Many people dream of being a superhero. As a child, who hasn’t tied their blanket around their neck and run around trying to defend an imaginary city? Who hasn’t longed to jump into the pages of their favorite comic book and work alongside their favorite hero? Growing up, who hasn’t wanted to be that average kid who’s gifted with extraordinary powers? For these young stars, that dream came true in the form of starring in some of the most iconic DC and Marvel films.
While many older actors credit superhero movies for jumpstarting their acting careers, it’s safe to say the children are our future when it comes to the industry. Some have gone on to become breakout stars of major franchises while others have used their talents to further expand their “heroic” journey, joining a team in a effort to stop the forces of evil. A small few followed a more villainous route as they grew older. Below is a list of the top 15 young actors whose careers skyrocketed after appearing in a superhero movie.
15. KIRSTEN PROUT
Kristen Prout’s breakout role was as the martial arts protege Abby Miller in the 2005 Elektra film. The actress, who has a blackbelt in taekwondo, performed all of her own stunts in the movie and was praised by the stuntmen who helped her train.
Prout later when on to appear in the young adult sci-fi show Kyle XY as Amanda Bloom. Her character’s developing romance with the title star was the central focus of many fans. As the unstable antagonist Alex Bell, she starred in Part 2-3 of the MTV horror trilogy My Super Psycho Sweet 16. In 2011, she portrayed Char Chamberlain in the hit teen drama The Lying Game. Her character lived in a “troubled” household and was best friends with main character Sutton.
14. BRYCE HODGSON
Despite his uncredited appearance as Artie Maddicks in X-Men: United, Bryce Hodgson has gone on to star in hit TV shows like Smallville, Battlestar Galatica and most recently as twins Scott and Don E in iZombie. As Artie, the actor is seen as one of the students being taught by Storm at the museum. He spots a girl eating an ice-cream and offers a small smile. The girl responds by sticking her tongue out at him and he does the same, revealing a blue-forked tongue that frightens the child.
In iZombie, Hodgson plays the unstable Scott Eberhart who, after witnessing the result of tainted Utopium on partygoers, is sent to Blooming Grove Mental Hospital. During his stay, he begins an affair with Doctor Maddy Larson and tries to convice her to have an abortion after she becomes pregnant. Larson refuses and ends up killing Scott.
13. WYATT OLEFF
At only 14 years old, Wyatt Oleff has debuted in two major franchises. He lost his mother and battled against intergalactic foes in the Guardians of the Galaxy films and faced off against a killer clown in the 2017 remake of IT. Simon Hatt, who has now risen from James Gunn’s assistant to co-producer of Volume 3 of Guardians of the Galaxy, was blown away by Oleff’s audition tape. He compared it to Henry Thomas’ audition for Elliot in ET, admitting it was “way better.”
The young actor’s raw emotion during the scene when Peter Quill, the young Star-Lord, loses his mother, left the entire crew speechless. When discussing his performance as Stanley Uris in IT to RawPages.com, Oleff said he is very similar to his sensitive character, often attempting to be “the voice of reason” among his cast-mates and friends.
12. DAKOTA GOYO
Before being terrorized and abducted by aliens in the 2013 film Dark Skies, Dakota Goyo played the young God of Thunder in Thor. He makes an appearance early in the film when Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins, is speaking to his sons about a war between the Asgardians and the frost giants. He tells the children that both are worthy of the throne but only one will become king.
The Toronto actor has had the honor of working with various celebrities throughout his career including Woody Harrelson, Susan Sarandon, and Christopher Plummer. He co-starred alongside Hugh Jackman in Real Steel and won a Young Artist Award in 2012 for his performance. In 2014, he joined Russel Crowe, Emma Watson and reunited with Hopkins in Noah.
11. MAX CHARLES
Before playing the bratty Zach on The Strain, Max Charles starred as the young Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man. In a flashback scene, four year old Peter is playing hide-and-seek with his father who makes the unfortunate discovery that his study has been broken into. He is then whisked away to his aunt and uncle’s house, never to see his parents again. At the time, the eight year old said playing the part of his childhood hero was “a dream come true.”
