The Complete Transformation Of Jennifer Garner From Childhood To 50 Years Old

When Jennifer Garner was granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, her "13 Going on 30" co-star Judy Greer told the crowd, "I am here to tell you that Jennifer Garner is not just like us. She is better than us. And not because she's a star, but because that's just who she is." Greer added that Garner was a great mother, a superb actor, and was very funny, concluding, "She is so beautiful and so stinking smart, and she can beat up bad guys and save the children."

What Greer is getting at is Garner's versatility. She made her career as an action star in "Alias," but she's just as comfortable playing the loving mother of a gay teenager in "Love, Simon." She's a beloved on-screen romantic lead in rom-coms like the aforementioned "13 Going on 30," and when she starred on Broadway in a reinterpretation of "Cyrano de Bergerac," the play's director David Leveaux told New York magazine, "She's very direct; you can actually watch the mind working. Which is deeply French." (A compliment, we think.)

In other words, Garner's career is one of constant transformation and reinvention, from a**-kicking sex symbol to mother, from smaller TV roles to leading lady, from acclaimed actor to tabloid fixture (thanks to her rollercoaster of a marriage to Ben Affleck). Here's a look back at the transformation of Jennifer Garner, from childhood to 50 years old.

She loved to perform as a child

Jennifer Garner grew up in West Virginia as the middle child of two other sisters. On Instagram, for National Middle Child Day, she shared a pic of herself and her siblings on a boat, writing that she was an "Attention seeker," "Melodramatic," and a "Peacekeeper" when she was little. She loves sharing throwback photos of herself on Instagram, in fact, from Halloween costumes, to childhood yoga poses, to several yearbook photos depicting embarrassing haircuts.

Garner loved performing from an early age. In one snap, she recalled, "this girl took violin in school for six years and was so bad that her mother offered to pay her $5 to never play again." Dance, though, she excelled in. One throwback photo on Instagram shows the future star grinning widely in a pink and red tutu; "Same ears, same chin, same turnout," she wrote. She told Rolling Stone that she picked it up in part because her older sister gave it up. "I think that made me get more serious about it. I definitely have the middle-child thing of 'Give me attention!,'" she explained, insisting to Vanity Fair that she practiced a lot. "I danced six hours a day," she recalled.

Her love of dance would last for years; in 2021, Garner shared a video of herself practicing ballet (via E! News). "Bless this old gal's heart," she wrote. "She hasn't held a fourth position in a good couple decades."

She starred in one of Law & Order's best episodes

Like many actors, a young Jennifer Garner got one of her first big acting opportunities on what Timothée Chalamet called "the mothership" when speaking with Elleniconic long-running NBC procedural "Law & Order." Garner played Jaime in one of the show's most critically-acclaimed episodes, "Aftershock," and her character catches the eye of Benjamin Bratt's Detective Rey Curtis. The episode tells the story of what happened to three of the show's main characters after the investigation and trial of a crime, unlike the vast majority of installments. (Coincidentally, a few years later Garner also acted in a 1999 television miniseries called "Aftershock," a disaster movie about New York City being destroyed by a devastating earthquake.)

Garner is regularly featured in marathons of "Law & Order" episodes that emphasize just how many now-famous people were cast in small roles on the show before they skyrocketed to fame; a clip from her episode appeared in a promotional video for one such marathon, "Guest Stars to Superstars," on Sundance TV.

She married Scott Foley

Jennifer Garner had a guest stint on "Felicity" in 1998, and the show did more than just advance her career: it introduced her to her first husband, Scott Foley. Though the two played boyfriend and girlfriend on three episodes of the show, Garner later told Rolling Stone that it took a while for their off-screen romance to heat up. "He didn't even kiss me until we'd been doing this for several weeks, and we'd already taken our shirts off and made out on the show," she said.

They married in 2000 and were red carpet regulars for a couple of years. Unfortunately, the marriage would ultimately be short-lived; Garner would soon get cast on "Alias," and her fame reached new heights. Although there were rumors that they might have cheated on one another, Foley told TV Guide (via People) that there were no affairs. "Jennifer became a huge celebrity," he explained. "She became a huge star, and she deserved everything she got. There was no other relationship, there was no infidelity, nothing. People get divorced, you know?"

