Howards End

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
Howards End Movie Poster Image
Excellent book-based tale of British class conflict.
  • PG
  • 1992
  • 143 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Themes of class conflict, of wealth inequity between the rich and poor in Edwardian England. People who are actually virtuous contrasted with those who merely pretend to be but are actually hypocrites. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

On the whole, characters are representatives of their socioeconomic class in Edwardian England. Helen Schlegel is a suffragette, believing in equality of the sexes and the right for women to vote (a radical idea for the time), and is unafraid to voice her convictions to those more conservative than she. 


Spoiler alert: It's revealed later that an older man had an extramarital affair with a 16-year-old girl; the woman, upon seeing the man many years later, gets drunk on wine and confronts him about it, still clearly distraught over what would be considered statutory rape in many places today. Some punches, a man struck with the dull side of a sword. A man getting attacked with fists and a sword is knocked into a bookcase; the bookcase falls on top of him and he dies. 


A sexual affair and an out-of-wedlock pregnancy feature in the plot. 


"Damn" used a couple times. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigar, cigarette, and pipe smoking throughout. Wine drinking at dinner and formal occasions. A woman drinks wine to excess and becomes extremely drunk and belligerent. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Howards End is a 1992 romantic drama based on the novel by E.M. Forster. There's talk of sexual and extramarital affairs and liaisons, including mention of a past affair between a 16-year-old girl and a married and much older man. Upon seeing this older man at a social event 10 years later, the woman proceeds to get extremely drunk and belligerent, clearly upset by what happened. There's some violence, including a man being killed after he's punched and then struck with the dull side of a sword before falling into a large bookcase that falls on top of him. Pipe, cigar, and cigarette smoking are shown. Overall, the movie's slower pace and adult themes make this best for teens and adults, who might use it as a starting point to discuss how the movie conveys relations between the sexes and economic classes during Edwardian England, and what has and hasn't changed since that time. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byTsion March 15, 2009

An Engaging and SUPERBLY Acted Melodrama...

HOWARDS END suffers from a lackluster opening and an infuriatingly slow pace. However, about 40 minutes in, it finds its footing as an engaging, superbly acted... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old August 28, 2020

Finally!A British period piece that's not pretentious or boring!

I generally don't like British period piece, they are just too dull and bland. However, Howard End is different. For once, they have characters and story t... Continue reading

What's the story?

Adapted from E.M. Forster's novel, HOWARDS END tells the story of Margaret Schlegel (Emma Thompson) and her sister, Helen (Helena Bonham Carter), intellectual, liberal women living in 1910 England. When the rich Wilcoxes move next door, a friendship develops between Mrs. Wilcox and Margaret. When Mrs. Wilcox dies, she leaves her home, Howards End, to Margaret. But the Wilcox family disregards her request. Time passes, and Mr. Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins) and Margaret become engaged. This upsets Helen, since Wilcox offered disastrous job advice to her poor friend, Leonard Bast. Margaret's efforts to coax Wilcox into helping Leonard end abruptly when it's revealed that Leonard's low-class wife and Wilcox were once lovers. Helen's interest in the married Leonard turns romantic and she flees, pregnant with his child. Wilcox refuses to support Helen, despite his own indiscreet past. This hypocrisy leads to a confrontation, which ultimately brings Howards End back into Margaret's hands, just as Mrs. Wilcox willed it.

Is it any good?

In this intricate tale of love, hope, and cruelty, three families from different backgrounds find themselves intertwined in a complicated plot that will grip older kids and parents alike. If the story seems a bit complex, rest assured that the two-and-a-half-hour running time offers plenty of opportunity for confused teens to catch up. However, some of this material will be difficult for them to grasp. Discussions about classical music or pacifist ideology may elude all but the most mature viewers. And the delicate way that relationships develop, particularly that of Margaret and Mr. Wilcox, is perhaps too understated for kids to pick up on.

Still, the impeccable acting alone is enough reason to stay glued to the screen. Emma Thompson won a well-deserved Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret, and Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, and Helena Bonham Carter are equally convincing and entertaining to watch.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the class issues raised in the plot. How does our society compare to the one featured here? Do we have social classes in America?

  • What would be the challenges in adapting a classic novel such as Howards End into a film? 

  • Besides wealth inequity between the rich and poor, how does the movie address topics such as equality between the sexes, and the difference between being virtuous and merely appearing to be virtuous? 

Movie details

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Themes & Topics

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