Anna and the King



Intense, mature version of The King and I.
  • Review Date: May 20, 2003
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 147 minutes

What parents need to know


Violent battles, whipping, beheading.


References to concubines, adultery.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking, King smokes cigars, child smokes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there is some very intense violence, including battle scenes, bloody beatings, and non-graphic but very tense beheadings. Dead bodies hang from a tree and soldiers are poisoned. There is a very sad death of a child. There are references to the king's many wives and concubines and one reluctant concubine is shown being prepared for her first night with him, and being reassured that he is a generous lover. The king smokes cigars and the boys try one.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Jody Foster plays Anna, a widowed Englishwoman who lived most of her life in India. The king hires her to teach his children about the world outside of Siam. She respects the king's culture, but she is appalled by the cruel treatment of bonded servants and urges him to make changes. The king is very progressive in some ways. He respects her independent spirit and values her counsel, but he forbids her to talk to her students about that issue. Siam is independent, but bounded by colonies of France and England, and vulnerable. Anna aids the King in persuading the English that Siam is stable and "civilized." And when the King and his children are in danger, Anna provides support.

Is it any good?


ANNA AND THE KING is the fourth movie version of the story of Anna Leonowens, brought to Siam in 1864 by King Monghut to teach his children. Anna and the King end up teaching each other a few things, too. Of course, the best-remembered version is the classic with Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr, and the unforgettable songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein. This version has spectacle to spare, but no "Getting to Know You," no "Whistle a Happy Tune," no genuine connection between the two leads (though viewers are supposed to believe that they are in love with one another), and a script that teeters between stolid and awful.

It's best to watch this movie with your eyes more than your ears. It is a visual treat. Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (The Black Stallion) creates stunning images of splendor. But the dialogue is dreadful and the plot does not hold together, especially in a bizarre Mulan-style rescue. Worst of all is the all-but-loony way that the two leads, both playing highly principled people deeply aware of their responsibilities, linger over a goodbye when the bad guys are charging, dance romantically in the middle of a state dinner, and generally act like Archie and Veronica at the malt shop.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about cultural diversity and how we distinguish between fundamental truths and cultural differences, the challenges of power (for example, the constant threats from those who want to seize it), and the importance of surrounding ourselves with people who tell us the truth, even when it is hard to hear.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 17, 1999
DVD release date:February 4, 2003
Cast:Bai Ling, Chow Yun-Fat, Jodie Foster
Director:Andy Tennant
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Run time:147 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violence

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

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Educator and Parent Written byCommonSenseChristian May 4, 2014

A Multifacted Jewel of a Film with a Few Rough Edges

Based somewhat on The King and I, this more epic Hollywood version leaves out the songs, but stays true to the characters of Anna and Siam's king. When Anna comes to 1860s Siam to teach the king's horde of children (more than sixty) and flock of wives, she's in for the culture shock of her life. The king, too, has some of his long-held ideas and traditions challenged, and while his responses aren't always positive, they do give us insight into a dynamic monarch. Positive elements include Anna's intelligence and compassion, as well as her willingness to attempt to accept Siamese culture as is, though at times this doesn't work out well because of some of said culture's more negative aspects. The romance between Anna and the king is tender, though complicated for obvious reasons. And, if you're a visual person, your eyes will find plenty to feast upon in the sets, jungle scenery, and costumes. There's also great discussion fodder present in contrasts between Buddhism and Christianity, two cultures' treatment of women, and more. The major obstacle for families in this film is violence. It isn't set during wartime, but one of the king's scheming relatives provides the impetus for plenty of bloodshed. An early disturbing scene has several bodies hanging from trees and a half-naked woman mourning over them. Other violent moments include an assassination attempt, a gunshot and bloodstained curtain (no victim shown onscreen) and an exploding bridge. Even more disconcerting is the direct violence toward human beings. A slave, naked and filthy, is left chained outside. A woman who ran away to be with her lover is chained, caned, and publicly beheaded (all but the actual beheading is shown, including executioners circling menacingly with swords). Anna stands up for these people and others, but unfortunately, her fortitude doesn't bring about obvious change. Other caveats include the death of a young girl, ominous chanting, and a moment where Anna's son and a young prince decide to try smoking (they're promptly turned off). Anna also has something of an imperialist attitude, but this mellows somewhat. In general, this film is complicated and emotion-filled, but well worth a viewing for adults and older kids.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence


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