Many years later, Garner told Allure (via E! News) that she still viewed him fondly, but the marriage just didn't work. "He's a great guy," she insisted. "We were full-on grown-ups, but looking back I'm aware we did not know what hit us... He's a really good guy, and we just imploded."

Her Alias: Sydney Bristow

After guest-starring on "Felicity," Jennifer Garner was chosen to lead the cast of creator J.J. Abrams' next show, "Alias." She played Sydney Bristow, a super-spy grad student trying to unravel a complicated conspiracy between the CIA and a rogue organization; in the show's pilot episode, she wore an instantly-iconic red wig. Though the role shot Garner to fame as a bada** action lead, she told Rolling Stone that the show actually started to give her nightmares about how she'd act if someone were to break into her house. "If it happened in real life? God forbid... I'd probably do a really good elbow and a really good knee to the nuts. I've got those up my sleeve, at least," she said.

The show won her multiple accolades, including a Golden Globe in 2002. When she won best actress for a TV drama, she thanked Abrams and joked, "I don't know why you cast me in this role. I don't know why you thought I could do it. I know I was good in 'Dude, Where's My Car?', but seriously?" 

"When I came up with Alias, she was pretty much the only person I had in my head," Abrams later told W. "Before we cast her, there were people who questioned: 'Is she tough enough? Is she sexy enough?' Two minutes later she was on the cover of every magazine, and no one was saying those things anymore."

Her iconic 13 Going on 30 dance

One of Jennifer Garner's most iconic roles reflects the real-life process of transformation, that people change, both physically and metaphorically, as they age. In "13 Going on 30," Garner played a 13-year-old girl who wakes up to find herself at age 30. Though she'd made her career as an action star in "Alias" and "Daredevil," she told that she approached comedies the same way. "You have to commit to it. You can't hide in an action scene. You can't think, 'Oh, I'll halfway do this,'" she explained. "And you can't hide in a comedy scene either. You have to give into the scene and commit."

The film became a classic in part because of the movie's instantly-memorable dance number, which saw Garner dancing to "Thriller" in a colorful Versace dress that now signifies everything good and bad about '00s fashion. The film was later referenced by Ariana Grande multiple times, including in her "thank u, next" music video and on "The Voice," where the pint-sized pop star wore the dress.

Years later, Garner reflected on the film's staying power in an episode of "Hot Ones." While chowing down on spicy chicken wings, she suggested that the movie has stuck around because many 13-year-olds wish they were older, and many 30-year-olds wish they could be young again. "It's just so whimsical and it was actually such a perfectly constructed movie," she explained.

Bennifer 2.0 married in 2005

In 2001, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner starred together in Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor." A few years later, they reunited in "Daredevil," wherein Garner played Elektra to Affleck's titular superhero. At first, although there were rumors that something had sparked between the two, Affleck was engaged to a different Jennifer — Lopez — and Garner was still married to Scott Foley. By early 2004, though, they were both single and decided to give it a go. Bennifer 2.0 was born.

She later told Parade that their courtship was, at first, email-based. "He's a very persuasive writer," she said. Affleck, for his part, was reportedly upset that Garner had revealed this particular detail about their relationship; speaking with Access Hollywood (via Daily Star), he said, "Sounds like the kind of thing that my wife was looking for something to say in the interview."

They married shortly after they started dating — a mere ten months later — as Garner quickly found herself pregnant with her first child. "We were together a year, and we just started breeding," she later joked to W magazine. According to Us Weekly, they were married two months after Affleck proposed, and their Caribbean wedding was officiated by Victor Garber, who played Garner's father on "Alias." She later recalled to InStyle (via People), "We were babies. It happened so fast, I hardly remember what we were like before the kids got here."

Juno won her critical acclaim

Fresh off the end of "Alias" in 2006, Jennifer Garner set aside her action-star persona and took a role in a quirky indie comedy instead. In Jason Reitman's "Juno," Garner starred as a woman hoping to adopt a pregnant teenager's baby. She told Entertainment Weekly that she based her icy character on someone, but refused to say who. "What happens in this movie forces the character to open up bit by bit. I think she just wants this baby, and she thinks the way to go about it is to be as appealingly 'Leave It to Beaver' as possible. And she just forgets to add the human being in there." The role won her significant critical acclaim, including from the film's director, who later told The Hollywood Reporter that the moment where Garner's character reacts to feeling the baby kick is "one of the greatest pieces of acting I've ever seen on any set."

