The Railway Children

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Railway Children Movie Poster Image
Great British book-based classic is rewarding for families.
  • G
  • 1970
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Reinforces the idea that kids can be responsible, resourceful, brave, and helpful. The movie shows how kids' good spirit and positive thinking can ultimately pay off in friendships and stronger bonds.


Positive Role Models & Representations

The three kids are responsible, brave, and helpful in this old-fashioned movie. They must keep a stiff upper lip in tough times, and they find positive ways to pass the time. They take a few slightly wrong turns, but eventually they begin helping others and actually become heroes of the day.


In the harshest scene, a maid slaps a boy. An older boy sports a broken leg, with some blood. There are some potentially distressing scenes, such as a father mysteriously taken away from his family, and a mother falling ill with influenza. The children risk their lives to prevent a train wreck, standing on the train tracks as the train approaches. There are some sequences of parents scolding children.


A middle-aged married couple climbs into bed together at night. They close the curtains, and off-screen, the man asks a question. The woman responds, "all right, as it's your birthday." This could imply sex, but then the joke is diffused when the man grabs a bottle of beer from the nightstand.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The town doctor is shown sleeping on the lawn. When awakened by one of the children, he quickly puts away a flask in his coat pocket. A railway man is shown drinking a bottle of beer on his birthday.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Railway Children is a classic of family cinema, especially in the UK where it was produced in 1970. Based on a 1905 children's book by E. Nesbit, it's an old-fashioned entertainment with positive messages and role models. The children behave bravely and responsibly in unfavorable circumstances. Eventually, after a few mild wrong turns, they begin to enjoy helping others and find that their rewards are tenfold. There's some mild violence and scariness, notably a maid slapping a boy, and the disappearance of a father and illness of a mother. There are a few jokes around drinking, and one possible sex-related joke, though very, very subtle. This movie may be a tough sell to the internet/video game generation (not to mention difficult to find), but families who sit still for it will find it hugely entertaining and rewarding.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKen R. March 24, 2020

A Sure Journey To Enjoyment

First; The '2000 version:

Regarding the often asked question; which version is the best...1970 or 2000? It’s probably a balance of personal preference.... Continue reading
Adult Written byMixyplixl January 9, 2014

Wonderful family film - classic!

The whole family thoroughly enjoyed this film more than once. It is a hidden gem, and really is classic for anyone who is a fan of films such as Anne of Green G... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old January 30, 2016

A Lovely Film for all the Family!

I remember Phyllis, the youngest of the children, being very funny and my favourite character.

With a happy ending and sad, touching moments, this film is one... Continue reading

What's the story?

A family's wonderful life in London is upset when the father is suddenly whisked away for mysterious reasons, and the mother (Dinah Sheridan) is forced to move them to cheaper lodgings in Yorkshire. The children -- Roberta (Jenny Agutter), Phylllis (Sally Thomsett), and Peter (Gary Warren) -- begin to pass the time by waving to the passengers on the train as it goes by, and they become friendly with station porter Albert Perks (Bernard Cribbins). Over time, and in several mostly unrelated incidents, they learn to love their new home and the people in it. And some of the friends they make are able to help them in return.

Is it any good?

This movie is remarkably gentle and old-fashioned, but with several wonderfully unexpected touches. Adapted and directed by Lionel Jeffries, The Railway Children is perhaps better known in England than it is in the US. Both the British Film Institute and Time Out London chose it as one of the 100 greatest British films of all time.

Weirdly dreamlike sequences sporadically occur, as when Roberta (also known as "Bobby") celebrates her birthday and appears to drift through the room, or when a tree begins moving by itself. The score, by Johnny Douglas, is also quite delightful and highlights several tension-relieving comical moments. The drama could have been distressing, and/or grueling, but instead Jeffries treats it lightly by using a format of mostly unrelated incidents as well as themes of hope, resourcefulness, and helpfulness. The casting and performances are exceptional, and especially the three charming children, who are in almost every scene. This movie deserves to be better known.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how kids are depicted in The Railway Children. Do you think this is how kids acted in the old days? How is their behavior different than how most kids act today? Are kids in movies always portrayed accurately?

  • Is this movie more or less interesting because it was made many years ago? How can you tell that it's an older movie?

Movie details

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