6. War of the Worlds (2005). Age: 11
Dakota spent much of her childhood playing the daughter of every famous actor ever, and with War of the Worlds, she added Tom Cruise to the list. Though critics had some quibbles with the film itself, Dakota turned in another great performance. What I personally thought she nailed was the contrast between her character Rachel’s super smart moments and her “I’m still a kid and this is TERRIFYING” moments.
7. Hounddog (2007). Age: 12
Ah, Hounddog. Such controversy! At the age of 12, Dakota knew that she needed to start making the transition from child actor to adult actor, and this was the film she chose to do it with. So what was the controversy about? A scene in which Dakota’s character, Lewellen, is raped. The film was subsequently panned, but hey. A risk is a risk.
8. The Secret Life of Bees (2008). Age: 14
“I killed my mother when I was four years old, that’s what I knew about myself. She was all I wanted and I took her away. Nothing else much mattered.” This is how the 1964 period piece opens—and yes, it’s Dakota as Lily, a 14-year-old girl haunted by the death of mother, who utters the words. In this one, Paul Bettany joined the ranks of all the actors who have played Dakota’s father, and she gets to spend some time with Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah. The film got mixed reviews, but did well at the box office; Dakota also won a Young Artist Award for Best Leading Actress in a Feature Film.
9. The Runaways (2010). Age: 16
Dakota as Cherie Currie? Yowza! With a cast that included Dakota’s Twilight costar Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, The Runaways presented a portrait of the infamous girl band—and surprised a lot of people about how good it was as a film. Strong performances all round (and I don’t particularly like Kristen Stewart most of the time, so that’s saying something). Rock on, 16-year-old Dakota!
10. The Twilight Saga (2009 – Present). Age: 15 – 17
Although tiny girl vampire Jane Volturi is younger than Dakota in the books, who better to play an ancient-yet-child-sized vampire than her? After all, she specializes in these types of roles!
So what’s next? Well, in addition to the second part of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Dakota has four more films in the works for 2012: The Motel Life, Now Is Good, Effie, and Very Good Girls. Busy girl. Happy 18th, Dakota! We can’t wait to see how you continue to evolve as an actress in your adult years!
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.