It’s Abigail Breslin’s 19th birthday—and we feel like we’ve watched her grow up (because we have)

Child stars grew up before our eyes on television and film, and for the last 19 years, we’ve gotten to watch Abigail Breslin grow up through one kickass performance after another. Today happens to be birthday (she celebrated earlier this month by nabbing an awesome book deal based on her Tumblr—look out for This May Sound Crazy in October) and it we’re celebrating by pointing out just a few of the many times she was completely amazing on screen.

Raising Helen (2004)

I spent most of this movie wanting to hug Abigail’s character Sarah. From her face after she hears sad news about her parents to her  heartbreaking panic when she’s not able to tie her shoes, I just wanted o reach into the screen, scoop her up and say “it’s gonna be OK, I promise!” In one scene, Kate Hudson’s character takes everyone out to a fancy dinner to celebrate the birthday of Sarah’s stuffed animal. It pretty much proves that it wasn’t just me who wanted to figure out a way to put a smile on that little girl’s face. And at the end of the film, Sarah sits on a bench and ties her shoes all by herself.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

This list would not be complete without the movie that pretty much made the whole world fall in love with Abigail Breslin and her kooky family. Her quiet love for her brother, her outspoken adoration for her grandfather and her no-holds-barred attitude towards performing at that ridiculous pageant made me wish I could meet Olive in real life. Olive looked nothing like and didn’t pose like any of those other pageant girls and it still didn’t stop her from performing a dance routine that was an extension of her personality. It was amazing and hilarious and actually? I think it’s time I go watch it again.

Definitely Maybe (2008)

Aside from the fact that Ryan Reynolds’ character makes a pretty adorable single dad, Abigail bonding with him over how his love life fell apart is one of the sweetest things to watch. She comes across like a logical adult who just happens to be in a child’s body questioning all her dad’s relationship choices and how he met her mom. It is because of her insistence to uncover all the juicy details of the past that Ryan Reynolds realizes who he’s been in love with all along. And besides the cute factor, Abigail’s character has a faltering but beautifully honest moment when she fearfully wonders if all her digging through her father’s romantic history will lead her to realize that she may not like her own mother through the telling of his stories.

My Sister’s Keeper (2009)

I can’t even think about this movie without getting a lump in my throat. Abigail’s performance as an eleven year old child suing her parents for medical emancipation and rights to her own body put me through such a tumult of emotion I didn’t know what I was feeling. Was I mad at her? Was she being selfish? Were her parents being selfish? Was she just scared? Wasn’t this all too much pressure to put on such a little girl??! And how did she even know how to get to a lawyer to medically emancipate herself? When it turned out that Abigail’s character did in fact want to donate organs to help her cancer-stricken sister Kate, but Kate persuaded her not to because she didn’t want to prolong her life, I sobbed like I was at a funeral. The range of emotions Abigail Breslin was capable of making me feel in this film solidified her as one of my favorite actresses.

Zombieland (2009)

Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone as two wily sisters who are some of the few survivors battling the zombie apocalypse? YES PLEASE! Both have characters introduced into the film as seemingly helpless females but quickly show they are anything but and have no qualms about conning their way to survival. After initially being contentious, Abigail eventually becomes close with Woody Harrelson’s character who is hiding the fact that underneath his resistance to forming attachments to people, he is grieving the death of his young son. In the way that she always does, Abigail manages to coax out Woody’s mostly unseen softer side and in the end gives him the one thing he’s been searching for the entire film: a Twinkie.

New Year’s Eve (2011)

Maybe you’re noticing a theme: Abigail Breslin gets to be related to some really cool people in all her movies. This time Sarah Jessica Parker is her mom and desperately trying to find her on New Year’s Eve in the mayhem that is Times Square. Abigail is a typical teenager dying to spend New Year’s with her friends and her crush which naturally leads to disobeying her mother. Abigail made me remember exactly how important it seemed when I wanted to kiss the first boy I really liked and how much cooler it was to be with your friends and “no mom it’s totally safe, I swear” was a common phrase out of my mouth. I was totally rooting for Abigail to get her kiss; I teared up when she saw her guy get kissed by another girl and grabbed the tissues when Sarah Jessica pulled her into a bear hug to comfort her. It was like watching a moment from my own adolescence. (Though I do think my mom would have yelled at me a little more.)

Scream Queens (2015)

This series isn’t even out yet, but I’m pretty much the MOST psyched about it. Ryan Murphy’s upcoming horror anthology series will mark Abigail’s first time doing TV.  “Film is always going to be my first passion,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “But I feel like TV is so much where it’s at right now. The quality of TV that you have right now—it’s almost on the same level as movies, if not better.” And her character? Here’s all she’s telling us: “Every character that I’ve played…this is the complete opposite.” Bring it! I’m so ready for the next Breslin break-out performance and the next phase of her awesome career!

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