After reprising the role in the sequel, Charles went on to star as Max Weaver in The Neighbors and Spin on Lab Rats. He is currently the voice of Kion in The Lion King spin-off series The Lion Guard and Sherman on The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show. He has also voiced a variety of characters on Family Guy.
10. MICHAEL ANGARANO
As Will Stronghold, Angarano struggled to live up to his superhero family’s legacy in Sky High. After teaming up with his rag-tag group of uniquely-powered friends, Will discovers his powers and what it truly means to be a hero. In an interview with MovieWeb.com, the actor said he loved his character’s reliability; his struggle to make a name for himself outside of his parents’ reputation.
Michael then made appearances as Scott Wallace in 24, portrayed Walt Disney on Comedy Central’s Drunk History, and recently reprised his role as Jack’s estranged son Elliot in the 2017 revival of Will & Grace. In the episode, entitled “Grandpa Jack,” it’s revealed Jack and Elliot are no longer close. Elliott has married a conservative woman and moved to Texas. Jack then meets his grandson Skip who’s being sent to conversion therapy camp in order to become “normal.”
9. DANIELLE PANABAKER
Before she became the villainous Killer Frost on The Flash, Danielle Panabaker played Layla in Sky High. Her character’s powers were similar to Batman’s Poison Ivy, sans the deadly kisses. She’s a close friend turned girlfriend of Will Stronghold. When speaking to MovieWeb.com, Panabaker praised her character’s confidence, saying “she doesn’t follow the rules, she makes them.”
On The Flash, the actress underwent a drastic transformation from the innocent bio engineering scientist Caitlin Snow to the icy vixen in Season 2; going full cold-blooded in Season 3. Along with her appearance on the CW hit series, Panabaker has also starred on Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, and Justified. She’s also appeared in horror flicks like The Crazies, Piranha 3DD, and Friday the 13th.
8. MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG
Michelle Trachtenberg starred as Penny, the niece of the quirky Inspector Gadget in 1999. Her character was extremely intelligent and often helped her uncle solve difficult cases. She was able to easily avoid capture from Claw’s henchman and supported her uncle despite his self-sabotaging tendencies.
From 2000 to 2003, Trachtenberg portrayed Dawn Summer on the hit series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The character, and those close to her, were led to believe that she was the sister of Buffy but it turned out Dawn’s true origin was mystical in nature; she was an entity known as The Key. Despite her identity issues, she remained strong-willed and slowly grew more comfortable in her own skin. Trachtenberg also went on to play Georgina Sparks on the drama series Gossip Girl. The complete opposite of her previous character, Sparks had a reputation for being cruel and manipulative.
7. CHLOE GRACE MORETZ
At age 11, Chloe Grace Moretz achieved her dream of being an action hero when she landed the role of pubescent vigilante assassin Hit Girl in Kick-Ass. Her character’s incredible weaponry skills, which resulted in massive amounts of brutality, is beyond words. As the perfect blend of sugar and spice, she was the ultimate dream of her father and mentor Damon, aka “Big Daddy,” played by Nicolas Cage.
Moretz received recognition for her performance in the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror and went on to play the child vampire in Let Me In. She then continued her horror streak by starring as Carolyn Stoddard in the Tim Burton adaptation of Dark Shadows and Carrie in the 2013 remake. She has also made appearances in romantic movies such as (500) Days of Summer and If I Stay, as well as comedies such as Movie 43 and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.
6. DAKOTA FANNING
Before he became Captain America, Chris Evans starred in Push as a man with telekinetic powers who joins forces with others who possess super-human abilities. Among them is Dakota Fanning’s character Cassie Holmes who can see glimpses of the future. Together they attempt to take down a government agency hell-bent on using their powers for sinister experiments.
Fanning is well-known for portraying the main characters of childhood classics such as Charlotte’s Web, Coraline, and Secret Life of Bees. After Push, she went on to star in the popular Twilight franchise as Jane. Her character has a sadistic personality and enjoys torturing others; having the ability to induce a feeling of immense pain in her victims. Fanning reunited with co-star Kristen Stewart in Runaways, which delved into the relationship between Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. She is set to star in the highly — anticipated TNT thriller The Alienist premiering this January.
