We can find great talents at any age, even among children. Along the history of movies, we have seen that kids are able to handle some impressive scenes and deal with their roles as seasoned actors. Who doesn’t remember Linda Blair possessed by a demon at the Exorcist? Or the whole cast of the emblematic movie Kids?
Some of the greatest stars, like Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman, started playing movies at a very early age, and both played memorable characters. But what is the limit for the exposure of children to certain subjects on movies? Those actors often deal with themes that are not familiar to most children: violence, drugs, and sex to name a few.
In movies, children and teenagers can be seen fighting against the demon, killing people ( or planning to), discovering sex and drugs. Some of those movies were recorded decades ago when rules were more flexible. So the chances of we see a child playing a prostitute on screen again are very little.
We selected 15 actors who played controversial movie scenes when they were still very young. What do you think? What movies would you add to the list?
15 Linda Blair - The Exorcist
Linda Blair was only 13 years old when she was chosen to play Regan in the film The Exorcist. The plot itself could already be considered “too much” for a child to read or see, but Linda also had to play controversial scenes such as abusing herself with a crucifix and rubbing her mother’s face at her crotch. And who doesn’t remember the neck twist and vomiting scene?
After the movie was released Blair had problems with her social life since people were really afraid of her. They saw the character she played instead of the person she is. The actress played several other movies, but none of them came close to the success achieved by The Exorcist.
14 Brooke Shields - Pretty Baby
This Drama tells takes place in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. Brooke Shields was 12 years when played Violet, the “Pretty Baby”, a girl who was left behind by her mother in a brothel and had to become a prostitute.
Violet’s virginity is auctioned by the brothel owner, who sees the girl as a very valuable product. The scene of a child being surrounded by older men willing to buy her virginity it’s not easy to watch. Later Violet falls in love with a - much older - photographer who shows up at the brothel and the movie revolves around their romance.
Pretty Baby is fulfilled with nude scenes played by Brooke Shields. No wonder the movie brought up a lot of controversy since openly talks about child prostitution and pedophilia.
Two years later Shields was the star at the classic Blue Lagoon. Although the plot is much less complex than Pretty Baby, she was only 14 years old when shooting sexy scenes.
13 Evan Rachel Wood And Nikkie Reed - Thirteen
The script of the semi-autobiographical movie was written in six days and it’s based in the life of Nikki Reed when she was between 12 and 13 years old. Evan Rachel, was 13 years old when played Reed at the movie. Nikkie is also in the movie, playing Evie, Reed’s best friend. She was 14 years old when started shooting the movie.
Thirteen shows the life of Reed, who had a regular life until she meets Evie (Nikki Reed), who shows her a life that seems to be much more exciting. Drugs? Check. Alcohol? Check. Underage sex? Check. Automutilation? Check. Shoplifting? Check.
The polemic caused by the movies, that talks about drugs, alcohol, and sex among young teenagers was emphasized because it was inspired by a real history. Evan Rachel Green received the Golden Globe as the best actress for her role. Holy Hunter, who plays Reed’s mother, was nominated for the Oscar as best supporting actress.
12 Kirsten Dunst - Interview With The Vampire
Based in a best-seller written by Anne Rici, Interview With The Vampire was one of the most expected movies of the year because it brought together the greatest ( and hottest) Hollywood star at the 90’s: Tom Cruise ( Lestat) and Brad Pitt ( Louis).
At some point of the history, they turn the 10 years old Claudia into a vampire. The girl is played by a very young Kirsten Dunst, who was also a 10-year-old. As we know, vampires don't age, so Claudia remains stuck in the body of a child forever, but her mind stills evolving.
The public can see the small child turn into a vampire thirsty for blood, killing an entire family, getting rid of bodies. There is also a glimpse of her sexuality since she develops a platonic love for Louis.
Although she was very young, Dunst was very convincing as Claudia and portraying emotional struggles too complex for her age.
11 Natalie Portman - Leon
Natalie Portman is considered one of the most talented actresses of her generation and she started showing up her talent very early. Her first appearance in the cinema was in the movie Leon when she was 12 years old. She played Mathilda, a girl whose family is murdered and, running to save her own life, starts living with her neighbor Leon (Jean Reno).
