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Foster's first film release after the success of The Accused was the thriller The Silence of the Lambs (1991).She played FBI trainee Clarice Starling, who is sent to interview incarcerated serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in order to solve another serial murder case; Foster later named the role one of her favorites.
Her other films in the 1990s included period drama Sommersby, Western comedy Maverick (1994), science fiction film Contact (1997), and period drama Anna and the King (1999).
Her other films released in 1977 were the Italian comedy Casotto (1977), and the Disney heist film Candleshoe (1977), which was filmed in England and co-starred veteran actors David Niven and Helen Hayes.
After its release, Foster did not appear in any new releases until 1980, the year she turned eighteen.
I had a prodigious life, living in a grown-up world when I was a child.
But I think my abilities were about perceptiveness and they were about examining psychology and examining people and relationships.
And I had instincts about adult stories that I shouldn't have known anything about.
That's very different to all those really cool prodigies that can play piano. I found, at a very young age, even though it's not my personality to be an actor, a way of expressing myself that allowed me to not be so lonely." Its director Alan Parker was impressed by her, saying that "she takes such an intelligent interest in the way the film is being made that if I had been run over by a bus I think she was probably the only person on the set able to take over as director." She gained several positive notices for her performance: Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated that "at thirteen she was already getting the roles that grown-up actresses complained weren't being written for women anymore", She played a tomboy teen who accidentally changes bodies with her mother; she later stated that her character's desire to become an adult was matched by her own feelings at the time, and that the film marked a "transitional period" for her when she began to grow out of child roles.Foster later commented on the controversy saying that she hated "the idea that everybody thinks if a kid's going to be an actress it means that she has to play Shirley Temple or someone's little sister." She described Taxi Driver as a life-changing experience and stated that it was "the first time anyone asked me to create a character that wasn't myself.It was the first time I realized that acting wasn't this hobby you just sort of did, but that there was actually some craft." Taxi Driver was a critical and commercial success, and earned her a supporting actress Academy Award nomination, as well as two BAFTAs, a David di Donatello and a National Society of Film Critics award."I wasn't a science prodigy or a math prodigy ...She gained positive notices for her performances in Adrian Lyne's debut feature film Foxes (1980), which focuses on the lives of Los Angeles teenagers, and Carny (1980), in which she played a waitress who runs away from her former life by joining a touring carnival.Aware that child stars are often unable to successfully continue their careers into adulthood, Foster became a full-time student at Yale in fall 1980, and her acting career slowed down in the following five years.Foster has said she loved acting as a child, and values her early work for the experience it gave her: "Some people get quick breaks and declare, 'I'll never do commercials! ' I want to tell them, 'Well, I'm real glad you've got a pretty face, because I worked for 20 years doing that stuff and I feel it's really invaluable; it really taught me a lot.'" Foster's mother was concerned that her daughter's career would end by the time she grew out of playing children, and decided that to ensure continued work and to gain greater recognition, Foster should also begin acting in films for adult audiences.