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The Biggest Hayden Panettiere Movies Of All Time

Hayden Panettiere has been out of the spotlight for awhile, but back in the mid-aughts, she became a household name seemingly overnight. This was thanks to her key role in a series that blew up the pop culture landscape with its first season: Heroes, the NBC superhero drama which also featured the likes of Zachary Quinto, Adrian Pasdar, Milo Ventimiglia, Ali Larter, and Santiago Cabrera among its ensemble cast. Panettiere portrayed Claire Bennet, the cheerleader around which that season's entire plot revolved (and which featured heavily in the series promotion, which used the tagline, "Save the Cheerleader, Save the World").

For many, the talented young actress appeared to come out of nowhere. This, however, was not the case. Panettiere was already a Hollywood vet by the time Heroes came along, having secured her first recurring small screen role on the long-running ABC soap opera One Life to Live in 1994, at the tender age of five. Roles in series like Unhappily Ever After and Guiding Light followed, and in 1998, she made the jump to the big screen with a bit part in the little-remembered Jennifer Aniston-Paul Rudd rom-com The Object of My Affection.

While she's still most remembered for her role on Heroes, Panettiere has carved out a pretty extensive film career, and has also become an accomplished voice actress. It's in that capacity — and during her days as a child star — that she's scored her biggest box office success, with one notable exception. Here are the biggest movies Hayden Panttiere has ever been a part of.

Scream 4 revived a dormant franchise

2011's Scream 4 was a pleasant surprise in more than one way. The franchise hadn't seen a new entry since 2000's Scream 3, which — unlike its predecessors — had received mostly negative reviews, although it still performed reasonably well at the box office. It's pretty safe to say that nobody was expecting much more out of the franchise, until 2008, when the four-quel was announced, with the great Wes Craven back in the director's chair.

Panettiere was a new addition to the franchise. She portrayed Kirby Reed, a teen horror aficionado who makes the mistake of cultivating a romantic interest in Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin), who ends up being one of the parties responsible for a new rash of Ghostface murders when Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) returns to Westboro to promote her new book. The actress acquitted herself nicely in the flick, endearing herself to fans of the franchise — and although Kirby was stabbed in the stomach and left for dead by her would-be beau, her death was never explicitly confirmed onscreen. 

According to The NumbersScream 4 picked up $96 million at the global box office, good for Panettiere's fifth-biggest flick of all time, and it led to a resurgence of sorts for the property, paving the way for an MTV (and later, VH1) anthology series which ran for three seasons between 2015 and 2019. Also, it left the door open for — you guessed it — a fifth feature film simply titled Scream, which is set to hit screens in 2022. It's safe to say more than a few fans are hoping for Kirby's return, and they're not the only ones. Speaking with Hollywood Life in 2020, longtime series star David Arquette expressed his hope that Panettiere would return to the Scream fold. "I love Hayden," Arquette said. "I think she's a tremendous person and actress, and I'd love to see her back."

A bit part in Message in a Bottle raised Hayden Panettiere's profile as a child star

The fourth-highest grossing flick of Panettiere's career was also among her earliest. She turned in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it performance in the 1999 tearjerker Message in a Bottle, a Nicholas Sparks adaptation which saw Kevin Costner's lovelorn loner Garrett Blake developing an attraction toward Robin Wright's Chicago Tribune researcher Theresa Osborne, who sniffs him out after discovering (wait for it) a message in a bottle written in Garrett's hand and addressed to his dead wife. Panettiere appears briefly, in the third act, in a non-speaking role: when a storm breaks out during one of Garrett's sailing excursions, he encounters a family whose boat is sinking. He manages to save two of them, including a little blonde girl who should look somewhat familiar, before being overwhelmed by the raging sea and drowning (pass the Kleenex).

Message in a Bottle was produced at a time when simply uttering the phrase "Nicholas Sparks adaptation" in the presence of a Hollywood executive would result in an immediate green light, and while Panettiere's role was anything but major, the flick was a medium-sized hit. Box Office Mojo reports that the flick took in $118 million worldwide, raising Panettiere's profile significantly and proving that the young actress could handle herself in a live-action role (she had already turned in some pretty major voice work by this time, which we'll get to shortly). Her appearance in the movie led directly to another small part opposite a screen legend the following year — a part which, this time, had a little more meat on the bone.

