Miracle on 34th Street



Classic holiday movie for the whole family.
Parents recommend
  • Review Date: January 10, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Classic
  • Release Year: 1947
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Heartwarming messages about the importance of childhood wonder, trust, and standing up for what you believe.

Positive role models

Susan stands up for what she believes in. Santa is fuzzy and warm. Other than a little cynicism on the part of the mother in the beginning, things are rosy all around here.

Violence & scariness

Kris bops Sawyer on the head for mistreating Albert.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable

Macy's branding throughout.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this classic holiday tale has little objectionable content. The Macy's brand is a big focus, as is Santa over more religious aspects of the holiday. The little girl at the heart of the story, Susan (Natalie Wood), at first doesn't believe in Santa (because her mom has raised her as a realist) -- which could lead to questions from kids -- but ultimately she's proven wrong and becomes a stout believer in St. Nick.

What's the story?

In this heartwarming holiday story about the importance of childhood wonder, trust, and standing up for what you believe, Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), an executive at Macy's, is responsible for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. When the Santa Claus she has hired for the parade shows up drunk, she quickly substitutes Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), who is an enormous success and is becomes the store's even more successful in-house Santa. He tells customers to shop elsewhere when Macy's doesn't have what they want. The employees are aghast, but it turns out to be a public relations triumph. Doris raises her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) without any fantasies or illusions, to help her handle "reality." Susan does not believe in Santa Claus. But Kris tells her that he really is Santa Claus, and after observing him for a while, she begins to believe him. Kris has the enthusiastic support of lawyer Fred Gailey (John Payne), who cares deeply for Doris and Susan. But Kris' insistence that he really is Santa Claus leads to a hearing on his mental competency. Downtrodden, Kris doesn't even want to assist in his defense. So it's up to Doris, Susan, and kids everywhere to show adults the truth.

Is it any good?


Ignore the pallid 1973 (television) and 1994 (theatrical) remakes. This original Miracle on 34th Street is much, much better. Both Edmund Gwenn and the screenplay won Academy Awards for this film. In a way, this story is the opposite of Inherit the Wind. Both are courtroom dramas about how we decide what is true, based on faith or based on provable fact. They have opposite conclusions, however, and the great gift of the movies is that both seem right to us. (One similarity is that in both, the judges are warned that they must make a decision that will have favorable political consequences.)

Doris has been hurt, and thinks she can protect herself and Susan from further hurt by not letting herself believe in anything outside themselves any more. She finds out that both she and Susan have missed a lot, not just in imagination but in the ability to trust, and to allow themselves to get close to other people.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Doris doesn't want Susan to use her imagination. Why do Kris and Fred think it's important?

  • Why is it important that Kris tells people to go to other stores to buy things they didn't have at Macy's?

  • Why doesn't Mr. Sawyer like Kris? Why did Fred have Mr. Mara's son testify in the trial?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 2, 1947
DVD release date:October 5, 1999
Cast:Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood
Director:George Seaton
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Character strengths:Courage, Integrity
Run time:96 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Miracle on 34th Street was written by

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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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Adult Written byCalimom April 9, 2008

Better for older kids

A gentle word of warning, if your kids are young you may not want to open the department store Santa can of worms. This makes it clear that Santas are hired help and are not always nice people. Specifically, the Santa in the very beginning of the movie is drunk to the point of passing out. If your kids have a clear grasp of Santa vs. "Santa's helpers" they should be fine. If you are trying to preserve the illusion that your kids visit the real Santa at the mall, give this movie a pass until they're a little older. My 8 and 10 year old kids prefer the newer version, which has even more references to alcohol abuse. The contemporary feel is much more enchanting for them than this older version.
Adult Written byAshnak April 9, 2008
Teen, 14 years old Written byPoison Ivey December 22, 2009
we watched this in english today, and even though I fell asleep for half the movie I thought it was very cute and brings back good memories. (btw I feel asleep cause I was tired, not cause the movie bored me). Of course I never believed in santa, because that's exactly how my parents raised me and were raised. So in the end I do end up agreeing with the mother, but it's still a good movie and makes you really happy. ~Ivey


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