Throughout human history, there has been a constant theme of a child assuming the role of their parent in society, continuing a family tradition and expanding that family’s wealth and social status. This is no less true in Hollywood. The history of that movie-making town has been filled with several generations of the same family building their careers and reputations in the entertainment industry. So who are some of these families? How many of their members work in Hollywood? Find out more by reading this list!
Hollywood Dynasties Facts
42. My Filmography is Like a Photo Album
Oliver Stone’s son, Sean, has been acting since he was a baby. He first appeared on screen as a baby in his father’s film Salvador. He went on to appear in supporting roles in films that included Born on the Fourth of July, The Doors, JFK, and Natural Born Killers. Sean began directing with three behind-the-scenes documentaries for his father on the set of Alexander. He’s since gone on to direct a short film, a found-footage horror film, and has continued to act in various indie films such as Fury of the Fist and The Golden Fleece.
41. Scandinavian Screen Persona
Stellan Skarsgård is a name you’ve seen several times onscreen, no matter which genre of film you prefer. He’s a diverse Swedish actor who has been in all kinds of films, including Good Will Hunting, Dancer in the Dark, Cinderella, Thor, The Avengers, Mamma Mia!, and two of the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
40. Introducing My Boys
Keeping busy, Skarsgård has had eight children in his life, and four of his sons have followed their father into the film and TV industry. Alexander Skarsgård made his name appearing in such mini-series as Generation Kill and Big Little Lies, not to mention the hit HBO show True Blood. Gustaf is also prominent on TV, starring as Floki in Vikings on the History Channel. Bill has recently broken out as Pennywise the killer clown in the 2017 movie adaptation of Stephen King’s It and is now appearing on TV's Castle Rock. Valter is the youngest of Stellan's sons, focusing on Swedish films so far, but we can only imagine when it’s his turn to take over Hollywood!
39. Somewhere Over the Family Tree
It’s safe to say that Liza Minnelli has established herself as one of the great figures in musicals, with films like Cabaret and New York New York, as well as several stints on Broadway. This shouldn't be surprising for anyone who knows about her family; Minnelli is the daughter of Hollywood director Vincente Minnelli and legendary actress/singer Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz, A Star is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis).
38. Thanks, Bro!
Francis Ford Coppola is the only person in the history of Hollywood to direct his sibling in an Oscar-nominated performance. His sister, Talia Shire, received a nomination for her work in The Godfather: Part II. We’re assuming she would have thanked her big bro in her acceptance speech!
37. The Coppola Name
Speaking of the Coppolas, we have to point out just how many of them have appeared behind or in front of the camera across the years. Aside from director Francis Ford Coppola and his sister Talia Shire, we have to consider their father and uncle, Carmine and Anton Coppola, both composers. Then there’s their brother, August Coppola, a film executive. August’s son is none other than Nicolas Cage, but Cage’s brothers, Marc Coppola and Christopher Coppola, also work in the film industry. Meanwhile, Shire’s sons, Jason and Robert Schwartzman, followed their mother into the acting business. Finally, Francis’s daughter, Sofia, and son, Roman, are both screenwriters and directors in their own right. Talk about a showbiz family!
36. Impressive Record, Ivan
Though he's sadly maybe not a household name, it can't be denied that Ivan Reitman has made some of the funniest movies of the 20th century. This Slovak/Canadian filmmaker either produced or directed Ghostbusters, Animal House, Meatballs, Kindergarten Cop, and Stripes, among other classics. Unfortunately, he’s also been responsible for Ghostbusters II, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and Junior, so he wasn’t exactly perfect.
35. The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far
Rather than following his father’s footsteps as soon as he could, Jason Reitman avoided feature film directing in his 20s, preferring to do short films and commercials. In fact, he repeatedly turned down the chance to direct the film Dude, Where’s My Car? (to be fair, maybe that was just wise thinking). Reitman eventually did get into directing feature films, starting with the satire Thank You For Smoking, which was a critical and commercial success. Reitman followed it up with films like Juno, Labor Day, Tully, and Up in the Air.