However, Leon is a cleaner for the Mafia, so he kills for a living. Mathilda soon starts to show interest to become a cleaner and he starts training the little girl. She also develops an unusual relationship with Leon and she even introduces herself as his wife in a hotel.
In a scene, while playing with Leon, Mathilda impersonate several famous people, including a racy Madonna and a seductive Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday”. Leon is visibly uncomfortable.
This is considered one of the best works of Luc Besson. However many people consider it inappropriate due to the high level of violence involving a child and, most of all, the subtle sexual content behind Mathilda and Leon relation.
10 Dominique Swain - Lolita
The movie was based on Vladimir Nabokov’s novel and tells the history of Humbert Humbert ( Jeremy Irons), a middle-aged professor who rents a room at the house Charlotte Haze ( Melanie Griffith), a widower who lives with her teenage daughter, Lolita ( Dominique Swain).
Humbert becomes so obsessed with Lolita who marries her mother to become closer to her. Haze finds Humbert’s diary and finds out about his sexual fantasies with her daughter. A car hits Haze, she dies and Humbert is finally free to live his “love” with Lolita.
The role of Lolita was declined by Natalie Portman and Dominique Swain took it. She was 15 years old when played Lolita and had to shoot many sexy and seductive scenes. The movie was so polemic that had issues to find a distributor in the United States and was first released in Europe.
9 Chloe Moretz - Kick Ass
The movie is based on a Comic Book and tells the history of a nerd, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), who decides to become a superhero. But who really steals the scene in the movie is the 11-year-old Chloe Moretz, who plays Hit-Girl, who was trained by her father played by Nicolas Cage.
The Hit-Girl is also responsible for the most controversial scenes in the movie since she doesn’t hold back in saying bad words. Many groups wanted to censor the movie, especially because of the line “"Okay, you c****, let's see what you can do now”, said by Chloe. Hit-Girl also plays a lot of violent scenes, fighting against the bad guys.
Full of violence, sarcasm, and too much bad words, the movie was a success all over the world.
In an interview, Chloe said that "If I ever uttered one word that I said in Kick-Ass, I would be grounded for years! I'd be stuck in my room until I was 20! I would never in a million years say that. I'm an average, everyday girl."
8 Jodelle Ferland - Tideland
Jodele was 9 years old when starred Tideland, a mix of Alice in the Wonderland and Psych. The movie tells the history of Jeliza-Rose, a lonely girl who is raised by drug addicted parents. After both dies, she sees herself alone, living in a house in the middle of nowhere, and her only companies are doll heads.
After a while, she meets her unusual neighbors, with whom she develops a strange relationship of dependence and affection.One of them used to date her father when they were young and believes that stuffing his ex’s body and pretend he is still alive is a reasonable idea.
The woman’s brother, a mentally impaired young man, becomes Jeliza’s best friend. However, Jeliza starts to develop deeper feelings for her neighbor, what makes the relation becomes creepy. Those scenes are really uneasy to watch.
7 Macaulay Culkin - The Good Son
In the early 90’s we were in use to see Macaulay Culkin playing sweet movies like “My Girl” and the comedy “Home Alone. The majority of his fans were children, so it was a surprise when he was announced as the star of this thriller - and not playing the good boy. Culkin was 13 years old when played a sociopath in this movie.
After the death of his mother, Mark Evan (Elijah Wood), a 12-year-old boy, goes live with his uncle and aunt. There, he also meets his cousins, Henry (Macaulay Culkin) and Connie (Quinn Culkin) . Mark and Henry have the same age and get along very well and became inseparable. However, Henry fascination with death and manipulative personality makes Mark feels very uncomfortable.
Henry is very pleased every time he notices his cousin is afraid of him. Other things that pleases him? Trying to kill his little sister and causing traffic accidents.
6 Jodie Foster - Taxi Driver
Jodie Foster played the teenager Iris when she was 12 years old. The movie, considered a Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece, is starred by Robert De Niro, who plays Travis Bickle a discharged marine guy who becomes a Taxi Driver in New York.
