both have children, so they’re probably busy, but I still miss seeing them being funny together.

21. Dylan and Cole Sprouse

The Suite Life on Deck Cole Sprouse, Dylan Sprouse
Image Credit: It's a Laugh Productions.

Another pair of twins I think we all thought would be more famous was the Sprouses. Cole was in Riverdale and was fairly well-known for that, but they haven’t been as famous since The Suite Life of Zack and Cody ended. Cole seems to work a little more, but I always thought Dylan was more talented.

22. Christy Carlson Romano

Even Stevens Christy Carlson Romano
Image Credit: Brookwell McNamara Entertainment.

While Shia LaBeouf has kind of gone off the rails, he’s still pretty famous. Christy Carlson Romano played his sister on Even Stevens and was just as talented, but she hasn’t worked in nearly a decade. Christy is beautiful, magnetic, funny, and convincing, so I don’t know why she didn’t make the A-list.

Author: Veronica Booth

Title: Freelance Writer

Expertise: Food, Entertainment, Movies, TV, Fashion, Lifestyle, Celebrity


Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.

If she's not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she's binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.

She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.