When you’re born to a hugely popular Hollywood or music legend, the chances become heavily skewed in your favor that you will one day be famous, too. Just look at Suri Cruise, who is practically overshadowing her parents Tom and Katie Holmes, and she hasn’t really even done anything yet.
That’s just how Tinseltown works—it’s all about who you know, or who you were born to. Many of the actors, actresses, and musicians we see today are the offspring of famous people, and you might not even know it. They have a leg up on the competition.
Still, you can’t take away these people’s successes. They’ve shown merit, and just because they were born with a silver spoon doesn’t mean they were guaranteed success. They’ve still worked hard to become the icons they are today.
Here are 20 celebrity children who grew up to be more famous than their parents.
You may not know that Benedict Cumberbatch’s parents were famous, but his mother Wanda Ventham starred in prominent TV roles on shows like UFO and Only Fools and Horses, while his father Timothy Carlton acted in Keeping Up Appearances and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Still, Cumberbatch has eked out an iconic career, playing everyone from Alan Turing to Julian Assange to Smaug, the dragon from the Hobbit.
If it weren’t for Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner probably would have never gotten a talk show or much recognition. She used to be most known for being married to Robert Kardashian, but now she’s built an empire to leverage her daughters’ fame. We all know who the real star of Keeping Up with the Kardashians is, though, and she’s worth around $350 million these days.
Robert Pine found huge success for playing Sgt. Joseph Getraer on the hit show CHiPs (1977-1983). He also starred in Days of Our Lives, Lost in Space, Knight Rider, Magnum P.I., and more. But for this generation, Chris Pine is a Hollywood icon, pretty much since becoming Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot. He’s shown his acting chops in many films, though, such as Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Hell or High Water, Wonder Woman, and more.
Billy Ray Cyrus has had a renaissance resurgence of late, thanks to Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” which is basically the most popular song that’s ever charted. First, the country star was known for the sappy love ballad, “Achy Breaky Heart.” His daughter Miley has been everything from a Disney Channel star (Hannah Montana), to a controversial hip-hop artist, and makes headlines with everything she does.
Emma Roberts’ father, Eric, rose to prominence for his starring role in King of the Gypsies, before acting in The Dark Knight, Heroes, and Doctor Who. But Emma has outshone him, first starring in young adult chick flicks like Wild Child and Unfabulous, before moving to serious roles in American Horror Story, Scream Queens, and much more. That being said, she hasn't outshone her mother, Julia, quite yet.
Jon Voight was a huge star in the ‘70s, even winning an Oscar for Best Actor in Coming Home. He’s starred in hundreds of films, many of them blockbusters. But he can’t compare to Angelina Jolie when it comes to fame, seeing as she’s one of the most famous people on Earth. She’s won an Oscar (Girl, Interrupted) just like her father, and has been Hollywood’s highest-paid actress in multiple years.
John Aniston was on the hugely popular show, Days of Our Lives, and that’s by far the most popular thing he’s worked on. But his daughter Jennifer was on a little show called Friends—arguably the most popular TV show of all time—and that’s pretty hard to compete with. She’s also starred in huge films, such as Office Space, The Good Girl, Bruce Almighty, and more.
You might not know this, but Lenny Kravitz’s mother, Roxie Roker, played Helen Willis on The Jeffersons, which made her quite famous. But her son Lenny became one of the most iconic rock stars of our time, a Grammy-winning artist (four years in a row from 1999 to 2002), and even appeared in movies such as Zoolander, and The Hunger Games series.
We’ve talked about Zoë Kravitz’s father, but her mother, Lisa Bonet, is also a bona fide star, best known for her role as Denise Huxtable in The Cosby Show (and for being married to Jason Momoa). But in recent years, Zoë has outshone them both, first in X-Men: First Class, the Divergent series, Mad Max: Fury Road, and most recently in her huge role alongside the ensemble cast in HBO’s Pretty Little Liars.