34. Dynamic Duo at Work
In the late 2000s, Ivan and Jason Reitman put their heads together to work on an erotic thriller about a wife and mother who suspects her husband of having an affair, hiring an escort worker to try and seduce him to test his fidelity. Ivan was set to direct the film (marking a serious departure from his usual movies, to be sure) but he gave up after being unable to afford his dream cast. Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan was asked to direct the film instead, with the Reitmans producing. The movie, Chloe, became the highest-grossing film of Egoyan’s career and made the movie-going audience familiar with a whole new side of actress Amanda Seyfried.
33. TV Star
In addition to her father and brother, Catherine Reitman has been very busy making a name for herself in the film industry. Aside from appearing in such films as Knocked Up and I Love You, Man (which was produced by her father), Reitman has built up an impressive TV career. She appeared in shows like Weeds, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Blackish. Recently, she co-created the hit CBC comedy series Workin’ Moms, which just began filming its third season.
32. Family Selfies, Anyone?
In 2008, the Swedish period piece Arn – The Kingdom at Road’s End was released in its native country. The large cast featured Stellan Skarsgård, returning to his roots. Joining him were no fewer than three of his sons; Bill, Gustaf, and Valter were all part of the cast as well. No doubt Alexander felt left out later on!
31. The House of Huston
John Huston has been called one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of Hollywood, directing such classics as The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, The Man Who Would Be King, and even the first film adaptation of Annie! He was no stranger to entertainment, being the son of character actor and vaudevillian Walter Huston. Not only that, but his children followed in his footsteps. You might remember his daughter, Anjelica Huston, from such films as 50/50, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Addams Family, and This is Spinal Tap. John’s son, Danny Huston, has appeared in such films as The Proposition, Clash of the Titans, and Wonder Woman. Another of John’s sons, Tony, preferred to be a screenwriter instead of an actor, but Tony’s son, Jack Huston, has made his name with American Hustle, Boardwalk Empire, and Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film The Irishman.
30. A Green Family Tree
When it comes to Irish character actors, you can’t get much better than Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges, Braveheart, Cold Mountain, Gangs of New York, Calvary, etc.). You might also consider his son, Domhnall Gleeson, who’s been spending the last few years appearing in as many big films as he can, whether it’s The Revenant, the new Star Wars films, or even alongside his father in the Harry Potter films (Brendan played Mad-Eye Moody while Domhnall played Bill Weasley. Additionally, Domhnall’s brother, Brian, is also an actor, with films like Logan Lucky and Tiger Raid under his belt.
29. Codename Smith
We’d be very remiss if we didn’t mention one of the more recent family dynasties of Hollywood: the Smith family. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have both had impressive film and music careers, which they continue to this day. Their kids, meanwhile, have also joined in the fun. Jaden and Willow Smith have both began acting and music careers, albeit with varied success compared to their parents.
28. Senior Fairbanks
In the era of silent films, Hollywood found a star in Douglas Fairbanks. He spent the 1910s and 1920s playing such legendary swashbucklers as Robin Hood and Zorro. He also gave the press a field day when he married the equally famous actress Mary Pickford, solidifying his image as Hollywood royalty. Sadly, his career faded fast when Hollywood began developing “talkies,” which were movies that contained their own sounds, music, and dialogue. However, Fairbanks found a way to continue his legacy.
27. Junior Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. took after his famous father by having a Hollywood career, except for when he took the time to serve in the US Navy during the Second World War. Fairbanks Jr. established himself in such films as Little Caesar and even appeared in swashbuckler films like Sinbad the Sailor, following in his father's footsteps. Also, like his father, he embarked on a famous marriage to a Hollywood leading lady; in Jr.’s case, it was Joan Crawford.
26. A Star is Found
One of the biggest stars of Old Hollywood, Henry Fonda spent five decades appearing in classic film after classic film. His oeuvre included 12 Angry Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Once Upon a Time in the West (wherein he played his only villainous role), Young Mr. Lincoln, and The Ox-Bow Incident. However, despite his knack for it, his interest in acting didn’t begin until he was 20, when his mother’s friend encouraged him to audition for a part in an upcoming play. That friend, interestingly, was none other than Marlon Brando’s mother, so you can imagine that she knew talent when she saw it! Fonda would eventually be given an honorary Oscar in 1981, only to win a Lead Acting Oscar for On Golden Pond at the record-breaking age of 77.
