Top 10: Opening Credits

An opening credits sequence sets the tone and overall theme of the film, and sometimes a film can start off with a bang. An opening sequence that is captivating, making the film a gripping watch from the very start. Combined with the right choice of music, that right song can hit that sweet spot to completely personify the film you’re about to watch. Here are some of the great ones.

1. Skyfall (And James Bond series) 

The James Bond series prides itself on the opening titles, they are one of the most memorable parts of film history. The recent James Bond film is no different, with a trippy underwater sequence with both bright colors and play on shadows. Adele’s Oscar-winning song is the sultry soundtrack to the opening.It ends with the camera diving into Daniel Craig’s piercing blue eyes. The entire James Bond canon, especially the classics, (Goldfinger especially) is at the top of this list. The sequences are well-crafted, and the latest James Bond‘s is no different.

2. Watchmen

Zack Snyder smartly manages to hold our attention with this slow-motion and gorgeously shot montage. He miraculously concentrates a wealth of Alan Moore’s dense backstory into this compressed period. The use of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’Changin'” is brilliant, as we follow the heroes through notable periods of history, such as The Comedian being behind JFK’s Assassination. I had not read one bit of Watchmen, and this title sequence helped me understand the backstory without the use of one word of dialogue. The opening actually ends up being the best part of the film.

3. Do the Right Thing

Rosie Perez dances to Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ under hot-red lights and it’s great. It’s a heated and powerful opening, with a song that is very important throughout the film. Do the Right Thing is a film with a lot of messages about our society, and this is a simple but great opening statement.

4. Grease

The title-based song is sung by Frankie Valli, a perfect choice for a film honoring the 50s. The animations are tongue in cheek satires of 1950s pop nostalgia. The cartoon likenesses of the actors are adorable. This is a fun and bubbly opening sequence that is just as infectious and the film it’s preceding.

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 

Fincher has a knack for starting his films off with great opening titles. There’s another on this list, and it’s worth noting Fight Club and Panic Room as well. Trent Reznor does it again with his cover of ‘The Immigrant Song.’ You don’t know quite what you’re looking at in the design, but it is captivating. Paired with the frenetic song, the titles are strange, gritty, edgy, but also very provocative. Which is, essentially, the entire feel of the Lisbeth Salander stories.

6. The Graduate

Perhaps one of the most well-known opening titles of all time, often homaged in many other films (including Tarantino’s Jackie Brown). Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence is Benjamin’s swan song, it encapsulates the apathy he is feeling and appears again and again throughout the film/. The sounds of the airport announcer droning mixes with the song. Benjamin rides a moving sidewalk, deep in thought and disillusioned with the world around him. This is a memorable opening that sets the stage for Benjamin’s plight which we follow throughout The Graduate.

7. Seven

Fincher does it again with Seven‘s opening. Gritty and just downright dirty, the opening gives us fun little clues and peeks into the killer that will be revealed later. One being the razor to the fingers. It’s uncomfortable, grimy, and completely and utterly creepy, as is the entire film.

8. Lilo and Stich

Lilo and Stitch‘s opening starts off with beautiful animation of the Hawaiian sea. It always makes me want to go swimming, you can feel the rays of sunshine and cool water. The Hawaiian song ‘He Mele No Lilo’ is lovely, and of course fits perfectly with the setting. Lilo and Stitch is a unique Disney film, as is their choice to set it in Hawaii. The sequence also serves as a great introductory not only for the setting, but also for our lead character. We see exactly who Lilo is, a curious and fun little girl.

8. Catch Me if You Can

This fun and jazzy animation paired with the score fits the time period to a tee, as well as the buoyant cat and mouse feel of the film. The cute animations highlight the different identities and other lives that Frank Abagnale will don throughout the film.

10. Adventures in Babysitting

This opening just perfectly encapsulates the joy of youth and what it is to be a teenager. The song begins before the first shot is even on screen. Elisabeth Shue lip-syncs and dances to ”Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals, a classic 1960s bubblegum pop staple. There’s something sweetly nostalgic about a teenager of the 80s singing this 60s song. It’s something we wouldn’t really see in a modern film. It’s a fun and memorable way to open a comedy for young kids. She has carefree fun before her hopes are dashed by some jerk with a license plate that says “SO COOL”

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Top 10: Movies About Movies

Why do we love movies so much? Where would we be without them? Even if you’re not a cinephile, movie-watching is something that pretty much everyone does and enjoys. We sit in darkened room and stare up at a screen as we see someone’s story unfold, we get a glimpse into a different world . Movies have the power to terrify us, make us weep, or even sometimes alter our view of reality. (Don’t we all wish some of those famous rom-com moments could happen to us in real life? Just once?) It’s all the more intriguing when a movie decides to turn the camera on itself, to examine the medium that it is a part of. Here are some movies about the nature of movies and their meaning, the trials and tribulations of filmmaking itself, or the effect of Hollywood’s changes and morals on actors.

