Witches, The (2020)

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Not suitable under 13; parental guidance to 15 (scary scenes, themes and violence)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Witches, The (2020)
  • a review of Witches, The (2020) completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 December 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to scary themes, scenes and violence.
Children aged 13–15 Parental guidance recommended due to scary themes, scenes and violence.
Children over the age of 15 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: Witches, The (2020)
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Supernatural themes and violence, scary scenes
Length: 104 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Based on Roald Dahl's book, this 2020 adaptation of The Witches is set in Alabama, USA. The main character (identified as ‘Hero Boy’) (Jahzir Bruno) is 8 years old when his parents are killed in a car crash. His Grandma (Octavia Spencer) takes him in and looks after him. One day, when they are out shopping, ‘Hero Boy’ is scared by a strange woman. When he tells his Grandma what he saw, she explains the woman was a witch and goes on to describe witches. She tells him that witches wear wigs to cover their bald heads, gloves to cover their clawed hands and shoes to hide their toeless feet. She also tells him that witches hate all children and want to get rid of all of them.

Grandma decides to take ‘Hero Boy’ to a luxury resort to escape from his ordeal. Instead, the boy finds himself at a convention of witches masquerading as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The witches are commanded by the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway) who has devised a potion that will transform children into mice, and she proceeds to demonstrate on a hapless boy called Bruno (Codie-Lee Eastick). Bruno changes into a mouse in front of ‘Hero Boy's’ eyes, and, in a shocked state, he is also caught by the Grand High Witch and changed into a mouse. It is now up to ‘Hero Boy’ and Bruno, and his pet mouse Daisy (voice of Kristen Chenoweth), to defeat the witches in their dastardly plan.


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.

Supernatural horror; Fantasy; Witchcraft; Death of parents.

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:

  • A witch wearing a stiletto heel crushes a cartoon image of a child.
  • Bruno's mother scolds him for being dirty and grabs him by the ear and pulls him away.
  • The Grand High Witch bashes her head into the rostrum and then appears terrifying. She throws the rostrum, smashing it into pieces. She rises into the air, cackling while telling the witches her plan to destroy all children.
  • One of the witches questions the Grand High Witch about her plan and she is instantly struck by a laser beam and disintegrates into pieces.
  • The Grand High Witch starts screaming, thinking she can smell a child. She overturns the platform in a rage but ‘Hero Boy’ (who had been watching) had disappeared.
  • Bruno is given a potion, he then starts shaking all over, purple smoke comes out of his ears and mouth, he rises into the air, his head seems to have disappeared and he drops to the ground as a mouse. The witches all try to stomp on him but he manages to escape.
  • The Grand High Witch pulls ‘Hero Boy’ out of his hiding place and gives him the potion. The same thing happens to him as Bruno and he is also turned into a mouse.
  • The Grand High Witch tries to hit the mouse with a hammer but hits her own hand instead.
  • The Grand High Witch's hands get caught in a fan and she screams. Her hands are then shown in bandages.
  • A hotel cleaner chases the mice with a broom.
  • The mice manage to poison all of the witches at a dinner. They are shown, one by one, exploding into purple, flying up into the ceiling and transforming into mangy looking mice. Chaos ensues and people are running and screaming everywhere.
  • Waiters try to hit the mice with brooms and knives.
  • One of the mice lands on the Hotel Manager's head, crawls down his front and bites his private parts. The Manager screams.
  • The Grand High Witch throws a bedhead at Grandma. She says she wants to reach into Grandma's chest and pull her heart out.
  • ‘Hero Boy’, as a mouse, traps the Grand High Witch's foot in a mouse trap.

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:

  • The Grand High Witch is a very scary character. She has a scar on each side of her mouth which splits her face apart when she is angry.

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:

  • ‘Hero Boy’ cries when he looks at a photo of his parents.
  • A witch looks in through Grandma's window.
  • A witch approaches ‘Hero Boy’ in a supermarket. A snake comes out of her sleeve and slithers close to ‘Hero Boy's’ face. She then disappears.
  • Grandma tells ‘Hero Boy’ all about witches while cracks of thunder and bright lightning flashes appear. ‘Hero Boy’ sees claws on the window, lit up by the lightning. A black cat looks at them through the window.
  • At one point, the Grand High Witch looks at herself in a mirror and her face cracks into pieces.
  • At the convention the Grand High Witch takes to the stage. A large snake comes out of her dress and wraps itself around her. The women all remove their gloves to reveal deformed hands with only 1 or 2 fingers. They take their shoes off to show feet with no toes (this is a controversial part of the movie as people with disabilities can have hands and feet like this) and remove their wigs to show bald heads. They all look very ugly and scary.
  • The Grand High Witch's head is covered in scales. She removes a bug from her head and eats it.
  • The Grand High Witch's arms extend to the length of a tunnel that the mice are trying to escape in.
  • ‘Hero Boy’, as a mouse, nearly falls off a ledge into a pot of soup.

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:

  • The opening scene shows ‘Hero Boy’ hanging upside down in the car which has crashed (in which his parents were killed, but not shown) and he is rescued by the emergency responders.
  • Grandma tells ‘Hero Boy’, in a flashback, that when she was a child, she saw a witch who had a very wide mouth with red lipstick on. The witch transformed her friend Alice, who started to grow lumps all over her face and then started pecking at a table, into a chicken. The witch tried to get her too but she managed to run away.
  • At the convention the Grand High Witch's mouth grows wide and splits her face apart which looks quite terrifying. Her nose and nostrils also grow really big while she sniffs out ‘Hero Boy’.
  • The mice pour potion into the Grand High Witch's mouth and she starts to shake all over. She rises into the air and gets her head stuck in the ceiling. She is transformed into a large, ugly looking rodent.

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.

  • The Grand High Witch is quite terrifying. When she transforms her mouth she looks like a character from a horror movie. She is often angry and a very nasty, evil character.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Pepsi
  • Ritz crackers.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

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

  • Potions are used to transform people into mice.
  • Grandma has a drink occasionally.
  • Drinking wine at dinner.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Oh my God
  • Crap
  • What in God's name.

In a nutshell

The Witches (2020) is a black comedy but this version is more like a horror movie. The Grand High Witch is very frightening and much scarier than previous versions. The movie shows characters with deformed hands and feet which is quite insensitive to people who might suffer with these disabilities. The book was written as a children's story but this movie is more targeted at teens and adults. It is therefore not recommended for children under 13 and parental guidance is recommended for children aged 13 – 15.

The main messages from this movie are that good overcomes evil and that we are stronger as a team than individually.

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

  • Cooperation
  • Courage and bravery
  • Selflessness.

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

  • that people with deformities are not scary and dangerous but are just as normal as everyone else.