The Secret Garden (1993 film)

The Secret Garden is a 1993 American-British fantasy drama film directed by Agnieszka Holland, executive-produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring Kate Maberly, Heydon Prowse, Andrew Knott, John Lynch and Maggie Smith. It 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.

The Secret Garden
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAgnieszka Holland
Screenplay byCaroline Thompson
Based onThe Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Music byZbigniew Preisner
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Jerzy Zieliński
Edited byIsabelle Lorente
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • 13 August 1993 (1993-08-13) (US)
  • 20 January 1994 (1994-01-20) (UK)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
Box office$31.2 million[1]

Set in Yorkshire, 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 1911, 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. Unloved and neglected by her late parents, who were killed in an earthquake, she is a cold, unpleasant girl who has repressed her emotions to the point of being unable to cry.

Mary is unhappy in her new surroundings. Head housekeeper Mrs. Medlock informs Mary she will not be spoiled as she was in India and that her uncle, who spends extended periods of time away from the Manor, will likely not see her. Mary is ordered by Mrs. Medlock to not leave her room, but strange noises lead her to explore the mansion on her own. Eventually Mrs. Medlock allows her to play outside to keep her from poking about in the house. In the expansive grounds of the Manor, Mary discovers the walled garden of her late aunt Lilias Craven, which has been locked up and neglected since her accidental death 10 years prior.

Martha Sowerby, a cheerful housemaid, and her younger brother, Dickon, a nature-loving boy who can "talk" to animals, befriend Mary. Fascinated by the "secret garden," Mary enlists Dickon to help her bring it back to life, gradually becoming a more friendly, happy child in the process. When she's finally introduced to her uncle, Mary is apprehensive, knowing he was responsible for locking up the secret garden. Fearful he will do it again, Mary evasively asks to plant seeds in an "unwanted" part of the Manor, to which Lord Craven grants permission before leaving the country for the rest of the year. Confident that the garden will remain a secret, Mary and Dickon continue their work.

Hidden away in the gloomy mansion is Mary's spoiled cousin, Colin Craven, who has been treated all his life like a fragile, sickly invalid. This has turned him into a demanding, short tempered, helpless boy who has never left his room or even learned to walk. Mary eventually discovers Colin and learns the strange noises she has been hearing is him crying. She is taken aback by his difficult nature, but reaches out to him anyway. She shows him that he's not really sick, and that the outside world is not as dangerous as Mrs. Medlock, who is in charge of caring for him, claims. Encouraged by Mary, Colin decides to go outside for the first time in his life. Mary and Dickon take him to the secret garden and Colin begins his own healing process, both physically and mentally.

Colin, Mary, and Dickon spend all of their time having fun in the garden, and Colin learns to both stand and walk on his own. Anxious to show Colin's new-found life to his father, they perform a "magic" ceremony in hopes to bring him back home. It appears to work, as Lord Craven awakens suddenly from a dream of Lilias calling him home. He immediately returns to Yorkshire. He discovers Colin walking and playing hide and seek upon his return, which leaves him dumbfounded with joy.

Mary runs off and breaks down in tears for the first time, feeling that nobody wants her and fearful that the garden will be locked away again. Lord Craven catches up and reassures Mary that she is part of the family now, and promises to never lock the garden up again. He thanks Mary for bringing his family back to life; they embrace, and then celebrate with Colin, Dickon, Martha, Mrs. Medlock, and the Manor staff.

The film ends with Mary reflecting in voiceover that "if you look the right way, the whole world is a garden."



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 were used for filming as well, notable the scenes on the grand staircase.

Holland was already internationally famous as a director before the making of the film; in doing so she continued to work outside of Poland.[3]


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, it is not featured in the film's original soundtrack, but in Ronstadt's eponymous album Winter Light.[4] 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.[5]

Home media

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


Since its 1993 release, the film has garnered positive reviews. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 88% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 42 reviews, with 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."[6] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 74 out of 100 based on 26 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[7]

The film grossed 31.2 million in the US.[1]

Awards and nominations

Award wins

Award nominations


  1. "The Secret Garden (1993)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  2. McDonald, Guy (2004). England. p. 834. New Holland Publishers
  3. Mast, Gerald; F. Kawn, Bruce. A Short History of the Movies (Seventh edition). Allyn & Bacon. p. 400. ISBN 0-205-29685-8.
  4. Promis, Jose F. "Winter Light - Linda Ronstadt". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
  5. "Secret Garden, The. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack".
  6. "The Secret Garden (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  7. "The Secret Garden Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
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