Matilda is a film that inspires warm childhood memories for countless '90s kids. Directed by Danny DeVito and starring Mara Wilson, the story of a precocious girl developing superpowers and going head-to-head with a world of careless, belligerent adults likely spoke to many young kids who felt ignored, out of place, or stifled by the world around them. Not to mention it was surely exciting for fans of Roald Dahl's book to see it come to the big screen.
But for all its wholesome moments, it's got some pretty disturbing ones, too. If you were a particularly young viewer, you might remember having nightmares of the Chokey, or getting an adrenaline rush watching as Matilda scares Miss Trunchbull so bad she goes running for the hills.
So here are the darkest moments and details from one of our favorite family movies. Vote up the most disturbing ones, and see if they hit harder now that you're older!
Matilda's Dad Is A Crook
Harry Wormwood is a stereotypical sleazy car salesman to the point of hyperbole. We see just how bad it really is in the scene where he takes his kids into the shop to teach them all his dirty tricks. He takes junker cars and glues back on the bumpers, tampers with the odometer, and covers up engine issues so he can resell what should be scrap at exorbitant prices. This isn't just dishonest. As the young girl points out, it's incredibly dangerous. He's so bad, he even gets the FBI on his tail!Matilda madness?
A Girl Gets Flung By Her Pigtails
Matilda's friend Lavender helpfully informs us early on that Trunchbull used to be in the Olympics - "shotput, javelin, and hammer throw!" - and, boy, does it show. Our protagonist's first day at school opens with a warm welcome of watching those athletic skills at work.
Trunchbull approaches student Amanda Thripp about her pigtails, which are seemingly against dress code (or maybe she just personally doesn't like them). After asking her if she herself is a pig, calling her mother a twit, and ordering her to chop the hair off, Trunchbull puts the cherry on top of all this bullying by grabbing the girl by those darn pigtails, swinging her around multiple times, and flinging her into the sky. Then, on her way back down, she almost gets impaled on a fence of metal spikes!Matilda madness?
Her Whole Family Is Intensely Anti-Intellectual
As if being dangerously neglectful weren't enough, the Wormwoods are as dull as Matilda is bright, and they seem pretty proud of it. They even try to pull their daughter down to their level. Her father mocks her for even asking for a single book, gets angry with her for going to the library, rips up one of her books, and prevents her from starting school on time. In one scene, she even points out that they punish her for being smart, to which her father simply responds, "If a person does something bad, they must be punished," because apparently being smart and bad are the same thing.
The worst part of this might be their obsession with TV, which they at one point force Matilda to watch by physically restraining her in front of the screen like some sort of brainwashing torment.Matilda madness?
The Authorities Are Useless Or Nonexistent
Matilda is a sweet story, but it takes place in a dismally cruel world. It seems that, aside from Miss Honey, the adults are universally abusive. Obviously there are the Wormwoods and the Trunchbull, but it goes so much farther than that. Why do none of the other kids' parents believe them when they tell of the terrible things that take place at the school? Why hasn't the school been shut down? And how have the Wormwood parents, who live in a pretty upscale neighborhood, not had CPS called on them yet? Surely someone must have seen the girl as a toddler making her journeys alone to the library, or noticed she was left at home alone all day. There are FBI agents on her father's tail, and yet they don't notice (or don't care) about her plight.
These aren't so much plotholes as they are indicators that the universe is a dark one, where growing old can also mean growing bitter and careless.Matilda madness?