The Secret Garden (1993 film)

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The Secret Garden
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAgnieszka Holland
Screenplay byCaroline Thompson
Based onThe Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Produced byFred Fuchs
Tom Luddy
Fred Roos
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Edited byIsabelle Lorente
Music byZbigniew Preisner
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • 13 August 1993 (1993-08-13) (US)
  • 20 January 1994 (1994-01-20) (UK)
Running time
101 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
Box office$40 million[1]

The Secret Garden is a 1993 fantasy drama film directed by Agnieszka Holland, executive-produced by Francis Ford Coppola and distributed by Warner Bros. under their Family Entertainment imprint. The movie stars Kate Maberly, Heydon Prowse, Andrew Knott, John Lynch, and Maggie Smith, was written by Caroline Thompson and based on the 1911 novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The novel was previously adapted into two films: a 1949 drama film and a 1919 silent film, which starred Lila Lee and Spottiswoode Aitken.

Set in Liverpool, England, Yorkshire's Allerton Castle was used for most of the exterior shots of Misselthwaite Manor, as well as interior shots. The film was a critical and commercial success. Maggie Smith was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. In 2005, the British Film Institute included it in their list of the "50 films you should see by the age of 14".


In 1901, recently orphaned 10-year-old Mary Lennox is sent from her home in British India to her uncle Lord Archibald Craven's mansion, Misselthwaite Manor, in Yorkshire, England. She was unloved and neglected by her parents, who were killed in an earthquake in India. As a result, Mary is cold, self-centered and so repressed that she is unable to cry.

Head housekeeper Mrs. Medlock informs Mary that her uncle, who spends most of his time away, will likely not see her. Mary hears strange sounds of crying in the house and discovers a hidden door in her room that leads to uninhabited areas, including her aunt's old room. There, she discovers a large key. Mrs. Medlock continuously sends Mary to play out on the grounds to keep her occupied whenever the crying starts in the house. Mary discovers her late Aunt Lilias' walled garden, which has been locked up since her death 10 years prior. She realizes that the key she found earlier unlocks the garden, but keeps it a secret. She befriends Dickon Sowerby, the younger brother of the manor's housemaid, Martha. Dickon is an outdoorsy boy who is good with animals. Mary and Dickon slowly clean up the secret garden, and Mary becomes happier. She also finally meets her uncle, who is sullen but kind.

Hidden away in the mansion is Lord Craven's son and Mary's cousin, Colin Craven, who has been treated like a sickly invalid his entire life. A spoiled, short-tempered boy, he has never left his room nor ever walked and is confined to his bed or a wheelchair. His father barely comes to see him in fear that Colin will die soon and he will lose his son. Mary eventually discovers Colin, learning that he was the source of the crying in the house. Although taken aback by his difficult nature, she puts her foot down and refuses to give in to his whims, showing him that he is not really sick. Encouraged by Mary, Colin goes outside for the first time and Mary and Dickon take him to the secret garden.

The three children grow close and spend their free time in the garden everyday, where Colin, with their help, learns to walk. The trio keep all of this a secret from the staff. Colin wants his father to be the first one to see him on his legs. Lord Craven has a dream of Lilias calling him home and returns. In the secret garden, he sees Colin walking for the first time, leaving him speechless with joy.

Mary bursts into tears for the first time in her life, certain that she is unwanted by her uncle and the garden will be locked up again as he had ordered it to be. Lord Craven reassures her that she is now part of the family. Promising never to lock it up again, he thanks her for bringing his family back to life. Dickon informs his older sister and the rest of the manor staff of the good news. The staff watches in shock and joy as Lord Craven and the children come home together.

The film ends with a voiceover of Mary stating that "If you look the right way, the whole world is a garden".


