Young Artist Award for Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film

The Young Artist Award for Best Performance by a Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film is one of the Young Artist Awards presented annually by the Young Artist Association to recognize a young actor under the age of 21, who has delivered an outstanding performance in a leading role while working within the film industry.[1][2][3][4] In its early years, the award was also known as the Youth in Film Award for Best Young Actor Starring in a Motion Picture,[5] as well as by numerous other variations to its title over the years, however, the spirit of the award has remained essentially the same since its inception. Winners are selected by secret ballot of the 125 members of the Young Artist Association as well as former Youth in Film Award/Young Artist Award winners.[4][6]

Young Artist Award for
Best Leading Young Actor
in a Feature Film
Awarded forOutstanding performance by a
juvenile actor in a leading role
in a feature film
CountryUnited States
Presented byYoung Artist Association
First awarded1979 (for performances in films released during the 1978/1979 season)
Currently held byTom Holland, The Impossible (2012)


Throughout the past 34 years, accounting for ties, category splits, and repeat winners, the Young Artist Association has presented a total of 43 "Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film" awards to 40 different actors. Winners of the award receive the traditional Young Artist Award statuette; a gilded figure of a man displaying a star above its head, reminiscent of a miniature child-sized Oscar.[7][8][9] The first recipient was Dennis Christopher, who was honored at the 1st Youth in Film Awards ceremony (1979) for his performance in Breaking Away.[10] The most recent recipient was Tom Holland, who was honored at the 34th Young Artist Awards ceremony (2012) for his performance in The Impossible.[11]

Throughout the history of the award, the "Best Young Actor in a Feature Film" category has been "split" several times. Until the 3rd Youth in Film Awards ceremony (1981), nominations for the "Best Young Actor in a Feature Film" award included all actors, regardless of whether the performance could be perceived to be in either a leading or supporting role.[12] At the 4th Youth in Film Awards ceremony (1982), however, the "Best Supporting Young Actor in a Feature Film" category (not listed on this page) was specifically introduced as a separate award.[13]

In the late 1980s, the category was split for three ceremonies; the 9th Youth In Film Awards ceremony (1987), the 10th Youth in Film Awards ceremony (1988), and the 15th Youth in Film Awards ceremony (1993).[14][15][16] During these three years, the Young Artist Association split the category into a total of four sub-categories; "Best Young Male Superstar in a Motion Picture", "Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture: Drama", "Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture: Comedy or Fantasy", and "Best Young Actor in a Motion Picture: Horror or Mystery" (all listed on this page).[14][15][16] However, the association would once again "merge" these various sub-categories back together after the 15th Youth in Film Awards.[17][18]

Beginning with the 14th Youth in Film Awards, the association once again split the category, this time creating a new category to recognize young film actors age 10 and under in their own separate category.[19] The "Best Young Actor Age 10 and Under in a Feature Film" category (not listed on this page) would become a permanent fixture of the Young Artist Awards and, as of 2012, is still awarded annually.[20] Despite the creation of the "10 and Under" category, some "leading" young actors under the age of 10 have continued to be nominated as "Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film".[16]


Although today the Young Artist Association has strict age requirements regarding which nominees are eligible for a Young Artist Award nomination, the association did not originally have such specific age restrictions. Today, candidates eligible for a Young Artist Award nomination must be between the ages of 5 and 21 at the time of principal production of the project for which they are nominated.[4] However, the eldest winner of the "Best Young Actor in a Feature Film" award is Dennis Christopher, who was 23 years old the night he won for his performance in Breaking Away at the 1st Youth in Film Awards ceremony (1979).[10] The youngest winner of a "Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film" award is Mason Gamble, who was 8 years old the night he won for his performance in Dennis the Menace at the 15th Youth in Film Awards ceremony (1993).[16]

The following list of superlatives is of winners/nominees in the "Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film" category. Wins/nominations in other Young Artist Award feature film categories, such as "Best Supporting Young Actor in a Feature Film", "Best Young Actor Age 10 and Under in a Feature Film", and "Best Leading Young Actor in an International Feature Film", are not included.

Superlative winners/nominees are listed alphabetically.

