Box art for The Book Thief

The Book Thief


Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson star in this inspiring film based on the bestseller about Liesel, (Sophie NĂ©lisse), a girl adopted by a German couple (Rush and Watson) who hide a Jew (Ben Schnetzer) from Hitler's army.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 13
1 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
1 out of 5
2 out of 5
1 out of 5
Positive messages
4 out of 5
Positive role models
4 out of 5
3 out of 5

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."

what families can talk about

  • 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?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 20
    see all The Book Thief reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: If you can't do a thing right, sometimes it's best not to do it at all. Thankfully, "The Book Thief" gets more right than it doesn't.

- Barbara VanDenburgh, Arizona Republic, Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rotten: This plush, mawkish period drama, adapted from Markus Zusak's 2005 best-seller, might be useful as a means of introducing the Holocaust to small children, but it's indefensible on almost any other terms.

- Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rotten: And so another awards season brings another film (adapted from another international bestseller) offering up the unrelated and uncontroversial lessons that reading is good and Nazis are bad.

- Christopher Orr, The Atlantic, Friday, November 15, 2013

Audience Reviews

3 stars

The Book Thief is a riveting drama set in the days of before the Second World War and during. This is an engaging story with a terrific cast. The film is a richly detailed tale about an adoptive girl who lives under the oppression of Nazi rule, and who defies Hitler's regime by stealing books in order to find an escape from the harsh realities of war. The plot is very well thought out, and it's told in a subtle way that you know that there is the terror of war, but the story only shows a few glimpses of that, and focuses more on the characters who are living through this dark period. Geoffrey Rush delivers a good performance here, and the rest of the cast bring something special to the screen, that really makes this a far better film than what critics have said. The Book Thief has its weak points, but overall, it's a highly entertaining and captivating picture. I felt at times, however that the film could have been better, and that some parts should have been reworked a bit to really make it standout. The Book Thief, as it stands, is a very good film, but one that could have been better. Despite its limitations, The Book Thief is worth seeing, and is a compelling drama that has plenty of worthwhile performances to make up for the lacking material. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the film, and thought it handled a dark subject matter in a subtle way, and it makes for a very good film. The Book Thief is a far better film that you might think, and though it doesn't stand out, it's still an entertaining piece of dramatic cinema, and one that relies on a cast of very talented actors and a good story to grab your attention. But like I said, it could have been reworked to make it a far more memorable film than what we got on-screen. Still, The Book Thief is worth checking out despite its flaws.

- TheDudeLebowski65, Sunday, January 12, 2014

3 stars

Not having read the book first, I feel no remorse as to review it that way. I believe this would work so much better in novel form, due to it's time period and slow pacing. It is genuine when it needs to be and sad at the times you expect it to be, which works in it's favour, but when the story begins, it just feels like it could be told in a short 20 minute narrative of what comes next, rather than a 130 minute feature. I didn't really dislike anything about this film, I just didn't think it was anything spectacular. "The Book Thief" has a great performance by Geoffrey Rush and the conclusion will most definitely leave you in tears. Overall, I liked the movie, but it's very slow and it feels 30 minutes too long.

- fb733768972, Sunday, January 12, 2014

3 stars

A good story let down by pulled punches and an occasionally weak script. Full review later.

- TomBowler, Saturday, January 11, 2014