Child stars have a bad reputation, and there is a good reason for that. Many of the children that experience fame and fortune at an early age often seem unable to deal with the dangers that come with their celebrity. While some child actors end up avoiding the pitfalls that lead to appearances on tabloid covers and court dockets, there are many instances of young celebrities going wild. Even more tragic, there are way too many child stars that go straight from the movies and television to prison, and in some cases, their fate is even more tragic than that.
From substance abuse to criminal charges, many a child actor has tumbled down a tragic path later in life. Their celebrity status also creates a snowball effect, with the media picking up on any small mistake and causing the young stars to fall into the trap of becoming repeat offenders after a lapse of judgment or moment of stress-induced weakness. The road through Hollywood is littered with stars unable to cope with the pressure of fame, which itself is an increasingly important story to tell, tragic though it may be to learn.
15 JAKE LLOYD
When young actors experience fame for the first time, there is often the opportunity to enter into a world that many adult actors even have trouble navigating through. However, with the case of Jake Lloyd, the star of the Star Wars prequel, Phantom Menace, things ended up even tougher for the 10-year-old actor. Many Star Wars fans turned on the movie, and Lloyd found himself the target of angry fans who felt he helped ruin their beloved franchise.
The once-promising child star never recovered. He retired from acting two years later and has since said that his role as a young Anakin Skywalker caused increased bullying at school. Things didn't get better for Lloyd, who ended up in jail in 2015 when police arrested him after a high-speed chase and charged him with resisting arrest. Lloyd ended up diagnosed as schizophrenic and was able to get a transfer from the jail to a psychiatric facility to receive help.
14 AMANDA BYNES
Amanda Bynes is an interesting case. While the public was paying a lot of attention to Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears for their public breakdowns, Bynes was seemingly making good strides to prove that it was possible to be a child star and still manage to lead a clean and drama-free life. However, things were not as they seemed and in 2012, things began to break down for the former child star.
Bynes was first arrested in 2012 for a DUI in Hollywood. The charges ended up dropped two years later, and she received probation. By 2013, Bynes began to experience mental health problems. She was detained by law enforcement when she reportedly started a fire in someone's driveway, and her parents took control of her affairs. The two instances of criminal activity, on top of the deterioration of her mental health, forced her to check into a mental hospital to seek treatment.
13 DUSTIN DIAMOND
Dustin Diamond got his start as an actor at the age of 11 when he starred as Screech on Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which later became Saved by the Bell. He was the longest-running cast member, sticking with the show from the start all the way through later incarnations of Saved by the Bell: The New Class. Since that time, Diamond gained a reputation in the reality TV genre, appearing on Celebrity Big Brother and also dabbling in the celebrity boxing craze from a few years back.
However, Diamond also ended up getting in some serious trouble with the law in recent years. In 2014, police arrested Diamond for pulling a knife on someone in a bar fight where a man ended up stabbed. He only received misdemeanor convictions in that instance, but still ended up sentenced to four months in prison, where he served three. He ended up back in jail in 2016 when he violated his probation.
12 EDWARD FURLONG
Edward Furlong became a massive star after he appeared in the James Cameron blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991 at the age of 14. Playing a young John Connor alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie ended up as one of the most successful action blockbusters of its era. However, while the franchise lived on and Arnold remained a star, Furlong dropped off the face of Hollywood. He had a few more good roles, including a fantastic performance in American History X, but never reached what many thought to be his potential.
The problems came when substance addiction derailed his career. In 2000, Furlong entered rehab for the first time at the age of 23. He admitted to abusing heroin and cocaine and said it scared him at times. In 2010, he received probation for violating a restraining order against an ex-girlfriend and then went to jail in 2013 for reportedly assaulting another ex-girlfriend.
11 MACAULAY CULKIN
Macaulay Culkin is a perfect example of a child star struggling with adulthood when the years start to pass him by. There might not be a more significant child star in history than Culkin thanks to his role in Home Alone, one of the most successful comedy family films of all-time. The 10-year-old received a Golden Globes nomination for his performance as Kevin McCallister and it looked like his future was very bright.
