Oliver Twist



Beautiful, but very dark. Not for sensitive kids.
  • Review Date: January 23, 2006
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 130 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Stealing, beating, and cheating.


Oliver is beaten and abused (at one point he breaks his arm); a young woman is murdered, with blood visible.


References to prostitution, attempted seduction, and rough handling of a woman.


Mild and old-fashioned.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Smoking and drinking to indicate corruption.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the film includes occasional brutal images of Oliver's suffering. He's beaten, starved, teased, tortured, and beaten some more. Scenes show Oliver sleeping in a box and in the street, in ragged clothes with bloodied feet and dirty face, bullied by bigger boys, chased by police and arrested, and kidnapped by thieves. Characters fight, smoke, and drink to the point of passing out. Some images are darkly shadowed and potentially frightening for younger viewers. The film makes clear that girls work as prostitutes. And one young woman is murdered, with some struggle, screaming, and blood splatter.

What's the story?

Kicked out of a workhouse because he asks for more lumpy oatmeal, Oliver (Barney Clarke) is shipped off to a household where he's abused mercilessly, then escapes to London (walking some 70 miles), where he's adopted first by the dreadful Fagin (Ben Kingsley) and the Artful Dodger (Harry Eden), to pick pockets, and then by kindly bookseller Mr. Brownlow (Edward Hardwicke). Once Fagin's partner-in-crime, Bill Sykes (Jamie Forman) gets wind of the boy's disappearance into decency, the hunt is on. And Oliver can only be buffeted by the forces determined to use him for their own ends, whether nefarious or benevolent.

Is it any good?


This OLIVER TWIST is nothing like the 1968 musical. No one is happy to be poor and dirty, and ongoing lack of hope makes street kids more desperate and crude than cute. Still, in Roman Polanski's film of Dickens' saga, Oliver is mostly adorable. In part, this is because he's so frail and pale and broken -- vulnerability and victimization make him sympathetic, of course, as does his stubborn faith in human goodness. The, er, twist here has to do with Oliver's brutal, eventually insane pickpocket mentor, Fagin, an infamously Anti-Semitic character, more than once imagined through blatantly anti-Semitic filters, with hook nose and bent body to reflect his depraved and ugly soul. Here he's the villain who does the right thing, recalling the decent Nazi officer who helped the utterly wasted Szpilman to live because he appreciated his playing.

Oliver Twist runs into the usual problems of films based on Dickens -- it's episodic and long (130 minutes). It's also dark and evocative, beautifully shot by Pawel Edelman, and occasionally violent, when Oliver is beaten, kidnapped, injured, and kidnapped again. That Oliver is so relentlessly caught up, carried, imprisoned, and beaten down, makes him an effective, if conventional, sign of ongoing and terrible classism. It also makes him a curious protagonist, not quite chameleonic, as he retains his gullible sweetness throughout, but certainly malleable and abject. Parents may want to consider their children's sensitivities before allowing their kids to watch.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's depiction of alternative families. When the orphan Oliver runs away from the workhouse, he finds two substitute units, in conflict with one another: the wealthy, kindly bookseller, and the initially romantic-seeming cadre of young crooks (including the Artful Dodger). How does Oliver make his decision (or how is it made for him)? How does Oliver's suffering make him sympathetic? How do the criminals change in his eyes, from friendly to threatening?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 30, 2005
DVD release date:January 24, 2006
Cast:Barney Clarke, Ben Kingsley, Jeremy Swift
Director:Roman Polanski
Studio:Sony Pictures Classics
Genre:Family and Kids
Run time:130 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:disturbing images

This review of Oliver Twist 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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Teen, 14 years old Written byMiJus0 January 27, 2011

Just A Little Consideration

i <3 it!! =)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written bylesmisgeek June 24, 2012

Good movie, if understood

I am 14 and LOVE this movie (I LOVE Harry Eden). Although it is a dark tale, Oliver is a good model. He never gave up, he always fought to get what he wanted. I think this should be for 13 and up to understand the hardships and suffering that the characters are going through. My 5-year old sister watches this with me, but she doesn't understand it. I repeat, it is appropriate, but it takes someone older to understand.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written bychargnar August 24, 2012


I saw this movie when i was younger and i loved it
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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