Little Women



Lovely Alcott adaptation tugs at the heartstrings.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: June 25, 2003
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 115 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Great messages all around about overcoming obstacles, the importance of charity, forgiveness, writing from your heart, embracing your gifts and differences, and celebrating the family bond, especially the bond among sisters.

Positive role models

The mother here is a rock to her daughters, accepting their differences and helping each girl become the best person they can be. She says that she "wishes she could give her girls a more just world" and pushes them to question authority when it's wrong (like when a teacher strikes Amy) or embrace their gifts (encouraging Jo to go to New York and find herself). The girls are all very kind-hearted and conscientious, giving their Christmas dinner away to those who are starving. Jo calls herself "hopelessly flawed," but her passion for writing and bringing out the inner strength in all her sisters carries the story.


Beth becomes dangerously ill with scarlet fever, recovers, but eventually dies. Amy falls through the ice while skating but is pulled to safety. Amy comes home with a welt on her hand telling her family that she was struck by her teacher. Mr. March comes home from the war injured and the family fears for his safety constantly.


A few kisses and mentions of romantic overtures.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some drinking at parties. Jo says she only takes alcohol medicinally. Laurie drinks from a hip flask in one scene.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that in this adaptation of the book by Louisa May Alcott, beloved sister Beth becomes dangerously ill, recovers, but eventually dies young in a very sad sequence. The youngest sister, Amy, falls through the ice while skating but is pulled to safety. Kids will learn a bit about the time period during and just after the Civil War and will get to know an amazing group of role models in the March family. They are supportive of one another and wonderful members of the community, even giving away their Christmas dinner to those less fortunate.

What's the story?

LITTLE WOMEN is not so much about what happens to the March family as about who they are. Their parties, meals, chores, games, romances are hardly high drama but, through individual personalities, they illustrate the highest human values: love, family, selflessness, loyalty. Known to be innovative thinkers, the Marches -- as one character observes -- had "views."

Is it any good?


Acting upon those views in day-to-day life, the girls capture our attention and, more, stir our souls. Excited about such holiday luxuries as a bit of butter and an orange, they give them up to feed an even poorer family. The gifted Claire Danes delivers a touching, very real, portrayal as Beth. When she dies, it's painful and viewers share the family's loss. Likewise, the climactic reunion between Jo and her professor is deeply moving. Rarely is such a low-key movie so uplifting. Meaning springs from the unaffected performances, the believable tensions among the sisters, the realistic contrast of their varied goals, and forthright, simple statements of authentically virtuous character. Lovely settings frame the story perfectly.

No pretense is made about the purity of the world in which the Marches live. As women, they confront and cope with second-class status, especially the free-thinking Jo. But society's flaws just reinforce the integrity the Marches bring to it. For a breath of fresh air that's anything but old-fashioned, choose Little Women.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the movie compares to Louisa May Alcott's novel. Which do you like better? Why?

  • When Jo says she is "hopelessly flawed" do you agree? What were the traits valued in girls back then and how have things changed?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 21, 1994
DVD release date:April 25, 2000
Cast:Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder
Director:Gillian Armstrong
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Topics:Book characters, Great girl role models, History
Run time:115 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:emotional intensity

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bypickledwookiee.... April 9, 2009

Heart warming movie

This is an excellent movie for all ages!
Adult Written bysarah_from_yale April 9, 2008


This touching film was created in the same vein as the novel - an honest but optimistic look at the 19th century and an affirmation of the power of love. Though sad at moments, the value of the film is not in the events but rather how the March family reacts and copes.
Teen, 14 years old Written byTheScribbler April 11, 2011


This is probably my favorite movie ever. So beautiful... something the whole family can thoroughly enjoy. As an aspiring writer, Jo is a wonderful role model for me, and the sisterly love between all the March's is lovely :) I'd also like to add that I know a good many guys that loved this movie too!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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