This could be a tossup, because both of these women are incredibly famous. Judy Garland is one of the most iconic actresses in Tinseltown, primarily for playing Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, though she was also the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year (1961). Liza Minnelli, however, won an Oscar for Cabaret (1972), and she’s appeared in countless movies, plays, and TV shows.
Back in her day, Blythe Danner was a big star, winning two Primetime Emmy Awards and a Tony Award. She’s made it big on Will & Grace, We Were the Mulvaneys, Meet the Parents, and more. But Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the most lauded actresses in the business, and she’s also a lifestyle guru who has found much more success than her mother.
Another tossup, because Ravi Shankar is the most famous Indian musician to ever walk the Earth. He brought the sitar to mainstream music, and even associated with Beatle George Harrison. But Norah Jones has sold over 50 million records worldwide, won nine Grammy Awards, and is regarded as one of the best singers of this generation. So we give her the slight edge here over her incredibly famous father.
You know you’ve made it big when pop songs are singing about you (“Do the Jane Fonda…”). Henry Fonda was the oldest man to ever win the Oscar for Best Actor, at the age of 76, for On Golden Pond. He was an incredibly popular film and stage actor in his day, mostly through the ‘30s and ‘40s. Jane Fonda, however, secured not one but two Best Actress wins, and became a symbol for anti-Vietnam War sentiments in the ‘70s.
Donald Sutherland starred in critically acclaimed roles in films like Ordinary People, Pride & Prejudice (2005), and The Hunger Games franchise. But he never reached the mainstream success or household name of his son Kiefer, or the name “Jack Bauer,” which practically everyone knows from 24, for which he’s won an Emmy, Golden Globe, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Martin Sheen is probably most famous for The West Wing and Apocalypse Now, which were huge during their respective times. He’s worked with some of the most famous names in Hollywood. Charlie Sheen is famous for a whole host of films and TV shows, but mainly for his public headlines regarding drug, alcohol, and marital problems. This is a close one in terms of fame, but Charlie gets more headlines, overshadowing his father—there’s no doubting that.
Goldie Hawn was one of the most famous actresses and bankable stars of her time, for more than three decades (1970s through the 1990s). She’s also been in a relationship with Kurt Russell since 1983. But Kate Hudson is quickly gaining on her with the newer generations, thanks to Almost Famous, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Deepwater Horizon, and more. She still has a ways to go before reaching the legend status of her mother, though.
Jerry Stiller is a comedic legend in his own right, first as the comedic duo with his wife, Anne Meara, dubbed Stiller and Meara. He is most known for his role as Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, and Arthur Spooner on The King of Queens. His son Ben is one of the highest paid actors and directors in Hollywood, starring in everything from Zooland to the wildly popular Night at the Museum series.
Tori Spelling practically became a household name overnight, when she landed the role of Donna on her dad Aaron’s show, 90210. Thanks to her tell-all memoirs and reality show appearances, she’s managed to stay relevant and famous, even more than her TV producer father, who worked on shows such as Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Hart to Hart, Dynasty, Beverly Hills, 90210, 7th Heaven, and Charmed.
Okay, Will Smith might be more famous than his son, Jaden, still, but he’s taken a bit of a backseat from the spotlight in recent years, paving the way for Jaden to shine. Jaden has starred in numerous films and Netflix specials, released two studio albums and 15 singles, and even walked the runway for Louis Vuitton and founded a water charity. He has Hollywood bona fides, for sure, and at the young age of 21, he can only go up.
Debbie Reynolds is a legendary Hollywood icon in her own right, first rising to fame with the hit musical Singin’ in the Rain. But Carrie Fisher is even more of a household name thanks to her time as Princess Leia in Star Wars. Her sudden passing in 2016 brought an almost worldwide amount of grief, as fans everywhere had lost their princess.
References: ranker.com, eightieskids.com, slice.ca, kiwireport.com