Jodie is not one of the main characters in the movie, but her presence is one of the most remarkable things about it. Bricke hires Iris, but he uses his time not for having sex with her but trying to convince the girl to leave prostitution behind. At some point, Bricke receives a letter from Iri’s father, saying thank you for helping his daughter.
In a later interview, Foster revealed that the director didn’t know how to approach her to explain the scenes and that they felt very uncomfortable about her character. "Scorsese would say something like 'unzip his fly' and just start laughing and not know what to do so he would hand it over to Robert De Niro and then Robert would tell me what to do.
5 Isabelle Fuhrman - The Orphan
We were all creeped out by Esther, played by Isabelle Fuhram, when she was 11 years old. A couple adopts an adorable and smart orphan, just after they lose their little son. It doesn’t take long until the girl starts to show a strange behavior, making her new mother ( played by Vera Farmiga) feel very insecure. Of course, just her is able to see that side of Esther and her partner thinks his wife is becoming mentally unstable.
Esther turns to be a cold, manipulative and violent child. Her favorite victim is her little sister, who can’t talk. The girl also develops an obsessive relationship with her father and tries to seduce him.
It’s always a challenge to play horror movies with children. Especially in a plot like The Orphan, where Esther shows to have a grown-up personality ( even sexually). The movie is also full of violent scenes.
4 Eva Ionesco And Lara Wendel - Maladolescenza
This Italian movie was directed by Pier Giuseppe Murgia and is considered one of the most polemic movies of all times. The history revolves around a teenage couple Laura (Lara Wendel) and Fabrizio ( Martin Loeb) who lives in an idyllic place and are discovering love and sex. Everything goes well until a new girl arrives. The presence of Silvia ( Eva Ionesco) starts to mess up with their relationship.
The plot seems to be innocent, but the movie is disturbing. Wendel and Ionesco were only 12 years old when playing the movie, that is full of nudity and sex scenes. Fabrizio forces his girlfriend to have sex with him and also makes her watch while he is having sex with Laura.
Unsurprisingly, the movie triggered protests and it was banned in many countries. In 2010, a Dutch court decided that the Maladolescenza qualifies as child pornography because of the sex scenes involving children.
3 Saoirse Ronan - Hanna
Saoirse Ronan was 16 years old when played Hanna, a cold blooded killer who was raised in a remote part of Finland and trained by her father, a former CIA agent since she was two years old. Needless to say that she has a life completely different from other teenagers. During almost two hours of the Movie, Hanna hardly ever shows her emotions and is able to kill her enemies without thinking twice.
After the death of her father, Hanna had the mission to find veteran intelligence operative Marissa Wiegler (Kate Blanchett). Ronan had to play a lot of violent scenes in a plot that could be too much for her age. Due to its success, the movie will become get a television version for Amazon starred by Ronan.
2 Leo Fitzpatrick - Kids
Kids became a portrait of a generation and is considered a classic cult movie. The movie shows a 24 hours in the life a group of friends who live in New York. It shows their behaviors while dealing with topics such as drugs, alcohol, and sex.
Leo Fitzpatrick was 15 years old when played Telly. He is the first person to appear in the movie, making out with his girlfriend. Most of the actors in the movie were underage, such as Chloë Sevignye Rosario Dawson, who started their career with Kids.
That was one of the most polemic movies of the year, and show the teenagers dealing with delicate issues at a very early age. HIV, drugs, and rape are some of the most controversial - and remarkable - scenes in the movie.
There is a documentary in pre-production to show the inside story of the kids who inspired the movie.
1 Darlan Cunha e Douglas Silva - City Of God
Considered one of the best movies ever made, City of God tells the history of a Brazilian slum, since its creation. Directed by Fernando Meirelles, most of the actors are from the favelas and didn’t have contact with acting before the movie. Among the new actors, Darlan Cunha and Douglas Silvas, both 12 years old.
Zé Pequeno (Silva) and Filé com Fritas (Cunha) are two children living at “City of God” and are exposed to all types of violence at the slum. They learn about drugs, how to steal, how to use a gun, how to frighten an enemy and how to kill. There is no time to be a child in the City of God.
The movie was considered very polemic due to its amount of violence and using children in those scenes. However, it received several awards and it was a success among the critics.