However, at the age of 14, Culkin took a hiatus from his career and remained out of movies for nine years. He returned for some critically acclaimed and risky roles, but he was no longer the adorable child that audiences fell in love with. In 2004, things went south as Culkin was driving through Oklahoma City and police arrested him for possession of marijuana and two controlled substances. He spent a small time in jail in Oklahoma and ended up pleading guilty and accepting a suspended sentence.
10 LINDSAY LOHAN
While never reaching Britney Spears levels of infamy, Lindsay Lohan got pretty close to the line when it came to her constant run-ins with the law. Lohan got her start in 1998 when the 12-year-old starred in the remake of The Parent Trap and impressed everyone, moving on to other hugely successful films like Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. However, success was tough for Lohan to accept and she soon ended up in jail on more than one occasion.
In 2007, police arrested her for a DUI, two months before her 21st birthday. She received help in a treatment center but was arrested two weeks after she got out for another DUI and possession of cocaine. She only spent one day in jail for this infraction. Two years later, a judge extended her probation when she missed court appearances, and she faced more charges in 2010 for missing more court dates. She also served some time in jail for theft of a necklace in 2011.
9 COREY HAIM
Possibly the most tragic child star in movie history is Corey Haim. If his longtime friend Corey Feldman is to be believed, it all started when movie industry professionals abused Haim when he was a young teenager. During this time in his life. Haim starred in huge movies like Lost Boys, License to Drive, Lucas, and Silver Bullet, getting his start at the age of 10.
Drug addiction for Haim started when he was young, and they followed him to his death. In 1993, a 22-year-old Haim partnered with a man named Michael Bass, who had served time previously for fraud. When Haim tried to fire Bass, the former child star started shooting a BB gun in his backyard and ended up arrested and jailed for making a "terrorist threat" against Bass. The charges were downgraded to a misdemeanor and Corey Feldman bailed his friend out of jail. In 2010, Haim died of an accidental overdose, ending the life of the troubled former Hollywood child star.
8 DANA PLATO
The sitcom Diff'rent Strokes was popular when it aired but has since developed a bad reputation for what ended up happening to its child stars. The central star of the show, Gary Coleman, has publically dealt with problems for years, but his other two co-stars ended up worse off. The most tragic was Dana Plato, who played Kimberly. The character was written off the show after she got pregnant and things went downhill from there.
Plato tried to continue making a living as an actress but failed to meet her expectations. She ended up living in poverty in Las Vegas, and that is when police arrested her after she robbed a video store with the use of a pellet gun. She ended up back in jail for forging Valium prescriptions, and her drug addiction finally became too much. Plato overdosed in 1999, and the medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
7 BRAD RENFRO
Brad Renfro got his start in Hollywood at the age of 11, when he starred in the adaptation of John Grisham's The Client, alongside Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. He was an instant star and went on to appear in 21 feature films by the time he was 25. However, during that time, Renfro battled many problems in his life, including substance abuse issues.
Renfro was only 15 when police arrested him the first time for possession of both cocaine and marijuana. His young age helped keep him out of jail at the time as he agreed to random drug screenings. Two years later, police arrested Renfro for stealing a yacht and the next year he violated his probation when arrested for public intoxication. In 2005, at the age of 22, police arrested him again after an undercover drug raid in Los Angeles. Renfro ended up dying in 2008 from a heroin overdose, 10 years after his first drug-related arrest.
6 BRIAN BONSALL
Brian Bonsall is a former child actor who was involved in two popular, yet very different, television series. The first was Family Ties, where he starred as the youngest Keaton sibling Andy at the age of five. Bonsall went on to star in Star Trek: The Next Generation, starring as Worf's son at the age of 11. By the time he was 14, the child star had retired from acting altogether.
Bonsall was not ready to give up on the celebrity lifestyle, though. He gave up Hollywood to start a rock and roll band in Colorado called Late Bloomers. He has moved on to other groups over the years and has enjoyed the life of a rock star. That includes three different arrests. He was arrested in 2007 for assault, again in 2009 for third-degree assault, and in 2010 for marijuana possession while on probation.
