Nicholas Nickleby Movie Poster Image

Nicholas Nickleby



Respectful adaptation of rich Dickens novel.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2002
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

What parents need to know


Children beaten and abused, brief violence. Tense scenes.


Childbirth scene.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking, brief reference to alcohol abuse.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie has child abuse, some tense and upsetting family scenes, and sad deaths. A character commits suicide and it is portrayed as a just response to a terrible revelation. There is a brief and somewhat graphic childbirth scene with a nude baby.

What's the story?

Nicholas (Charlie Hunnam) and his sister Kate (Romola Garai) grow up in a small house in the country, until their financially-strapped father dies. Then, the family must go to wealthy brother Ralph for help. Nicholas and Kate take the jobs Ralph procures for them, not seeing Ralph's opportunistic ways towards them. Nicholas teaches at a boys' school, while Kate works for a dressmaker. The schoolmaster and his wife abuse the students, especially parentless Smike (Jamie Bell). Nicholas tries to care for and teach the boys, but he's unprepared to address the cruelty. Eventually, Nicholas flees with Smike. They meet up with an acting troupe led by the spectacularly theatrical Vincent Crummles (Nathan Lane) and his wife (Barry Humphries), and the two are happy with the actors until a letter comes from Kate, who's being abused by her employers. With Smike in tow, Nicholas returns to London and denounces his uncle, who swears revenge. With the help of the kind and generous Cherryble brothers and a few melodramatic revelations, Nicholas and Kate manage to find true love and happiness.

Is it any good?


Screenwriter/director Douglas McGrath has produced a respectful condensation of Charles Dickens's rich and sprawling novel. McGrath focuses on the heart (in both senses of the word) of Dickens' story, the struggle by Nicholas against his uncle's attempts to corrupt or destroy him. Although he has had to jettison many colorful characters and huge sections of the story, his skillful paring preserves the essence of the novel's tone and themes and the result is thoroughly satisfying on its own terms.

Dickens books lend themselves beautifully to film. He created strong, very distinctive characters, gorgeous dialogue (the movie is worth seeing just for the way Lane delivers Crummles' speeches), wonderfully dramatic stories, and dastardly villains, true-hearted heroes, love, hate, revenge, comedy, and tragedy. McGrath and his actors clearly view this as a labor of love. Every detail is beautifully realized, with one of the best ensemble performances of the year. The one exception is Hunnam as Nicholas. It is a challenge for any actor to play a good-guy hero whose job is to react to all of those vivid characters, but Hunnam never manages to show us anything of Nicholas' growing depth and resolve.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how parents can both protect their children and prepare them for a world in which not everyone will be as kind to them as their families are.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 27, 2002
DVD/Streaming release date:July 22, 2003
Cast:Anne Hathaway, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Broadbent
Director:Douglas McGrath
Topics:Book characters
Run time:132 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic material involving some violent action and a childbirth scene

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 15 years old Written byjlsa October 30, 2009

Good for older teens but violent for tweens

A great story and fantastic acting!!!! The movie as a whole was fantastic but there were many child abuse scenes and sad deaths of characters. Not very graphic at all but sometimes hard to watch.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written bykellyrosenberg April 9, 2008

Great for preteens and up--filled with good values

I and my family loved this movie. Aside from great acting and cinematography, it was a beautiful expression of the values I hold most dear--integrity, family loyalty, forgiveness. It also manages to be quite funny. The child-abuse scenes are scary, though, as is the non-graphic suicide scene, so it is for tough preteens--but a great pick for teens. Also loved the music! Nothing to dislike about this movie.
Teen, 13 years old Written byJaneEyre<3 June 9, 2011


This movie was amazing, and I think it is a very faithful adaption of the book(I've read the book),considering the book is about 800 pages long,and they had to edit it down to 2 hours. All the cast did a great job, my favorite was Smike(acted by Jamie Bell!) and the Squeers. It might be rather intense for younger people because there is some cruelty and abuse to children,but it depends on what you can handle. The men associated with Ralph are very rude to Kate, and that might be a little disturbing. But watch it! If you like period drama and Charles Dickens,that is.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex