The Secret Garden



Great book, great adaptation.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: May 12, 2003
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1993
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

May encourage kids to read the book.

Positive messages

Showcases the healing powers of nature and friendship.

Positive role models

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

Violence & scariness

Colin is often ill -- though not as ill as he thinks he is. Mary's parents die in India.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a fine family film, with no inappropriate content. 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.

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 a 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 spoiled to the point of hysteria. Mary soothes him by telling him about the garden. Later, when he has a tantrum, she is 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 is 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 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the movie 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 13, 1993
DVD release date:January 1, 2000
Cast:Heydon Prowse, Kate Maberly, Maggie Smith
Director:Agnieszka Holland
Studio:Warner Bros.
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Book characters, Friendship, Great boy role models, Great girl role models
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of The Secret Garden 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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Parent Written byBoomct January 14, 2012

Wait just a minute . . . one scene that might be inappropriate!

Beautiful book which I enjoyed immensely. The movie is similarly beautiful, and the images are captivating. The change in the main characters from selfish and unpleasant to compassionate and happy is joyful to watch. But whilst the movie is fairly true to the book, there is one exception. (Spoliler alert!) Near the end, the children are casting a spell, chanting quite feverishly around a fire, so that the father might return home. This is the only thing in this movie which was disturbing for me, as a Christian parent. Furthermore, the 'spell' does in fact work, as the father has a sort of supernatural experience which makes him return home immediately. In the book, a similar thing occurs, but the spell is more of a prayer, with reference to a higher power and the song is sung of the popular doxology "Praise Him, from Whom all blessings flow". So, I would indeed let my children watch it, but would skip over the scene or at the very very least explain the book's version. But if this sort of thing doesn't bother you, press on!
Teen, 15 years old Written bybeachbubbles154 April 9, 2008

This is the perfect movie for anybody to watch.

This movie and the book as well are amazing choices to watch or read. You understand what's going on from the very begining, and it keeps you wanting to know what happens next. It teaches not only kids but others as well how to enjoy the company of people you don't like or if you're just shy. This is a truely amazing choice of intertainment. You can watch or read it as many times as you like without the possibility of the magic leaving it.
Parent of a 5 and 7 year old Written byeliette February 5, 2011

Lovely movie, best to watch it together with younger kids

Both my children enjoyed this movie, particularly my first grader (who is also an avid fan of more action-packed stuff like Star Wars). There was enough suspense and mystery in the story to keep his interest. My younger one did have a lot of questions/concerns--she found the housekeeper, Mrs. Medlock, somewhat alarming and she didn't like the scenes early on in the movie where Mary becomes violently upset. I think that this is a great film but recommend that if younger ones are going to watch it, a parent/adult be close by to explain things in case they're confused/concerned...


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