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The Biggest Child Stars Of The ’80s: Where Are They Now?

The 80s were such a golden time of entertainment. From catchy tunes to blockbusters, people have a huge source of decent entertainers. On top of that, this decade was so remarkable with movies in which child stars had the main roles. They snag the hearts of audiences from many generations with their surprising talents at a young age and also their natural cuteness.

That was a great launching pad for their fruitful acting careers. In fact, many of them today are still maintaining their fame in Hollywood with many impressive roles. However, others opted to quit the spotlight and live a normal life. Some occasionally venture back into television or movie appearances and grab attention in spades.

In this post, we want to take you back to the good ol’ time with a list of 20 famous 80s child actors and actresses. We also update you on what they are doing now. Dive into them now.

#1 Noah Hathaway

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Back in 1984, when millions and millions watched The NeverEnding Story and extremely loved Atreyu, played by Noah Hathaway. The movie actually made him an ’80s teen heartthrob, especially in Europe. Before that, he also starred in the original ‘Battlestar Galactica’ series as Boxey.

After appearing in the 1986 film “Troll,” Anne Hathaway took a break from acting. She made a comeback in 2012 with parts in the exploitation films “Sushi Girl” and “Mondo Holocausto.” The actor is a big fan of motorcycles and martial arts and holds black belts in Tang Soo Do and Shotokan Karate. In addition, he is now involved in tattooing and dancing, and also offers custom message videos for fans on Memmo.

#2 Kirk Cameron

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Kirk Cameron became well-known in the late 1980s as a result of his heartthrob reputation. He was the prototypical pin-up when he was an adolescent, loved by little girls all over the world. Growing Pains has seven seasons from 1985 to 1992, and Cameron starred as Mike Seaver throughout that time. A teenage Leonardo DiCaprio and a then-unknown Brad Pitt, who made a few cameo appearances, co-starred with him.

However, as soon as the show was canceled, Cameron’s career took a turn, and in the nearly 30 years since the conclusion of Growing Pains, his public image has changed immensely. Currently, he starred in “Lifemark,” following the true story of David, a young man searching for his birth parents. The movie is based on the documentary, “I Lived on Parker Avenue.“

#3 Henry Thomas

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Not all child actors go on to have successful adult acting careers, but Henry Thomas made the change quite smoothly. Except for taking a break from his pursuit of film roles to play guitar on records and tour with the San Antonio band The Blue Heelers, he worked consistently throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s after landing his breakthrough role as Elliott in E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial when he was just 11 years old.

Henry Thomas never went unemployed, but the 2010s marked something of a comeback for him. He started working closely with director Mike Flanagan, appearing in his movies Gerald’s Game, Doctor Sleep, and Ouija: Origin of Evil. In addition, he played the lead in the Netflix original series The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor created by Flanagan. He is currently in the spotlight with horror mystery-thriller streaming television series The Midnight Club

#4 Tracey Gold

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Tracey Gold may not have had show business parents as a child, but she nonetheless joined a show business clan. She and her sister both started their acting careers at a very young age, with Tracey Gold starring in a Pepsi print advertisement at the age of four and Missy Gold, her younger sister, featuring in the comedy Bensen from 1979 until 1986.

Before finally becoming well-known for her part as Carol Seaver on Growing Pains, which she played for a large portion of her adolescent years, the elder Gold appeared in two comedies that were canceled. She regrettably became one of the first famous people to have her anorexia fight exposed as a result of her time in the spotlight. She frequently gives speeches as an adult now about the effects of eating disorders and the significance of having a positive body image.

#5 Lukas Haas

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In the 1985 thriller Witness, Lukas Haas co-starred with Harrison Ford when he was only eight years old. Just two years after making his cinematic debut in Testament, a 1983 thriller about a fictitious nuclear extinction event, he landed the role. Haas’ performance prepared him for a steady cinema career during the 1980s and 1990s, and ever since 1996, up until 2022, he has appeared in at least one movie.

In addition to his regular acting gigs, Haas made time to hone his drumming skills and develop his love of the piano. As a result, he has worked with well-known musicians like Macy Gray and My Chemical Romance. His most notable recent performance was in the 2018 film First Man when he portrayed astronaut Michael Collins, who operated the lunar command module as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

#6 Ke Huy Quan

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Ke Huy Quan was one of the most recognizable young performers in America in the middle of the 1980s. The Vietnamese-born actor not only had an appearance as Short Round, Harrison Ford’s sidekick in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984, but he also went on to play Data in The Goonies the following year. Six years later, in 1991, he played the lead in the American martial arts film Breathing Fire, which was his next significant cinematic role.

Later, he changed his stage name to Jonathan Ke Quan, but he made fewer and fewer film appearances before announcing his acting retirement in 2002. Instead, he studied at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, and after earning his degree, he focused on rigging and planning stunts. He later worked behind the scenes on films like the X-Men from the 2000s, but he unexpectedly returned to acting in 2021 with Finding ‘Ohana and the indie smash Everything Everywhere All At Once. Currently, he returned to ‘The Goonies’ set for the first time in 36 years.

