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Matilda (1996 movie) facts for kids

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Danny DeVito
Produced by
  • Danny DeVito
  • Michael Shamberg
  • Stacey Sher
  • Lucy Dahl
Screenplay by
  • Nicholas Kazan
  • Robin Swicord
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Stefan Czapsky
Editing by
  • Lynzee Klingman
  • Brent White
Studio Jersey Films
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date(s) August 2, 1996 (1996-08-02)
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $36 million
Money made $33 million

Matilda is a 1996 American fantasy comedy film directed by Danny DeVito, who also produced with Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, and Lucy Dahl. It was written by Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, based on Roald Dahl's novel of the same name. Mara Wilson, DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, and Pam Ferris star. The film is about a young genius named Matilda, who uses telekinesis to deal with her parents, who do not value education, and Agatha Trunchbull, the oppressive principal of Crunchem Hall Elementary School.

The film was released in the United States on August 2, 1996.


Matilda Wormwood is a genius, but her parents, Harry and Zinnia, and her brother Michael ignore and mistreat her. Since infancy, Matilda has displayed incredible learning ability and develops a strong sense of independence due to her often being left alone at home every weekday when her father is at work, her mother is playing bingo, and Michael is at school. To pass the time, Matilda learns the route to the public library to read books and finds solace in the fantasy worlds the books provide.

At age six-and-a-half, Matilda begins to lose patience with her parents, expressing a desire to go to school, which her parents refuse blatantly and tease her. In retaliation for her father constantly berating her, she resolves to punish him each time, first by adding hydrogen peroxide to his hair tonic to turn his hair an unhealthy blonde, and then gluing his hat to his head after discovering his cheating car business. Coincidentally, unlucky things begin to happen around Harry when Matilda gets angry with him. For instance, when reading a borrowed library copy of Moby-Dick (which Harry finds obscene because of the title), which Harry rips up and makes her watch television instead, her increasing anger causes the television set to suddenly explode.

Harry finally relents to letting Matilda go to school after selling a car to Agatha Trunchbull, the tyrannical principal of a rundown elementary school, Crunchem Hall. There, Matilda befriends several children and discovers Trunchbull's violent nature and overly harsh punishments of the students which have gone unsanctioned by the authorities. Thankfully, Matilda's teacher, Jennifer Honey, is a kind woman who adores her class and takes an immediate liking to Matilda's gentle and humble nature despite her incredible genius. She requests to Trunchbull that Matilda be moved up to a higher class, but Trunchbull refuses. That night, Miss Honey pays the Wormwoods a visit to tell them about Matilda's genius-level understanding of her schoolwork and suggests that she be put in the higher-level classes. The Wormwoods, however, dismiss Miss Honey and sneer at the idea of their daughter being smart enough for college. Meanwhile, Matilda discovers that her family is under surveillance by FBI agents Bob and Bill due to her father's illegal dealings, but her parents refuse to believe her, as the agents have already fooled Zinnia into thinking they are speedboat salesmen and Harry assumes that Zinnia is cheating on him with the two men.

Matilda soon discovers Trunchbull's weekly "checkups" to belittle the students. As a prank, Lavender, one of Matilda's friends, places a newt in Trunchbull's water jug to frighten her. Upon discovery of the newt, Trunchbull accuses Matilda, whose anger at the injustice leads her to telekinetically tip the glass over, splashing water and the newt on Trunchbull. Afterward, Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea. On the way, they pass Trunchbull's house, and Miss Honey reveals a secret of hers: when she was two, her mother died, so her father, Magnus, invited his stepsister-in-law, Trunchbull, to live with them and look after her. However, Trunchbull regularly abused her while her father, a doctor, was at work. When Miss Honey was five, her father died of an alleged suicide and left everything to Trunchbull. Eventually, she moved into a small cottage. She and Matilda sneak into Trunchbull's house while she is out to obtain some of Miss Honey's belongings, but Trunchbull's unexpected return leads to a cat-and-mouse chase, with them only barely escaping without revealing themselves.

When Matilda's telekinetic powers manifest again during an argument with her father, she trains herself to use them at her own will, from making objects fly around the house to thwarting the FBI agents who threaten to put Matilda in foster care if she doesn't turn her father in for his shady business deals. She returns to Trunchbull's house and uses her telekinesis to wreak havoc in an attempt to scare her away. She almost flees, but Trunchbull finds Matilda's hair ribbon and realizes her presence. The following day, Trunchbull visits Miss Honey's class again to get Matilda to admit her guilt. Matilda magically writes a message on the blackboard, posing as the ghost of Magnus, accusing Trunchbull of murdering him and demanding she return his daughter's property. Trunchbull goes berserk and attacks the students, but Matilda keeps them out of harm's way with her powers, and together they force Trunchbull out of the school permanently. Miss Honey subsequently moves back into her true home.

The FBI finally uncovers enough evidence to prosecute Harry and the Wormwoods prepare to flee to Guam. They stop by Miss Honey's house to pick up Matilda, but she refuses to go with them and suggests Miss Honey adopt her. At that moment, a remorseful Zinnia laments over not understanding her daughter and regrets that she didn't treat her better and does the one truly loving thing she can do as a parent: sign the adoption papers Matilda had kept ever since she was a child, and convince Harry to sign them as well. They escape and Matilda lives a happy life with Miss Honey, who becomes the new principal of Crunchem Hall. Matilda finally gets into the higher-level classes, and now rarely, if ever, uses her powers of telekinesis.


  • Mara Wilson as Matilda Honey (born Matilda Wormwood)
    • Alissa and Amanda Graham, Trevor and James Gallagher as Matilda – newborn
    • Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks as Matilda – 9 months old
    • Amanda and Caitlin Fein as Matilda – 2 years old
    • Sara Magdalin as Matilda – 4 years old
  • Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood and the Narrator
  • Rhea Perlman as Zinnia Wormwood
  • Embeth Davidtz as Miss Jennifer Honey
    • Amanda and Kristyn Summers as Miss Honey – 2 years
    • Phoebe Pearl as Miss Honey – 5 years
  • Pam Ferris as Agatha Trunchbull
  • Brian Levinson as Michael Wormwood
    • Nicholas Cox as Michael – 6 years
  • Paul Reubens as FBI Agent Bob
  • Tracey Walter as FBI Agent Bill
  • Kiami Davael as Lavender
  • Jacqueline Steiger as Amanda Thripp
  • Kira Spencer Hesser as Hortensia
  • Jean Speegle Howard as Miss Phelps
  • Marion Dugan as Cookie
  • Jimmy Karz as Bruce Bogtrotter
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Matilda (1996 movie) Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.