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1. Cinema Paradiso 

The Italian film Cinema Paradiso is like a love letter to the movies. Film director Salvatore looks back on his childhood, where he befriended projectionist Alfredo, who taught him everything about the movies. Under his wing, Salvatore’s love for films grew. Cinema Paradiso also shows the audience the changes in cinema, the dying trade of traditional filmmaking and editing, as well as beautiful old movie houses. The village cinema Salvatore loved so much is to be demolished and turned into a parking lot. One of the most poignant scenes is when Salvatore discovers a reel Alfredo filled with the on-screen movie kisses that the local priest would ban and cut from the films. Cinema Paradiso shows that as filmmaking grows and changes, we should never forget or demolish it’s roots, for those very roots have changed and made better the lives of many.

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2. Singin’ in the Rain

Who doesn’t love Singin’ in the Rain? Considered the best movie musical of all time, the amazing Gene Kelly plays a silent movie leading man preparing for his role in his first talkie, a movie that will have sound! (Which today may be a bit incomprehensible, but think of how awe-inspiring this must have been for a 1930s audience) This newfound and perplexing technology creates a foil for his co-star, who has, to put it lightly, not the best voice. With some of the best song-and-dance sequences and movie moments of all time, Singin’ in the Rain is a sunny and hilarious look at the conversion from silence to sound.

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3. The Purple Rose of Cairo 

In this slightly meta-film, Woody Allen geinusly deconstructs our fascination with film, as well as our deep-seated desires for a happy ending. Mia Farrow plays a meek housewife who uses cinema as an escape from her dreary and unhappy life. When seeing her favorite film for the fifth time, the character she swoons over walks off screen to sweep her off her feet. Woody Allen has been quoted as saying, “People are faced in life with choosing between reality and fantasy, and it’s very pleasant to choose fantasy, but that way lies madness. You’re forced finally to choose reality, and reality always disappoints, always hurts you.” and that is the crux of the film. Mia Farrow’s character stresses that love isn’t like the movies, but soon the film gets you swept up into thinking that maybe it is. But ultimately, (and the ending will really hit you) The Purple Rose of Cairo is about how our lives is not going to be as we expect, even in our imagination or in reality. Life isn’t like the movies, and we have to decide if that’s a good or bad thing.

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4. The Artist

For the happy look at silent actors turning into talkie actors that Singin in the Rain gives, The Artist gives the complete opposite. Famous silent movie actor George Valentin finds himself against the newfound movement refusing to move into talkie pictures. When no one wants to see him up on the screen anymore, this leaves him depressed, and in poverty with no career. Filmed as a silent movie itself, The Artist is a daring homage to the magic of silent cinema with gorgeous visual style.

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5. Shadow of the Vampire

Shadow of the Vampire is filled with humor that not only movie-lovers or filmmakers can appreciate, but especially actors. The film takes the kooky idea of what if the actor who filmed the famous vampire movie Nosferatu was an actual vampire?? The director accounts for the actor’s creepy behavior as to him being a dedicated method actor, which leads to absolutely hilarious moments. Not only is it funny, but the film is equally terrifying. The actress realizes she is playing opposite an actual vampire, and the director does not care for safety when it means he can capture something astonishing and wholly real. He’ll be sure to get the reaction he wants now. Shadow of the Vampire is a homage to the art of filmmaking, but also a play on the blend of fact and fiction.

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6. Gods and Monsters

With two incredible performances from Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser (yes…THAT Brendan Fraser!) Gods and Monsters tells the story of real-life Bride of Frankenstein director James Whale. Gods and Monsters gives more of a look into the man behind the famous film, and how life for an artist can so often imitate the art they create.