Superlative Actor Wins Nominations
Actors with most "Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film" winsSean Astin2 wins2 nominations
Corey Feldman2 wins2 nominations
Josh Hutcherson2 wins4 nominations
Actors with most "Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film" nominationsJosh Hutcherson2 wins4 nominations
Haley Joel Osment1 win4 nominations
Elijah Wood1 win4 nominations
Actor with most "Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film" nominations
(without winning)
Freddie Highmore0 wins4 nominations

Winners and nominees

For the first twenty-three ceremonies, due to the numerous "Television" awards also presented by the Young Artist Association, the eligibility period spanned two calendar years to recognize the traditional television season.[10][21] For example, the 1st Youth in Film Awards, presented in October 1979, recognized performers who appeared on television shows and in feature films that were released between September 1, 1978 and August 31, 1979. Starting with the 24th Young Artist Awards, presented in March 2003, the period of eligibility became the full previous calendar year, from January 1 to December 31, similar to the eligibility requirement used by the Academy Awards.[22]

Following the Young Artist Association's practice, the films below are listed by year of their qualifying run, which is the year the film was released in the United States, and not by the date of the ceremony, which has traditionally taken place the following calendar year beginning with the 10th Youth in Film Awards ceremony which recognized performances during the 1987/1988 season and took place in 1989.

 Winners are listed first and highlighted in gold, followed by the other nominees in the category for that year.


Year Actor Film Studio
1978 / 1979
Dennis ChristopherBreaking Away20th Century Fox
Thelonious BernardA Little RomanceWarner Bros.
Panchito GomezWalk ProudUniversal Studios
Jeremy LevyRich KidsUnited Artists
Ricky SchroderThe ChampMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer


Year Actor Film Studio
1979 / 1980
Justin HenryKramer vs. KramerColumbia Pictures
Christopher AtkinsThe Blue Lagoon Columbia Pictures
Matt DillonMy Bodyguard20th Century Fox
Paul McCraneFameMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Barry MillerFameMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Ricky SchroderThe Last Flight of Noah's ArkWalt Disney Pictures
1980 / 1981
Ricky SchroderThe EarthlingFilmways Pictures
Martin HewittEndless LovePolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Otto RechenbergAmyWalt Disney Pictures
Paul SchoemanChild's PlayAmerican Film Institute
Gabriel SwannWhy Would I Lie?Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Henry ThomasRaggedy ManUniversal Pictures
1981 / 1982
Henry ThomasE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialUniversal Pictures
Matt DillonTexWalt Disney Pictures
Doug McKeonNight CrossingWalt Disney Pictures
1982 / 1983
C. Thomas HowellThe OutsidersWarner Bros.
Torquil CampbellThe Golden SealThe Samuel Goldwyn Company
Sebastian DuncanMan, Woman and ChildParamount Pictures
Frederick KoehlerMr. Mom20th Century Fox
Kelly RenoThe Black Stallion ReturnsMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
1983 / 1984
Anthony Michael HallSixteen CandlesUniversal Pictures
Peter BillingsleyA Christmas StoryMGM/UA
Ross HarrisTestamentParamount Pictures
Noah HathawayThe NeverEnding StoryWarner Bros.
Barret OliverThe NeverEnding StoryWarner Bros.
Jason PressonThe Stone Boy20th Century Fox
Byron ThamesHeart Like a Wheel20th Century Fox
Henry ThomasCloak & DaggerUniversal Studios
1984 / 1985
Sean AstinThe GooniesWarner Bros.
Hunter CarsonParis, Texas20th Century Fox
Lukas HaasWitnessParamount Pictures
Ethan HawkeExplorersParamount Pictures
Jason LivelyNational Lampoon's European VacationWarner Bros.
Barret OliverD.A.R.Y.L.Paramount Pictures
1985 / 1986
Peter BillingsleyThe Dirt Bike KidTrinity Pictures
Chad AllenTerrorVisionEmpire International Pictures
Brandon DouglasPapa Was a PreacherLa Rose Productions
Scott GrimesCrittersNew Line Cinema
Corey HaimLucas20th Century Fox
Bobby JacobyThe Zoo GangNew World Pictures
1986 / 1987
Superstar: River PhoenixThe Mosquito CoastWarner Bros.
Corey HaimThe Lost BoysWarner Bros.
David MendenhallOver the TopCannon Films
Drama: Fred SavageThe Princess Bride20th Century Fox
Harley CrossThe BelieversOrion Pictures
Joshua MillerRiver's EdgeHemdale/Island Pictures
Jacob VargasThe PrincipalTriStar Pictures
Joshua ZuehlkeAmazing Grace and ChuckTriStar Pictures
Comedy: Patrick DempseyCan't Buy Me LoveTouchstone Pictures
Ricky BuskerBig ShotsLorimar/20th Century Fox
Keith CooganAdventures in BabysittingBuena Vista/Touchstone Pictures
Darius McCraryBig ShotsLorimar/20th Century Fox
Joshua RudoyHarry and the HendersonsUniversal Studios
Horror: Corey FeldmanThe Lost BoysWarner Bros.
Stephen DorffThe GateAlliance Entertainment
Michael SharrettDeadly FriendWarner Bros.
1987 / 1988
Drama: Christian BaleEmpire of the SunWarner Bros.
Warwick DavisWillowMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Kevin DillonThe RescueTouchstone Pictures
Roland Harrah IIIBraddock: Missing in Action IIICannon Films
Neil Patrick HarrisClara's HeartWarner Bros.
Sebastian Rice-EdwardsHope and GloryColumbia Pictures
Comedy/Fantasy: Corey Feldman (tie) License to Drive20th Century Fox
Comedy/Fantasy: Corey Haim (tie) License to Drive20th Century Fox
Jade CalegoryMac and MeOrion Pictures
David MoscowBig20th Century Fox
Jared RushtonBig20th Century Fox
Jamie WildOverboardMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Horror/Mystery: Lukas HaasLady in WhiteNew Century Vista Film Company
Rodney EastmanA Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream MasterNew Line Cinema
Ricky Paull GoldinThe BlobTriStar Pictures
Andras JonesA Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream MasterNew Line Cinema
Michael KenworthyReturn of the Living Dead Part IILorimar
Kieran O'BrienBellman and TrueIsland Pictures
1988 / 1989
Sean AstinStaying TogetherHemdale Film Corporation
Kirk CameronListen to MeColumbia Pictures
Joel CarlsonCommunionNew Line Cinema
Keith CooganCheetahWalt Disney Pictures
Cory DanzigerThe 'BurbsUniversal Studios
Joshua MillerTeen WitchMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Leaf PhoenixParenthoodUniversal Pictures
Jared RushtonHoney, I Shrunk the KidsWalt Disney Pictures
Ben SavageLittle MonstersVestron Pictures
Fred SavageThe WizardUniversal Pictures


