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3. Natalie Portman, "Léon" (1994)
The preeminent child performance in my book came from Natalie Portman and her first on-screen appearance in Luc Besson's "Léon." A few people were firing on all cylinders in this one, including Jean Reno and Gary Oldman, but Portman fit right in and perhaps owned them all with a delicate portrayal that announced to the world the arrival of a bright young talent. She would make her way through films like "Heat" and "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" before breaking out as a star in her own right, culminating, finally, in an Oscar win just last year.