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The Book Thief Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Reading Rainbow of Doom Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Richard Roeper

    This is one of the best movies of the year, featuring one of the most perfect endings of any movie in recent memory.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

    It relays an uplifting story that, ill-advisedly, is not so much Holocaust-era as Holocaust-adjacent, determined to steer clear of too much discomfort.

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  • 60

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Stephen Farber

    You may come away more impressed by the intentions than by the achievements.

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  • 63

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    Anchoring the story is 9-year-old Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse), whose first scenes are riveting.

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  • 67

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Adam Markovitz

    It would make for a pretty ghastly pageant if not for smart, understated turns by Watson and Geoffrey Rush as the charmingly Teutonic couple who rescue both Liesel and a stranded Jew (Ben Schnezter) — not to mention the movie itself — with honorable matter-of-factness.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    Variety Dennis Harvey

    The Book Thief has been brought to the screen with quiet effectiveness and scrupulous taste by director Brian Percival and writer Michael Petroni.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 13+

Emotional WWII drama explores loss, literacy, and love.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Book Thief is a historical drama set in WWII Germany based on the bestselling young-adult novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. There are many scenes of violence, from the way the Nazis treat Jews, to schoolyard fights, to recurring bomb threats. There are many character deaths and near-deaths that will affect even the most jaded of viewers, though there's almost no blood and zero gore. Language includes German insults that translate to "a--hole" and "dirty swine" as well as "stupid" and "idiot."

  • Families can talk about the importance of literacy and books. How does learning to read change Liesel's life? Why does she "steal" books? How can books make an impact on even a horrible situation?
  • What makes a movie or a book "young adult" -- the age of the protagonist, the intended audience, or something else?
  • How is this movie different from others about WWII? Do you believe there were Germans who weren't fond of the Nazi regime or of Hitler's anti-semitic laws?
  • In the movie, like the book, Death is the narrator, but he doesn't reveal things the same way. What did you think of the narrator in the movie? For those who've read the book, did you like and understand the changes between the page and screen versions?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: The movie, as with the book, has positive messages about the power of literacy and books; the importance of unconditional friendship; the relationship between parents and children; and the necessity of standing up for other people in need. The presence of Death also encourages the viewer not to squander their lives, because you never know when the end will arrive.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Liesel is curious, kind, and willing to work hard to learn how to read. Liesel's foster father Hans is patient, loving, and kind. He helps out Max when it would be much easier to denounce him, and he resists getting involved with the Nazi Party, even though it's the ruling government. Rosa comes off as harsh, but she does love Hans and Liesel and shows it in her own way. Rudy Steiner defends and protects Liesel.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: The violence ranges from the deaths of various characters to scenes of Nazis terrorizing Jews in front of their homes and businesses and other occasions. Every scene with a Nazi officer is fraught with anxiety, and the character deaths (or near deaths) will upset even adult viewers. There are also a couple of scenes of schoolyard bullying and fights. During a couple of bombing raids, the entire town evacuates and is worried, anxious and afraid. A Nazi officer strikes Liesel and then Hans.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Rudy repeatedly asks for a kiss, and by the end of the movie, when Rudy and Liesel are about 14, it's clear they have feelings for each other. One kiss.

  • language false2

    Language: Insults are used, but sometimes as terms of endearment and usually in German, like the expletives "Saumensch" and "Saukerl" ("dirty swine"), "Arschloch" ("a--hole"). Rosa often uses insults: "good-for-nothing"; "dreckigs" ("dirty"); "know-nothing," "stupid," and "idiot."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: One shot of an Apple computer and logo in the closing scene.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Some adults smoke cigarettes.