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7. Ed Wood

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have teamed up so often it’s become a running joke now, but looking back on their work it is easy to see why they make such a good team. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp both have a love of portraying and telling the stories of outsiders. What more of an outsider than that of Ed Wood, a 1950s director who made some of the worst (but hilariously so) sci-fi films. Ed Wood portrays the filmmaking and cut-throat Hollywood world of that era, where Ed Wood pairs with the dying drug-addicted actor Bela Lugosi (played brilliantly by Martin Landau) dares to try and make his fumbling dreams come true.

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8. Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder is a hilarious satire at the making of a huge Vietnam-era war film. Tropic Thunder pokes fun at actor’s inflated egos and method acting (especially Robert Downey Jr. as actor Kirk Lazurus), the hypocrisy of Hollywood moguls (Tom Cruise is hilarious as the overweight producer, as well as Matthew McConaughey as Ben Stiller’s agent) , and the labor of filming huge blockbusters. Tropic Thunder offers more spoofs than meta-filled insights, but it’s a hilarious spoof at that.

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9. For Your Consideration

Christopher Guest returns for another hilarious mockumentary of an upcoming Jewish drama film Home for Purim. Fame and success starts to get to the actors heads when they all start having lofty visions of Oscar buzz for their performances. Christopher Guest dares to mock the sacred idea of getting an Oscar that most actors have.

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10. Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue is a thriller that comments more about the obsessive celebrity culture and fixation with actors rather than the craft of making film. But the film also – quite dangerously and vividly- gets inside the mind of an actor- when does what you’re acting stop being fiction and start being real? Although more about a television series than a single film, Perfect Blue dares to examine the fragility of the craft of acting.

Top 10: Al Pacino Performances

In honor of the current book I’m reading Al Pacino: In Conversation with Lawrence Grobel (which is a great look into the actor’s mind, life and acting process) here is what I personally consider to be Al Pacino’s best performances. Al Pacino is regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time, his leap from the stage to the screen led him to a blazing start, appearing in some of history’s most famous films.

Although many like to poke fun that Al’s work gets gradually bigger and louder as time goes on. That he has now mastered the art of screaming and yelling on the top of his lungs, until it has become redundant. But nonetheless, Al Pacino’s performances are varied and vibrant.

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1. Michael Corleone – The Godfather

How can there be any other choice for #1? Francis Ford Coppola campaigned for Pacino against the studio’s wishes, refuting that there was no one else more perfect for the role. When he read the book, someone like Al Pacino was who he pictured in his head. Pacino would’ve preferred to play James Caan’s role as the hothead Sonny, (and Al eventually gets his wish and plays yelling hotheads many times throughout his career) but Pacino is masterful as the quiet, calculating Corleone. His still and subdued performance is much more powerful in the unspoken than any shouting could ever emote.

In this scene below, watch how he struggles to hold himself together despite the utter shock and contempt he feels for hearing what Kay has done. (And for a devout traditional Catholic, it is even more horrible) Note the wave of anger as he lashes out and slaps her, but you can see he regrets it as he quickly steps back.

There are far too many clips I could show from the first two films that demonstrate his fine work in this infamous role.

2. Sonny Wortzick – Dog Day Afternoon 

For all the stillness and subtly Pacino conveys in Corleone, he shows the complete opposite in his portrayal of Sonny Wortzick, a zany bounciness fueled by nervousness and hysteria. The role of Sonny was slightly controversial, a high-profile actor taking on the role of a gay man robbing a bank to pay for his lover’s sex change operation. This was one of the first main gay characters to ever appear in a mainstream film.

But Pacino doesn’t play him flamboyantly or override him with stereotypes, instead he is filled with passion and love for his partner. Overall, there is such a beloved earnestness in Sonny. The combination of that earnestness and naiveté is wholly endearing, as the not-so-well planned heist ends up becoming a media circus. (Foreshadowing the days of reality TV and the allure of fifteen-second fame.) His rallying cry of “Attica! Attica!” was completely improvised, earning the status of becoming one of the most famous film lines of all time. You can’t get a better example of Pacino’s energy and passion as an actor with this role.

3. Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade – Scent of a Woman 

This is the film that finally gave Al Pacino an Oscar. After being a seven-time nominee, most feel that this was given to Pacino more of as a consolation prize, making up for all his losses, rather than the part actually being deserving of one. Some feel the film is too long and overly schmaltzy. However, I view it as a heartwarming, moving, and triumphant drama with a lot of merit. Although it’s undeniable that the film would be nothing without Al Pacino’s performance. Al Pacino a Lieutenant Colonel Slade is a tortured soul, underneath all of his sarcasm and bravado, he is a lonely man. Blinded by an act of his own making, he is in the dark, both literally and figuratively.