Remember the Titans gave young Hayden Panettiere a bigger role

The 2000 sports drama Remember the Titans starred Denzel Washington as Coach Herman Boone, who in 1971 is tapped to be the head football coach for T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. The choice to have Boone coach the freshly-integrated school's team in a town where high school football is followed with near-religious fervor is controversial — but on board to help quell racial tensions is the former head coach, Bill Yoast (Will Patton), who serves as Boone's defensive coordinator. Panettiere portrays Yoast's precocious nine-year old daughter, Sheryl, who gets in several good lines — in particular, during a back-and-forth with the intensely charismatic Washington, in which the football-loving tyke voices her approval of the seasoned coach's approach to training camp.

Remember the Titans was based on a true story, and its rousing message of racial unity and triumphant yet tragedy-tinged finale has earned it a place among the ranks of great sports films. The modestly-budgeted picture was a financial and critical success: according to The Numbers, it scooped up $136 million at the global box office, good for Panettiere's third-highest grosser. It also won a slew of awards — including a Young Artist statue for Panettiere, who won the award for Best Performance in a Feature Film — Supporting Young Actress. In the years since, the flick has become a classic, despite of its often simplistic approach to race relations. In his review at the time, the great Roger Ebert wrote, "Victories over racism and victories over opposing teams alternate so quickly that sometimes we're not sure if we're cheering for tolerance or touchdowns. Real life is never this simple, but then that's what the movies are for — to improve on life, and give it the illusion of form and purpose."

Dinosaur was an ambitious picture in the early days of computer-animated films

Also in 2000, Panettiere turned in a voice performance in what would be the second-highest grossing entry in her filmography: the Disney computer animation-live action hybrid Dinosaur. The film was wildly innovative for its time, featuring CGI characters against live-action backgrounds, filmed in exotic locations around the world. Its $127 million budget was eye-popping for an animated feature, even by today's standards: according to Newsweek, it was the costliest animated flick ever produced at the time. But it was a gamble that mostly paid off — Dinosaur earned largely positive reviews, not to mention respectable box office receipts totaling $356 million globally, according to The Numbers.

Part of that Brontosaurus-sized budget could be chalked up to the flick's stellar voice cast, which included the likes of D.B. Sweeney, Alfre Woodard, Julianna Marguiles, Della Reese — and 11-year old Hayden Panettiere. She portrayed Suri, a young lemur whose family adopts Sweeney's Aladar, a heroic Iguanadon who helps a migrating pack of dinosaurs after the meteor that eventually results in the beasts' extinction crashes to Earth. While it hasn't exactly resonated in the popular consciousness in the years since its release, Dinosaur was a remarkable technical achievement, and a worthwhile film.

A Bug's Life featured Hayden Panettiere among its amazing voice cast

What is Panettiere's best-performing movie? That would be the 1998 Pixar classic, A Bug's Life, only the second feature from the venerable animation house, and one of Pixar's most underrated movies. Dave Foley led an all-star cast as Flik, an industrious ant who falls in with a bunch of circus fleas in his quest to secure a better food supply for his colony. Panettiere, only nine years old at the time of the film's release, appeared in a fairly major role as Dot, the daughter of princess and heir to the ant throne Atta, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. 

Aside from Panettiere and her young co-star Ashley Tisdale, the status of "Hollywood legend" was a seeming prerequisite for joining the supporting cast of A Bug's Life. The movie featured appearances by the likes of Phyllis Diller, Roddy McDowell, Edie McClurg, Jonathan Harris, and Alex Rocco, not to mention a raft of popular stars of the day like Frasier's David Hyde Pierce, Mad About You's Richard Kind, and motor-mouthed comedian Denis Leary.

A Bug's Life didn't quite reach the artistic high's of Pixar's first effort Toy Story — but then, few animated films do, and it was a delightful flick in its own right. The Numbers reports that it was also a roaring financial success, collecting $363 million worldwide and helping to solidify Pixar's burgeoning reputation as a purveyor of reliably high-quality, high-concept animated features — and to date, it's still Hayden Panettiere's all-time best box office performer.