Most child actors don't enjoy a lengthy career in Hollywood, working in the film industry for a handful of years before committing to other ventures outside the cinematic landscape. Every once in a while, though, a younger actor continues to hold onto his distinguished place in the industry, gaining a more versatile variety of roles as they grow older.
Making his acting debut in 2002, Josh Hutcherson established himself as one such performer. Thanks to early Josh Hutcherson movies like Zathura: A Space Adventure, the actor rose to teen heartthrob status by the early 2010s, leading to a long and successful tenure in film and television over the past decade.
From his earliest performances, check out some of the best Josh Hutcherson movies and TV series, ranked from best to worst.
The Hunger Games trilogy (2012)
One of the most popular cinematic franchises of the 2010s, The Hunger Games obtained the same vast membership ratings as the Harry Potter series before it. Spanning a total of four films, Hutcherson appears in the central role of Peeta Mellark, a teenage occupant of District 12 who joins Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in the 74th Hunger Games competition. Maintaining remarkable romantic chemistry with Katniss across every new movie, Hutcherson’s role as Peeta helped shed his former reputation as a child actor, ensuring his transformation into a nuanced performer by the start of the decade. Obviously, the series ranks as the most popular Josh Hutcherson movies.
Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
A heart-breaking coming-of-age drama disguised as a fantasy film, Bridge to Terabithia continues to pulverize audiences’ emotions well over a decade since its release. A thoughtful meditation on the burdens of adulthood, Hutcherson and co-star AnnaSophia Robb light up the screen as two best friends who escape into a world of their own creation. Overcoming childhood struggles like bullies, an unstable home life, and personal loss, Hutcherson illustrates the consistent turbulence that comes with growing up.
Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)
One of the biggest roles in the first half of Hutcherson's career came with 2005’s Zathura: A Space Adventure. An underrated sci-fi adventure film from Jon Favreau, Zathura casts Hutcherson as Walter, the embittered older brother to Jonah Bobo’s adorable yet precocious Danny. Pestering and tormenting his younger sibling throughout most of the film, Walter’s growth from a mean-spirited bully into a more patient older brother forms the backbone of Zathura’s narrative. Though a flop on release, Zathura has since become one of the more treasured Josh Hutcherson movies.
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
As Hutcherson approached adolescence, he found himself starring in somewhat more risqué movies, including 2010’s comedy drama, The Kids Are All Right. The adopted son of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore’s queer couple, Hutcherson’s 16-year-old Laser attempts to reconnect with his biological father (Mark Ruffalo), triggering all sorts of familial complications. While not an altogether meaty role, Laser helped Hutcherson keep his foot in the door when it came to more adult movies, paving the way for his successful career as a teenager and, later, as an adult.
Little Manhattan (2005)
The year 2005 proved an integral point in the development of Hutcherson’s career. Appearing in Zathura: A Space Adventure and Kicking & Screaming, Hutcherson also starred in the unique romantic comedy, Little Manhattan. A child-friendly version of the traditional romcom, Little Manhattan follows two New York pre-teens (Hutcherson and Charlotte Ray Rosenberg) who experience their first romantic encounter with one another. Bittersweet in its progression yet endearing in its portrayal of first loves, the film demonstrated Hutcherson’s inherent talent as a potential leading man from a very early age–something that became apparent as Hutcherson grew older.
Future Man (2017)
From 2017 to 2020, Hutcherson played the lead character in the homage-laden comedic sci-fi series, Future Man. A time-bending adventure show with references to everything from Back to the Future to The Last Starfighter, Future Man ranks among the more underrated exclusive series on Hulu’s catalog. In addition to its sharp writing and nostalgic atmosphere, the series benefits from some strong acting courtesy of Hutcherson’s game-loving everyman Josh Futterman, an ordinary janitor forced to save the world from a catastrophic future conflict. Though not as great as some other Josh Hutcherson movies or TV series, it deserves a watch.
