- 1 hr 35 min
Right from birth, Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) differed from the rest of her family; she showed remarkable intelligence and creativity, and she loved reading from an early age. Her parents (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman), and older brother (Brian Levinson) are shown to be incredibly cruel and morally-corrupt people. Her father, Harry, sells faulty used cars for unfair prices while her mother, Zinnia is unemployed and spends her days playing bingo. Her parents neglect her and disapprove of her behavior. Her father punishes her by sending her to her room simply for being smart. Matilda gets her revenge by pouring her father's hair oil down the sink, and replacing it with peroxide, turning his hair blonde. She then adds insult to injury by putting glue in his hat so it sticks to his head.
Matilda begs to go to school, and when her father sells a 1970 Buick Electra 225 to the practical principal Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), an ex-Olympic athlete, he finally enlists Matilda at her school. Matilda is enrolled at Crunchem Hall Elementary School where children are terrorized by Miss Trunchbull. Matilda learns about her acts of terrorism from her new friends Hortensia (Kira Spencer Hesser) and Lavender (Kiami Davael) such as a boy being thrown out of the window for eating two M&M's during a literature class and the most horrible punishment is "the chokey", an Iron maiden Torture Device like closet with jagged edges lined with nails and shards of glass where the students are forced to stand in. When Matilda asks about the parent's reactions, Hortensia says that despite the cuts sustained in the device, none of the children's stupid parents believe them, which the Trunchbull uses to her advantage. Trunchbull then proceeds to throw a girl by her pigtails over the fence for having pigtails where she lands safely in a field of flowers she gathered for Miss Honey.
To Matilda's relief, her teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey (Embeth Davidtz), is a kind and caring woman who loves her students. On her first day, Matilda displays her remarkable intelligence by solving a very complex multiplication problem in her head, and Miss Honey is amazed by Matilda's knowledge. She attempts to appeal to Miss Trunchbull and Matilda's parents, but they refuse to listen. Trunchbull the next day calls the children to the school assembly hall and tells Bruce Bogtrotter to finish up a whole chocolate cake when she believes that he stole hers. The cheers and yells of the children for him to finish it under the command of Matilda prompts Miss Trunchbull to demand that they stay at school for extra five hours to copy words from the dictionary thus sending them home late. Despite this clear act of abuse, the children's parents do not take legal action.
When the car Matilda's father sold to Miss Agatha Trunchbull is revealed to be a wreck, she locks Matilda in the chokey to get back at her father, and Matilda is freed by Miss Honey. During a lesson that Miss Trunchball takes, Matilda's friend Lavender places a newt in Trunchbull's glass of water. She accuses Matilda of doing it as payback for getting locked in the chokey, despite having no proof. The glass is then mysteriously knocked over, with the newt landing on Miss Trunchbull causing her to freak out. After class ends, Matilda claims to have knocked the glass over, despite going nowhere near it, with her eyes. When she tries to demonstrate however, the glass doesn't fall.
Later, Miss Honey takes Matilda to her home, passing Miss Trunchbull's home on the way where Matilda notices a swing in the front yard. Miss Honey then tells her a story of a young girl who lost her mother when she was only two and her father, Magnus, when she was only five. In between the two tragedies, the mother's stepsister, Miss Trunchbull, moved in with them to look after the girl, but her treatment was nothing short of child abuse. After Magnus apparently killed himself, the Trunchbull presented the police with a will that proved her as the sole beneficiary of the house. The girl continued to live with her aunt, but eventually bought a small cottage and moved out. Matilda recognizes Miss Honey's house as the cottage from her story, and realizes that the girl in Miss Honey's story is Miss Honey herself, and that Miss Trunchbull is Miss Honey's aunt.
