The Secret Garden

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Secret Garden Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
'90s adaptation of classic book has some heavy themes.
  • G
  • 1993
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 20 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 18 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

May encourage kids to read the book. 

Positive Messages

Showcases the healing powers of nature and friendship. Themes include curiosity, communication, and compassion, as well as teamwork and perseverance. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mary and Colin start off being spoiled, but they learn important lessons about sharing and friendship.

Violence & Scariness

Colin is often ill, or thinks he is ill, and obsesses on death. Mary survives an earthquake in India that kills her parents. Medlock slaps Martha in the face. Mary endures shunning and mild name-calling.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Secret Garden is a 1993 coming-of-age drama about a spoiled tween orphan who finds peace and purpose when she discovers a long-abandoned secret garden. It's based on the novel first published in 1911. Many kids will be drawn into the mystery of the garden and the strange crying in the house, yet be aware that this is a sedate story and may bore kids used to action-packed films. The lead character, Mary, witnesses her parents in the midst of an earthquake that leads to their deaths. While on the ship that takes her from India to England, Mary endures shunning and mild name-calling. Other main characters struggle with the grieving process. A young bedridden boy is obsessed with illness and death. The head housekeeper slaps one of the maids in the face. While Mary acts like a spoiled brat early in the movie, as she grows up, she begins to demonstrate curiosity and compassion.  

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymeandmumma July 19, 2019

A beautiful movie for the whole family!

This is a gorgeous tale about how love, courage and a little bit of magic triumphs over those things that keep us down. Our whole family loved it and will defin... Continue reading
Parent Written bywholesomeandhelpful January 26, 2019

Heavy topics for a kid's movie!

This is a really sweet story and has a beautiful message of redeeming love. However I believe this movie is very dark and has some very disturbing parts that ma... Continue reading
Kid, 7 years old September 28, 2020
This film contains mild language. I think the beginning is not suitable for children under 3 unless they are supervised by an adult because there was a scary ea... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bytheatrekid July 12, 2020


The Secret Garden is beautiful and I always thought it was so underrated compared to A Little Princess. In my own opinion, Secret Garden is better. Mary transfo... Continue reading

What's the story?

When her parents die, spoiled Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly) is sent from India to England to live with her uncle Archibald Craven, a mysterious and lonely man. He's rarely home, leaving Mary to the care of housekeeper Mrs. Medlock (Maggie Smith). One day, Mary finds the key to THE SECRET GARDEN, once the favorite place for her uncle and his wife, whom he adored. After she died, he locked it up and swore no one would go in there again. Mary decides to find the garden, but first she investigates the crying she often hears in the night and discovers her uncle's son, Colin (Heydon Prowse). He has been confined to bed all his life and is incredibly spoiled. Mary soothes him by telling him about the garden. Later, when he has a tantrum, she's the first person ever to set limits on his behavior. Mary finds the garden, and she and Colin and the maid's brother Dickon bring it back to life. As they do, Mary and Colin get stronger in body and in spirit. When Archibald returns, he meets them in the garden. They run to him, and it's clear that the garden will heal him, too.

Is it any good?

This is a fine adaptation of the beloved children's book. Children respond to Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden because (at least in the beginning) she is so unlikable, a relief from all the Pollyannas and Cinderellas who are rewarded for their relentlessly sunny characters and good deeds. And then there is the pleasure of meeting Colin, who is even worse, a "young rajah" who has had his every wish granted instantly and is surrounded only by those who live in terror of his hysteria.

Mary and Colin are a perfect match for each other, and the scene in which she responds to his tantrum with fury is especially moving, as is the scene in which they enter the garden together, a wonderful metaphor for all that is going on inside their spirits.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Secret Garden compares to the book, and how Mary changes through the course of the story.

  • Why do you think both Mary and Colin were so spoiled when we first meet them, and what caused them to change into more caring children by the end of the film?

  • How do the characters in The Secret Garden demonstrate curiosity, communication, and compassion? What about perseverance and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love books and movies

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate