The Canterville Ghost

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Short takes

Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 9 (themes, scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for The Canterville Ghost
  • a review of The Canterville Ghost completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 January 2024.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to scary scenes and supernatural themes.
Children aged 8–9 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes and themes.
Children aged 10 and over 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: The Canterville Ghost
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild supernatural themes and animated violence, some scenes may scare young children
Length: 88 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in Victorian England, Hiram Otis (voice of David Harewood) moves his family – wife Lucretia (Meera Syal), teenage daughter Virginia (Emily Carey) and twin sons Kent (Bennett Miller) and Louis (Jakey Schiff) – from the US to the English countryside. They move into ‘Canterville Chase’, an old manor house, despite being warned that the house is haunted. After all, the family do not believe in ghosts. However, when the ghost of Sir Simon de Canterville (Stephen Fry) relentlessly taunts them, they have to admit that he exists. Not to be outdone, they exchange friendly banter with him and the boys tease him mercilessly.

Virginia, however, takes pity on Sir Simon, who has been haunting Canterville Chase for 300 years since his wife died. It was rumoured that he had killed her but in fact, it was an accident. Sir Simon can only be free if Virginia will accompany him to the Angel of Death. She does so, not realising that this will cause her own death. Virginia, however, returns to life and marries Henry, the Duke of Cheshire (Freddie Highmore).


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.

The Supernatural; Death and Dying; Legends.

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:

  • The previous owner slips and knocks himself out. When he awakes, he screams at the ghost.
  • Louis and Kent play at sword fighting.
  • Virginia throws a book at the twins.
  • Sir Simon takes his head off and the boys use it as a football, kicking it and throwing it to each other.
  • A crow attacks Henry while riding his horse, throwing him off the horse.
  • Virginia feels her own throat is cut when she sees a gardener in a gated garden cut a rose stem. She faints and falls off the wall.
  • Virginia sees an image of a man in the lake. She falls into the lake and is trapped by weeds. Henry comes to her rescue.
  • Sir Simon threatens the crow with his sword.
  • Sir Simon and Virginia have a pretend sword fight.
  • Sir Simon throws knives at the vicar and sandwiches at his wife, Angelique, the phantasmagorical investigator.
  • Sir Simon gets electrocuted when he touches a switch.
  • Sir Simon attacks Henry with his sword, due to a long family feud.
  • Sir Simon appears at a reception and throws objects about. He sends the musicians flying into the ceiling and sends Angelique spinning. He smashes all of the new light bulbs Hiram has installed and glass shatters everywhere. He sets fire to the curtains, which sets the whole house on fire.
  • The maid gets hit by a laser gun, turns purple and collapses.
  • Angelique fires the laser gun at Sir Simon but Virginia deflects it and Angelique gets knocked out instead.
  • Sir Simon and the Angel of Death fight with swords. Sir Simon and the former Duke of Cheshire (as an apparition) are seen with swords going right through both of their bodies.
  • Virginia sword fights a dragon and chops off one of its claws.

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:

  • A dark-looking mansion house with thunder and lighting.
  • Sir Simon is quite scary-looking, with long hair sticking out, a beard and dark eyes.
  • Angelique looks quite fierce when she dresses in her investigator outfit with goggles and a large laser gun.

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:

  • The previous owner is seen terrified of the ghost – he clutches his teddy bear; an armoured guard turns its head as he walks past; and the stair carpet lifts up and chases him up the stairs. He hears a scary voice speaking to him.
  • A gruesome picture on the wall shows a man holding a skull.
  • A book falls out of a shelf by itself.
  • The maid is also terrified of the ghost. She tells the Otis family that every owner has been forced to flee.
  • Louis and Kent dress up as a ghost with a pumpkin head.
  • A window opens by itself and writing is seen on it. Things start to rattle in Virginia’s bedroom and she sees a ghost walking through the house, rattling his chains. He rises up into the air. She follows it but runs away when he turns to face her. She shuts herself in her room but the ghost comes through the door and through Virginia. He tries to scare her by yelling at her and making scary faces.
  • Hiram closes his bedroom window and locks it but it opens again by itself. The candles light up on their own and the fire comes out of the hearth and nearly touches Hiram. The ghost tries to scare Hiram and his wife.
  • Sir Simon can take his head off. He can also revolve it 360 degrees.
  • A skull talks to Sir Simon.
  • Sir Simon swaps his head with the skull and puts wobbly eyes in. He appears to Hiram and has worms coming out of his mouth. He then changes back to Sir Simon.
  • Virginia enters a cave with skeletons inside.
  • The Gardener (the Angel of Death) approaches Virginia with an axe in hand.
  • The Angel of Death transforms into a previous Duke of Cheshire and into Sir Simon’s wife. He also transforms into a huge dragon, which grabs Sir Simon in its claws.

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:

  • Sir Simon’s head appears at the window.
  • At dinner, a platter lid is lifted revealing Sir Simon’s head.
  • The house on fire is quite scary: the boys are upstairs on the landing and have to jump through the flames; a chandelier comes crashing down on Henry, trapping him underneath, and Sir Simon laughs. Virginia goes back into the burning building to rescue Henry. Sir Simon feels sorry for her and lifts the chandelier using mystic powers, then he absorbs all of the flames to extinguish the fire.
  • Virginia is seen dead on the ground. Angelique tries to revive her with a powerful machine, which raises her body up and sends electrical pulses through her body, but it doesn’t work. The family are all seen crying around the body.

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 noted.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • A romance between Virginia and Henry.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

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

  • There is drinking at dinner and at a party.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Butt
  • Damn
  • What the heck.

In a nutshell

The Canterville Ghost is an animated version of the comedic Oscar Wilde short story about life and death, tragedy and the wrongly accused. This latest version has a stellar voice cast and is quite entertaining. However, many scenes are likely to frighten younger children and it is, therefore, not suitable for children under 8 and more suited to older children, from ages 10 and up.

The main messages from this movie are that love is stronger than death or life; and to make the most out of life as it trickles by so quickly.

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

  • Empathy
  • Using reason and logic to overcome fear
  • Courage and bravery
  • Friendship
  • A strong female character who needs saving on one occasion but saves others on many more.

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

  • The Otis family are more interested in scientific reasoning than believing in myths and legends and therefore deal with the ghost in a rational manner. This could give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children overcoming fears of the unknown through understanding and reasoning.
  • It could also give parents the opportunity to discuss their own beliefs on the presence of an afterlife.