Some of the youngest Oscar winners of all time areChild actors. The youngest Academy Award winner ever was Shirley Temple, who won an Oscar at the age of six for Best Child Actress in 1934. Even younger, Tatum O’Neal became the youngest recipient ever when she won Best Supporting Actress in Paper Moon at just 10 years old.
Since then, other young talents like Anna Paquin and Quvenzhané Wallis have also earned Oscar wins for their outstanding movie performances as youngsters. It’s truly remarkable how these youngest Oscar winners managed to achieve such success with only a fraction of the experience and resources most adults have access to!
Youngest Oscar winners
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Being awarded an Oscar is a sign of great prestige and recognition within the film community. It marks a person as one of the most talented in the industry, and it’s particularly notable when someone still new to their career or coming-of-age wins. This highlights that these individuals have immense potential in their field and have already achieved tremendous success at such a young age. People who win Oscars for their performances are among the very best in filmmaking, which speaks to how remarkable it is that such a young person could be seen as having this level of skill and artistry by their peers.
Shirley Temple and Adrien Brody are two incredibly talented actors who simultaneously stand out from one another in their accomplishments. Despite beginning her career at a very young age, Shirley Temple never officially won an Academy Award, but she did gain recognition with an Honorary Juvenile Award at the age of six, indicating her remarkably precocious talent level. On the other hand, Adrien Brody made history by becoming the youngest actor ever to win Best Actor for his role in The Pianist – at only 29 years old. Both these actors have achieved a stunning amount throughout their careers, and their successes will remain long-lasting testaments to their impressive talents.
At age eleven, Justin Henry holds the distinction of being the youngest Academy Award winner, winning for his performance in Kramer vs. Kramer in 1979. Six years later, then fourteen-year-old Anna Paquin won an Oscar for her role in The Piano—the film also made her the second-youngest Oscar winner in history. Even earlier than that was Tatum O’Neal, who became the tabulated youngest ever Oscar winner when she was just 10 years old after bagging best supporting actress for Paper Moon way back in 1974. Of course, Brody proves that an impressive breakthrough early on a person’s career is not an impossibility—such unparalleled records have held strong since the early days of the Academy Awards and continue even today!
Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook, 2012 (Age 22)
Named by Time Magazine in 2013 as one of the most influential people in the world, one of the reasons Jennifer Lawrence received this distinction was because, at 22, she had just won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the romantic comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook. The movie is about a young man named Pat (Bradley Cooper) with bipolar disorder who, after being released from an institution, meets a young widow named Tiffany (Lawrence). Despite initial tensions between the two, they decide to enter a dance competition together as a means of therapy. It doesn’t take long for them to realize how much each has to offer the other in their time of grief and reinvention.
Lawrence went on to act in various other roles that demonstrated her acting range and abilities, including Joy, Don’t Look Up, Causewayand The Hunger Games and X-Men films. She’ll next appear in the coming-of-age comedy-drama No Hard Feelings.
Stream Silver Linings Playbook on Starz.
Marlee Matlin – Children of a Lesser God, 1986 (age 21)
When she was just 21 years old, Marlee Matlin turned heads in her first-ever movie acting role as Sarah Norman in Children of a Lesser Goda former student and now janitor at a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. She meets a new teacher James (William Hurt) who takes an interest in her and her story. Indeed, Sarah has a lot of troubles she has pushed aside.
Matlin made history as both the youngest winner in the Best Actress category as well as the first deaf performer to win an Academy Award, period. She was joined 36 years later by Troy Kotsur who won in 2022 for his role in CODAa movie in which Matlin also appears (and advocated to ensure other deaf actors were cast). CODA made history for Apple TV+, making it the first streaming service to earn a Best Picture win.
Stream Children of a Lesser God on HBO Max.
Timothy Hutton – Ordinary People, 1980 (Age 20)
Today, people most recognize Timothy Hutton from his roles in series like Jack Ryan and American Crime. But back in the 1980s, Hutton was an up-and-coming actor whose first major film role shocked Hollywood by earning him an Academy Award nomination and win. In Ordinary PeopleHutton starred as Conrad, a young son whose suicide attempt following the accidental death of his brother lands him in a psychiatric hospital. The story continues as Conrad deals with his survivor’s guilt and PTSD. Hutton won for his emotionally charged portrayal, ranking him not only among the youngest-ever winners, but also the youngest-ever winner in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Hutton can most recently be seen in the ABC drama series Women of the Movement and as Senator John Lyons in the Apple TV+ movie Emancipation.
Stream Ordinary People on Paramount+.
Patty Duke – The Miracle Worker, 1962 (Age 16)
Only 16 at the time, Patty Duke played Helen Keller in the movie The Miracle Workerand her performance was so impressive, it earned her an Academy Award. Duke had previously played the role on Broadway as well.
Duke continued acting, taking on more mature roles as she grew into adulthood, including in Valley of the Dolls and Me, Natalie. For several years in the ‘80s, she also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Duke, who counts actor Sean Astin among her children, was a passionate advocate for mental health having suffered from bipolar disorder herself. The Patty Duke Mental Health Initiative was set up by Astin in his mother’s name following her death in 2016.
Stream The Miracle Worker on HBO Max.
Anna Paquin – The Piano, 1993 (Age 11)
As a pre-teen, Anna Paquin became the second-youngest actor to win an Academy Award for her supporting role in the movie The Pianoa designation she still holds today, 30 years later. Paquin’s character in the movie, set in the mid-19th Century, is Flora McGrath, daughter to Ada (Holly Hunter), an electively mute woman who speaks only through playing the piano and using a form of sign language only Flora can interpret. Given this situation, Flora becomes a voice and translator for her mother.
Paquin continued to be recognized for other child roles and maintained a successful acting career through adulthood with roles like Rogue in the X-Men franchise, Sookie Stackhouse in True Bloodand, most recently in the starring role of Robyn in the British dramedy Flack.
Rent or buy The Piano on Amazon.
Tatum O’Neal – Paper Moon, 1973 (Age 10)
Fifty years on, Tatum O’Neal retains the title of being the youngest actor ever to win an Academy Award. She took home the statue when she was just 10 years old for her performance as Addie Loggins in the movie Paper Moon. She starred alongside her father Ryan O’Neal in the comedy drama about a con man who winds up traveling with an orphan girl. He’s reluctant at first, believing that transporting her will be an easy job. But she quickly proves to be far more clever than he ever could have imagined.
O’Neal won the Golden Globe New Star Of The Year – Actress award the same year for her role. O’Neal continued to act through adulthood, most recently appearing with other Academy Award recipients in the 2021 movie Not To Forgetwhich was made to raise awareness and money for the fight against Alzheimer’s.
Stream Paper Moon on Amazon Prime Video