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Content Caution

The Canterville Ghost 2023


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Emily Tsiao

Movie Review

Most people would run as fast as their legs could carry them if a moaning ghost dragging chains began strolling through their new house.

But the Otises aren’t most people.

Hiram Otis brought his family to the English manor Canterville Chase from America to expand his electric lightbulb business. And his wife, Lucretia hopes to get in with England’s nobility.

Unfortunately, Sir Simon de Canterville, the ghost who’s been haunting the old mansion for the past 300 years, doesn’t want them there. He just wants to live out his miserable existence in solitude.

Turns out Hiram and Lucretia’s daughter, Virginia, is of the same mind as Sir Simon. She never wanted to move to begin with. But maybe if they work together, she and Sir Simon can frighten the Otis parents into returning stateside.

That is, if they can convince Hiram and Lucretia that Sir Simon is the raving murderer he’s rumored to be and not just an unfortunate spirit in need of some lubricant for his rusty chains.

Positive Elements

The Canterville Ghost (both this film and the short story by Oscar Wilde on which this is based) is a tale expounding upon the virtues of love and forgiveness.

Even in his seemingly never-ending despair, Sir Simon recounts the love he had for his wife when she was alive (and that he still has for her even after both of their deaths). And he encourages Virginia to give love a chance.

Interestingly enough, Sir Simon doesn’t think he is worthy of love or forgiveness himself. He blames himself for his wife Eleanor’s death. And he submits himself to a cursed eternity because of this.

However, Virginia refutes this belief, showing Sir Simon that Eleanor’s death wasn’t his fault and that his wife’s returned love for him is enough to conquer anything—even death.

Both Virginia and Sir Simon learn the importance of love and forgiveness. They make sacrifices to help each other as their friendship develops. And they even save each other from certain doom on a few occasions.

Elsewhere, a man learns to let go of a grudge against a family after realizing that the younger generations aren’t like their predecessors.

Spiritual Elements

As obviously noted, Sir Simon is a ghost. And he has a lot of supernatural powers that allow him to torment the residents of and visitors to Canterville Chase. He can walk through walls, teleport, make objects fly and even remove his own head.

But Sir Simon is also cursed. Allegedly, he’s haunted Canterville Chase for the past 300 years as punishment for Eleanor’s death. So far, he’s done a pretty fair job. Up until the Otises arrived, every previous owner had fled the property, and some had even been committed to asylums.

However, in order to break the curse, someone must accompany Sir Simon through an enchanted garden to beg the Grim Reaper for forgiveness for him. (We also hear the Reaper referred to as an angel.) Unfortunately, Sir Simon’s cruel treatment of Canterville’s guests hasn’t exactly garnered him the sort of sympathy necessary to make that happen.

Canterville itself also has some spooky elements (later revealed to be the workings of the Reaper). There’s a crow that magically appears and disappears. A book about Canterville’s history shows up on Virginia’s bed and somehow keeps changing every time she reads it. And writing appears on Virginia’s bedroom window alluding to a prophecy (that is eventually fulfilled).

The Otis family is visited by a vicar and his wife (who calls herself a “phantasmagorical investigator”). The wife uses a variety of tools in an attempt to capture Sir Simon, and she claims that all ghosts are “pure evil.” Sir Simon mocks the vicar, saying, “Forgive me father, for I have sinned” as he tries to scare the man off. The vicar says electric lights are “like magic.” Two ghosts seemingly ascend to heaven.

Virginia’s brothers create a creepy getup of a ghost with a pumpkin head. And the Grim Reaper transforms into a giant skeletal dragon with tentacles at one point.

[Spoiler Warning] Several characters eventually make their way into the aforementioned garden via a gate with pearly mist. That gate turns out to be the veil between life and death, causing the living to die as their spirits pass through. Once there, they encounter the Grim Reaper, who has his own set of supernatural skills (shapeshifting, environmental manipulation, and the ability to cause death among the foremost). And the Reaper acts as a sort of godlike being with the ability to condemn souls to an eternity alone or to elevate them to heaven. Two characters die after walking through that gate that. But they’re later revived when the Grim Reaper allows them to return to their bodies on the other side.

Sexual Content

Virginia meets Henry, a local duke, while rescuing him from a runaway horse. (She hops into his lap in order to seize the reins.) When Lucretia spots them together shortly after, she immediately assumes that they’ve formed a romantic attachment. And she encourages the relationship throughout the film, much to Virginia’s embarrassment.

