Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical

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Not suitable under 6; not recommended under 8; parental guidance to 9 (scary scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical
  • a review of Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 December 2022.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 6 Not suitable due to scary scenes and themes.
Children aged 6–7 Not recommended due to scary scenes and themes.
Children aged 8–9 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes and themes.
Children over the age of 9 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Some scary scenes
Length: 117 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Matilda (Alisha Weir) came into the world as an unwanted child to her selfish and mean parents. She is a child with extraordinary abilities who loves to read books, much to the annoyance of her parents, who would prefer her to watch trashy TV shows. Matilda has a friend in the local librarian, Mrs Phelps (Sindhu Vee), to whom she tells her wildly imaginative stories. One day, Matilda and her parents are visited by the local authority and teacher, Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch), with whom Matilda forms an instant bond. They decide that Matilda needs to attend school.

Matilda is excited about starting school at Crunchen Hall but is shocked to find that it is run by the most fearsome head teacher, Miss Trunchbull (Emma Thompson). The students all live in fear of her and her extreme forms of punishments. One of which is isolation in the Chokey – a wooden contraption out in the woods and enclosed by chains. Matilda’s high intelligence makes her question what is happening at the school and dares to stand up to Miss Trunchbull. Matilda becomes even bolder when she realises she has the power to move objects with her eyes. Matilda becomes an inspiration to the other students who eventually all revolt against the authoritarian and extremely nasty, Trunchbull.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Cruelty to children; Neglect of children; Telekinesis powers.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • Mr and Mrs Wormwood constantly fight about money and other matters.
  • Mr Wormwood yells at Matilda.
  • Miss Trunchbull picks up a student by her pigtails, whorls her around in the air and throws her over a wall. She gets one of the students to check whether she’s still alive.
  • Matilda watches her Mum and Dad fight.
  • A student is made to eat a whole cake because he stole a piece. He is then sent to the Chokey.
  • The escapologist frees his acrobat wife just in time before a device explodes, but she slips from his hand and falls to the ground. She breaks every bone in her body. She goes on to have her baby but dies afterwards.
  • Father picks up Matilda and throws her into her attic bedroom.
  • Miss Trunchbull pulls a child out of the mud and drops her on the ground. She picks another child up by the feet and drops him too.
  • Miss Trunchbull picks a boy up by his ears which stretch really long.
  • With her powers, Matilda gathers all of the chains from the Chokeys and they resemble a large monster which smashes all of the Chokeys.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Miss Trunchbull is an extremely fearsome character – very large and ugly-looking. She wears what looks like an army commander’s clothes.
  • A circus is shown with a lion that roars and a pram with shark’s teeth.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Mr and Mrs Wormwood are very horrible to Matilda. They make it obvious they don’t want her and call her names such as idiot and pig.
  • Matilda has to sleep in an attic bedroom.
  • Matilda tells Miss Phelps a story about an escapologist, who is shown tied up in chains.
  • Miss Trunchbull calls Matilda a gangster. She thinks all children are maggots, imps and hobgoblins.
  • Miss Trunchbull says that she likes troublemakers because they make such a sound when they snap.
  • A scene when a girl’s father comes home and finds her locked in the basement is quite sad and intense. It is raining and there is thunder and lightning. They both cry.
  • Matilda’s conjured-up chain monster is quite scary – it looks like it will grab Miss Trunchbull by the throat. It doesn’t but her hair grows up into pigtails and she flies around the room, though the roof, over the yard and crashes onto the ground.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Mrs Wormwood states she doesn’t want to have a ‘stinking baby’. She then screams as she is taken off to the labour ward.
  • Mr Wormwood clearly wanted a son and not a daughter.
  • Mr Wormwood tells Miss Trunchbull that Matilda’s a troublemaker and a naughty goblin.
  • Matilda is scared of her parents and hides from them by climbing onto the roof of the house. She walks along the ridge.
  • The school gate locks behind the children and they feel they are trapped inside.
  • The older students scare Matilda and her friend, Lavender, by telling them horror stories about the school.
  • Miss Trunchbull operates a machine in her study which spies on all of the children.
  • The escapologist is due to perform a great feat, escape his chains in time to free his wife, an acrobat, who has a burning wire tied around her which will explode when it reaches a device. He says the act has been cancelled because his wife is pregnant. However, his evil sister-in-law insists that they are contracted to perform the act and it must go on. This is quite an intense scene.
  • The escapologist asks his sister-in-law to help him raise his daughter. She is evil, however, and treats the daughter badly. The father comes home on one occasion, and finds her locked in the basement. He cries when he tells her how sorry he is and promises to never let it happen again. However, he is never seen again after that night.
  • Miss Honey believes her guardian killed her father.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
  • Curly Wurly
  • Walkers.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • References to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Mrs Wormwood dresses in a provocative manner.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Drinking cocktails at home.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Like Hell.
  • Name calling such as:
    • Idiot
    • Snotball
    • Evil incarnate
    • Pathetic
    • Snivelling.

In a nutshell

Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical is a cinematic version of the recent musical stage play, featuring the music of Tim Minchin. The cast of actors are wonderful, including Emma Thompson as the most fearsome Miss Trunchbull. The core of the story is a dark tale of child abuse, neglect and cruelty. However, the triumph of the human spirit comes through Matilda, who overcomes and defeats all of her powerful enemies through strong willpower, intelligence and extra sensory powers. The movie is best suited for children aged 10+ due to the themes, violence and scary scenes. For these reasons it isn’t suitable for children under 6, it isn’t recommended for under 8’s and parental guidance is recommended for 8–9 year olds.

The main messages from this movie are that sometimes you have to disobey those in authority when you know they are wrong; and that you have determination over your own story.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • That reading a book is like taking a holiday in your head.
  • Children need love, respect and care.
  • Independence.
  • Using your brain to solve problems.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Matilda says that not all stories have happy endings, which is true in real life. It might be an opportunity to discuss sad times.
  • Matilda and Miss Honey are both badly treated as children. Parents could talk about the fact that some children need outside help to make their lives better.