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A Little Princess

Movie review by
Common Sense Me..., Common Sense Media
A Little Princess Movie Poster Image
Wonderful adaptation of classic book; some scary moments.
  • G
  • 1995
  • 97 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 25 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Tolerance of individual differences. Sara is accepting of everyone, including the "nerdy" girl at school, and she befriends the young black maid before she begins working with her. Sara also believes that "all girls are princesses" and repeats this phrase throughout the movie. Major themes include communication, compassion, empathy, and gratitude.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sara is kind and imaginative. She tries to befriend everyone in her school, including the "nerdy" girl and the black servant who's shunned by everyone else. She uses her imagination to cope with tremendous difficulties, including the perceived death of her father on a World War I battlefield and her subsequent descent into poverty.

Violence & Scariness

Difficult loss of Sara's father. Battle scenes with explosions in the background and dead bodies strewn over trenches. Neighbor finds out his son has died in the war. Mention of early death of Sara's mother. Scary escape scene where Sara almost falls from a great height. 

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Little girls find a bottle of alcohol (bitters) in the headmistress's office. Brandy drinking among adults, no drunkenness. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Little Princess is based on the classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett about an imaginative young girl who attends a strict girls' school. There's some war violence, including images of war with dead men strewn about trenches and explosions in the background. Her father is presumed dead, and much of the movie concerns Sara's struggles as a now-destitute orphan. Sara is a remarkable character, however. She always sticks up for herself and others and captivates all the schoolgirls with her imaginative stories, and encourages them to believe in themselves as she tells them that "all girls are princesses." Sara's retellings of the stories of Prince Rama and Princess Sita contain some monstrous imagery that might be scary for younger and more sensitive viewers. Some moments of bad behavior from little girls, including a girl who throws loud temper tantrums, and a snotty girl who acts superior and is shown dipping the hair of an unpopular girl into her ink well. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySirenStar November 4, 2011

Amazing family movie!! I'm 24 and still "believing in the magic"!!

I saw this movie when it first came to video when I was about 7. I loved it!! So many positive messages in the movie: friendship, treating everyone as equals, s... Continue reading
Parent of a 3, 6, and 13 year old Written bySuzy_Mum April 7, 2013

war themes - get your tween or teen girls to read the book instead

I was disappointed in this movie. I had just read the book which was much better. The movie changed some key details of the story. For example in the book the... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008
Teen, 16 years old Written bychartergirl July 31, 2009

one of my favorite movies

This movie was really sad but amazing at the same time.i cried about 8 or 9 times and i NEVER cry at movies.....until now!

What's the story?

In A LITTLE PRINCESS, motherless Sara Crewe (Liesel Matthews) is brought to Miss Minchin's boarding school by her father, who's heading off to war. She is the brightest girl in the school, with exquisite manners, but her odd fancies and her father's lavish provisions for her make the other girls uncomfortable or jealous. Her only friend in the school is Ermengarde (Heather DeLoach), a pudgy girl who has trouble with her lessons and is very grateful for Sara's attentions. Sara also befriends Becky (Vanessa Lee Chester), a scullery maid. When Captain Crewe is thought dead and his assets seized, Miss Minchin goes from doting on her to giving her the servant's quarters in the attic next to Becky.

Is it any good?

Based on the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett published in 1905, Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation has an appealing combination of magic, drama, boarding school bullies, and a resilient orphan. This probably made Cuaron a shoe-in for the job of directing the third Harry Potter movie a few years later.

Unlike Cedric in Little Lord FauntleroyA Little Princess's Sara Crewe can't be accused of being perfect, though she is not as deliciously unlikable as Mary in The Secret Garden. It takes her a long time to lose her temper and snap at Ermengarde, but she does, and she almost gives up hope. Although Sara is desperately hungry, she gives almost all her food to a beggar child who is even hungrier. Note the way that her compassion inspires others; the baker who watches her give the buns to the beggar child is so moved that she gives the child a home.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Sara's empathy and compassion for others in A Little Princess. Why are stories so important to her? How do they help her deal with her sadness? How do the stories she tells relate to what's going on in her life?

  • What challenges do you see in adapting a book like this into a movie?

  • What parts of life in the boarding school seem like they could be part of any other school at any other time, and what parts of life there seem like they were very much part of the early 20th century?

  • How does Sara demonstrate communication and gratitude in A Little Princess? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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