Oliver!

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

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 21 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 17 reviews

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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
Language
Consumerism
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
Adult Written byMabel M. September 25, 2016

WARNING . Extreme Violence

Beware. The G rating is totally incongruous with the content of this movie. I've just put a completely traumatized 6 year old to bed after being completely... Continue reading
Adult Written byBBGum April 13, 2019

Fun but Scary

Its a fun musical movie until the end. In the first part before the intermission there are many musical numbers that are fun to dance along to but eventually th... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old November 5, 2012

BEST MUSICAL EVER!!!

This is a wonderful musical, and anyone who watches this movie because of Common Sense or for any other reason needs to watch the live musical too! There is vi... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written by3-2 -1_movie ratings July 10, 2021

Ignore the official review!

I saw this movie when I was about 7, and to this day I can still remember the horrible end scene when Nancy gets beaten to death. It is horrible and extremely u... 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love musicals

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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