Her role in "Juno" would set her up for a number of recurring collaborations later in life. Garner and her co-star Jason Bateman worked together again that same year in "The Kingdom," and she would reunite with Reitman years later when she starred in his film "Men, Women, and Children." She also kept in touch with her breakout co-star in the film, Elliot Page, who later came out as trans. Garner offered support on Instagram (via ET), writing, "Major, huge love to you, Elliot."

She had her second child in 2009

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck's second daughter, Seraphina, was born in 2009. Garner told the Mirror a few months later that she wasn't focused on getting back in shape but was just trying to eat well. "I'm doing what I can," she said. "I try to eat in a way that makes me feel good. If that means a little bite of chocolate I do that, but I try not to use food as a reward for myself." She added that she aimed to work out twice a week, leaving it at that.

Later that year, she gave an interview to W magazine and talked about the pressures of motherhood, emphasizing that she has help raising her kids. However, she did clarify that she makes her own baby food for her daughter. "It's a little over the top," she admitted. "And I tell myself, 'Just give her a jar of food and forget about it! Don't be so precious!' But it's so easy — I just puree and freeze." The mom-of-two wanted to keep acting as much as she could, but Garner always prioritized being with her children.

Back to work in Dallas Buyers Club

In 2009, Jennifer Garner starred in "The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" opposite Matthew McConaughey, back when he was still in his rom-com phase. A few short years later, the rom-com genre was no longer the box office juggernaut it had once been. In 2013, amidst the so-called McConaughssaince, the former co-stars reunited in Jean-Marc Vallee's Oscar-winning film "Dallas Buyers Club," a drama about a man with HIV. Garner told Collider that she was glad for the death of the rom-com, though she'd enjoyed her time in the genre. "Probably the best thing that happened to a lot of us is that romantic comedies have finally been dug and put into a hole in the ground. They were a great job and really fun to do," she said, adding, "This [film] is not one."

She had just given birth to her third child and later told PBS that she only took the role because her agent pressured her into working again before she was ready. Being on set as a new mother had its challenges. "My boobs were freaking out," she said. "It was bedtime and we were doing some scene that was supposed to be light, and I started crying." She wanted to quit, but her co-star convinced her to stick around. McConaughey worked it out so that she could pump privately, and she stayed in the film, which ultimately garnered her and the cast a SAG nomination.

She confirmed her 'baby bump' in 2014

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck had their third baby, a son named Sam, in February 2012 (per Us Weekly). She told Conan O'Brien that having a third child was more stressful than she expected, joking, "You know how two feels like six? Three just put me right over the edge." Apparently, her husband wanted another kid, but Garner insisted that she was done after having her third.

A couple years later, rumors flew that she was, after all, pregnant with a fourth child. According to People, the speculation was sparked by paparazzi photos showing the "Butter" star in loose-fitting shirts, but her representative denied she was pregnant in a statement to the magazine, telling them plainly, "Not true."

Shortly thereafter, on "The Ellen Degeneres Show," Garner gave a master class in how to gracefully respond to rumors like this that focus on inspecting a woman's body. She said that, despite receiving congratulations from across the spectrum — including from people she knew in real life — Garner was not, in fact, having another child. However, she openly admitted that she still had a bump left over from carrying three kids, and she was fine with the fact that it wasn't going to go away. "From now on, ladies, I will have a bump, and it will be my baby bump, and let's just all settle in and get used to it," she said. "It's not going anywhere."

She has a side gig as a credit card spokeswoman

Though Jennifer Garner worked consistently throughout the 2010s, her biggest cultural impact that decade might just be her Capital One commercials, where the grinning actor famously asks the camera, "What's in your wallet?" Sometimes she's in an airport; sometimes she's on a cloud where people are playing musical chairs; sometimes it's a library. One thing's for sure, no matter where Garner is: she insists that the Capital One Venture Card will solve all your problems. Okay, Jen!

