When she was only five years old, Drew Barrymore followed in her family’s footsteps and made her acting debut in 1980. From her role as Elliot’s adorable little sister, Gertie, in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial to becoming the host of her own talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show, Barrymore has spent most of her life in the spotlight. In honor of her 46th birthday on Feb. 22, we’ve rounded up the highlights of her last four decades. Keep reading to see photos of Drew Barrymore from 1978 to 2021, and for more stars who also found fame at a young age, check out The Biggest Child Actors Ever, Then and Now.
Here's Barrymore in 1978 at the mere age of three. The young actor was about to book her first film role, a bit part in the 1980 horror movie Altered States. That year, she also had a small role in the television movie Bogie, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
And for more famous faces who appeared in scary movies, check out the 30 Celebrities You Forgot Were in Horror Movies.
Barrymore's acting career continued to soar when she won the part of Gertie in one of the highest-grossing films of all time, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which was released in the summer of 1982. In the fall of that year, Barrymore also hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live at the age of seven, making her the youngest person to ever host the show.
And for more memorable SNL hosts, for the wrong reasons, check out This Is the Worst "SNL" Host of All Time, Cast Says.
At just nine years old, Barrymore won the lead role of Charlene McGee, a young girl with pyrokinesis, in the 1984 horror film Firestarter, which was based on Stephen King's 1980 novel of the same name. That year, she also appeared in the dramedy Irreconcilable Differences, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Here she is at the Screen Actors Guild 50th Anniversary Party in 1984.
And for more on beloved movies from the era, check out 30 Movie Quotes Every '80s Kid Knows by Heart.
At the age of 14 (pictured here), Barrymore was emancipated from her parents, actors Jaid Barrymore and John Drew Barrymore, who were divorced. Prior to her emancipation, 13-year-old Barrymore was in rehab for drug addiction and put in a mental institution by her mother. "It was like serious recruitment training and boot camp, and it was horrible and dark and very long-lived, a year and a half, but I needed it," Barrymore told The Guardian in 2015 about the experience.
In 1990, Barrymore published her first autobiography, Little Girl Lost, which she wrote with author Todd Gold. The following year, she continued on with her acting career and made a cameo in the movie Motorama. Here she is at the 1991 Los Angeles premiere of the movie The Indian Runner, directed and written by Sean Penn.
The following year was a busy one for 17-year-old Barrymore with roles in three films: The Amy Fisher Story, Poison Ivy, and Guncrazy, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.
In 1994, Barrymore married Los Angeles bar owner Jeremy Thomas in a surprise wedding at the age of 19. The next day, she went back to filming Boys on the Side with Whoopi Goldberg. Barrymore later told Goldberg on an episode of The Drew Barrymore Show that she was "embarrassed" by her split-decision to marry Thomas one weekend. The two divorced just a couple of months later.
And for more celebrity marriages that were short-lived, check out the 16 Celebrity Marriages That Lasted Less Than a Year.
While 1995 may be best known as the year of Barrymore's infamous interview on The Late Late Show, where she danced on a table and flashed host David Letterman, it was also a big one for her career. She co-founded her production company, Flower Films, and appeared in the box office hit Batman Forever as Sugar, Two-Face's "good" assistant. Here she is at the premiere of Boys on the Side, which also came out that year.
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The first film in the Scream franchise was released in 1996, with Barrymore opening the film in what's become an iconic scene. That year, the actor (pictured here at the premiere of the Quentin Tarantino–Robert Rodriguez movie From Dusk Till Dawn) also appeared in the Woody Allen musical-comedy Everyone Says I Love You.
In 1997, Barrymore—here at a celebration for Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor—started to make the transition to romantic comedies. She starred in two that year, Wishful Thinking (with Jennifer Beals and Jon Stewart) and Best Men (with Luke Wilson).
Barrymore's reign in the onscreen romance department continued in 1998, when she played Adam Sandler's love interest in The Wedding Singer, starred in Home Fries (again with Wilson), and was the lead in the fairytale adaptation Ever After (pictured here).
Here's Barrymore in 1999 at the "Saturday Night Live 25" Television Special Celebration. That year, Flower Films released its first movie, Never Been Kissed, which also starred Barrymore and became an iconic teen movie.
Barrymore's success as a producer was solidified in 2000, when she produced Charlie's Angels, which she starred in alongside Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu. She also met her second husband, Tom Green, working on the film. The pair—pictured here at the premiere—got married in July 2001, but divorced in December of that year.
The year 2001 was another big one for Barrymore: She produced and starred in the cult hit Donnie Darko (here she is at the premiere) and took a dramatic turn in Riding in Cars With Boys about a teen mother who struggled to find success.
Barrymore and Sandler teamed up for another romantic comedy in 2004, 50 First Dates. That year, she was also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, as you can see here.
And to see which celebrities said "no" to this honor, check out 11 Stars Who Turned Down a Spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Barrymore released two big movies in 2007: one was the rom-com Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant (pictured here) and the other was the drama Lucky You with Eric Bana, further cementing her spot as one of Hollywood's top leading ladies.
And for more movie romances, check out This Is the Best Romantic Comedy of All Time, According to Critics.
In addition to appearing in the romantic comedy He's Just Not the Into You and the drama Everybody's Fine at the end of the 2000s, Barrymore hit another milestone. She executive produced and directed her first feature, Whip It, a film about roller derby starring Elliot Page. It premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, where Barrymore is pictured here.
After nearly 30 years in the business, 2010 was the year Barrymore earned rave reviews for her performance as Edith Bouvier Beale (AKA "Little Edie") in the HBO movie Grey Gardens. She won a slew of awards for the role, including a Golden Globe and SAG Award. Here she is at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards, where she received the Vanguard Award.
Also in 2010, her romantic comedy Going the Distance was released, co-starring Justin Long, whom Barrymore had dated from 2007 to 2008.
In early 2011, Barrymore started dating art consultant William Kopelman (pictured here), who she went on to marry in 2012. That year, they had their first daughter, Olive.
In 2014, Barrymore and Sandler got together for a third romantic comedy, Blended, where she played the role of Lauren Reynolds. Here she is at the 40th Annual People's Choice Awards in 2014. Later that year, she also welcomed her second daughter, Frankie.
In July 2016, Barrymore and Kopelman released a statement that they had officially filed for divorce. But professionally, Barrymore continued to hustle, appearing on an episode of the Bravo series Odd Mom Out and executive producing the rom-com How to Be Single, starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, and Leslie Mann.
In 2017, Barrymore—pictured here at that year's Golden Globe Awards—moved to the small screen with the hit Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet, which earned her rave reviews. Rolling Stone said the success of the series hinged on the "uncrushable Drew Barrymore charm."
Also in 2017, she launched her own women's fashion line called Dear Drew, with Amazon.
Santa Clarita Diet wrapped in 2019, and that year, Barrymore also launched her home decor line with Walmart, the Drew Barrymore Flower Home collection.
While 2020 brought a new set of challenges for everyone, Barrymore managed to flourish, launching her own talk show, The Drew Barrymore Show, in September, and releasing The Stand In, which she starred in and executive produced, in December.
Throughout 2021, Barrymore has continued to film her talk show in front of a virtual audience, with some guests joining her on set (six feet apart) and others via Zoom. For her birthday show, which aired on Feb. 22, she was joined by co-host Savannah Guthrie and tons of surprise guests, including one shock in particular. To learn more, check out Drew Barrymore Just Got Emotional Over This Birthday Surprise.