25. See Jane Succeed
As famous and well-liked as Henry Fonda became, his daughter, Jane Fonda, became equally famous, albeit more controversially viewed. Fonda first came into the public eye because of her activism while protesting the Vietnam War. She even visited North Vietnam to see the effects of the war firsthand, earning outrage from the US military forces who nicknamed her “Hanoi Jane” in disgust. Fonda also established a successful acting career, trained in the Method Acting style by Lee Strasberg himself. She’s been nominated for seven Oscars, winning two, for Klute and Coming Home. Not exactly on par with Meryl Streep’s record, but it’s far better than most of us will ever do!
24. I’ll Show You!
According to Jason Reitman, he once asked his famous father why he never went to the Oscars. Ivan jokingly replied that he would go when he was nominated. Jason (who was only 12-years-old) then asked his dad if he’d go when Jason was nominated for one! Fittingly, Jason was proved correct after directing the Oscar-nominated film Juno in 2008. Later, he would even provide Ivan with his first Oscar nomination for co-producing Up in the Air.
23. Cloris Leachman’s Not My Grandmother Though
You might have seen Martha Plimpton in films such as Samantha, The Goonies, and The Mosquito Coast, and TV shows like The Good Wife or Raising Hope. Plimpton follows in the footsteps of both her parents, Shelley Plimpton and Keith Carradine, both actors on stage and on screen.
22. Acting Menagerie
Speaking of Martha Plimpton’s father, Keith Carradine is just one of a major acting family. Carradine’s father, John, began the acting tradition, frequently appearing the films of John Ford and Cecil B. DeMille. Carradine and his brothers, Robert and David, all have extensive credits to their name, even working together in the film Silverado. His niece, Ever Carradine, and his own daughters, Martha Plimpton and Sorel Carradine, are just the latest additions in a huge thespian tree.
21. The Start of a Dynasty
In the silent film era, Roy Redgrave became one of Hollywood's more well-known faces. His own son, Michael, joined his father in the industry, earning an Oscar nomination for the 1947 film Mourning Becomes Electra. Despite their fame, however, Michael’s children and grandchildren would reach to new heights above himself and Roy.
20. Royal Redgraves
Michael Redgrave’s children all followed their father and grandfather into the film industry. His son, Corin, became a well-known actor and activist in his own right, but it was his daughters, Lyn and Vanessa Redgrave, who outstripped them all. Both Lynn and Vanessa earned multiple Oscar nominations throughout their extensive careers, with Vanessa winning for her performance in Julia.
19. It Never Ends
Vanessa and Corin Redgrave have also produced acting children of their own. Corin’s daughter, Jemma Redgrave, and Vanessa’s daughters, Natasha and Joely Richardson, each built acting careers in the vein of their family’s traditions. Additionally, Natasha Richardson married Irish actor Liam Neeson and had two children with him; their son, Michael, is currently beginning his own career as an actor, making that the fifth generation of Redgrave in the industry. Tragically, Natasha's career would be cut short in 2009 after dying from injuries sustained in a skiing accident in Quebec.
Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson
18. Chopper Pete
Although he never won an Oscar like his dad or sister did, Peter Fonda’s influence in Hollywood can’t be doubted or ignored. Together with Dennis Hopper, he co-wrote and co-starred in the counterculture film Easy Rider, which featured Hopper, Fonda, and a then-unknown Jack Nicholson getting high for real on camera as they continued to stay in character. The film, made on less than half a million dollars, made $60 million and was hailed as a classic almost instantly upon release. Its radical style paved the way for the golden age of the 1970s. He also kept up a steady acting career, eventually being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his work on the film Ulee’s Gold.
