The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase Movie Poster Image
Suspenseful, creepy British film is nightmare fodder.
  • NR
  • 1989
  • 88 minutes

Parents say

age 4+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

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

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

In the words of Bonnie Willoughby: "Friends are important." So is independence and standing up to wrongdoing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bonnie and Sylvia show tremendous wit and resourcefulness while facing trials and tribulations that would leave most kids their age in tears. Also, the girls are unafraid to speak out against evil and wrongdoing.


A character is crushed to death after falling in between the industrial rollers of a factory laundry. One person throws knives at another. Wolves chase characters throughout the film, pursuing a young girl at one point. A boy falls into a giant laundry tub and appears to be drowned. Some rifleplay. An antagonist catches on fire before being mauled to death by wolves.


Two girls spy on a couple as the man puts his hands on the woman's clothed rear end.


Rare language includes "hell" and "damn you."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink wine. One adult is shown intoxicated, sloppily tossing his empty bottles at a basket.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is filled with enough scary moments to make this for sturdy older kids only. Little girls contend with an evil governess and end up bait for wolves, knives, and are locked in a closet. One character meets a gruesome death between the rollers of a giant industrial washing machine while another is mauled by wolves and then dies in a fire.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysleath April 29, 2013

Misunderstood classic

To say this film is a 12 rating is ridiculous. You can shelter your children all you like but they will see worse things than this delightful epic years before... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old March 14, 2019

A bit scary for me

the wolves were a bit scary and lots of people died.
Don’t watch it alone unless you are 11 or older.

What's the story?

Young Bonnie Willoughby (Emily Hudson) is excited that her cousin, the orphan Sylvia, is coming to stay in her country mansion surrounded by nothing but woods and wolves. But when the front door opens, she comes face-to-face with the evil Miss Slighcarp (Stephanie Beacham), hired by her parents to take care of Bonnie and Sylvia while the rest of the family spends time in warmer climates recovering from illness. Instead of taking care of them, Slighcarp schemes to steal the family fortune, sink the ship Lord and Lady Willoughby are sailing on, fire all the servants, and send the children to an orphan work camp. It is up to the girls to stop Slighcarp and her accomplice, the drunken Mr. Grimshaw (Mel Smith).

Is it any good?

THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE has enough disturbing gothic imagery to provide younger children with plenty of material for nightmares. A pack of wolves runs around the countryside trying to maul every human they see, and there are bleak and brutal scenes of an orphan work house straight out of darkest Dickens, to say nothing of rats, intense chase scenes, and cartoonishly evil bad ladies and men. Which isn't to say that this is a bad movie, but it does go out of its way to exaggerate the suspense and general air of bleakness hanging over 19th century England.

Overall, the acting is very good, especially compared to most children's movies. Stephanie Beacham gives the odious Miss Slighcarp the over-the-top performance the character requires, and Mel Smith is comically bumbling as her foolish sidekick Grimshaw. Once the action gets going, the adventures and misadventures draw you in, and even as you're not exactly sure why there are so many wolves running around the lavish estate, the wolves do at least ratchet up the tension.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how books are turned into movies. What do you think some of the challenges are in turning a book into a movie? How does this movie compare with other films you've seen based on books?

  • How accurately do you think the film represents the plight of orphans in 19th century England?

  • While there is an obvious literal meaning to "wolves" in the film's title, who and what are the symbolic "wolves" in the film?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scary stuff

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