Matilda (1996 film)

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"Matilda (film)" redirects here. For the unrelated 1978 film, see Matilda (1978 film). For the title character, see Matilda Wormwood.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Danny DeVito
Produced by Danny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Liccy Dahl
Screenplay by Nicholas Kazan
Robin Swicord
Based on Matilda 
by Roald Dahl
Starring Mara Wilson
Danny DeVito
Rhea Perlman
Embeth Davidtz
Pam Ferris
Narrated by Danny DeVito
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Stefan Czapsky
Edited by Lynzee Klingman
Brent White
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • August 2, 1996 (1996-08-02)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $36,000,000[2][3]
Box office $33,098,222 [4]
(in the U.S.)

Matilda is a 1996 American fantasy comedy children's film directed and narrated by Danny DeVito. The screenplay by Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord is based on Roald Dahl's novel of the same name. The film was released by TriStar Pictures on August 2, 1996 and stars Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, and Pam Ferris.


Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) is an intelligent girl with a bright personality, but her parents, Harry and Zinnia (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman), neglect and mistreat her. When Matilda reaches four, she discovers the local library and walks there every day to read while her parents are at work and her older brother, Michael, is at school.

By age six-and-a-half, Matilda begins to lose patience with her parents. In retaliation for her father's constant lecturing, she mixes his hair tonic with her mother's hair dye which turns his hair an unhealthy blonde. Harry takes his kids to his workshop, where he reveals that the cars he sells are faulty. Matilda accuses him of being dishonest and he belittles her, so she retaliates by putting super-super-glue in his hat, forcing Zinnia to cut it off. Matilda reads a borrowed library book of Moby Dick which Harry then tears it, calling it filth, reacting to the title while her family is watching television. When Harry tries to force her to watch with them, Matilda grows increasingly angry and the television suddenly explodes.

Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris) is the headmistress of a run-down school, Crunchem Hall. Harry enrolls Matilda there, where she befriends several children and learns of Miss Trunchbull's nature and her harsh punishments of the students. Matilda's teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey (Embeth Davidtz), is a kind woman who adores her pupils and takes an immediate liking to Matilda. Miss Honey talks to Miss Trunchbull and requests that Matilda be moved up to a higher class, but Trunchbull refuses. Miss Honey pays Matilda's parents a visit and requests that they pay more attention to her, but they refuse to listen. Meanwhile, Matilda discovers that her family is under surveillance by FBI agents (Paul Reubens and Tracey Walter) due to her father's illegal dealings, but her parents refuse to believe her.

Sometime later, Miss Trunchbull goes to Miss Honey's class for a weekly "check-up" and starts to belittle the students. As a prank, Lavender (one of Matilda's friends) places a newt in Miss Trunchbull's water jug to frighten her. She accuses Matilda, whose anger at the injustice leads to her telekinetically tipping the glass over, splashing water and the newt on Miss Trunchbull. Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea. On the way, they pass Miss Trunchbull's house, and Miss Honey reveals her secret; when she was two years old, her mother died, so her father invited his wife's stepsister, Miss Trunchbull, to live with them and look after Miss Honey. However, Miss Trunchbull mistreated and abused her niece at every opportunity. When Miss Honey was five, her father died of an apparent suicide. Eventually, Miss Honey moved out of her aunt's house and into a small cottage. Matilda and Miss Honey briefly sneak into Miss Trunchbull's house while she is out, but her unexpected return leads to a cat-and-mouse chase with Matilda and Miss Honey only barely escaping.

When Matilda's telekinetic powers manifest again during an argument with Harry, she trains herself to use her ability at her own will. Matilda returns to Miss Trunchbull's house, wreaking havoc in an attempt to scare her away, like repeatedly striking her clock, opening the windows, and turning the lights on and off. Trunchbull almost flees, but she finds Matilda's ribbon and realizes that she was there. The next day, Miss Trunchbull visits Miss Honey's class again to get Matilda to admit her guilt. Matilda uses her powers to write a message on the blackboard, posing as the ghost of Miss Honey's father Magnus and accusing her of murdering him. Miss Trunchbull attacks the students, but Matilda keeps them out of harm's way with her powers and the students force Miss Trunchbull out of the school. Miss Honey moves back into her father's house.

The FBI finally uncovers enough evidence to prosecute Harry, and he and his family prepare to flee to Guam. They stop by Miss Honey's house to pick up Matilda, but she refuses to go with them. In that moment, Zinnia laments on her guilt and regret in not understanding Matilda better. She and Harry sign the adoption papers that would allow Miss Honey to adopt Matilda. The Wormwoods escape, while Matilda lives a happy life with Miss Honey, who, in addition to her teaching duties, also becomes the school's new principal.


  • Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood, the main protagonist.
    • Alissa and Amanda Graham, Trevor and James Gallagher as Matilda - newborn
    • Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks as Matilda - 9 months
    • Amanda and Caitlin Fein as Matilda - toddler
    • Sara Magdalin as Matilda - 4 years
  • Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood, Matilda's father.
    • DeVito also narrates the film.
  • Rhea Perlman as Zinnia Wormwood, Matilda's mother.
  • Embeth Davidtz as Miss Jennifer Honey, Matilda's class teacher and the niece of Ms. Trunchbull. She later becomes Matilda's adopted mother.
    • Amanda and Kristyn Summers as Jennifer Honey - 2 years
    • Phoebe Pearl as Jennifer Honey - 5 years
  • Pam Ferris as Agatha Trunchbull, the principal of school Matilda attends and the main antagonist.
  • Brian Levinson as Michael Wormwood, Matilda's brother.
    • 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
  • Jimmy Karz as Bruce Bogtrotter
  • Jean Speegle Howard as Mrs. Phelps
  • Marion Dugan as Cookie
  • Emily Eby as Maggie
  • Craig Lamar Traylor as Child in Classroom
  • Jon Lovitz as Mickey, host of The Million Dollar Sticky.

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Satellite Awards
    • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical (Danny DeVito)
  • Young Artist Award
    • Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress (Mara Wilson)
    • Best Performance in a Feature Film — Supporting Young Actress (Kira Spencer Hesser)

The film was submitted for an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score, but wasn't nominated.


Three songs are featured in the movie. One of them, "Send Me on My Way" by Rusted Root, is played twice: when the four-year-old Matilda is left alone at her house, making pancakes, and at the end of the film, set to a montage of Matilda and Miss Honey playing at Miss Trunchbull's former house. The other song is Thurston Harris's "Little Bitty Pretty One", played when Matilda is learning to control her psychokinetic powers.

The film's original score was composed by David Newman.


Matilda received critical acclaim at the time of its release. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a "fresh" rating of 90%.[5] In the United States, the film earned $33 million in contrast to its $36 million budget.[2][3] It fared better during its worldwide release and ended up earning back nearly double its original budget[citation needed] as well as on home video and television.

Home media release[edit]

In 2013 Mara Wilson and her former co-stars from Matilda had a reunion to celebrate the movie's 17th anniversary and Matilda being released on Blu-ray.[6] The reunion scene was featured in the Blu-ray of Matilda.[7]


External links[edit]