Year Actor Film Studio
1989 / 1990
Macaulay CulkinHome Alone20th Century Fox
Balthazar GettyLord of the FliesColumbia Pictures
Charlie KorsmoDick TracyTouchstone Pictures
Joshua MillerClass of 1999Lightning Pictures
Elijah WoodAvalonTriStar Pictures
1990 / 1991
Ethan Randall-EmbryDutch20th Century Fox
Jonathan BrandisThe NeverEnding Story II: The Next ChapterWarner Bros.
Balthazar GettyMy Heroes Have Always Been CowboysThe Samuel Goldwyn Company
Lukas HaasRambling RoseSeven Arts Pictures
Stian SmestadShipwreckedWalt Disney Pictures
Robert J. Steinmiller Jr.BingoTriStar Pictures
Elijah WoodParadiseInterscope/Touchstone Pictures
1991 / 1992
Elijah WoodRadio FlyerColumbia Pictures
Jonathan BrandisLadybugsParamount Pictures
Christopher CastileBeethovenUniversal Studios
Christian ColemanSouth CentralWarner Bros.
Stephen DorffThe Power of OneWarner Bros.
Joshua John MillerAnd You Thought Your Parents Were WeirdTrimark Pictures
Robert OliveriHoney, I Blew Up the KidWalt Disney Pictures
Ethan Randall-EmbryAll I Want for ChristmasParamount Pictures
Benjamin SalisburyCaptain RonTouchstone Pictures
1992 / 1993
Drama: Edward Furlong (tie)A Home of Our OwnGramercy Pictures
Drama: Jason James Richter (tie)Free WillyWarner Bros.
Jesse BradfordKing of the HillUniversal Pictures
Andrew KnottThe Secret GardenWarner Bros.
Austin O'BrienLast Action HeroColumbia Pictures
Heydon ProwseThe Secret GardenWarner Bros.
Ernie Reyes, Jr.Surf NinjasNew Line Cinema
Robert J. Steinmiller Jr.Jack the Bear20th Century Fox
Comedy: Mason GambleDennis the MenaceWarner Bros.
Omri KatzHocus PocusWalt Disney Pictures
David KrumholtzLife with MikeyTouchstone Pictures
Sean MurrayHocus PocusWalt Disney Pictures
David NetterOne Good CopHollywood Pictures
Michael OliverProblem Child 2Universal Studios
1993 / 1994
Brad RenfroThe ClientWarner Bros.
Sean NelsonFreshMiramax Films
Austin O'BrienMy Girl 2Columbia Pictures
Elijah WoodNorthUniversal Pictures
1994 / 1995
Wil HorneffBorn to Be WildWarner Bros.
Jerry BaroneTwo BitsMiramax Films
Jesse BradfordFar From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog20th Century Fox
Joseph Mazzello & Brad RenfroThe CureUniversal Pictures
Hal ScardinoThe Indian in the CupboardColumbia Pictures/Paramount Pictures
Ryan SlaterThe Amazing Panda AdventureWarner Bros.
Jonathan Taylor ThomasTom and HuckWalt Disney Pictures
1995 / 1996
Lucas BlackSling BladeMiramax Films
Kevin BishopMuppet Treasure IslandJim Henson Prods./Walt Disney Pictures
Kyle HowardHouse ArrestMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Vincent KartheiserAlaskaCastle Rock Entertainment
Joe PerrinoSleepersPolyGram Filmed Entertainment
1996 / 1997
Blake Heron (tie)ShilohLegacy Releasing/Warner Bros.
Kevin Zegers (tie)Air BudWalt Disney Pictures
Blake FosterTurbo: A Power Rangers MovieSaban Entertainment/20th Century Fox
Brandon HammondSoul Food20th Century Fox
Mario YedidiaWarriors of VirtueChina Film Co-Prod. Corp./MGM
1997 / 1998
Miko HughesMercury RisingUniversal Pictures
Michael CalozLittle MenWarner Bros.
Joseph CrossWide AwakeMiramax Films
Kieran CulkinThe MightyMiramax Films
Kyle GibsonTrue Friends2nd Generation Films
Joseph MazzelloSimon BirchHollywood Pictures
Eamonn OwensThe Butcher BoyWarner Bros.
Gregory SmithSmall SoldiersDreamWorks
Ian Michael SmithSimon BirchHollywood Pictures
Kevin ZegersAir Bud: Golden ReceiverKeystone Pictures
1998 / 1999
Haley Joel OsmentThe Sixth SenseSpyglass Ent./Hollywood Pictures
Lucas BlackCrazy in AlabamaColumbia Pictures
Jeremy BlackmanMagnoliaNew Line Cinema
Noah FleissJoe the KingTrimark Pictures
Jake GyllenhaalOctober SkyUniversal Pictures


