Box art for The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees


A drama, set in Southern U.S. in 1960's, revolving around teenager Lily Owens (Fanning) and her nanny, Rosaleen (Hudson), who flee their hometown to escape their harsh upbringing and uncover the mysteries of Lily's late mother.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

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

1960s-set family drama tackles weighty issues.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this emotional, 1960s-set drama includes multiple scenes of a man reacting violently toward his wife and daughter. The child witnesses her father's assault on her mother (resulting in off-camera gunshots and death); as a young teen, the same child is the victim of heartless physical and mental punishment. The unexpected discovery of a beloved character's dead body is intense and may be disturbing to some young viewers. African-American characters suffer at the hands of prejudiced white Southerners in many scenes. Racial hatred is illustrated by ugly name-calling (including use of the "N" word) and two beatings. But in spite of all of the above, the filmmakers don't exploit or maximize the action. They show only as much as necessary to provide the desired impact.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages. More than 40 years have passed since the events in the film took place. How have racial politics changed? How haven't they? Families can also discuss what Lily was looking for when she left home. Why did she take Rosaleen with her? How did Lily's innocent acceptance of her African-American friends get them in trouble? Do the filmmakers show that Lily's father learned a lesson? Parents and teens who've read the book the movie is based on can compare and contrast the two. Which do you like better? Why?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: A dense story about a little girl and the impact her mother's death has on her makes terrific cinema in this beautifully realised film

- Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fresh: The Secret Life of Bees features another buzz-worthy turn by Dakota Fanning.

- Christian Toto, Donne Tempo, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fresh: Bees is almost too sweet, but with enduring enough performances to make a solid movie.

- Clay Cane,, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Audience Reviews

4 stars

Good movie, sad, but not totally depressing. The whole cast are excellent, particularly Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah. I am not sure I would have wanted to go to the movies and see this one, but as a DVD movie, no complaints.

- romy861, Wednesday, December 23, 2009

4 stars

Dakota Fanning becomes teenage in this drama movie and delivers a remarkable performance... and what feels like the first where her screaming skills aren't overused. She strikes me as a young Jodie Foster... one who has just transitioned from child actor to real actress. I can't wait to see where her career takes her. Paul Bettany is such a shock here as he typically plays a well dressed, under-spoken British. As a southern redneck whose bitterness rages against the world, he not only pulls it off, but manages to make grits seem even worse than I previously thought. Sophie Okonedo pulls off the always difficult task of making a "special" adult seem very real and vital. A most touching performance from a top notch talent. This is a good story with strong performances, though to take the next step as a film, it needed to dig a little deeper into its wide range of characters and settings.

- deano, Monday, July 13, 2009

2 stars

In the hands of a more talented writer/director, "The Secret Life of Bees" could've been another "The Color Purple"; instead, it's a cheesy, forgettable movie. Watch solely to witness the awesomeness of Dakota Fanning's mature performance, as well as the great supporting turns by Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Sophie Okonedo and Paul Bettany.

- fernandorafael, Tuesday, May 5, 2009