Little Women (1949)



Adaptation of Alcott's story livened by superstar cast.
  • Review Date: May 10, 2007
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1949
  • Running Time: 121 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Sisters model exemplary degree of sacrifice, caring, and love for their families and the less fortunate around them.


For a movie with the Civil War as its backdrop, there is virtually no discussion or sign of its savagery. A main character dies of illness off-screen.


Chaste kisses and much discussion of marriage, but no inappropriate sexual content.


Jo's use of "Christopher Columbus!" is as vulgar as it gets.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 1949 movie is adapted from Louisa May Alcott's classic story of family love and boasts a top-notch cast. The father of the main characters is off fighting in the Civil War. One of the main characters dies from illness, though it is handled off-screen such that younger children may not understand what happened.

What's the story?

LITTLE WOMEN, adapted from Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, tells the tale of four sisters as they face deprivation and the absence of their father during the Civil War years, through their maturation into accomplished young women. This 1949 version's cast includes Mary Astor as gentle mother Marmee, Janet Leigh as responsible Meg, June Allyson as tomboy Jo, Elizabeth Taylor as artistic Amy, and Margaret O'Brien as shy Beth. True to the novel, each girl is portrayed as an individual with flaws and strengths. Protagonist Jo dreams of becoming a writer and traveling the world. Her evolution from a fiesty girl who wants to run away to fight alongside her father in the war, to the reluctant love interest of next door neighbor Laurie (Peter Lawford) to a published author who can selflessly celebrate her sisters' choices, is the narrative anchor of the story.

Is it any good?


The movie treats the Civil War at a distance, but the sisters are depicted pitching in on the home front. The movie also acknowledges the fears that come with change, as Jo longs for things to stay the same rather than having the sisters grow up and move away.

Stylistically, the movie is a product of its era, with pastel colored skies and heavily maquillaged actresses. Additionally, the sight of the "little women" at the beginning of the movie being played by grown-up actresses is a bit jarring and is really only dispelled when the story moves to their adult lives and decisions. Because major plot elements of the book are left out entirely, interested viewers might want to read the original novel.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the March sisters and how each was unique. How did that make things easier for them as a family, or more difficult? Do you and your siblings have complementary strengths? The first part of the movie is set during the Civil War -- what sacrifices did the girls make to honor the soldiers, and what sacrifices can your family make to honor soldiers now? They can also compare this version to the book; which do they prefer, and why?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 10, 1949
DVD release date:August 26, 2003
Cast:Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, June Allyson
Director:Mervyn LeRoy
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:121 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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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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Parent Written byStepMomSterToo June 26, 2010

Great Coming of Age Story

Great movie for the whole family. Some coming of age stuff, but nothing really to make anyone uncomfortable.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written bywonder dove September 21, 2012

BEST version by far!!

This is the best version of Little Women out of most I've seen. The cast is excellent, and Amy played by Elizabeth Taylor was my favorite character! I saw this when I was around 12, then got the VHS for my birthday. Then when DVDs came out I quickly bought it! The newest version doesn't even come close to this one! I used to watch it with my dad quite often and he'd always have to leave the room at sad scenes, so keep your kleenex near by! Such a lovely heartwarming film with a fantastic story. Perfect for any age who are interested, but adults will fall in love.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old September 14, 2011

good movie :)

I think that is movie is great for family's. It has good role models and positive messages. If you loved the book you will love the movies.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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