Though there's no minimum age to be nominated in the acting categories at the #Oscars, the lucky winners obviously tend to be more experienced actors — sometimes even having to wait years to finally bring home a statue. So the awards ceremony isn't really the place to discuss children's roles, but there are plenty from the past year that deserve their own spotlight.
From nominees Lion and Moonlight to last year's The BFG and Pete's Dragon, the young actors below have delivered wonderful performances that would be worth a mini-Oscar, if one ever existed. So while we hope that their careers continue to benefit from such a brilliant start, let's just admire how incredibly adorable they all are, shall we?
'Lion': Sunny Patwar
There's no one cuter than Sunny Patwar and nothing more heartbreaking than seeing him play young Saroo, who got lost at 5 years old when he boarded a train alone to Calcutta. At 8 years old, he was cast by the team behind Oscar nominee #Lion after hundreds of auditions all across India.
He doesn't speak English, but explained he developed a sign language with the director, so that the latter could communicate him the emotions required for a scene. And though he didn't really plan to become an actor, he's been making the most out of the press tour, from taking a trip to Disneyland to making his dream of seeing a WWE match finally come true.
'Moonlight': Alex R. Hibbert
From the performances to the cinematography, #Moonlight is truly a masterpiece. And at 12 years old, Alex R. Hibbert, who plays the main character in the first stage of his life — when he's nicknamed Little — stands out as a natural talent. It might be his very first film, but something tells me there'll be many more to come.
In an interview with HeyUGuys, he showed how the success of the film wasn't getting to his head at all, sharing some true wisdom for an actor his age:
"I don't work for the fame. I just work for my mom. I grind for my mom, everything I do, everything I pursue is for my mom, and I'm doing this for her so she can retire. I don't really care about the fame that much, I just wanna help my mom, and help other people that need help."
He's also adorably shy, though he doesn't feel too uncomfortable about the attention he's getting:
"It feels normal to me now, it's just the after-parties that get me. If I become really famous and I'm grown up, you won't see me before or after, you'll just see me walk the red carpet and then I'll go and sit down in a private area, then I'll go to my seat, then accept the award that I get. Because I'm very shy. I'll talk to people before the after-parties so I can leave."
'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story': Beau & Dolly Gadsdon
The screen credits for the young Jyn Erso in Disney's Star Wars prequel #RogueOne are shared by Beau and Dolly Gadsdon, who both got their first movie credit with this role. Beau, meanwhile, has also appeared as young Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth's younger sister, on Netflix's biopic series The Crown.
The two girls appeared in the scene where Jyn Erso's father is found again by the Empire. Little Jyn has been taught by her parents where to hide in case of imminent danger — and it's Saw Guerrera who later finds her, and takes her with him.
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'The Jungle Book': Neel Sethi
We always applaud superhero actors for their ability to play their roles in front of green screens, since it must take a whole lot of imagination — but Neel Sethi's performance in #TheJungleBook was truly something else. In a movie that was made entirely in CGI, Seethi was the only live-actor on set, except for the men in green and blue suits who stood in for Mowgli's animal companions.
Like most of the other children on this list, Sethi had also never acted before and would rather see himself as a dentist. But there'll probably be a Jungle Book 2, and he's clearly proven he has the talent to carry such a big blockbuster.
'Hidden Figures': Lidya Jewett
The Oscar nominee with the biggest box office, #HiddenFigures starts with a quick flashback to the childhood of mathematician Katherine Coleman (played by Taraji P. Henson later on). She's a true genius way ahead of her age, and thankfully she gets the chance to skip a few classes and get an education that suits her skills. A few years later she lands a job at NASA, and the rest is history.
The 9-year-old actress playing young Katherine, Lidya Jewett, has had a similarly incredible journey so far: Adopted from Kenya and living in Palm City, she's obsessed with math and learned English within months. Now she's had a few modeling and acting contracts, and looks all set to start a wonderful career.
'Pete's Dragon': Oakes Fegley
#PetesDragon wasn't Oakes Fegley's first movie role, but it's definitely given him his breakthrough moment. In fourth grade when he sent his audition tape, he became the highlight of Disney's live-action remake of the classic tale of an orphan befriending a dragon — and with Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard starring as well, the movie achieved a strong box office performance. Expect to see more of Fegley around!
'The BFG': Ruby Barnhill
The most extraordinary casting story goes to Ruby Barnhill, who stars as a little girl in Steven Spielberg's #TheBFG. She told the Sun she dreamed of becoming an actress, but her parents weren't so keen on her desperately chasing success. So they hoped that sending her to an audition would show her just how difficult it could be to make it as an actress — but instead she landed the role:
"My dad is an actor and he didn't want me to go through the sort of things he went through and he said to Mum, 'Why don't we get Ruby to do an audition? She won't get the part and she will learn about rejection.' Well that really backfired."
An adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's classic, The BFG is about a young girl befriending a "big friendly giant," who takes her to Giant Country and tells her all about his bizarre life.
Which young actor's performance blew you away this year?