In 2013, Hutcherson lent his voice for the family-friendly fantasy film, Epic. Starring Amanda Seyfried as an inquisitive teenage human shrunk down to the size of an insect, Hutcherson portrays Nod, an enthusiastic “Leafman” warrior under the tutelage of the far more seasoned Ronin (Colin Farrell). Honing his skills in combat and growing closer to Seyfried’s M.K. on their shared journeys together, Hutcherson’s unwavering energy as Nod allows this underrated animated film to roar through its meager runtime (an hour and 40 minutes).
Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)
Though bearing little resemblance to Jules Vernes’ novel of the same name, 2008’s Journey to the Center of the Earth makes for an intriguing adventure film on its own merits. While the finished results divide most viewers, Hutcherson’s paternal relationship to Brendan Fraser (who plays his on-screen uncle) provides the film a heartfelt tone that audiences can relate to.
Escobar: Paradise Lost (2015)
As one might expect, Benicio del Toro draws most viewers’ attention as the infamous cartel leader Pablo Escobar in 2015’s romantic thriller, Escobar: Paradise Lost. A larger-than-life criminal mastermind holding Colombia in the palm of his hand, del Toro’s merciless Escobar sets his sights on Hutcherson’s hapless American tourist. Opposite del Toro’s terrifying iteration of South America’s most infamous gangster, Hutcherson hands in an agreeable enough performance as Escobar: Paradise Lost’s protagonist, even if del Toro himself dominates the film.
Tragedy Girls (2017)
One can describe Hutcherson’s minor role in Tragedy Girls as a humorous allusion to the heartthrob reputation he’d garnered from The Hunger Games. The former boyfriend to true crime enthusiast McKayla (Alexandra Shipp), Hutcherson’s Toby comes across as a vapid high school student modeling himself after James Dean. In spite of his limited screen time, Hutchersoon manages to poke fun at the stereotypical roles he’d become known for at the start of the decade.
Five Nights at Freddy’s (2023)
One of Hutcherson’s most recent films, Five Nights at Freddy’s serves as the long-awaited adaptation of Scott Cawthon’s horror game of the same name. In it, Hutcherson portrays the lead character of Mike Schmidt, a burnt-out security guard watching over the dilapidated Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza restaurant. With his bloodshot eyes, sallow attitude, and traumatic backstory, Hutcherson’s Mike equips Five Nights at Freddy’s with a sympathetic protagonist audiences can rally around.
Kicking & Screaming (2005)
Released the same year as Zathura: A Space Adventure and Little Manhattan, Kicking & Screaming relegates Hutcherson to a secondary role as Bucky, the athletic son of his competitive father (Robert Duvall). Thrust into a petty rivalry with his far older brother (Will Ferrell), Hutcherson appears wise beyond his years as Bucky, enjoying some remarkable comedic chemistry with his dysfunctional on-screen family members.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)
Trading in Brendan Fraser for Dwayne Johnson, Journey 2: The Mysterious pales in comparison to the original 2008 film it follows up on. As generic as Journey 2 often is, Hutcherson does his best to hold audiences’ attention, depicting Sean Anderson’s continued metamorphosis from an average teenager into a worthy adventurer, redeeming Fraser's absence from the movie.
A messy horror comedy that draws liberal inspiration from slashers, alien invasion movies, and ‘80s teen comedies, Detention exists as one of the weaker entries in Hutcherson’s filmography. Yet that’s not to say Hutcherson phones it in his performance as the Van Wilder-esque party-animal Clapton Davis. A bland high school caricature on paper, Hutcherson delves into the cartoonish presentation of Clapton's personality, winning viewers over with his charm, humor, and “rad” skateboarding skills.
Despite Robin Williams’ overarching presence, 2006's RV sputters when it comes to delivering jokes audiences can laugh at. While the pedestrian humor won’t elicit much of a reaction from viewers, RV shows Hutcherson’s ability to hold his own against veteran comics like the late, great Williams. Inheriting the confidence of his on-screen father (Williams), Hutcherson's 12-year-old Carl enjoys some decent chemistry with his bickering family, especially when appearing next to his sister, the angsty Cassie (Joanna Levesque).