Others feel that this role is very over-the-top and Oscar bait. But I think Pacino’s theatrical tendencies suit this character. Slade has got a lot of anger, a lot stirring up inside of him. And when it comes out, it over-bubbles.

That famous hoo-ha was Completely improvised by Pacino during his own private character work. If there’s anything I’ve learned by reading his interviews, is that despite a decades long career he still manages to take the time out to do private work for his characters. That’s someone who’s truly dedicated to their craft. Also, the closing speech is inspiring and audience-rousing.

4. Arthur Kirkland – …And Justice for All 

The film is a bit unbalanced, shifting between emotional drama and sitcom-like humor. (There’s really cheesy 70s sitcom music and close-ups) But Pacino’s performance certainly holds it together. Kirkland is an honest lawyer, he cares about the people and wants to obey the law and help as many as he can. This scene, below, I feel demonstrates some of his finest acting work, Especially when Kirkland admits that his client ended up hanging himself. The emotion in his voice and eventual breakdown is very well-crafted. You can really sense the other actor trying to keep up with Pacino’s skills.

…And Justice for All also features another famous ‘Pacino yelling speech’, one of the most famous. In his earlier days, before Pacino yelling became more of a joke and token staple in his films, you can see that when he nailed it he really did nail it. Similar to Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon, Pacino portrays Arthur Kirkland’s earnestness and passion as endearing and commendable.

5. Frank Serpico – Serpico

Al Pacino as Serpico is a famous and big role for him, between this and the recent release of The Godfather, he catapulted into becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. It is also a transformative role We see him go from a clean-cut fresh faced rookie cop to a grizzled hippie police outcast, the only one standing alone for what he knows is right. Watching it, it is undeniable that Pacino carries the film. Both gracefully and explosively portraying the struggles and convictions of the real-life cop.

6. Lt. Vincent Hanna – Heat

Pacino sizzles in Heat, he has a lot of fun playing Vincent Hanna and you can see it. Pacino is able to run wild with his character, a wild-eyed hothead workaholic who struggles to keep together his crumbling marriage. But in the end, work is more important as he engages in a cat-and-mouse chase for the criminal Neil, played by Robert De Niro. Heat is famously the first film to bring the acting greats De Niro and Pacino together. Pacino brings his well-known bravado and theatrics to create a fun and truly memorable character.

7. Tony Montana – Scarface

Al Pacino’s role in this is iconic, so permeated in pop culture (“Say hello to my little friend” is perhaps one of the most infamous and widely quoted movie lines) that it’s hard to believe the film was poorly received when it first came out. Many felt that the film and performance was overly flamboyant, far too over-the-top. But Pacino, aligned with what he felt was Brian De Palma’s vision, wanted to make his performance operatic. And indeed, it is. Operatic as well as wildly entertaining. For all the extravagance that Cuban immigrant-turned-cocaine drug kingpin Tony luxuriates in, how can he be anything but over-the-top? There is no gray area or reeling in with this character, and Pacino goes all for it.

8. Lowell Bergman – The Insider

A lot of Pacino’s characters seem to be passionate, dedicated individuals who fight for a cause against the odds. In line with that narrative, Pacino plays Lowell Bergman, a reporter trying to take on the corrupt tobacco industry. However, for all of his passion this is much more of a quiet intensity. Rather than relying on his past theatrics, which work for other performances, this character brings a different kind of earnestness that we don’t usually see in Pacino’s other work.

9. Carlito – Carlito’s Way 

Also directed by Scarface‘s Brian De Palma, Pacino plays a character completely opposite Tony Montana. Carlito Puerto-Rican ex-convict who tries his hardest to stay on the straight and narrow path. It is a very quiet and understated performance, he tells a lot more through the eyes. Another thing that sticks out about the performance is that you want Carlito to succeed so much, you want him to be able to stay on the right path as much as he can, despite all the temptations along the way.

His character also brings a lot of humor, like in this scene.

10. Johnny – Frankie and Johnny

Frankie and Johnny is a rather underrated romantic comedy, featuring Pacino in a performance that we rarely see from him. Instead of his tough guy characters, we get to see his lighter side, an emotional and vulnerable man with a lot of humor and a heart of gold. It’s a sweet movie with Al Pacino yet again playing another earnest character. There is nothing deceitful about him for he lays all of his emotions out on the table. Michelle Pfeiffer is also exceptional opposite him.

