A Dog of Flanders

Old-fashioned, sentimental tale of determination.
  • Review Date: August 3, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1959
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Whipping of dog implied. Windmill blades kill a villainous dog-beater.


Faint implication that the artist and his model are lovers; her nude back is shown.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this video shows many deeply affecting scenes involving a beaten dog, and the death of a grandfather. It also depicts the death of a dog-abuser by a windmill blade, which some younger children may not understand.

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What's the story?

While struggling with poverty and becoming an artist, a poor orphaned Flemish boy named Nello (David Ladd) rescues and befriends a dog.

Is it any good?


A DOG OF FLANDERS is a fine, though unabashedly sentimental, story of triumph over adversity, but children expecting the dog to play a major role may be disappointed. This earlier version of the classic novel is slightly better than the more recent movie. Ladd, as the young hero of the movie, speaks his lines too carefully, but the rest of the cast, including Theodore Bikel, does a convincing job. It moves slowly, imparting lots of information about 19th-century Flanders and the training and work of an artist, but the material is always interesting and well integrated into the story.

An 11-year-old viewer wondered aloud about the title of A Dog of Flanders when so much of the movie is about Nello's determination to become a painter rather than his rescue of the dog. But she was entirely engrossed in the movie and cried -- hard -- when the grandfather died, leaving Nello and his dog alone and hungry. Although it is slow-paced, this is fine family fare, old-fashioned in its sentimentality and fairly educational.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the tragedy here. Many popular films for kids have sad elements -- like Bambi or Finding Nemo. Why do you think that is? Do kids gain anything from this painful plotting?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 17, 1959
DVD release date:September 12, 1991
Cast:David Ladd, Donald Crisp, Theodore Bikel
Director:James B. Clark
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Run time:96 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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