Madeline Movie Poster Image


Great adaptation for young kids and fans of the books.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1998
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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."


Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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


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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 10, 1998
DVD/Streaming release date:December 15, 1998
Cast:Frances McDormand, Hatty Jones, Nigel Hawthorne
Director:Daisy von Sherler Mayer
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Book characters, Friendship, Great girl role models
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:momentary language

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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 movie, Madeline is an orphan. It works with the story line of the movie, but both of my children have had anxieties about me and/or my husband dying since watching the movie. Also, the benevolent benefactor of the school dies in the hospital while Madeline is there recovering from her appendix removal. Her husband, whom we later learn is simply unsure how to deal with his grief, decides to sell the school. The drama is keyed-up in the movie, making too scary for some young fans of the books. That said, the film is well-acted and enjoyable, and while I, too, object to the "boobie-baskets" choice, it fits the scene. (The owner has just informed the school mistress that he will be closing the school, and the girls have refused their dinner, sneaking down to the kitchen later they are up to no good.) While I would have preferred that the movie stick closer to the story line of the books, we (my mom, the girls & I) all enjoyed the movie and recommend it!
Adult Written bysss April 9, 2008

funny film

good movie, but not worth buying. there is a reference to a large bra as "boo_ie baskets".
Kid, 11 years old March 1, 2015

Some Deaths and Heavy Religious Scenes.

Lots of religious talks, kidnapping and intense scenes. Madeline gets sick and has her appendix taken out, nothing bad shown. A little dark and boring at times. Madeline falls in a well and is kidnapped. But happy endings and O.K plot.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much consumerism