Hansel and Gretel

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Hansel and Gretel Movie Poster Image
Scary witch may be too intense for very young kids.
  • G
  • 1988
  • 85 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The movie is intended to entertain, not educate.

Positive Messages

Even in what looks like an extraordinarily bleak situation, thoughtful planning and teamwork can save the day. Ignoring rules can get kids in trouble.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The woodcutter and his wife are poor and hungry, but the woodcutter, a loving husband and father, handles the situation in a responsible, helpful way. His wife, though also loving, is depressed and angrily explodes, taking her frustration out on Hansel and Gretel. There are dire consequences for her behavior, and she learns an important lesson. Hansel and Gretel are basically good kids, but when they don't listen to their parents, they pay dearly.

Violence & Scariness

Lots of scary sequences involving an ugly, cackling witch who wields a knife while threatening two lost children with death and the fact that she's planning to fatten them up and then eat them. Ghostly sounds, laughter, and cries for help emanate from a dark forest in several scenes. A duck is boiled and then tossed into a fiery oven. The witch herself suffers the same fate. The witch's gingerbread house blows up and melts, erupting as a volcano with flowing green and red goo. Reference is made to the fact that children have been disappearing in the woods.

Sexy Stuff

The children are called names by both their mother and the wicked witch: "stupid," "worthless idiot," "foolish boy," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hansel and Gretel is not the 2013 R-rated theatrical release Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Many parts of this live-action fairy tale may be frightening for very young or sensitive kids. The wicked witch is portrayed with blackened teeth and fingernails, warts on her face, wild white hair, and a pointed chin. She's sometimes shot in extreme close-up, with intense eyes glaring into the camera, wild hair flowing, bared teeth, and a cackling laugh. A duck is dropped into a cauldron of boiling water and then into a fiery oven. In the climactic scene, the wicked witch is sent into the boiling pot, then into the oven, and finally is blown up. Other scenes take place in a dark forest and are infused with sounds of ghostly laughter, pleading voices, and pitiful shrieks. Hansel and Gretel's mother is distraught and angry early in the film and berates her children and husband continually.  

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybigmoviefan2020 November 26, 2020

Too scary for young ones but a stunning film!

R: scary sequences/throughout and mild brief insults
Adult Written byTheslimshadylp November 30, 2019

Hansel and gretal original review

This is the first Hansel and gretel. You may be familiar with the sequel in 2013 Hansel and gretel 2. This is actually much grittier and inappropriate than the... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byJimmy Jimmy June 25, 2013

Good movie , with good messages

I watch this every new years day (January 1st) I don't know why it's just a tradition. This has some role models, (The Father, Gretel). It does has po... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byRawrIsDinoTalkF... June 4, 2011

boo the one i get at blockbuster is better

why dont you remix this stuff up and get the old scary cooler version i like that one better

What's the story?

Based on a story from The Brothers Grimm with some music from the Engelbert Humperdinck opera of the same name, HANSEL AND GRETEL is another in the low-budget series of Cannon Fairy Tales -- live action, star-driven musical films from the late 1980s. Hansel and Gretel (Hugh Pollard and Nicola Stapleton) are the children of a poor woodcutter (David Warner) and his wife (Emily Richard). As punishment for bad behavior, their mother orders them to pick berries for dinner. They wander into a forbidden part of a nearby forest -- from which other children have disappeared -- and get lost. While their distraught father searches frantically for them, they find themselves in the domain of Griselda (Cloris Leachman), a grandmotherly type who welcomes them into her enticing gingerbread house with open arms and trays of delicious sweets. But she soon divulges her true identity: Griselda is an evil witch intent upon fattening up Hansel, then eating him. Gretel will work as her servant until she, too, becomes a tasty meal. The tension builds as the woodcutter searches and the terrified kids try to delay their fate.

Is it any good?

HANSEL AND GRETEL could actually be enjoyable and provide a good scare for not-so-sensitive kids who care little for production quality. Among a series of films noted for shoddy production values -- flimsy sets (some of which show up in several of the movies), a mostly amateur cast (also repeat performers), mediocre original songs, and outrageously inept special effects -- this movie stands out, if only because it's smaller in scope and cast, thus less likely to reveal the tackiness of the effort.

Leachman is the witchiest of scary witches, obviously having a wonderful time slavering over the prospect of eating the children. The two young actors are passable, and Warner worries with the best of them. Still, there are some unintentional laughs: a poor duck's (as well as the witch's) emergence from a boiling cauldron is particularly ludicrous, as is the moment when the tasty house erupts in a river of oozing red and green goo.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes a film scary. Are you more or less frightened by events in animated films or live-action films? What tools did the filmmakers use to make Griselda so terrifying?

  • Hansel and Gretel's mother is angry because her family is poor and hungry, so she treats her children thoughtlessly. How can people handle anger and frustration more constructively?

  • There are many versions of this fairy tale. It might be fun to read the original Grimm's fairy tale. What did the filmmakers change, and why?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fairy tales

Themes & Topics

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