5. TAYLOR LAUTNER
Before he dazzled “Twihards” with his chiseled abs as Jacob Black, Lautner starred in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. The film follows the wild imaginings of Max who dreams up a fantasy world known as Planet Drool. Lautner’s character, Sharkboy, was raised by sharks after losing his father at sea. Despite his ironic fear of sharks, the actor received the role based on his martial arts skills.
He went on to star in the horror-comedy series Scream Queens alongside Emma Roberts and Lea Michele. In Season 2, he played Doctor Cassidy Cascade, who suffered from a mental condition which made him believe he was dead. He begins a romantic relationship with Billie Lourd’s character Sadie Swenson, aka Chanel #3. Toward the end of the season, it’s revealed he’s one of the Green Meanie serial killers and ends up dying in an attempt to save Sadie.
4. TROYE SIVAN
Most fans recognize Troye Sivan as a talented singer-songwriter; his song “Youth” reaching #23 on the Billboard Top 40 Single in 2015. As a gay artist, many of his music videos involve LGBTQ relationships. He has been nominated for and won many awards for his musical achievements over the years including being one of the “25 Most Influential Teens of 2014.”
In February 2008, Sivan starred at the young James Howlett in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He appears early in the film, alongside a young Victor Creed, aka Sabretooth. After his father is killed in a drunken rage, the adolescent Wolverine stabs Creed’s father with bone-like claws that have grown from his hands caused by the traumatic event. Shortly after his acting debut, Sivan came out in a touching Youtube declaration video in 2013.
3. TY SIMPKINS
After starring in the series Guiding Light, Ty Simpkins sky-rocketed to stardom after making an appearance in Iron Man 3. As Harley Keener, the precocious boy happens upon Tony Stark and his damaged Iron Man suit and offers suggestions on making improvements. Simpkins revealed to Entertainment Weekly that he wasn’t fazed by Robert Downey Jr’s improvisations during filming and proved to be one of the few Marvel actors who could keep potential spoilers a secret.
The actor is also the star of the Insidious franchise and appeared alongside Chris Pine and Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World. His IMDB page reveals he is set to reprise his Insidious role in the third installment and make an appearance in the untitled 2019 Avengers film. There is also speculation that he will play Nova in an untitled 3-movie contract with Marvel.
2. BRIANNA HILDEBRAND
From Deadpool to demons, Brianna Hildebrand is just getting started when it comes to her acting career. Alongside the foul-mouthed mercenary, Hildebrand stars as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, a sarcastic and apathetic young mutant. Director Tim Miller explained he made alterations to the character’s powers to better fit her personality, giving her the ability to transform any force against her into a means of self-defense.
Much of that personality trickles down into her performance as Verity in Season 2 of The Exorcist. Her character is very reserved compared to the other foster kids yet is extremely strong-willed. Later in the season, she willingly offers herself as bait to her possessed foster father Andy, played by John Cho. Hildebrand also starred in Tragedy Girls, which follows two death-obsessed teenagers who use their online presence to unleash fear in their small town and ensure their legacy of being horror legends.
1. JACK GLEESON
It turns out Damien isn’t the only bratty teenager Batman had to deal with. In Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, the Dark Knight first encounters a young boy outside a dingy apartment complex. The kid remarks that none of his friends will believe he met Batman, so the caped crusader offers one of his Bat-gadgets. Later, he’s rescued by Rachel Dawes when the Scarecrow attempts to use his fear toxin. Years later, that boy became King of Westeros.
In 2011, Jack Gleeson portrayed the self-absorbed Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones. The secret bastard son of Cersei Lannister and her brother Jaime, Joffrey became the second Baratheon to claim the Iron Throne. The character was introduced as a spoiled, somewhat cowardly child who took on a more sadistic and arrogant nature once crowned. In Season 4, he is poisoned during his wedding celebration; the murderer revealed in Season 7 to be (SPOILER) Ollena Tyrell.
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