One such commercial in 2016 paired the actor with her own father. "When I first started working with Capital One, my dad called them up and asked for the Jennifer Garner card, which is such a dad thing to do," the actor revealed in a video shared exclusively with People. The anecdote reflected The Ringer's assertion that people didn't really understand or care about what she was selling, they just loved that she was the one selling it. 

Celebrity Net Worth estimates that her endorsement with Mercedes was a $15 million to $20 million 5-year deal, so perhaps her Capital One work came with a similar payout, helping Garner's net worth climb to around $80 million.

She drove her estranged husband to rehab

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck announced that they were planning to split in 2015 and ultimately filed for divorce in 2017. The following year, while legal proceedings were still in progress, paparazzi captured them in the car, showing Jen driving Ben to rehab — including an infamous pit stop at a Jack in the Box. TMZ reported that Garner had staged an intervention for her husband, and that Affleck didn't need much convincing to seek help. Shortly after the incident, she filed to speed up the divorce (per ET), and it was finalized later that year.

Sources told In Touch that Garner was proud of her ex-husband for getting sober, explaining, "It's been a long hard process, but he's finally on the straight and narrow."

Later, amid his rekindled relationship with Jennifer Lopez, Affleck told Howard Stern (via Access) that he felt "trapped" with Garner and had resumed drinking because of that. "I was like, 'I can't leave because of my kids, but I'm not happy, what do I do?'" he reflected (via In Touch). According to sources who spoke with In Touch, Garner was reportedly upset he had gone public with those feelings, and Affleck later cleared things up on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." After insisting things had been taken out of context, he clarified, "It's the exact opposite of who I am, what I believe. And I would never want my kids to think I would ever say a bad word about their mom."

She kept busy during quarantine

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Hollywood was forced to shut down production, a short-form streaming service launched to little fanfare. Quibi came and went in the space, of, well, "a quick bite," but not before debuting an intriguing way for actors stuck at home to entertain their fans anyway. "Home Movie: The Princess Bride" was a chapter-by-chapter retelling of the classic fantasy film, with various actors including Javier Bardem, Finn Wolfhard, and Sarah Silverman taking over playing iconic characters such as Iñigo Montoya, Westley, and Princess Buttercup in each successive installment. The catch: the stars filmed themselves in each part, with whatever costumes they had lying around the house, from wherever they were quarantining. The short-lived streaming service donated a million dollars to the World Central Kitchen on behalf of the show, according to Vanity Fair.

Jennifer Garner participated, playing Princess Buttercup in Episode 7 of the star-studded show in a blonde wig and what appears to be a blanket draped around her shoulders. Garner promoted her episode on Instagram, writing that she credited director Jason Reitman — with whom she had worked on both "Juno" and "Men, Women, and Children" — with convincing the cast to sign up. "Thank you for the reason to play dress up and have a laugh — you are the best, Jason," she wrote.

She reunited with Mark Ruffalo in 2022

In 2022, Jennifer Garner starred in "The Adam Project," a film for Netflix about a time-traveling Ryan Reynolds trying to stop time travel from being invented. Garner told India Today that her fellow cast members were a big part of why she signed up for the project. "I always wanted to play [Ryan Reynolds'] mom!" she joked; the actor is, of course, only 4.5 years older than her on-screen son.

However, the casting held another attraction for Garner: it offered the opportunity to reunite with her "13 Going on 30" co-star, Mark Ruffalo. They played love interests in the older rom-com, and in the newer sci-fi flick, they star as husband and wife. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly posted to Instagram, the pair discussed what it was like to work together again after so many years apart. ("Eighteen years!" Reynolds goaded, clearly trying to make them feel old). Ruffalo was the first to answer, telling the magazine, "It was so sweet. We had traveled such a long journey." Garner elaborated on the collaboration, explaining, "There was such a comfort of feeling really known underneath all the trappings of life."

Ahead of the release of the film, Garner shared a pic on Instagram depicting their transformation over the years. While filming "The Adam Project," it seems they recreated a scene from "13 Going on 30" and cuddled up together on a couch, proving that the more things change, the more they stay the same.