The Canterville Ghost



TV movie version of Oscar Wilde classic has mild scares.
  • Review Date: January 9, 2013
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 92 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Underscores the idea that love is very powerful. Illustrates clashes between rational thought and supernatural belief, and pokes fun at the differences between English and American cultures

Positive role models

In spite of her frustrations with living in a new environment, Ginny Otis eventually learns to make the best of it, and once she realizes the truth behind the "haunted" house she lives in, she stands determined to do the right thing.


A boy grabs an old gun off of a mantel, but does not shoot it. Some scary moments with a ghost haunting the hallways of an old mansion, with suspenseful music, thunder, lightning, and mysterious smoke. Next to a fireplace, a family believes they have found a bloodstain that is growing and can't be removed. Two rowdy brothers engage in pretend sword fights and pillow fights. When these brothers attempt to pull a prank on the ghost in their mansion, the ghost magically flings them out of one room and throws them onto a bench.


Some chaste teen romance.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Parents drink wine; a butler drinks from a glass of brandy; a father visits a pub, where characters hold and drink from glasses containing various types of alcoholic beverages -- no one acts intoxicated.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Canterville Ghost is a rather mild ghost story that will likely frighten only the youngest or most sensitive viewers. While the suspense and scariness is tame compared to other movies about haunted houses, the movie is still includes lots of smoke, thunder, lightning, and suspenseful music. There is some drinking by adults, but no one acts intoxicated. All in all, for older kids and parents, this is both an entertaining ghost story and a worthy introduction to the stories of Oscar Wilde.

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What's the story?

Ginny Otis (Neve Campbell) is an American teenager moving to a mansion in the English countryside with her family after her physicist father receives a grant at a nearby university. She dreads the boredom that awaits her as they move into a centuries-old mansion, and misses her friends back home. But almost from the get-go, Ginny and her two rambunctious brothers hear mysterious noises, and witness strange occurrences like a reappearing bloodstain on a fireplace. Then, they discover Sir Simon de Canterville (Patrick Stewart )-- a ghost that only the kids in the family can see. Ginny's father -- a scientist who refuses to believe in the supernatural -- blames Ginny for the ghost's havoc, and threatens to send Ginny back to America even as she has found a love interest in a local young duke. Ginny sets out to find out the real story behind Sir Simon, and once she learns it, seeks to free him from his curse.

Is it any good?


For older kids, this adaptation of THE CANTERVILLE GHOST is a lively take on the classic Oscar Wilde short story. Both parents and kids will enjoy Patrick Stewart's portrayal of a ghost with such Shakespearean relish. He clearly has a lot of fun with the role, and his performance more than makes up for the dated special effects that surround him every time he makes an appearance.

Beyond a typical ghost or haunted house story, The Canterville Ghost is also a reflection on love's everlasting quality, the clashes between rational thought and supernatural belief, and a poke at the differences between English and American cultures. It works on many levels; even beyond the scares, The Canterville Ghost is a thoughtful adaptation.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this movie is a modern-day adaptation of a short story first published in 1887. What challenges do you see in taking a story from that time and setting it a century later?

  • How does this movie compare to other haunted house movies? Is this one more or less scary? What effects does this movie use to scare viewers?

Movie details

DVD release date:March 11, 2011
Cast:Donald Sinden, Neve Campbell, Patrick Stewart
Director:Sydney Macartney
Topics:Book characters, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
Run time:92 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some haunting moments

This review of The Canterville Ghost 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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