Movie review by
Ellen MacKay, Common Sense Media
Emma Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Perfect for warmhearted family entertainment.
  • PG
  • 1996
  • 120 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Love is not always something that can be planned out, and Emma's efforts to steer people together don't often end up as planned. Instead, love seems to sneak up on people without her aid. Even upon Emma, to her great surprise. Although much of the film is focused on planning, gossiping, and debating the merits of various relationships, based partly on love, and also on class distinctions, status, and wealth, there are also themes of communication, empathy, and humility.


Positive Role Models & Representations

Emma is good-natured and has a kind heart, but is not always sensitive to others. Her main goal seems to be to find suitable partners for the eligible men and women in her social circle, which means she spends a good deal of time gossiping about other people and trying (not always successfully) to interpret how they feel. She often tries to pair off people who have eyes for others, and is reluctant to admit her pairing is less than ideal. Most important, she seems unable to realize that there are people who might be interested in her.


Two genteel ladies are roughed up by a band of ruffians, until a gentleman comes to their aid.


No sex, but many, many discussions about matchmaking, and with whom various people would be compatible.


No swearing. A key point of the film is that people rarely say what they really think, often leading to misunderstandings. People can also make very cutting remarks, cleverly disguised by wit, but barbed nonetheless.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking. A gentleman's ardent, but unappreciated, declaration of love is blamed on an overindulgence in wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Emma is a sweet-natured period film that may not have much appeal to tweens and younger. Teens, especially those enamored of Jane Austen's novels, on which this is based, might find it enormously appealing. It revolves around manners, society, and of course romance. There's much discussion about matchmaking but no onscreen canoodling. The only language issue is that some of the people circle around what they're trying to say without actually saying it, which may be confusing. Expect some social drinking; one character blames a social gaffe on having had too much wine.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byWalktheTalk March 2, 2020

Always loved this movie but love it even more since seeing the remake!

This is by far the best version of Emma ever brought to screen. It is a clean movie; the acting and chemistry is great; the scenes and scenery are engaging; it... Continue reading
Adult Written byMeggyann July 31, 2020
Kid, 11 years old January 1, 2019


This movie is sweet and lovely. There is tame romance, love, and powerful women. It is a bit hard at first to understand the talking because of the accents.
Teen, 13 years old Written byBella0789 January 10, 2015

An Okay Movie

This movie would probably only be interesting for people 16 and up but it's suitable or 11 and up

What's the story?

In this adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, young EMMA Woodhouse (Gwyneth Paltrow) thinks she knows everything about love and deems herself matchmaker to her friends. She fixes up Harriet (Toni Collette) with Reverend Elton (Alan Cumming) and pairs her governess with Mr. Weston (James Cosmo). But Emma learns that she isn't as successful in the ways of love as she'd believed, especially when it comes to handsome Mr. Knightly (Jeremy Northam).

Is it any good?

This romantic movie is worthy, warmhearted family entertainment. As Emma, Paltrow is stunning -- funny and charming, but brave enough to give full weight to her character's occasional smallness and snobbery. Toni Collette, Alan Cumming, and Sophie Thompson ( as jabbering spinster Miss Bate) all turn in skilled comic performances.

While the story may seem a bit highbrow to attract a young audience, kids will warm to it. The mysterious behavior of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax will catch their interest, and they'll find characters to identify with, regardless of the occasionally highfalutin dialogue. With its spectacular interiors and gorgeous swaths of English countryside, viewers with reasonable attention spans will find plenty to like. While die-hard Austen fans may cast a vote for the BBC version of Emma, this is a much more appealing version for a general audience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Emma and Austen's other stories remain relevant today. What aspects are relatable in the modern world?

  • What do you think about Emma's hobby of setting up matches? Do you think she finds good pairs? Do you think the recipients of her attention appreciate her efforts?

  • Why is Emma unable to see her own romantic possibilities?

  • What do you think about the manners of the era? How do they differ from contemporary mores?


  • How does Emma demonstrate communication, empathy, and humility? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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Themes & Topics

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