Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Madeline Movie Poster Image
Great adaptation for young kids and fans of the books.
  • PG
  • 1998
  • 88 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

An adaptation of a popular children's book, with elements from one its sequels. The film has many picturesque visuals of France in the last century -- some landmarks and cultural references.

Positive Messages

Good things happen when the young heroine thinks positively, has faith that she can be effective, and stands up for herself and her school. Madeline helps a bitter, grieving man deal with his loss and react in constructive way.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Madeline is a wonderful example of feisty intelligence, a generous spirit, and a can-do attitude. Occasionally, she makes a bit more mischief than she should, but it always turns out well. Her teacher is loyal, steadfast, and courageous. Other than the buffoonish villains, adults and kids who border on mean-spirited or negligent are redeemed by the film's end. Some ethnic diversity.


Violence & Scariness

Clownish villains (actual clowns who swallow fire, juggle, punch each other) attempt to kidnap two children and hold them for ransom. A few scary visuals are meant to unsettle the school girls: a tiger in a cage, escaping white mice, a snake, a boy trying to frighten them in a window, and a shadowy room in a museum. In addition to the kidnapping, Madeline has several close calls: appendicitis, a fall into the river, and a careening chase through the woods with kids on a motorcycle trying to escape from a truck.

Sexy Stuff

Young girls make fun of an older woman's bra and undies. The girls sneak a peek at a kissing couple.



A villain continually belittles his accomplices: "idiot," "stupid," and more. The girls call their landlord "Lord Cuckoo Butt" and "Lord Cuckoo Face." Some fart sounds, and references to a bra as a "booby basket."


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In one scene a woman has a schnapps bottle on the table beside her.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, Madeline is a live-action adaptation of the classic children’s book about Madeline, a little girl who lives in a boarding school in Paris. This version presents Madeline as an orphan who expresses an awareness that she has no family and no real home. It also merges elements from the book Madeline and the Bad Hat, including the Spanish ambassador's son, Pepito. Suspenseful scenes include Madeline with appendicitis; an accidental fall into the river; a clownish but perhaps scary kidnapping; a chase with two kids on a motorcycle; and the threat of the girls’ school being closed. A caring woman dies after a long illness and a dog is lost (but eventually reappears). A few instances of insulting language, swearing, and a scene with the little girls having fun with their cook’s undergarments.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMom of 2 Girls April 9, 2008

My girls loved it...but it's scarier than the books!

My daughters LOVE Madeline, and were excited to see this movie. The only issues I have with it were the references to death that are NOT in the books! In the mo... Continue reading
Parent of a 3 and 6-year-old Written bydianepage September 28, 2014

Disappointing and not good for a young audience

We happened to see this at a museum showing where there were many children younger than 6 in attendance. The books are full of older themes (Pepito and the guil... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byRainbowkid36 September 16, 2019

Sony, We need to Talk

Madeline is a Book series made in the 30's (Around the same time Babar had his book series) But when Popularity Exploded like a Creeper (Aw, Man!), There w... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old January 31, 2012

Madeline is not very good

Educational: You learn about Paris.
Violent: Madeline and her enemy Pepito, get kidnapped and held for ransom, and Madeline's friend chicken gets cooked f... Continue reading

What's the story?

One of the most beloved heroines of children's literature is brought to life in this movie based on the classic series of books by Ludwig Bemelmans about the "twelve little girls in two straight lines" who live in "a small house in Paris that was covered with vines," and especially "the smallest one," Madeline (Hetty Jones). Bemelmans' gorgeous water colors turn into gorgeously photographed Paris, set vaguely in the 1950s, setting the stage for Madeline's nighttime race to the hospital for an appendectomy, her fall into the Seine and rescue by the brave dog Genevive, and her adventures with Pepito, the son of the Spanish ambassador. Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand plays Miss Clavel, the nun who cares for her charges with imagination, wisdom, and love, and courage. Veteran British actor Nigel Hawthorne is stern Lord Covington, who wants to sell the small house covered with vines and close down the school.

Is it any good?

Young children, especially fans of the books, will enjoy the film. Newcomer Hetty Jones is a spunky Madeline, brave enough to say "Pooh Pooh" to a tiger, smart enough to know that if she asks Pepito to be extra quiet he will find some way to do something noisy, and determined enough to find a way to stop Lord Covington from selling the school his late wife loved so dearly.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the film compares with the original Madeline book. Which do you like better?

  • Would you have done anything differently if you were making this film?

  • How did you like mixing in Pepito from Madeline and the Bad Hat?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love books

Themes & Topics

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