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!
- 1121 VOTES
The Chokey Is Actual Torture
"It's a tall, narrow hole in the wall, behind a door. You have to stand in a drippy pipe with jagged edges, and the walls have broken glass and nails sticking out... sometimes she leaves you in there all day." That's how the Chokey is first described to us. It's no hyperbole to say it's a real-life torture device, having clearly been designed after an iron maiden - that medieval contraption which enclosed prisoners in an iron cabinet containing long metal spikes.
If you don't manage to cut yourself coming in and out of the Chokey, you'll still suffer pain and exhaustion from being forced to stand up straight for hours on end, lest you accidentally lean into the glass and nails that cover the walls. You could end up drawing blood or getting a nasty infection.
- 2119 VOTES
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.
- 3127 VOTES
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!
- 4111 VOTES
Miss Honey Has A Dark, Depressing Past
Miss Honey is everyone's hero. She's kind, smart, a good teacher, and basically a perfect human being. But this just makes it sadder that she has such a dark past. We learn later on in the movie that her mother perished in a mishap while working in the circus. Afterwards, her father invites her mom's stepsister, who turns out to be Agatha Trunchbull, into their home so she won't be alone.
The kindness is not repaid. Trunchbull terrorizes the young Miss Honey at every turn, breaks her arm when she is only seven years old, and eventually plays a hand in Honey's father's supposed suicide. Sadly, even when Honey manages to escape the household, Trunchbull forces her to leave all her money and belongings behind and continues to hold power over her at work. With all this tragedy, it's a wonder the orphaned and abandoned Miss Honey isn't as bitter and angry as every other adult in this film. On the contrary, her troubles seem to give her even more empathy for the children under her care. She knows what it's like to be treated so poorly, and doesn't want anyone else to go through it.