15 Teen Stars Who Became Successful Adult Actors

There’s a bit of a stigma that comes along with being a child star and/or a teen star. Unfortunately, most people look at Hollywood’s young talent and assume they will someday become washed up stars looking to appear on D-list reality shows to try a get another 15 minutes of fame, or they will end up broke and in and out of rehab. It does happen, of course, and those people end up getting more time in the tabloids than other stars. However, there are a number of teen stars that grew up and became successful adult actors. Read on to find out which ones.

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Leonardo DiCaprio

Do we even need to continue this description? We all remember him as the major hottie heartthrob who won the hearts of young girls everywhere (and graced the walls of all teen girls) when he was the poor but lovable character of Jack in Titanic, alongside Kate Winslet (and before that in Growing Pains). However, instead of becoming a washed up actor without any future work, he’s become one of the most famous, most successful and most revered adult actors in all of Hollywood. Before his Titanic days, however, he was a teen star in a number of successful movies and television shows.

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Neil Patrick Harris

NPH has a gift. Actually, he has several gifts. The first one is the fact that he never seems to age a day. He was able to play a child barely in the double digits AND a doctor (Because we all want a genius 11-year-old operating on us) when he was 16-years-old. Doogie Howser, M.D. was his name. He did take some time off after his role was over, but he’s now one of the most successful actors in the world. In 2005, when he was just entering his 30s, he accepted a role on a show called How I Met Your Mother, which was one of the most hilarious shows of all time.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Natalie Portman

She’s been in the media for many years now for her diverse and multiple roles in acting. At the age of 30, Portman won on Oscar for her role in Black Swan. If that’s not successful, I don’t know what is. Before she was an Oscar-winning actress, however, she was a famous teen actress. She began her career at the age of 13 when she starred in a movie by the name of Leon: The Professional. She went on to land a role in Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace. What’s even more impressive about this gorgeous actress is the fact that she also managed to obtain a degree in psychology at Harvard in between her roles.

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Hayden Panettiere

She began her acting career when she was less than a year old, and continued to find success throughout her childhood. It wasn’t until her early teens, however, that she really found her way. She was cast in a number of big movies and television shows. Her most famous show came a little ways into her teen years when she was cast as a popular cheerleader in the hit series Heroes. She was barely out of her teens when she was cast a famous country singer opposite Connie Britton on the hit series Nashville. She’s now 25 and her career is better than ever.

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Ryan Gosling

He’s one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, but most people have no idea he began his career just before turning into a teenager. Gosling starred in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He then went on to secure a number of roles in many movies during his teens. Just when most teen actors go away and try to find something else to do, he became an adult and starred in movies such as The Notebook, in which he won hearts all over the world. Now he’s one of the most famous adult actors of all time.

(Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Taylor

Yes, she was famous for more than her glorious jewelry collection and her string of failed marriages and broken-hearted ex-husbands (and there were so many). Elizabeth Taylor was just entering her teen years when she starred in National Velvet back in 1944. She never bothered to look back after she landed that role and became a household name. In fact, she simply continued to look forward and impress her audiences and critics with even more successful roles. She’s the epitome of successful adult actor – and teenage Hollywood star.

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Ron Howard

He’s an anomaly in Hollywood. Not only was he a teen star, he was also a child star and he’s also one of the most famous adult success stories in all of Hollywood – and he has a famous actress for a daughter. Howard began acting at 18-months and continued through adulthood. During his teen years he was in movies and at 19 he was offered his most famous role in Happy Days. From there he worked into adulthood and eventually gave up acting to pursue a very successful career as a director in the film industry.

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Emma Watson

Though she began her career as a child actor at the age of 10, she spent the entirety of her teenage years acting in one of the biggest movie franchises in the world. Emma Watson had the dream role of playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter Series. Eight movies later, she’s an adult and she’s continuing to bask in her success, remain calm and mature, and star in movies as an adult. She’s still a hugely in-demand actress and she’s a lovely young woman who transitioned beautifully from child actress to teen star to adult actress.

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Christian Bale

He was in many movies before he became famous, but it was the movie Empire on the Sun that made Bale a teen star. The movie was a Steven Spielberg film that was released in 1987. Bale was only 13-years-old at the time. He went on to star in many different movies throughout the 90s and eventually took some time off to do other things. Now he’s back and he has the coveted role of playing Batman in the wildly successful The Dark Knight series.

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Jodie Foster

Did you have any idea that Jodie Foster was an Oscar-nominated actress at the tender age of 14? Well, she was. She was one of the most famous teen stars of all time when she starred in the movie Taxi Driver at 14. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role, which only tells you how talented she was back then (and now). She starred in a number of movies during her teens, took a few years off to attend Yale and graduated with an impressive degree, and then come back to the movies to earn a couple of Oscars in the adult half of her career.

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Jason Bateman

There are still some people in the world unaware of the fact that Jason Bateman is the brother of Justine Bateman, the famed actress from Family Ties. Though he was always less famous than she during his teen years, he was still a pretty successful teen actor. He began his career at 12 starring in shows such as Little House on the Prairie and The Hogan Family. He spent 10 years doing this before he took a long break to party and enjoy his life. He was finally given a role on the hit show Arrested Development which led to many famed movie roles. Now he’s a household name and in-demand actor.

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Anna Paquin

She wasn’t quite a teen yet when she landed her first role in a Hollywood movie by the name of The Piano. She was only 11 – but that’s also when she won an Academy Award for her role. She just wrapped up her role as Sookie on the hit television series True Blood, where she met and married her husband and experienced her pregnancy with twins. To say she’s transitioned nicely into adulthood is an understatement.

(Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Joseph Gordon Levitt

He wasn’t quite a teen when he began acting, but as a teen he had a number of impressive roles in television and movies. He was in Family Ties, Murder She Wrote and even starred in 3rd Rock from the Sun. His later teen years were a bit less expansive, as he worked less then than he did as a child and young teen. However, he’s been back on the scene and making a name for himself as a successful adult actor for the past few years. Some of his major roles now include 500 Days of Summer and The Dark Knight series.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)


Jerry O’Connell

He’s another of Hollywood’s famous child actors turned teen actors turned successful adult actors – and one of the few that hasn’t managed to completely derail his life thanks to an addiction to entering himself in to rehab. When he was a teenager, he became famous for taking on a role in the series My Secret Identity. He attended acting school in New York City alongside other famous faces such as Sarah Michelle Gellar. He’s been in several movies as an adult, he’s got many different things going on in the acting world, and he’s got a gorgeous wife.

(Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Elijah Wood

When he was a very young teen, he became pretty famous for roles in movies such as The Adventures of Huck Finn and The Ice Storm (and younger in Avalon). He wasn’t a new actor at that point, but we’re just highlighting the jobs he had in Hollywood around the time he was a teen. He became immensely more famous as an adult after he took on the role of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. His success has only grown since taking on this particular role, which goes to show some actors do continue in their success after their teenage years.

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

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