Year Actor Film Studio
1999 / 2000
Rob BrownFinding ForresterColumbia Pictures
Patrick FugitAlmost FamousDreamWorks SKG
Ryan MerrimanJust LookingSony Pictures Classics
Haley Joel OsmentPay It ForwardWarner Bros.
Kevin ZegersMVP: Most Valuable PrimateKeystone Family Pictures
2000 / 2001
Anton YelchinHearts in AtlantisWarner Bros.
Blake FosterKids WorldBlue Steel Releasing
Trevor MorganThe Glass HouseColumbia Pictures
Camden MunsonIn The BedroomMiramax Films
Haley Joel OsmentA.I.: Artificial IntelligenceDreamWorks
Alexander PollockCats & DogsWarner Bros.
Tyler HoechlinRoad to PerditionDreamWorks/20th Century Fox
Jamie BellNicholas NicklebyMGM/UA
Rory CulkinSignsBuena Vista Pictures
Nicholas HoultAbout A BoyStudio Canal/Universal Studios
Lil' Bow WowLike Mike20th Century Fox
Matthew O'LearyFrailtyLions Gate Entertainment
Mark RendallTouching Wild HorsesAnimal Tales Productions
Jeremy SumpterPeter PanUniversal Studios
Liam AikenGood Boy!Jim Henson Productions
David HenrieArizona SummerWestPark Productions
Shia LaBeoufHolesWalt Disney Pictures
Frankie MunizAgent Cody BanksMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Haley Joel OsmentSecondhand LionsNew Line Cinema
Jamie BellUndertowMGM/UA
Liam AikenLemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate EventsParamount Pictures/DreamWorks
Rory CulkinMean CreekParamount Classics
Freddie HighmoreFinding NeverlandMiramax Films
Bobby PrestonMotocross KidsTag Entertainment
Josh HutchersonZathura: A Space AdventureColumbia Pictures
Adam ButcherSaint RalphAlliance Atlantis
Freddie HighmoreCharlie and the Chocolate FactoryWarner Bros.
Taylor LautnerThe Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-DColumbia Pictures
William MoseleyThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeWalt Disney Pictures
Logan LermanHootNew Line Cinema
Cameron BrightRunning ScaredMedia 8 Entertainment
Conor DonovanTwelve and HoldingEcho Lake Productions
Josh HutchersonRVColumbia Pictures/Sony Pictures
Alex NeubergerRunning ScaredMedia 8 Entertainment
Thomas SangsterNanny McPheeUniversal Pictures
Josh HutchersonBridge to TerabithiaBuena Vista Pictures
Alex EtelThe Water HorseColumbia Pictures
Miles HeizerRails & TiesWarner Bros.
Freddie HighmoreAugust RushWarner Bros.
Jacob KoganJoshuaFox Searchlight Pictures
Logan Lerman3:10 to YumaLionsgate
Zach MillsMr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium20th Century Fox
Alex NeubergerUnderdogBuena Vista Pictures
Chris O'NeilThe Last MimzyNew Line Cinema
Alejandro PolancoChop ShopKoch-Lorber Films
Nate HartleyDrillbit TaylorParamount Pictures
Freddie HighmoreThe Spiderwick ChroniclesParamount Pictures
Josh HutchersonJourney to the Center of the EarthWarner Bros.
Skandar KeynesThe Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianWalt Disney Pictures
Max RecordsWhere The Wild Things AreWarner Bros.
Jake T. AustinHotel for DogsDreamWorks/Paramount Pictures
Jimmy BennettAlabama MoonAlabama Moon Entertainment
Devon BostickAdorationEgo Film Arts
Taylor LautnerThe Twilight Saga: New MoonImprint Entertainment


