15 Children Who Played Cold-Blooded Villains (And Nailed It)

Over 300 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 15 Children Who Played Cold-Blooded Villains (And Nailed It)
Voting Rules
Vote up the performances that have you swearing off having kids forever.

Let's face it, child actors aren't exactly known for being the very best, though when they stand out, they tend to really shine, just as other actors can occasionally turn in surprisingly nuanced performances in fare made for kids. Sometimes, actors who made a name for themselves when they were younger go on to play more dramatic or even darker roles, but every now and then you'll get a movie in which a child star is asked to portray a villain, even when they're young.

Ever since The Bad Seed in 1956, we've been fascinated (and terrified) by the idea that the kids we perceive as innocent might be anything but. Sometimes, these evil tykes are just dangerous, amoral sociopaths; other times, they aren't what they seem - whether they're immortal vampires stuck in childlike bodies, or simply children playing the parts of diminutive characters who are not, necessarily, children themselves. Whatever the reason, these pint-size predators are some of the most chilling we've seen. Vote up the ones you would least like to meet on a dark playground...

  • When it comes to sinister and shocking child characters, they don't come much more famous - or infamous - than Linda Blair's potrayal of the possessed Regan MacNeil in William Friedkin's legendary 1973 classic, The Exorcist. When we first meet Regan, she's a normal girl, but before long, she gets possessed. Her head famously spins around, she spits pea soup, she says some of the lewdest stuff you've ever heard come out of the mouth of a movie character, and she does, um, inappropriate things with a crucifix.

    It's a bold, disturbing performance that remains largely unmatched in the annals of possession movies even to this day, which is especially impressive given that she was only 13 at the time. Her work in The Exorcist not only launched her career, but also earned her a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination, making her one of the youngest performers to receive the honor.

    260 votes
  • In a 2009 film that angered adoption advocates, Isabelle Fuhrman plays Esther, the eponymous Orphan who is adopted as the third child of a well-to-do and welcoming family. She seems like a well-behaved little girl at first, but things quickly become increasingly tense and, eventually, extremely violent as Esther proves to be manipulative, cruel, and filled with secrets.

    The film's ultimate twist is one that must be seen to be believed - and even then may stretch credulity a bit - but what isn't unbelievable is Esther's vicious persona, as brought to life by Fuhrman, who was 12 at the time.

    224 votes
  • Daveigh Chase got her big break into film in Richard Kelly's 2001 cult hit Donnie Darko. She then went on to provide her voice talents to a couple of Disney animated films, including the voice of Lilo in Lilo & Stitch. By this time, she was just 12 years old. That same year, she also took a hard turn in her cinematic choices, appearing as the waterlogged revenant Samara in Gore Verbinski's 2002 remake of The Ring.

    Even while Chase may be largely unrecognizable beneath the sopping wet hair and cadaverous makeup used to bring Samara to life, countless people have been traumatized by images of her crawling out of a well and then, subsequently, out of a television set in order to reach her victims.

    183 votes
  • Sure, we all know Macaulay Culkin as "that kid from Home Alone," but in 1993's The Good Son, he flipped the script, playing a psychopathic 12-year-old who was willing to kill those around him, including his own family.

    Culkin's Henry is obsessed with death, causes automobile accidents, and even tries to send his own sister to an early grave. It's also implied that he is the reason his younger brother is no longer among the living. While Culkin was the big draw at the time the film was released, it's also worth nothing that his foil - the actual good son - was played by a young Elijah Wood.

    161 votes
  • 5
    182 VOTES

    Miko Hughes As Gage Creed In 'Pet Sematary'

    At only 3 years old when the film was made, Miko Hughes has to be one of the youngest child actors ever asked to carry a sinister part. Indeed, for much of the film, young Gage Creed is a normal boy. It is only after he is hit by a truck and buried in the "sour" earth beyond the eponymous pet cemetery that he returns as a vicious revenant.

    Making a toddler one of your primary antagonists was a bold choice, and one that the filmmakers who remade Pet Sematary years later reversed, switching the reanimated child from Gage to his older sister for their take on the picture. Can't quite beat seeing a little kid baring his teeth while clutching a scalpel, though...

    182 votes
  • 6
    147 VOTES

    Harvey Stephens As Damien In 'The Omen'

    Harvey Stephens received a Golden Globe nomination for his role as Damien Thorn in the classic 1976 Satanism shocker The Omen. Damien is literally the son of Satan, the Antichrist, born of a jackal and part of a massive conspiracy to place him in key positions of power when he is older. While his actions are rarely directly responsible for anyone's demise, Damien's eerie presence in the film exacerbates any number of freaky situations, from his nanny taking her own life at his fifth birthday party in one of the most memorable scenes in the film, to a series of violent "accidents" and beyond.

    At the center of it all is Harvey Stephens's icy potrayal of Damien, which is especially impressive given that he was just 6 years old when the film was released.

    147 votes