#7 Brooke Shields

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Given her privileged upbringing, it’s hardly surprising that Brooke Shields was able to achieve success at such an early age. Shields’ father’s mother was an American socialite, and Shields’ paternal grandmother was an Italian noblewoman named Marina Torlonia di Civitella-Cesi. Shields made her stage debut at the Waldorf and was just 11 months old when she started modeling.

Shields spent a large portion of her youth working as a model, but at the age of 12, when she controversially played a kid forced into sex work in 1917, she landed her breakthrough role. She appeared in the equally contentious Blue Lagoon two years later, and after that, she had to admit that body doubles were employed for the naked sequences in front of a U.S. congressional committee. Since then, Shields has consistently produced work, with season 19 of Law & Order: SVU being a standout. Currently, the actress shared a vulnerable mom moment on her Instagram as her 19-year-old daughter Rowan left for her sophomore year at Wake Forest University.

#8 Jaleel White

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You might not be familiar with the name of actor Jaleel White, but you will undoubtedly recognize his face. White made his television debut as Steve Urkel on Family Matters in 1989. The performance was a one-off, but it was so well received that the role was later developed into a series regular. In fact, Urkel gained so much popularity that he eventually replaced the Winslow family as the series’ main character.

After Family Matters ended in 1997, White starred in Grown-Ups on UPN before taking a break to attend UCLA to study film and television. He had modest success as an adult thanks to supporting parts in Dreamgirls and Big Fat Liar, and he also participated in Dancing with the Stars. In addition to his work as an actor, he has also introduced his own range of commercial cannabis strains, including the cherished “Purple Urkel.” He currently appears in “Hustle” as Blake and garners huge attention.

#9 Aileen Quinn

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Like Jaleel White, Aileen Quinn may be an unknown name to you, yet her face may ring your bells. After performing on Broadway as a swing (understudy to all of the young cast members), she shot to fame in 1982 by acting in the film adaptation of Annie. Quinn appeared to be set up for a lifetime in Hollywood thanks to the box office success of the movie, but except for some adult acting roles in the revival of Will & Grace and the TV series The Comeback Kids, that never happened.

There’s a good reason for that: Quinn was bound by a contract to star in several follow-ups Annie movies and was not allowed to engage in any other screen projects. She was forced to perform in the regional theater because the movies were sadly never made. The actress subsequently told Broadway dot com: “I got to have a normal high school and a normal life outside of Hollywood. I could only take regional theater gigs, and it’s when I really got to grow up as an actress.”

#10 Ilan Mitchell-Smith

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Even though Weird Science was not the biggest box office success of the 1980s, it undoubtedly has one of the most devoted cult followings. Mitchell-Smith and Anthony Michael Hall co-starred in the science fiction comedy, but while the latter went on to become a proud member of the Brat Pack, the former spent the 1980s acting in a string of decreasingly popular projects.

However, Mitchell-Smith started a career in teaching instead of acting after quitting the industry in 1991. He started working as a professor at California State University in 2005, where he also serves as the center’s co-director for medieval and Renaissance studies. As if that weren’t enough, he also spends his free time creating adventures for Dungeons and Dragons and often contributes essays about board games to Forces of Geek. He also briefly returned to acting with a cameo appearance on The Goldbergs, a sitcom with an 80s theme.

#11 Danica McKellar

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The growth of Danica McKellar’s acting career spanned her entire life. She began taking acting training at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Los Angeles when she was only seven years old, and it paid off when, as a teenager, she was cast as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. From 1988 until 1993, McKellar portrayed Cooper before branching out into voice acting and juggling her acting career with her academic obligations.

McKellar’s most well-known works today are her children’s arithmetic textbooks, the first of which was a New York Times bestseller. She received the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JBPM) Communications Award and was featured as the Person of the Week on World News with Charles Gibson for her commitment to encouraging middle schoolchildren to be curious and enthused about math rather than consumed with disdain for it. McKellar appeared as a judge on Fox’s Domino Masters in March 2022.

#12 Lisa Bonet

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Lisa Bonet entered the field late by child actress standards; she didn’t start trying out for commercials until she was 11 years old. Her big break came five more years later when she was cast as Denise Huxtable Kendall on The Cosby Show. Bonet performed this role from 1984 to 1991 for seven years, but after that, her professional progress stagnated.

Lisa Bonet performed in parodic roles in several well-known movies and TV shows, such as High Fidelity and Enemy of the State, but it took her until 2008 to get another regular TV job. Bonet appeared in Drunk History for a brief time as Rosa Parks, as Detective Maya Daniels on Life on Mars from 2008 to 2009, and most recently made appearances on New Girl and Girls. Currently, the actress announced that she and Jason Momoa divorced after 4 years of marriage. That really broke the hearts of her fans.

#13 Bridgette Andersen

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Bridgette Anderson started acting even before she could speak, appearing in ads for Bank of America and Mervyn’s as an infant. She had a talent agency and frequent modeling work by the age of two, before landing her big break in 1982 as Savannah Driscoll in the film Savannah Smiles. The same year, Andersen played Mae West, a six-year-old girl, in the biographical TV film Mae West.