Year Actor Film Studio
Jaden SmithThe Karate KidColumbia Pictures
Zachary GordonDiary of a Wimpy Kid20th Century Fox
Noah RingerThe Last AirbenderParamount Pictures
Eros VlahosNanny McPhee and the Big BangUniversal Studios
Dakota GoyoReal SteelWalt Disney Pictures
Asa ButterfieldHugoColumbia Pictures
Joel CourtneySuper 8Paramount Pictures
Nathan GambleDolphin TaleWarner Bros.
Brian GilbertThe Son of No OneAnchor Bay Entertainment
Zachary GordonDiary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules20th Century Fox
José JuliánA Better LifeSummit Entertainment
Tom HollandThe ImpossibleWarner Bros.
Jared GilmanMoonrise KingdomFocus Features
Zachary GordonDiary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog DaysFox 2000
Quinn LordImaginaerumNordisk Films
Jason SpevackJesus Henry ChristEntertainment One
Christian TraeumerThe ChildStealth Media Group
Miles ElliotCampRoebuck Media
Skylan BrooksThe Inevitable Defeat of Mister & PeteLionsgate Entertainment
Chandler CanterburyStanding UpAldamisa Entertainment
Liam JamesThe Way Way BackOddLot Entertainment
Maxim KnightMedeasKeyhole Productions

See also


  1. Crouse, Richard (2005). Reel Winners (illustrated ed.). Dundurn Press Ltd. pp. 42–43. ISBN 9781550025743.
  2. Riggs, Thomas (2007). Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. 74. Gale / Cengage Learning. ISBN 9780787690472.
  3. "KABC-TV - Budding stars shine at Young Artist Awards". Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  4. "Young Artist Awards - Nomination Submission Requirements". Archived from the original on 2015-04-20. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  5. "11th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Archived from the original on 2014-04-09. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  6. "PopStar - 30th Annual Young Artist Awards". Archived from the original on 2011-05-03. Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  7. "The Kiddie Oscars". The Evening Standard. 2001-03-30.
  8. "HFPA Golden Globes - Young Artist Foundation". Archived from the original on 2011-03-17. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  9. "Young Artist Award arrives in Russia". Archived from the original on 2011-04-25. Retrieved 2011-04-06.
  10. "1st Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  11. "34th Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  12. "3rd Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  13. "4th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  14. "9th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  15. "10th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Archived from the original on 2015-07-16. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  16. "15th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  17. "33rd Annual Young Artist Awards". Archived from the original on April 4, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-31.
  18. "16th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  19. "14th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  20. "32nd Annual Young Artist Awards". Archived from the original on 2016-10-24. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  21. "23rd Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  22. "24th Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
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