In the 2004 film Saved! Jena Malone got top billing in her first role as the primary star. In 2012 Malone also starred in a two-part series on the YouTube channel 'Wigs' entitled "Dakota" as the mini-series' title character. She attended the Professional Children's School for the ninth grade in New York and quit it after a year when Jena Malone became legally emancipated in January 2000.
Malone is also an experimental musician who has released music both under her own name and as "The Shoe". She made her movie debut with the film Bastard Out of Carolina (1996) and has appeared in films including Contact (1997) Stepmom (1998) Donnie Darko (2001) Saved! (2004) Into the Wild (2007) The Ruins (2008) Sucker Punch (2011) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) the second film in the adaptation of the Hunger Games trilogy as Johanna Mason.