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Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Oliver! Movie Poster Image
Glorious musical based on Dickens' Oliver Twist.
  • G
  • 1968
  • 153 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 14 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Oliver! provides a sense of what life was like for orphans in the mid-19th century in England and highlights the income disparities between economic classes. The film also exposes kids to the work of Charles Dickens. 

Positive Messages

In the right environment, a boy can be taught right from wrong. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

In spite of seeing Oliver with other street urchins seeming to try to pick his pockets, Mr. Brownlow takes the boy into his home to adopt him, believing that Oliver can change for the better in a more stable and richer environment. 

Violence & Scariness

Street urchins are pushed and kicked by corrupt adults, but no one appears injured. A woman is hit with a cane and left for dead by her husband. The blows are not shown, but the man is shown swinging the cane as her screams are heard. A man is shot and killed. A boy is kidnapped, tied up. and thrown into the back of a wagon. 


Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Street urchins smoke pipes, and their evil overseer pours them cups of gin. In a pub, poor adults drink alcohol and sing pub songs. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Oliver! is a lavish 1968 adaptation of the Broadway musical based on the classic Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. It's warm and memorable -- and won six Oscars, including Best Picture -- but some of the scenes depicting street urchins and the poor of London in the mid-1800s might be troublesome for some families. Some of the younger characters are shown smoking pipes, and their "employer," the notorious Fagin, leader of their gang of pickpockets, has them drink gin. There are also scenes were poor people sing and carouse in a tavern. The film is over two-and-a half hours long, which could  be an issue for younger viewers. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byMarianF February 2, 2013

Very scary for kids under 14

This film includes a man beating a woman to death (you see the cane and her feet twitching). Another scene includes a man shot dead and hanging from a rope. A... Continue reading
Parent of a 9 year old Written byizzysmama August 3, 2012

Too frightening - bloody murder scene and frightnening characters.

This movie is not appropriate for children. There are two very violent scenes in which Oliver witnesses two murders. I saw this movie long ago so didn't... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byBestPicture1996 January 2, 2010

Lavish but nearly opera-like

I'm not big on musicals, but if they have catchy tunes I'll stay tuned, plus this won Best Picture so I had to see it. There are about 3 minutes betwe... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byswaggyphantom January 17, 2014


It's a great movie with extremely catchy tunes, loveable characters and a classic story. Parentall guidance may be needed during the last half hour or so d... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, OLIVER! (an Oscar-winner for Best Picture) centers on young Oliver (Mark Lester), an orphan who so outrages the orphanage staff by asking for a second bowl of gruel that he's sold to undertaker Mr. Sowerberry as an apprentice. He runs away from the abuse and meets charming rapscallion Artful Dodger (Jack Wild). Dodger is part of a gang of child pickpockets led by Fagin (Ron Moody), who takes young Oliver in as his new apprentice thief. Oliver is arrested for picking the pocket of wealthy Mr. Brownlow, who takes an interest in him and brings him home. Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed), a murderous thief who works with Fagin, kidnaps Oliver to prevent him from giving away the details of their enterprise. Bill kills his girlfriend, Nancy, when she tries to help Oliver escape. Bill himself is killed, and Oliver is returned to Mr. Brownlow, who turns out to be his uncle.

Is it any good?

With many truly glorious songs and stellar performances, this 1968 film version of the Broadway musical earned six Oscars. Although young Oliver is truly alone in the beginning of the film, Fagin and the boys give him a sense of family, singing warmly to him that he's to "consider yourself one of us!" They're the first to see him as an individual instead of as a troublesome animal, and the first to give him any affection.

On the less warm-and-fuzzy side, there are some truly nefarious adult characters in Oliver!. Bill Sikes is entirely amoral, willing to do anything to further his own interests. Orphanage manager Mr. Bumble and undertaker Mr. Sowerberry, both considered by themselves and those around them to be sterling, law-abiding citizens, aren't much better. Like Bill, they have no compunctions about putting their own interests first, no matter what the cost is to others. But Nancy and Fagin have limits. They'll engage in small crimes, but have some sense of fundamental integrity.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the power of Charles Dickens' storytelling in Oliver!. What is it about his stories from the 1800s that make them remain popular today, and so adaptable for plays, movies, and musicals?

  • How does music help tell the story in this film adaptation?

  • Oliver wants someone to "buy" his happy moment and save it for him. If you could pick a day to have saved that way, what day would you choose? 

  • How do the characters in Oliver! demonstrate gratitude and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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