Despite Virginia’s aversion to romance—she believes that marriage would prevent her from having the sorts of adventures she desires—she and Henry nearly kiss several times. And Henry’s attraction to her becomes obvious as their relationship deepens.

The vicar’s wife is intrigued by science and calls Hiram Otis a “man after [her] own heart,” which visibly upsets her husband.

Violent Content

Flashbacks show a killer taking a saw to a bridge’s railing, weakening its structure. Later, a woman drowns after the wood snaps beneath her weight. And after that, the killer frames the woman’s husband for her death, arrests him and then entombs the innocent man alive inside a room, laying bricks in a door frame to seal him inside. (We spot the victim’s skeleton in the present.) We also hear someone was frightened to death, and a man makes several death threats.

Two characters stab each other with swords, but technically, neither was alive, so they’re unharmed. Virginia suddenly loses her breath and falls off a garden wall when the Grim Reaper clips a rose meant to represent her.

Henry almost perishes when his horse starts to run off a cliff (but he’s saved by Virginia). Later, he returns the favor when Virginia nearly drowns after falling through a rotting bridge.

Folks are tossed around by the ghost of Sir Simon. Although he’s clearly just trying to scare people, not harm them, there are still a few close calls as he throws knives, starts a fire and other forms of mischief. Some characters throw objects at each other, hitting their marks. There are several sword fights. And a few characters narrowly escape a fire that would have killed them otherwise. (Henry is injured by a falling chandelier during this scene.)

It’s rumored that a man killed his wife. Many objects are damaged by mischievous or angry characters. A young man repeatedly falls off his horse. Sir Simon is electrocuted after ignoring a warning from Hiram not to touch an electrified object. A couple of characters drive recklessly. A woman faints multiple times. We hear someone lost all their teeth in a riding accident.

There are a few spooky jump scares and mildly frightening sequences.

Crude or Profane Language

There is a singular used of “damned.” There are also a few “darns” and “hecks” tossed around. Some mild insults are exchanged.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Characters drink wine at a social gathering. And it’s clear that one man is drunk as he seeks heavier spirits.

Other Negative Elements

Early on, Virginia is quite rude to her parents for making her move to England. She has a bad attitude about the entire ordeal. And she takes it out on Henry, her younger brothers and Sir Simon (whom she recruits to trick her parents into leaving). Her parents offhandedly attest her bad mood to puberty and largely leave her disrespect unchecked.

Virginia’s younger brothers are troublemakers, constantly lying, tattling and causing chaos. They’re also openly disrespectful to their father. Some teenagers think it’s an important part of their development to disobey their parents.

Sir Simon makes a few outdated sexist remarks. A couple of characters make fun of a man who is going “mad.”

The vicar’s wife states her desire to experiment on Sir Simon if she can capture him.


The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde has always been a tale about love, and how it can conquer anything, even death. And this film takes very few liberties as it attempts to convey that message to a new audience.

The animated version’s darker elements—such as the manner of Sir Simon’s death (he starved after being entombed alive) and the curse keeping his spirit trapped at Canterville Chase—are left largely unchanged. And that’s a bit of a conundrum for wary parents.

And we also need to talk about the film’s spiritual point of view.  God is never mentioned in this tale about life and death. Rather, the timing and manner of death are left to the Grim Reaper. And he also has the authority to determine what happens to a person’s soul once they pass on. (He was the one who cursed Sir Simon to haunt Canterville.)

Those spiritual ideas are obviously at odds with what Scripture has to say about our need for forgiveness from sin being addressed by Jesus’ death and resurrection. That said, the spiritual content here feels closer to something like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol than anything that’s genuinely occult.

The story doesn’t have too many other pitfalls. There’s a single use of “damned,” and though it’s not used as a swear word, younger ears might still hear it that way. Most of the violence is played for humor. And sensual content is wholly absent.

Much like Oscar Wilde’s original intent, the focus on the story is also largely on love. And that virtue, we see, yields kindness, forgiveness and friendships that, perhaps ironically in Sir Simon’s case, last a lifetime.

The Canterville Ghost’s spiritual elements may well make this film a non-starter for some families. (And if that’s the case, the film’s title will probably be the first hint.) But it’s not entirely unnavigable for parents who may wish to share this literary tale about love—and perhaps talk about our true source of forgiveness in Christ along the way as well.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.