17. The Third Generation Joins In
Peter Fonda’s daughter, Bridget, also entered the film industry, continuing the legacy of her family. Getting her big break in The Godfather: Part III, Fonda followed that up with roles in Lake Placid, Jackie Brown, A Simple Plan, and Scandal (which became her first Golden Globe nomination). She has since retired from acting, and in 2003 she married composer Danny Elfman, who, among many other classics, composed The Simpsons theme in 1989.
16. House Fonda Strikes Again
Bridget Fonda isn’t the only one of Henry Fonda’s grandchildren to carve out acting careers for themselves. Troy Garity, son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, got his big break playing Isaac Rosenberg in Barbershop. His most critically acclaimed role came with the TV movie Soldier’s Girl, which followed the true story of the relationship between US infantryman Barry Winchell and transgender actress Calpernia Addams. Garity also took main roles in the shows Boss and Ballers.
15. Loved Your Performance as the Virgin Queen!
It sometimes comes in handy when two generations are both actors, as they can play each other’s parents and children far more realistically than strangers might have done. This has happened quite frequently in Hollywood history, though. What happens less frequently is the idea of a mother and daughter pair of actresses playing the same person at different points in their lives. Such was the case with Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson, who both played Queen Elizabeth in Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous.
14. It Starts With Z
Behind the cameras, producers and studio leaders have organized Hollywood for decades. One of the biggest names in 1930s Hollywood was Darryl F. Zanuck. After breaking box office records with films under his company, 20th Century Pictures, Zanuck got big enough to purchase Fox Film Corp in 1935. Thus was 20th Century Fox created!
13. The Torch Passes On
While he was working as a producer, Darryl F. Zanuck was helped by his own son. Richard D. Zanuck became a huge name in his own right, forming Universal Pictures (so if you’re counting, that’s two big studios formed by the Zanuck family). Richard was responsible for such films as Jaws, Planet of the Apes, The Sound of Music, and six Tim Burton films. After he passed away, his own son, Dean Zanuck, continued in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, running the Zanuck Company.
12. That’s My Girl!
John Huston famously cast his daughter, Anjelica, in five of his movies. The highlight of those films was undoubtedly the Jack Nicholson comedy Prizzi’s Honor, which remains to be the only film where a father directed his daughter into an Oscar-winning performance!
11. No Relation
With all the family connections in Hollywood, you would think that Katherine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn were obviously related in some way. However, despite the unique name similarity, these two women weren’t related at all. It was just a massive coincidence, we guess!
10. Father & Son at the Oscars
Aside from telling us that it didn’t need “no stinking badges,” The Treasure of the Sierra Madre resulted in a few firsts when it came to relatives and the Academy Awards. It was the first and only time that a father and son were both nominated for Oscars in the same year, or for the same movie. John Huston won two Oscars for writing and directing his father, Walter, in an Oscar-winning performance. It was also the only instance in the Oscars’ history of a son directing his father into an Oscar-winning performance.
9. Blonde Bombshell
Jayne Mansfield was one of the biggest sex symbols in Hollywood during the 1950s and 1960s. Considering her long list of rivals included none other than Marilyn Monroe, Mansfield resorted to extreme measures to keep the attention on her. Aside from being “the first major American actress to have a nude starring role in a Hollywood motion picture,” Mansfield would also make use of wardrobe malfunctions to create scandalous moments in public. Tragically, Mansfield died at the age of 34 on the 28th of June 1967 when she was involved in an infamous car crash.
8. Benson the Brunette
Among the people in the car with Jayne Mansfield at the time of the crash was her daughter, three-year-old Mariska Hargitay. Surviving with minor injuries, Hargitay grew up to become an established actress in her own right. Her most famous role is as Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but she’s also appeared in Leaving Las Vegas, Lake Placid, and ER.
7. Are You a Sheen? Or an Estevez?
There are two generations of acting families who are divided between the stage name Sheen and their real family name, Estevez. Joe Estevez has long been a character actor in the business, while his brother Ramon is perhaps better known as Martin Sheen. Sheen’s own sons joined in the name change fun, with Charlie Sheen shedding his Latino roots to take on the more famous stage name and his older brother, Emilio Estevez, preferring to stick with his original name.