Miss Honey explains she was forced to leave all her dearest possessions behind when she left her aunt's home, including a doll she had named Lissie Doll, that her mother had given her. They then spy on Miss Trunchbull in her house where they see her load athletic equipment into her car and where she is terrified by a black cat - Miss Honey explains that Miss Trunchbull is very superstitious. While Miss Trunchbull is gone, they sneak into the house. Above the fireplace where a portrait of Magnus had once hung is a portrait of Miss Trunchbull holding a javelin. Miss Honey next tells Matilda that Magnus used to cut a chocolate in half, and he would always give her the bigger half, but after he died, Miss Trunchbull kept them all for herself and counted them so she could not sneak one away. Even in the present, she is reluctant to have one. They then head upstairs to Miss Honey's room where they find the portrait of Miss Honey's father and Miss Honey's doll. As Miss Honey goes to grab it, Trunchbull's voice rings and the two spot her threatening Matilda's father with a lawsuit about the car over the phone. She suddenly notices the lid on the chocolate box is not on straight, and she goes on the rampage to find the intruders. Matilda and Miss Honey barely manage to get away from the raging Trunchbull.
Around this time, Matilda learns that she has telekinetic powers, a gift she can use to turn the tables on all the wicked grown-ups in her life. Realizing she had previously used her powers without knowing it during the newt in the water glass business, and earlier on in the film, by blowing up the family tv, she practices using them, and develops control. Matilda then decides to use them to teach Miss Trunchbull a lesson. On a windy night, Matilda goes to Miss Trunchbull's house where she uses her powers to get Miss Honey's Lissie doll and two chocolates from her father's box before eating one. Matilda then uses her powers to terrorize Miss Trunchbull by making the power cables shake, causing the lights to flicker, moving the clock forward, and she makes the windows fly open. She then rips Miss Trunchbull's portrait off the wall, and throws it in the fireplace, replacing it with that of Miss Honey's father before culminating the hands of Miss Trunchbull's clock to midnight. Finally convinced her house is haunted and that Magnus is a ghost, a terrified Miss Trunchbull runs out of the house and to her car but notices Matilda's hair ribbon tangled around the car window lock and becomes suspicious of the eerie events that took place.
At school the next day, Matilda gives Miss Honey her doll and demonstrates her powers to her. Miss Trunchbull arrives, and tells Miss Honey she will be teaching her class. Miss Trunchbull orders the class to stand at the front of the room and holds up Matilda's ribbon, asking who it belongs to before throwing it to the floor and spitting on it when no one comes forward. In spite of this, Miss Trunchbull seems to be fully aware that the ribbon is, in fact, Matilda's. Miss Honey tries to defend Matilda, but ends up revealing her secret to the whole class by calling Miss Trunchbull "Aunt Trunchbull". Matilda then puts her plan into action. While the other children are reading, she uses her powers to levitate a piece of chalk and writes a ghostly message on the blackboard supposedly from Magnus, accusing her of killing him and apparently implicating that the Trunchbull killed Magnus, made it look like a suicide and forged the will.
Matilda then makes two blackboard erasers attack Miss Trunchbull, causing her to faint. Once she recovers, she throws a boy out the window, but Matilda causes him to fly back in, and she sends Miss Trunchbull crashing into a globe which, after Miss Honey's prompting, Matilda magically spins around before Miss Trunchbull is sent flying off into the corner. She next charges towards Lavender, but she crashes through the door after Matilda raises Lavender off the floor. The rest of the children in the school see her on the floor in the hallway, grab their lunch boxes, and pelt Miss Trunchbull with the contents while chasing her. Miss Trunchbull flees from the school, quickly gets in her car and drives off, and is never seen or heard from again. All that is left from Miss Trunchbull is Magnus's true will, which names Miss Honey as the real beneficiary of the house. Miss Honey subsequently moves back in, and Matilda visits her frequently.
The Wormwoods, however, are soon forced to flee the country and move to Guam when the law catches onto Harry's illegal dealings, but Matilda refuses to go. When Miss Honey protests, Matilda produces a set of adoption papers which she Xeroxed from a library book, and tells her parents to sign them. Zinnia and Harry, finally realising just how much they love their daughter, refuse at first, but relent when Zinnia realizes that Matilda would be better off staying with Miss Honey in a rare moment of empathy. Her family flees, leaving Matilda to be Miss Honey's daughter. Miss Honey is made the new principal of Crunchem Hall (which later has to add an upper school for its newfound popularity - and the children never want to leave) and Matilda uses her powers only for useful reasons. Matilda and Miss Honey both realize that they have finally gotten what they had always dreamed of - a loving family.
Matilda is a 1996 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 35 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.0 and a MetaScore of 72.