Honorable mention to Two Bits, where Pacino gives a heartwarming and moving performance as a sickly and dying grandfather, a sweet and touching side we rarely see in his roles.

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In celebration of Al Pacino’s great work on film, I leave you with this fun remix.

Top 10: Favorite Movies

It’s really hard to narrow down my exact favorite movies, there are so many I love that it’s hard to choose from. Sometimes these picks change throughout the years, but most of these have remained constant.

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1. The Lord of the Rings

I was in 4th grade when the trilogy began, but I wanted nothing to do with them. I wasn’t a fan of Harry Potter (I know, blasphemy…) so I didn’t think anything fantasy would be up my alley. But one day I borrowed them from a neighbor’s house, and now nearly ten years later they still remain my absolute favorite films of all time. (I count them as one, because after all, that’s what Tolkien intended with the books!) As a whole, I really am not a big fan of the fantasy genre. But something about this good vs. evil story absolutely captivates me. I can’t put into words how much Frodo’s journey means to me.

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2. King Kong

A lot of people don’t like Peter Jackson’s remake of the classic monster movie. Perhaps I am a bit biased, with him being one of my favorite directors, but I absolutely love what he does with the story. Jackson creates a deeper relationship between Kong and Ann.The classic monster movie is turned into a beautiful love story. The CGI technology is absolutely breathtaking, Andy Serkis’ incredible motion capture work as Kong allows for an infinite range of emotions for the character. I can’t help but cry at the ending every single time.

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3. Amadeus

I first saw parts of this in high school, on a whim during a vocal class. When I rented it at home I was floored by the story of Salieri’s jealousy and Mozart’s incredible music. I had never really explored his music before, and it is quite a marvel to hear it in this film, along with Milos Forman’s exceptional directing.

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4. Raging Bull 

Something about Raging Bull really captivates me. Not only is the directing so artistic, nearly operatic at times , but Robert De Niro’s performance is nothing short of stunning. I’ve written about it before here, but that scene where Jake LaMotta is in jail touched me for so many reasons. Robert De Niro does an incredible job of portraying the lonely boxer that spirals into his own self-destruction.

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5. When Harry Met Sally

It’s one of the most charming and funniest romantic comedies of all-time, what’s not to love? And Billy Crystal is absolutely adorable as Harry Burns. I think everyone wants a relationship like theirs.

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6. Big Fish

I think this is one of Tim Burton’s best work, perhaps because it is so un-Tim Burton-y. I saw it when I was younger, but loved it upon rewatch. The scene where Billy Crudup tells a story to his dying father, after hating his dad’s stories for so long, will always touch me. Big Fish is fantastical fun but also an emotional story of family mortality.

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7. Jaws 

As I wrote in my childhood movies post, Jaws was one of the first movies that really got me into the movies. The perfect summer movie, I watch it every 4th of July. This classic never fails to thrill, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

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8. Paper Moon

Paper Moon is a mix of an old-fashioned caper, funny road-trip movie, and a heartwarming family drama. It is the perfect mix of all those different genres. Ryan O’Neal is a charming thief, and has such sweet chemistry with it’s daughter. It’s actually quite heartbreaking to watch if you know their real life relationship.

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9. The Godfather

I had put off watching The Godfather for a really long time, and I don’t know why. I obviously knew about it from the hundreds of pop culture references in other films or television shows. I knew it was highly regarded, (It was #1 on the IMDb Top 250 for years, has 100% on rottentomatoes.) But I just never got around to seeing it until I  was in college. I quickly grew a great appreciation for Al Pacino’s work and the film itself. With incredible filmmaking, and a powerful story on a captivating Mafia family, it’s a cinema classic for a reason.

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10. An American Werewolf in London 

For as many of the scary moments this film has, it has an equal amount of hilarious moments. Making this not just a horror film but a black comedy was a perfect choice, because the film does both so well. You can also appreciate Rick Baker’s incredible makeup work and practical effects. That ending nails the perfect genre mix – a tragic death cut to The Marcel’s bopping “Blue Moon”.

Top 10: Child Performances

Can children, with little life experience as adults, reach the same heights of incredible performances as their older peers? Does their optimism and lack of self- consciousness leave them open for expressing themselves without fear? (Something that adult actors need to achieve to succeed.) These child performances prove that some children are just as capable as delivering incredible performances as adults.

