The Parent Trap (1961) Movie Poster Image

The Parent Trap (1961)



Charming classic has some dated gender roles.
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1961
  • Running Time: 124 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

In its own charming (if dated) way, this movie shows the value of cooperation in trying to solve problems. Additional themes include communication and teamwork.

Positive role models

Susan and Sharon begin as archrivals who grow to love each other when they realize they're identical twins. They employ cooperation and creativity to try to reunite their family -- but they also deceive their parents and pull pranks on a woman they don't like.

Violence & scariness

An angry woman slaps a tween girl in the face. Aside from this, mild comedic pratfalls and slapstick-style violence. A woman hits a man in the eye. Two girls slap and shove each other at a summer camp dance and fall to the ground while rolling around.

Sexy stuff

Very tame hints at sex, as a father thinks his tween daughter is about to have a "birds and the bees" discussion, but she tells him she already knows all about it. A maid thinks a girl is beginning to go through puberty and tries getting her to discuss what she's going through. A father finds a large bra on the doorknob of his bathroom.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink wine at lunch and dinner, but do not act intoxicated. Cocktails are consumed during an informal gathering between potential future in-laws and a priest, but, again, no one acts intoxicated. Characters smoke cigarettes throughout the film. A man makes reference to his ex-wife by saying that she "married some drunk."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is the original 1961 version of The Parent Trap, in which long-separated twins (both played by Hayley Mills) join forces to try to reunite their divorced parents (the 1998 remake starred Lindsay Lohan). The roles men and women play in relationships are more than a little dated, despite the fact that the film was ahead of its time in addressing what was then the touchy subject of divorce. Some kids may be alarmed at the idea of the twins being split up, and divorced parents may need to remind kids that most couples don't get back together. An angry woman slaps a tween girl in the face, and there are comedic pratfalls and some slapstick-style violence (the twins are mischievous, but their intentions are good). Adult characters are shown smoking cigarettes and drinking cocktails and wine. Bottom line? The Parent Trap has stood the test of time and remains a charming movie that's entertaining for the entire family.

What's the story?

In THE PARENT TRAP, Sharon and Susan (both Hayley Mills) are as different as night and day, and they become instant enemies when they meet at summer camp. Proper Sharon grew up in Boston with mother Maggie, and tomboy Susan lives out west on a ranch with father Mitch. When they unexpectedly discover they're identical twins, Sharon and Susan switch places to try to reunite their parents so they can stay together. Susan goes to Boston, where she gets to know her lonely mother Maggie. Sharon goes to the ranch, where she discovers that Mitch is about to get married to Vicky, a much younger woman who's most interested in the millions he has in the bank. In desperation, Sharon summons Susan and Maggie to the ranch, and the girls hatch a plan to get their parents back together.

Is it any good?


Quaintly old-fashioned by today's standards, this classic still charms, thanks to heartfelt performances of stars Hayley Mills, Brian Keith, and Maureen O'Hara. The story line here is virtually the same as in the 1998 remake, with the main difference being Mitch and Maggie's rather dated notions about the war between the sexes. Hayley Mills believably plays both Susan and Sharon and shines in the movie's memorable musical number, "Let's Get Together," which the remake omits.

For kids who are willing to watch a movie that unfolds at a more leisurely pace, The Parent Trap is an entertaining relic from a time when kids were far less knowing. As an added bonus, parents will enjoy the interplay between the movie's adults, which is deeper and more dramatic than in the remake.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the message of The Parent Trap. Do comedies often have messages? Do you think the movie remains relevant today, when kids are more knowing and parents divorce openly rather than hiding it, as these parents did?

  • How are issues such as divorce, sex, and puberty addressed in this movie, and how might that compare to a contemporary movie in which tween characters are prominently featured?

  • What are some of the more timeless aspects to this movie released over half a century ago?

  • How do the twins in The Parent Trap demonstrate communication and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 21, 1961
DVD/Streaming release date:May 7, 2002
Cast:Brian Keith, Hayley Mills, Maureen O'Hara
Director:David Swift
Studio:Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Topics:Book characters
Character strengths:Communication, Teamwork
Run time:124 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old October 15, 2011


It was an awesome film, though I did find some parts harsh for young children.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 8 years old April 9, 2008
Kid, 9 years old September 20, 2009

I'ts great!

You've got to see it ! ! ! ! ! ! ! However if there is a divorce going on this may not be the best choice.
What other families should know
Great messages