5 TODD BRIDGES
Todd Bridges was the third sibling from the hit comedy television series Diff'rent Strokes, and like his co-stars Gary Coleman and Dana Plato, he experienced some problems dealing with his fame at such a young age. The actor was 10-years-old when he started his career in Hollywood and 13 when he first appeared on Diff'rent Strokes. By the time he reached his 20s, he was dealing with serious legal problems.
In 1989, police arrested Bridges in connection with the attempted murder of a man named Kenneth Clay, a drug dealer. Police claimed that Bridges shot him, but the young actor pleaded not guilty and hired celeb attorney Johnnie Cochran. Bridges ended up cleared of the charges and released from jail when a witness testified that he was not present when the shooting occurred. Bridges admitted he was addicted to crack cocaine at the time and has reportedly cleaned up his life since the incident.
4 ORLANDO BROWN
Orlando Brown got his first acting gig at the age of eight when he appeared in the Damon Wayans movie Major Payne and the TV show Coach in the same year. He went on to achieve fame thanks to his roles as 3J on Family Matters, and Eddie Thomas on That's So Raven. His career continued from there, with acting roles and a rap career as well, collaborating with Sean Kingston and Akon.
However, in 2016, Brown started to suffer from legal problems that snowballed on him quickly. It began when police arrested Brown for drug possession with the intent to sell, domestic battery and obstruction of justice. He also was hit with a charge of possessing contraband while in jail. In January 2018, police arrested Brown again, this time for possession of a controlled substance and domestic abuse against his wife. He also resisted arrest and went back to jail.
3 LEIF GARRETT
The plight of child stars and their run-ins with the police is nothing new. As far back as the silent era, child actors found themselves on the wrong side of the law more often than not. One of the most famous instances of a child celebrity falling over and over again came in the '70s when Leif Garrett became one of the most infamous teen heartthrobs in Hollywood at that time.
The child star of TV shows the Odd Couple and Family, and movies like The Outsiders, is known more today for his legal problems than his once-promising acting and musical career. Garrett admitted that he started abusing drugs when he was 14. At the age of 17, Garrett crashed a car with his blood alcohol three-times the legal limit and the accident left his friend a paraplegic. He got out of a jail term as a minor, but in 1997, police arrested Garrett for cocaine possession and then again in 1999, when he tried to buy heroin and cocaine from undercover officers. He went back to jail again in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
2 Robert Blake
Robert Blake is a perfect example of a child star from an era long forgotten that ended up in jail for the most horrific reasons. Blake got his start as Mickey in Our Gang, the short films based on the popular Little Rascals series in 1939 at the age of five. He also got a lot of work in the Red Rider films as Little Beaver. In 1997, Blake was still acting at the age of 64, nearing 60 years in the entertainment industry.
However, in 2005, at the age of 72, Blake was tried for the murder of his second wife. The arrest occurred in 2002 when his wife was shot in the head and murdered while sitting in a car. Witnesses claimed that Blake was trying to hire someone to kill his wife and subsequently spent a year in jail while his trial progressed. He was finally found not guilty of the murder, although he was later found liable in a civil court case in 2007, 68 years after he got his start as a child star in Hollywood.
1 TATUM O'NEAL
Tatum O'Neal is one of the most successful child actors of all-time, the youngest person to ever win an Academy Award when she took home the trophy at the age of 10 for her role in Paper Moon, which also starred her father, Ryan O'Neal. She went on to appear in some big movies in the next few years, including The Bad News Bears and Nickelodeon, but only appeared in a handful of films since reaching adulthood.
However, O'Neal remained in the public eye thanks to her love interests (she dated Michael Jackson and married John McEnroe) and her splintered relationship with her father. In 2008, 34 years after making her debut as a child star, O'Neal was arrested for buying crack cocaine. O'Neal admitted to a heroin addiction that stretched back to her childhood. Luckily for the former child star, she ended up sentenced to a drug treatment program after her case went to trial.