1. Henry Thomas (Age 11) – E.T.

To make E.T. work, you needed a young actor who could form a connection with the animatronic puppet, to make the world believe E.T. was a living thing. Steven Spielberg is known for his ability to get great performances out of children (Drew Barrymore of course, also for E.T. and others in this list) Henry Thomas is able to create Elliot’s loneliness that transforms when he establishes such a heartfelt and passionate bond with his friend. Look at his incredible audition tape (auditions are not easy, even for adults. The reader usually doesn’t give you much emotion to feedback on. You have to muster the relationship/reactions yourself.)

2. River Phoenix (Age 15) – Stand By Me

River Phoenix was an actor taken from us far too soon. The depth shown in his early performances shows what he would have accomplished as an adult actor. He seemed wise beyond his years in his role as Chris Chambers, the boy unable to escape his label as a rebel. He portrayed insecurities and complexities with an adult-like wisdom, something very rare in a child actor.

3. Christian Bale  (Age 13) – Empire of the Sun 

Again proving his penchant for finding and working with child actors, Steven Spielberg discovered Christian Bale, one of the finest actors of our generation. Young Christian Bale carries this near three-hour movie, often having to act alone. Jamie goes from a young enthusiastic (but spoiled) boy, to a shell-shocked young man scarred by war. In his childhood performance, we can see the seeds of what an incredible actor he’d become as an adult.

4. Jode Foster (Age 12) – Taxi Driver

Jodie Foster, even at her young age, already had over 30 credits behind her, far more than even some of her adult contemporaries. It’s quite hard to believe she’s only 12 years old in this film. But she is indeed a young girl, a girl who is filled with both an adult-like world-weary cynicism and youthful vitality.While Taxi Driver has some hardcore material for a young kid, (she is, after all, playing a prostitute) Jodie Foster displays an almost uncomfortable acute understanding of her character Iris. Jodie Foster certainly more than holds her own with Robert De Niro.

5. Jamie Bell (Age 14) – Billy Elliot

For the title role of Billy Elliot, Jamie Bell brought his exceptional acting skills as well as dance skills for the confused and sensitive character. He truly captures the tough boy with a gift, the simmering anger of someone who just wants to break free.

6. Haley Joel Osment (Age 12) – A.I. Artificial Intelligence 

As with other Steven Spielberg films, the job of the young actor is to carry the film. But not only does Haley Joel Osment (also known for his fantastic performance in The Sixth Sense) have to be the lead, but he also has a complex role in the film. He has to pretend to be a robot, a young boy playing a machine who comes grapples with human feelings, wanting to be something he is not. To understand and portray those abstract thoughts shows his talent at such a young age.

7. Saoirse Ronan (Age 12) – Atonement

Briony quickly becomes a character you love to hate, but Saoirse Ronan brings a powerful strength to Briony. Though she seems dreamy with wide-eyed innocence, Saorise gives Briony a fierce, calculating, and intimidating essence. Saoirse brings to life a dedicated but fanciful young girl who perseveres without knowing the consequences of her actions.

8. Natalie Portman (Age 11) – Leon: The Professional 

Like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, Natalie Portman takes on a mature role with equally mature material. (there’s even a bit of pedophiliac sexual tension between Leon and her character…seen in the cut scene below) Left an orphan after her parents are killed, she is raging, she is wild, she is dark. This is a role with material that is far beyond most children’s understanding, but somehow at her young age Natalie Portman is able to create a fully realized young girl with a lot of demons inside.

9. Tatum O’Neal (Age 9)  – Paper Moon

Tatum O’Neal plays a tough cookie in the Depression-era film, winning an Oscar for this role. She was nominated for Best Supporting, but really she is the lead actress. With her searing glares but inner broken spirit, and fantastic banter and chemistry with her real-life dad (Ryan O’Neal), she is deserving. (But yes, so was Linda Blair who was also nominated against her that year…) It breaks my heart to know what Ryan and Tatum O’Neal’s relationship was really like.

10. Hailee Steinfeld (Age 14) – True Grit

Haliee Steinfeld managed to bring strength and feistiness that Mattie Ross deserves with a rich undercurrent of vulnerability. A child trying so hard to grow up and be an adult for the sake of avenging her father. What is most impressive is that she completely holds her own against her famous co-stars, just look at this scene below with Jeff Bridges as an example. She doesn’t fade into the background, she stands out loud and proud.