Harriet the Spy



Fans of the book will want to see this film.
  • Review Date: February 25, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1997
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The loss of Harriet's nanny, Golly, is sad. So is her estrangement from her friends. Harriet learns to be more caring for her friends.

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Some childish vulgarities but no profanity.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that fans of the eponymous book will love watching an updated Harriet explore her world and write what she sees. The film, aimed at 9- to 12-year-olds, will have these kids squirming in their seats when Harriet meets her Waterloo. But older kids who loved the book will want to see it, too.

What's the story?

Eleven-year-old Harriet M. Welsch (Michelle Trachtenberg) wants to be a writer. Golly (Rosie O'Donnell), her nanny and best friend, encourages her to work toward her goal by keeping a notebook and writing down her observations about everything she sees. Harriet becomes a keen observer for the sake of her writing. Harriet's endeavor suffers a setback when Golly and her parents decide that she no longer needs to have a nanny. Even worse, her top-secret notebook gets into the hands of her nemesis, Marion, the class snob. The snob reads aloud all that Harriet has written, and the children ostracize her. Harriet learns that there is more to people than just the superficial details that she notes in her book.

Is it any good?


Louise Fitzhugh's book of the same title has been a favorite of several generations of girls. They're the best audience for this movie, which brings the story faithfully to life (but moves it from Manhattan of the 1960s to a blander, unidentified city of the present). The problem is that the film too often gets lost amid long, uninteresting scenes involving Harriet, her friends, and their escapades.

We want to learn more about some of the colorful characters that Harriet spies on. The movie spends just enough time with them to catch our attention, then disappoints us by forgetting about them. The only character we come to know is Harriet, who tests our sympathy by writing down mean observations about her classmates. The highlight of the movie is Rosie O'Donnell's performance as Golly, although the notion of an 11-year-old girl with a nanny will seem odd to most people.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how they've have handled being treated badly at school and how they treat their own friends. Parents won't want children imitating Harriet's attempts to seek revenge on the kids who have ostracized her or Janie's "scientific" experiments.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 25, 1997
DVD release date:February 25, 1995
Cast:Gregory Smith, Michelle Trachtenberg, Rosie O'Donnell
Director:Bronwen Hughes
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Book characters
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic intensity

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

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Parent Written byaimless1 December 14, 2013

One of the worst family movies ever! Painful to watch.

Ugh, this movie was terrible. It just went on and on and I was hoping it would get better but it never did. Rosie O'Donnell was the worst person for the role of nanny. I thought this movie had terrible messages with the bullying that went on. Then the revenge was horrible to watch especially when she was carving the frenemies names in the wooden desk top. Wow! Sorry I let my kids watch it.
Teen, 17 years old Written byhamstergurl09 February 12, 2012


I was a huge fan of this movie when my cousin introduced it to me at age...8 I think? The storyline is realistic, but not boring as some realistic films can be for kids. This film is very funny and will keep kids of all ages entertained. The acting in this movie is quite good. Many people I know who saw this movie as a kid decided that they wanted to follow in Harriet's footsteps and keep a notebook themselves. That encourages kids to be observant (well, maybe a little TOO observant, in Harriet's case). I read the book, too, and I prefer this version. Don't even bother with "Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars" though, that movie was awful.
Adult Written bysusie q August 4, 2009
My nine-year-old daughter sat with tears streaming down her face while watching the cruel behavior of Harriet's classmates when they turned on her. No happy ending makes up for that.


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