With Kick-Ass hitting theaters soon and with all of the brouhaha that’s sure to be discussed about having a 11-year-old girl (ChloÁ« Moretz’s Hit Girl) sprouting all sort of profanity and committing many acts of violence, I felt it’s time I do a list of my favorite onscreen tough young girls. If you’ve come here for an essay of the so-called controversy itself, you won’t find it here, mostly because I don’t give a shit about it (as far as I’m concerned, the more swearing and violence the better). This isn’t the article you’re looking for … move along, move along.
Iris, from Taxi Driver (1976, Jodie Foster). “How do you want to make it?” Foster’s portrayal of an 12-year-old prostitute earned her an Oscar nomination. While Iris might seem more of a victim trying to get away from her pimp (“Sport,” played by Harvey Keitel), it’s how she faces her world that makes her tough. She’s growing up way too fast, yet still shows signs of still being a little girl, like in the diner scene having breakfast with Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro).
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Addie Loggins, from Paper Moon (1973, Tatum O’Neal). “I want my two hundred dollars.” The daughter of a prostitute, Addie finds herself traveling during the Great Depression with the man she suspects is her father, Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal). Along the way she discovers his profession — a con man — and also discovers she’s an excellent accomplice. Tatum O’Neal’s portrayal earned her a Supporting Actress Oscar; at 10 years old she remains the youngest winner of an Academy Award.
Rynn Jacobs, from The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976, Jodie Foster). “Go in that study, Mrs. Hallet, and I tell my father about your son.” Look, folks, if you had just left her alone, she wouldn’t have been forced to put poison in your tea. It’s really that simple.
Claudia, from Interview with the Vampire (1994, Kirsten Dunst). “I promise I’ll get rid of the bodies.” Once turned into a vampire, this little one becomes an out-of-control killing machine who later becomes enraged when she figures out that she will live forever but never grow up — trapped in a little girl’s body for all eternity.
Amanda Whurlitzer, from The Bad News Bears (1976, Tatum O’Neal). “You handled it like shit!” Recruited by Coach Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), it’s Amanda’s role as pitcher that helps turn the tide for the floundering Little League team. What she really wants is father figure Buttermaker back in her life, and is prepared to let him have a piece of her mind when she discovers that he’s just not ready for that.
Juno MacGuff, from Juno (2007, Ellen Page). “I mean, can’t we just, like, kick this old school? Like, I have the baby, put it in a basket and send it your way, like, Moses and the reeds?” The freshly knocked-up 16-year-old Juno takes on some very adult situations — and faces them with confidence, intelligence and humor.
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Audrey, from Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974, Jodie Foster). “So long, suckers!” A shoplifting kleptomaniac and general bad influence on Alice’s son Tommy (Alfred W. Lutter), Audrey is pretty much on her own after her mother takes up prostitution. Her character is nowhere to be found — not even a quirky toned-down “TV-safe” version — in the long-running TV series Alice (1976-1985; which was based on this movie).
Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, from Heavenly Creatures (1994, Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet). “The next time I write in this diary, Mother will be dead. How odd … yet how pleasing.” This one’s a two-fer, based on the true story of Parker and Hulme, two best friends (aged 14 and 15, respectively) willing to commit murder to avoid being separated. On the other hand, if nobody had tried to separate them, nothing would have gone down. Not that I’m condoning murder or anything.
Leslie Burke, from Bridge to Terabithia (2007, AnnaSophia Robb). “We rule Terabithia and nothing crushes us!” An impressionable 12-year-old girl with a strong imagination, she and best friend Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) form a very special bond, creating from an abandoned treehouse an entire fantasy world that seems to come alive. To say any more and spoil this wonderful film would be a crime.
Kit Kittredge, from Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008, Abigail Breslin). “What you’re holding is the story you’ve been looking for.” Growing up during the Great Depression, with aspirations of becoming a newspaper reporter, it turns out that the resourceful Kit Kittredge is also not bad at solving crime. Make no attempts to scam her friends or family — you will be caught.
Rhoda Penmark, from The Bad Seed (1956, Patty McCormack). “Why should I feel sorry? It was Claude Daigle who got drowned, not me!” The quote (not to mention the title of the movie) says it all. This girl is nothing but bad news, leaving behind a trail of bodies — including one dude burned alive. A character so downright evil, the Hays Code forced the studio to alter the ending of the original novel so she gets her comeuppance instead of going unpunished.