  • Kate Maberly as Mary Lennox
  • Heydon Prowse as Colin Craven, Lord Craven's son and Mary's cousin
  • Andrew Knott as Dickon Sowerby, Martha's younger brother
  • Laura Crossley as Martha Sowerby, Mrs. Medlock's servant and Dickon's older sister
  • John Lynch as Lord Archibald Craven
  • Maggie Smith as Mrs. Medlock, Lord Craven's servant and housekeeper
  • Irène Jacob as Mrs. Lennox/Lilias Craven
  • Peter Moreton as Will
  • Colin Bruce as Major Lennox
  • Walter Sparrow as Ben Weatherstaff, the gardener


Filming locations[edit]

Exterior of Allerton Castle in Yorkshire, northern England

Yorkshire's imposing Allerton Castle was used for most of the exterior shots of Misselthwaite Manor, and some of the interior was also used.[2] Fountains Hall was also used for part of the exterior.[2] Interiors of the former Midland Grand Hotel in London were used for filming as well, notably the scenes on the grand staircase.[citation needed]


The film features the end credits song "Winter Light" performed by Linda Ronstadt, which is based on two themes from the score by Zbigniew Preisner. However, this song was not included in the film's original soundtrack release, but was in Ronstadt's eponymous album Winter Light.[3] Sarah Brightman and the youngest member of Celtic Woman, Chloë Agnew, covered it for their albums; Brightman's Classics and Agnew's Walking In The Air. The soundtrack, released by Varèse Sarabande, contains the original score.[4]


Home media[edit]

The Secret Garden was originally released on VHS in the UK on 1 August 1994 and was re-released on 15 December 1997 by Warner Home Video.


Since its 1993 release, the film has garnered positive reviews. The Secret Garden has an approval rating of 88% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 43 reviews, and an average rating of 7.9/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "The Secret Garden honors its classic source material with a well-acted, beautifully filmed adaptation that doesn't shy from its story's darker themes".[5] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100 based on 26 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

Desson Thomson of The Washington Post praised the acting by young actors, calling their acts "quite proficient and un-sappy too", but adding, "it's not their fault if they too often seem like chessmen being moved around on the director's board, composed into picturesque tableaux".[8] Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote that "[the film is] executed to near perfection in all artistic departments", and called it "[a] superior adaptation", mentioning that "[the adaptation] of the perennial favorite novel will find its core public among girls, but should prove satisfying enough to a range of audiences".[9]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "C+" and called it "earnest, heartfelt, and, for all its lavishness, rather plodding".[10] Janet Maslin of The New York Times called this new adaptation of The Secret Garden "[an] elegantly expressive, a discreet and lovely rendering of the children's classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett".[11]

Trevor Johnston of Time Out said that "With well-judged performances played straight, and topical subtexts (Green consciousness, the dysfunctional family), this 'children's' film sets no age limit on its potential audience".[12]

The film grossed $31.2 million in the US and Canada.[13] Internationally, it grossed $8.8 million for a worldwide total of $40 million.[1]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award wins

Award nominations


  1. ^ a b "Top 100 grossers worldwide, '93-94". Variety. 17 October 1994. p. M-56.
  2. ^ a b McDonald, Guy (2004). England. New Holland Publishers. p. 834.
  3. ^ Promis, Jose F. "Winter Light - Linda Ronstadt". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  4. ^ "Secret Garden, The. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  5. ^ "The Secret Garden (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  6. ^ "The Secret Garden Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  7. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 10 March 2022.
  8. ^ Howe, Desson (13 August 1993). "'The Secret Garden' (G)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  9. ^ McCarthy, Todd (6 August 1993). "The Secret Garden". Variety.
  10. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (13 August 1993). "The Secret Garden". Entertainment Weekly.
  11. ^ *Maslin, Janet (13 August 1993). "Review/Film; Blossom Time for a Lonely Girl". The New York Times. p. C3.
  12. ^ Johnston, Trevor (9 February 2006). "The Secret Garden". Time Out.
  13. ^ "The Secret Garden (1993)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 27 August 2021.


  • Wolf, Matt (8 August 1993). "Film; 'The Secret Garden' and How It Grew". The New York Times. p. 11.

External links[edit]