Charlie Sheen’s more recent problems have certainly become a memorable part of the Sheen/Estevez dynasty, but his father, Martin Sheen, had his own share on-set meltdowns and tabloid scandals in his time. During the filming of Apocalypse Now, his family had come to visit him in the Philippines. One night, after drinking heavily, Sheen and son Emilio Estevez got into a fight that turned physical. Hearing the noise, Sheen’s co-star came in to break up the fight. The costar? None other than Hollywood legend Marlon Brando.
While Sheen quit drinking in 1989, Estevez admitted that he grew up terrified of their father as a result of his behavior whenever he was drunk.
6. Family Project
In the 1990s, Emilio Estevez made a passion project titled The War at Home. It’s a deeply underrated drama about a family whose adult son is riddled with PTSD following his time as a soldier in the Vietnam War. Estevez not only directed and co-starred, he also filled up the cast with three generations of his family. His father, Martin Sheen, plays his father in the movie as well. His sister, Renee Estevez, acts as one of his extended family coming over for Thanksgiving, and his daughter, Paloma Estevez, appears in the film as a little girl who he talks to in the bus station. All we’re wondering is where Charlie Sheen and Joe Estevez had to be to avoid being in the film as well!
5. A Royal House from the North
One of the most prominent Canadian actors of the 20th and 21st centuries, Donald Sutherland has appeared in more films than we could count, and certainly more classics than we can briefly mention here. He’s been married three times in his life, with one of his partners being renowned actress and activist Shirley Douglas, whose father, politician Tommy Douglas, was voted the Greatest Canadian of all time in a 2004 CBC event. Douglas and Sutherland would have three children together, one of them being Kiefer Sutherland, who’s also made too many great films and shows for us to start rattling off.
4. Successors to the Sutherland Name
Both Donald and Kiefer would continue to produce children to join in the family business of acting. Donald divorced Shirley Douglas in 1970, eventually marrying Francine Racette. Two of his sons from that marriage, Rossif and Angus Sutherland, joined their father and half-brother in the film industry. Meanwhile, Kiefer Sutherland’s daughter, Sarah, has made a name for herself on the show Veep. And one of Donald's lesser-known children? That would be John O'Riordan, son of prominent Canadian artist Louise Scott—Sutherland's own cousin. The union was a well-kept secret until Louise Scott's death, when an obituary outed Sutherland as John's father.
3. The Barrymore Name
Speaking of Hollywood’s silent era, another star from that time was John Barrymore. Barrymore’s parents were both stage actors whose families had long worked in the theatre. Nicknamed the Great Profile, Barrymore’s talent was evident from his highly praised film and theatre work during the 1920s, and thanks to his theatre experience, he was able to maintain his career when sound became commonplace in film. However, his star faded with the passing of the 1930s due in part to chemical dependency, multiple divorces, and a career which turned to “self-parody.”
2. Lionel and Ethel
Acting wasn’t just limited to John Barrymore; his siblings also followed him into the business. Ethel Barrymore made several films, since most of her family on both sides was already in the film industry, but it was on stage where she really shone. In a stage career lasting sixty years, Ethel was known as “The First Lady of the American Theatre.” Lionel Barrymore, meanwhile, became a well-known character actor, best known for playing the evil businessman Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life, the film you’ve all seen every year around Christmas.
1. Good Times, Hard Times
Unfortunately, John Barrymore’s children and grandchildren would also be affected by addiction, despite their success in film and television. Barrymore’s son, John D. Barrymore, saw his acting career founder prematurely as his physical and mental health declined over the last half of his life. His own children, which include actors John and Drew Barrymore (yes, that Drew Barrymore), were also afflicted by serious drug and alcohol problems throughout their acting careers. John Drew Barrymore most likely would've found more Hollywood success if not for his antisocial behavior on set, and he was plagued by arrests for drug use, public intoxication, and worst of all, domestic abuse. He had four children by four different women, many of whom would be estranged from him at different times, including Drew. Despite this, when he fell ill, she paid for his medical bills. Another of his children, Drew's half-sister Jessica, died by suspected suicide in 2014, just ten years after the death of their father.