In 1934 Shirley Temple, then six, was awarded the first ever Academy Juvenile Award, a separate prize created to recognise young actors’ capabilities separate from the main Oscar categories. But it was 16 year old Patty Duke’s win in 1963 for Best Supporting Actress that convinced the Academy that young actors could successfully compete against adults and the special awards were discontinued. Yet the number of child actors who have successfully landed a nomination – let alone an Oscar win – are few and far between. Since Duke’s victory, there have only been two young winners – Tatum O’Neal in 1974 and Anna Paquin in 1994.
Here is the full list of young actors who have achieved a win or nomination for an Oscar, starting with the youngest.
Justin Henry, 8 years old
Kramer vs Kramer, 1980
Justin Henry remains the youngest actor in Academy Awards history to secure a nomination. His role in the 1979 drama Kramer vs Kramer as Billy, a boy caught up in the nastiness of his parent’s divorce, earned him the nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Up against actors more than half his age, Henry lost to Melvyn Douglas in Hud. Now 50, Henry’s latest film credit was in 2014 horror film Reaper.
Jackie Cooper, 9 years old
Cooper was the first ever child to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as the titular character in 1931’s Skippy. The comedy follows Skippy, the mischievous child of a wealthy doctor, who befriends Sooky, a boy from the poor part of town. Together, the two must save Sooky’s dog who is captured by a brutal dog catcher. While Cooper didn’t secure the Oscar win, the actor – who died in 2011 – did go on to star in other projects like the original Superman films.
Quvenzhané Wallis, 9 years old
The most recent child nomination goes to Wallis, whose performance in 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild nabbed her a Best Actress nomination. The fantasy film stars Wallis as Hushpuppy, whose father prepares her for the world’s end. When he falls ill, the world seems to fall apart, too, with rising water levels and prehistoric beasts running rampant, forcing Hushpuppy on a quest to find her long-lost mother. Although Wallis didn’t win the Oscar, it only marked the beginning of her acting career. She recently finished the first season of Swagger, which aired at the end of 2021.
Mary Badham, 10 years old
To Kill A Mockingbird, 1963
Badham’s role as Scout in 1962 classic To Kill A Mockingbird – the film adaptation of the classic novel – landed her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. However, child actor Patty Duke overtook Badham for the Oscar win. Now 69, the actor has since retired from show business but continues to advocate for the teaching of Harper Lee’s book in American schools.
Tatum O’Neal, 10 years old
Paper Moon, 1974
At the 46th Academy Awards, O’Neal won Best Supporting Actress, making her the youngest person ever to win an Oscar. O’Neal starred alongside her real life father Ryan O’Neal in 1974’s Paper Moon. The pair portrayed con artists swindling their way through the countryside. O’Neal, now 58, still acts and can be seen in 2021’s Not To Forget.
Quinn Cummings, 10 years old
The Goodbye Girl, 1978
In 1978 romcom The Goodbye Girl, Cummings plays the daughter of a woman whose relationship with their disgruntled subletter evolves into something more. The role earned Cummings an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress but she ended up losing to Vanessa Redgrave. Richard Dreyfuss took home Best Actor for his role as the subletter. Cummings, 54, has since quit acting, with her final role in an episode of the 1991 show Blossom. She is now an entrepreneur and author.
Abigail Breslin, 10 years old
Little Miss Sunshine, 2007
Breslin appeared in a handful of late 2000s films alongside names like Cameron Diaz and Ryan Reynolds, but it was her role in Little Miss Sunshine that earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The now 25-year-old was last seen on the big screen in the 2021 Matt Damon vehicle Stillwater.
Brandon deWilde, 11 years old
Brandon deWilde earned his only Oscar nomination for his supporting role in the western romance Shane. DeWilde played the son of a woman who becomes the object of affection for Alan Ladd’s Shane – a gunfighter who is forced to join a range war. The young actor went on to star in more westerns before he died in a traffic accident at the age of 30.
Patty McCormack, 11 years old
The Bad Seed, 1957
Patty McCormack earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress thanks to her terrifying portrayal of Rhoda, a young murderer, in The Bad Seed. At 15, she became the youngest person to be honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. McCormack still maintains an acting career at 76, jumping between the screen and stage. Her latest role was in the 2021 off-Broadway show Morning’s at Seven.
Anna Paquin, 11 years old
The Piano, 1994
Paquin’s role as the daughter of a mute pianist in 1993 drama landed her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, making her the second-youngest winner of the category, behind Tatum O’Neal. Paquin has continued a successful career and can be seen in more recent works like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.
Haley Joel Osment, 11 years old
The Sixth Sense, 2000
The young actor secured a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in 1999 thriller The Sixth Sense, as the boy who can infamously see dead people. Osment was also known for an earlier performance in the classic film Forrest Gump and can now be seen in a recurring role on TV series The Boys.
Linda Blair, 13 years old
The Exorcist, 1974
Linda Blair earned an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress due to her role in The Exorcist, playing a young girl who is seemingly possessed by the devil. However, she was beaten by Tatum O’Neal to the win. Blair is mostly retired from acting, aside from occasional appearances on TV, and has since pivoted to fighting for animal justice, penning the 2001 book Going Vegan!
Keisha Castle-Hughes, 13 years old
Whale Rider, 2004
In the New Zealand born Keisha Castle-Hughes’s film debut, she played a young girl who has to prove her worth in earning her birthright as her tribe’s next Chief, a role traditionally only passed down to sons. She lost out at the Oscars to Charlize Theron, but Castle-Hughes is still acting and appeared in both Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
Saoirse Ronan, 13 years old
Before Saoirse Ronan’s rise to fame, she earned her first Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress in Atonement, a romance drama about young lovers torn apart by a lie fabricated by a jealous younger sister. Tilda Swinton beat Ronan for the award, but the young actor later earned three more Best Actress nominations for her roles in Lady Bird, Brooklyn, and Little Women, all before the age of 24.
Bonita Granville, 14 years old
These Three, 1937
Bonita Granville rose to prominence after receiving an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress in 1937 for her role in These Three. Her portrayal of a student who tells a spiteful lie about two teachers and the man they both love didn’t end up winning her the award, but the actor continued a triumphant career in classic 1930s Nancy Drew films as well as 1942’s Now Voyager. Her final appearance was a cameo in 1981 film The Legend of the Lone Ranger, before her death in 1988.
Patty Duke, 16 years old
The Miracle Worker, 1963
At age 15, Patty Duke portrayed Helen Keller in the 1962 film The Miracle Worker, for which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It was a role she had originated two years prior on Broadway. Before the actor’s death in 2016, she had a lengthy acting career racking up a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, two Golden Globes, and three Primetime Emmys.
Jack Wild, 16 years old
Jack Wild was best known for his award-nominated role in the 1968 musical Oliver! as the Artful Dodger, who leads a group of pickpocketing boys in Victorian London. His portrayal secured him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Oscars, to which he lost to Jack Albertson in The Subject was Roses. Wild continued his singing and acting career appearing in The Pied Piper and Alice, until his death in 2006.
Sal Mineo, 17 years old
Rebel Without a Cause, 1956
Sal Mineo acquired his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1955 drama Rebel Without A Cause, starring alongside James Dean. A few years later, Mineo landed his second Oscar nod for his role in 1960 war drama Exodus. The late actor kept up with films and TV, with his final role in the one-season 1975 TV series Joe Forrester, before he was stabbed to death in 1976.
The Oscars will take place on 27 March, 2022