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BEST Mr. Spock
Younger version: Zachary Quinto (2009's Star Trek)
Older version: Leonard Nimoy (the original 1966-69 Star Trek series, the first six Star Trek movies, and the 2009 Star Trek, among others)
Why it works: It's hard to imagine anyone could add anything to Nimoy's iconic portrayal of the logic-driven, half-human Spock. Yet Quinto's early Spock plausibly reveals how the young Vulcan might still have had difficulty suppressing his emotions. Plus, he looks the part; seeing them on screen together in the 2009 film makes the transition even more seamless.
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WORST Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
Younger version: Jake Lloyd, then Hayden Christensen (Star Wars: Episodes I-III, 1999-2005)
Older version: David Prowse (body) and James Earl Jones (voice) (Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI, 1977-83)
Why it doesn't work: As little Anakin, Lloyd is a bratty know-it-all. Young adult Anakin (Christensen) is the same, only whinier. Neither gives any inkling of the maturity, potential for great evil, or even sheer physical presence of the Sith Lord-to-be, as played by Prowse and Jones. It's also hard to envision either of these young twerps as the eventual father of the stalwart, dutiful Luke and Leia.
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BEST Queen Victoria
Younger version: Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria, 2009)
Older version: Judi Dench (Mrs. Brown, 1997)
Why it works: Neither plays Victoria as the prudish, we-are-not-amused blue-nose type that defines Victoria in the popular imagination. Rather, both are willful, passionate, even romantic (though Dench's widowed older queen also knows the pain of deep loss).
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WORST Hannibal Lecter
Younger version: Aaran Thomas, then Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising, 2007)
Older version: Anthony Hopkins (1991's The Silence of the Lambs, 2001's Hannibal, 2002's Red Dragon)
Why it doesn't work: Rising shows how the innocent child Lecter became a flesh-eating monster, but Ulliel's moody performance gives no hint of why he continued to kill and cannibalize after his spree of vengeance against those who murdered and ate his sister; nor does it shed light on his transformation to the unnaturally calm, urbane Lecter with the piercing gaze, as played by Hopkins.
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BEST Tom Riddle/Voldemort
Younger version: Hero Fiennes-Tiffin (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2009)
Older version: Ralph Fiennes (five Harry Potter films, 2005-11)
Why it works: As the young Tom Riddle, Fiennes-Tiffin has that quiet, chilly, dead-eyed creepiness that the older Voldemort has in spades. His resemblance to Uncle Ralph is just a bonus.
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WORST Coleman Silk
Younger version: Wentworth Miller (The Human Stain, 2003)
Older version: Anthony Hopkins (The Human Stain)
Why it doesn?t work: Miller is actually fine as a young light-skinned African-American man who decides to pass as white. He even gets Hopkins' mannerisms and speech patterns right. But Hopkins himself is miscast as a man who's been hiding his black heritage for half a century; he just doesn't really fit the part.
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Younger version: Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, then Tanay Chheda (Slumdog Millionaire, 2008)
Older version: Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire)
Why it works: All the kid actors in Slumdog are pretty great, but the two who play Jamal as a tyke (Khedekar) and an adolescent (Chheda) display the same cleverness, imagination, and persistence as the grown version (Patel).
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WORST Russ "Rusty" Duritz
Younger version: Spencer Breslin (The Kid, 2000)
Older version: Bruce Willis (The Kid)
Why it doesn't work: Aside from the fact that the chunky Breslin and the buff Willis don't resemble each other at all, it's not clear how the adventurous, imaginative boy grew up to be the glib, dull, risk-averse man. It's no wonder then that when they meet they're so disappointed with each other.
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BEST Christy Brown
Younger version: Hugh O'Conor (My Left Foot, 1989)
Older version: Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot)
Why it works: Day-Lewis got all the credit (including an Oscar) for his Method performance as the fierce-willed, sometimes petulant, cerebral palsy-afflicted author/artist, who can manipulate only the title limb with assurance. But in some ways, O'Conor has the tougher task, playing Christy before he learns to speak, since he has to convey the boy's intelligence and frustration strictly through his eyes.
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WORST John Connor
Younger version: Edward Furlong (1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and Nick Stahl (2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines)
Older version: Christian Bale (2009's Terminator Salvation)
Why it doesn't work: Furlong's portrayal of the future messiah as a rebellious, haunted, fatherless boy makes sense. Stahl is less edgy, just jittery and pouty, though the chase-plot screenplay doesn't really leave him any time for character development. At least he resembles Furlong; Bale doesn't look like either of them, and he plays Connor as a grim, humorless, stiff saint. While he's meant to save humanity from the ruthless robots, it seems he has instead become one himself.
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BEST Vito Corleone
Younger version: Robert De Niro (The Godfather Part II, 1974)
Older version: Marlon Brando (The Godfather, 1972)
Why it works: Both men won Oscars for playing the Mafia patriarch, with Brando as an old lion, secure in his power, and De Niro as a hungry cub finding a place for himself. (Extra props to De Niro for playing the part in Italian.) Both are soft-spoken family men, calculating, icy cool, with a streak of controlled violence — so they're both each an all-too-apt role model for son Michael (Al Pacino).
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BEST Queen Elizabeth I
Younger version: Cate Blanchett (1998's Elizabeth, 2007's Elizabeth: The Golden Age)
Older version: Judi Dench (1998's Shakespeare in Love)
Why it works: Blanchett traces the Virgin Queen's arc from naive girl to self-assured dowager. Dench's powerful, theatrical monarch hints at a lifetime of romantic frustration, as played out in Blanchett's performances.