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Harriet the Spy (film) facts for kids

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Harriet the Spy
Harriet the Spy (1996 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bronwen Hughes
Produced by
  • Marykay Powell
  • Nava Levin
Screenplay by
  • Douglas Petrie
  • Theresa Rebeck
Story by
Music by Jamshied Sharifi
Cinematography Francis Kenny
Editing by Debra Chiate
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) July 10, 1996 (1996-07-10)
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Money made $26.6 million

Harriet the Spy is a 1996 American children’s coming-of-age comedy film directed by Bronwen Hughes in her directorial debut, and starring Michelle Trachtenberg in her feature film acting debut. It co-stars Rosie O'Donnell, J. Smith-Cameron, Gregory Smith, and Vanessa Lee Chester. Based on the 1964 novel of the same name by Louise Fitzhugh, the film follows a sixth-grade student who aspires to become a writer and spy.

Filming began in the fall of 1994 in Toronto and was completed by the end of 1995. Produced by Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies and Rastar, it was the first film produced under the Nickelodeon Movies banner and the first of two film adaptations of the Harriet the Spy books. In theaters, the pilot episode of Hey Arnold! called Arnold was shown before the film.

The film was released in theaters on July 10, 1996. It made $26.6 million worldwide on a production budget of $12 million. The film was released on home media on February 25, 1997.


Harriet M. Welsch is an 11-year-old sixth grader in New York City who aspires to be a spy and writer. Her best friends are Simon "Sport" Rocque and Janie Gibbs. She lives a privileged life with her parents, Violetta and Ben and her nanny, Katherine "Ole Golly", who's the only person who knows all the things that Harriet has been snooping on. Harriet and her friends are enemies with an elitist rich girl named Marion Hawthorne.

One night while alone with Harriet, Golly invites a friend, George Waldenstein, over for dinner. After Golly accidentally burns the meal, the three go out to dinner and a movie instead. When the three return home late in the evening, Violetta becomes enraged at Golly for letting Harriet stay out past her curfew, and fires her. Violetta quickly regrets this and begs for Golly to stay, but Golly concedes that it's best for Harriet to be on her own. Shortly before she leaves, Golly encourages Harriet to never give up on her love for observing people, and promises her that she will be the first to buy her very own autographed copy of Harriet's first novel. After Harriet bids Golly goodbye, she becomes depressed and withdrawn. While spying on people in various areas of the city, Harriet breaks into the mansion of Agatha Plummer, and gets caught hiding in her dumbwaiter.

After school the next day, Marion discovers Harriet's private notebook and begins reading all of Harriet's vindictive comments about her friends out loud, such as how she suspects Janie "will grow up to be a nutcase", and teasing Sport's father for barely earning any money. This results in Sport and Janie turning their backs on Harriet. Harriet's classmates subsequently create a Spy-Catcher club and torment Harriet on her spy routes.

When Harriet begins avoiding her homework assignments, her parents take away her notebooks and request that her teacher, Miss Elson, search Harriet each day at school for notebooks, much to Harriet's embarrassment. One day, during art class, Marion and her friends intentionally pour blue paint on Harriet. Harriet responds by slapping Marion in the face and fleeing the school. Harriet enacts a revenge plot against her classmates, including exposing that Marion's father left her family to be with his secretary and because he never loved her, cutting off a chunk of Laura's hair, sabotaging one of Janie's science experiments (triggering an angry response from Janie's parents), and humiliating Sport with a picture of him in a maid outfit. Harriet's revenge plans enrage her classmates, further alienating her.

Harriet's parents discover what she has done to her classmates and send her to be evaluated by a psychologist, who assures them that Harriet is fine. Then things start to get better again. Harriet gets her notebook back, and she even gets a surprise visit from Golly, who tells her that in order to make things right again, she must do two things: apologize and lie. When Harriet tells her that it's not worth it, Golly disagrees, and tells Harriet that she is worth it as an individual, and her being an individual will make others nervous (and keep making them feel as such), before finally adding that one of the blessings of life is good friends, and tells Harriet to never give up her friends without a fight.

Harriet then tries to apologize to Sport and Janie, even though they initially reject her (they later, however, finally come to their senses because they get tired of being treated unfairly in Marion's bully group and quit as a result, much to Marion's dismay). She also shares her opinion with Miss Elson and the class that the appointment of the editor of the sixth grade paper was done unfairly, who agrees, and opens it up for a vote. Harriet is voted in as editor, by her classmates, replacing Marion. Through one article, she apologizes to everyone, including Marion, and all (except Marion) accept her apology. All is well. On opening night of the 6th grade pageant, Janie, Sport, and Harriet light off a stink bomb as revenge on Marion and dance to James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing" until the end of the film.


  • Michelle Trachtenberg as Harriet M. Welsch
  • Rosie O'Donnell as Catherine "Ole Golly"
  • Gregory Smith as Simon "Sport" Rocque
  • Vanessa Lee Chester as Janie Gibbs
  • J. Smith-Cameron as Violetta Welsch
  • Robert Joy as Ben Welsch
  • Eartha Kitt as Agatha K. Plummer
  • Charlotte Sullivan as Marion Hawthorne
  • Teisha Kim as Rachel Hennessy
  • Cecilley Carroll as Beth Ellen Hansen
  • Dov Tiefenbach as Boy with Purple Socks
  • Nina Shock as Carrie Andrews
  • Connor Devitt as Pinky Whitehead
  • Alisha Morrison as Laura Peters
  • Nancy Beatty as Miss Elson
  • James Gilfillan as Archie Simmons
  • Gerry Quigley as Sport's Dad
  • Jackie Richardson as Janie's Mother
  • Roger Clown as Dr. Wagner
  • Sally Cahill as Maid


Another adaptation of Harriet the Spy was released as a television movie in 2010 entitled Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars, with Jennifer Stone in the title role.

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