Anderson had a stunning IQ, starting to read at the age of two and a half and developing a passion for Ernest Hemingway. Unfortunately, her youth in the spotlight led to her developing substance misuse issues, which were exacerbated by her inability to obtain an acting job during her adolescence. As a result, Anderson died from an overdose at the age of 21.

#14 Soleil Moon Frye

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At seven years old, it would often be challenging for an actor to land the lead in a television series, but Soleil Moon Frye was already a polished veteran. When Frye was just two years old, she started acting professionally. At age five, she made her first television appearance. In 1984, she was chosen for the lead part in Punky Brewster.

Punky Brewster ran until 1988 despite routinely receiving low ratings because it was so beloved by the kids who watched it. With enough work like this, Frye was able to establish a reliable television career that featured significant voice work and supporting roles on shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The Proud Family. Since then, she has mostly stayed in the children’s entertainment industry, but she did make an appearance in the drama The Killing Secret in 1997. She’s now a mother of 4 children.

#15 Scott Grimes

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Scott Grimes made his cinematic debut with the 1986 sci-fi monster thriller Critters, after breaking through with TV movies A Doctor’s Tale and The Night They Saved Christmas. Grimes would reprise his role as Bradley Brown in Critters 2: The Main Course, and has since gone on to have a successful career as an actor and musician.

Grimes had a recurring role in the drama Party of Five in the 1990s before joining the cast of ER in the 2000s. He was most recently seen as pilot Gordon Malloy in the sci-fi comedy series The Orville. His cinematic credits include Robin Hood (2010) and the upcoming Christopher Nolan picture Oppenheimer. As a solo musician, he has released three albums. He has been married to actress and model Adrianne Palicki since 2019.

#16 Robert MacNaughton

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Robert MacNaughton, who played Elliot and Gertie’s older brother Michael in the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, often goes unmentioned while his co-stars Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore both went on to successful careers. With only a few TV acting credits to his name, McNaughton entered the job, and it turned out to be his sole significant motion picture.

After starring in the 1983 drama I Am the Cheese and making appearances in a number of TV movies, MacNaughton focused primarily on stage acting before leaving the industry in 2002. He later became a mailman, but in 2015, he briefly returned to acting in the low-budget horror film Frankenstein vs. The Mummy.

#17 Wil Wheaton

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Wil Wheaton’s career has been as the 80s as it gets. He not only voiced characters in Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH and the Stephen King classic Stand By Me, but he also went on to play Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He did, however, stop performing in the early 1990s to work for the software business NewTek, and then, after five years in acting school, he returned to the entertainment industry.

Due to his tumultuous connection with the spotlight, Wheaton has chosen to focus primarily on voice acting since returning to the industry. In an interview with Metro, Wheaton said: “When I was a kid my parents forced me to become an actor, it was never something I wanted to do. Throughout my entire childhood, I begged my mother to stop forcing me to go on auditions… as a consequence of that, I don’t really enjoy on-camera acting.”

#18 Jeff Cohen

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Co-star with Ke Huy Quan in ‘The Goonies’, Jeff Cohen was hugely recognizable at this time. After that, he had a luscious acting career with a streak of successes from the middle to the end of the 1980s. However, his career was cut short in 1991 after he made an appearance in the television film Perfect Harmony.

The clumsy Chunk of this day is now not active as an actor, yet he served as an entertainment lawyer in the industry. He attended Berkeley, graduated from UCLA with a law degree, and in 2002 cofounded Cohen Gardner, a firm that specializes in entertainment law.

#19 Carrie Henn

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Even though Carrie Henn only made one film appearance, it was enough to establish her as a familiar 80s figure. The opportunity to play Newt, the young girl who is the lone survivor of an alien attack on a recently colonized planet, was given to Henn in 1986. Audiences were moved by Newt and Ellen Ripley’s sweet romance, but Henn left Hollywood almost as abruptly as she had arrived.

In 2020, Henn made a comeback to acting with a voice part in Thunder Island after more than 20 years as a teacher. She said: “That’s what a lot of people have a hard time understanding. They don’t understand that [acting] wasn’t my passion. It wasn’t my dream. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Was it an amazing experience? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Of course. But it wasn’t my passion. Teaching was.”

#20 Corey Feldman

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At just three years old, Corey Feldman started booking roles in commercials. In 1979 when he was 8, he started playing Regi Tower in The Bad News Bears. Feldman had a streak of phenomenal hits after leaving the program in 1980, including Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Gremlins, The Goonies, Stand By Me, and The Lost Boys, all of which were released between 1984 and 1987.

Feldman’s adult career, however, was troubled since he had a public battle with substance abuse and found it difficult to land mainstream jobs. He started out in independent films before switching to reality TV. Since then, he has published an album and a memoir, been on Dancing on Ice, Celebrity Wife Swap, Marriage Boot Camp, and more. He is now doing his concert “Love Retours” and it has been successful.