!! All adaptations
* AngstWhatAngst: Matilda is TheUnfavourite, stuck in a grade beneath her intellect, and faced with a cruel headmistress. In spite of this, she's a cheerful kid who is genuinely nice to everyone. One of the subtext points of the book. Matilda was in a crappy situation, more than one actually, but remained a good person throughout. She's more than a survivor, she's come through her ordeals wiser and still human. Even when she discovers her telekinetic powers, they're used only to punish the BigBad for good and not mistreat others as a bully. Matilda could have caused a nightmare like ''{{Literature/Carrie}}'' or, even worse, ''[[Manga/ElfenLied Lucy]]'' with those powers, and yet luckily she didn't harm anyone.
* AlternateCharacterInterpretation / StealthMentor: While she teaches mostly {{Family Unfriendly Aesop}}s (her overall message seems to be "the world is harsh for no reason; get used to it"), and as such would not be considered one by most people (either InUniverse or out) the Trunchbull may ''see herself'' this way.
** Hints are dropped that the Trunchbull had her own [[FreudianExcuse tough childhood]] ("Glad I never was one [a child]" and "Not for long anyway; I grew up very quickly", for example). She also clearly values physical and mental strength and resilience, as evidenced by her Olympic career, constant shows of power, and some of her dialogue. Furthermore, some of her dialogue implies that what she hates most about children and childhood is childlike innocence and naiveté.
** It is quite possible that the Trunchbull sees herself as a ''survivor'' of a [[CrapsackWorld harsh world]], and wishes to ''toughen up'' the children to ''do the same''. It is even possible that she wants to ''save them'' an ''even harsher'' BreakTheCutie, but severely overestimates the harshness of the outside world, and has become HeWhoFightsMonsters, delivering a far more harsh BreakTheCutie than anything else is likely to.
* CompleteMonster: [[ChildHater Child-hating]] Headmistress [[WouldHurtAChild Agatha]] [[BrawnHilda Trunchbull]], the ultimate SadistTeacher. Shying away from illegal caning, she resorts to even worse measures [[RefugeInAudacity that parents are more likely to dismiss as wild stories]]. Some of these measures involve throwing children vast distances, including [[DestinationDefenestration out of high windows]], and putting them in a torture chamber called "the Chokey"; all of which nearly kill the children involved. It's also hinted that she killed her brother-in-law to get his estate and that she abused his daughter.
--> '''Trunchbull''': I broke your arm once, I can do it again, [[spoiler: Jenny]].
-->'''[[spoiler: Ms. Honey]]''': I'm not [[WouldHurtAChild seven years old]] anymore.
* FamilyUnfriendlyAesop: There really are stupid and terrible people in the world who hate you for no reason, and sometimes get away with horrible things. The good news is that if you're creative you can get your revenge on them, and in fact you ''should'', as long as you remain a good person. Beautifully stated in the musical version with the song ''Naughty.''
** Some parents also see a FamilyUnfriendlyAesop in [[spoiler: Matilda's adoption by Miss Honey.]] As in, Matilda allowed the first nice person she saw to [[spoiler: adopt her.]] When you consider the actions of some teachers these days, some parents find the Aesop unfriendly just because the nice adult happened to be a teacher.
* MisaimedFandom: In-universe, the Trunchbull praises the headmaster from ''NicholasNickleby'' for the strict discipline he inflicts on his students.
* SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped: Just because they are your family doesn't mean you have to be put up with being mistreated by them. A valuable lesson for kids and adults.
* ValuesDissonance: Agatha Trunchbull's abuse of children, even by both by 1988 [[note]]book's release[[/note]] and 1996 [[note]] film's release[[/note]] standards, wouldn't be acceptable at all and social services would've been on her case on but none of the children could find a way to report since their parents wouldn't believe them... at the time. Nowadays, parents would get suspicious and many children would have a [[TechnologyMarchesOn a smart-phone to record]] their proof. In fact, with anti-bullying laws and social media, Trunchbull would've been caught on the spot and the Wormwood family would have to deal with Social Services. It's worth noting, though, that the book is based on Roald Dahl's memories of [[BoardingSchoolOfHorrors his own boarding school]], where corporal punishment (or more creative ones like eating soap flakes) could be administered for any offense as small as snoring or breaking a pen nib.
* WhatAnIdiot: Mr. Wormwood's approach to selling cars. He ''intentionally'' rigs the cars to '''break down after a few miles thinking that his customers will return to the dealership that sold them the crappy cars in the first place to throw their money away on one crappy car after another.''' It never occurs to him that his dealership might get a negative reputation and eventually receive no business at all because everyone knows that the cars are little more than spray-painted junk.
* TheWoobie: Miss Honey, Matilda. In the book version, the school cook as well. She's not gross like the movie version. Here, she's just a frail, old woman who disapproves of the abuse about to happen, but clearly has no choice but to play her role.
* WishFulfillment: Wouldn't it be awesome if abused children could develop super telekinetic powers and get revenge on their abusers? ...And not lose their [[{{Carrie}} humanity or compassion in the process, either]]?
!! 1996 film
* AlternateCharacterInterpretation: Michael Wormwood in the film. We're meant to see him as an unsympathetic {{Jerkass}} since he's downright nasty to his sister and participates in his parents' dirty dealings. But, before we judge the poor kid, we ought to consider that Harry and Zinnia have probably ''conditioned'' their son to be this way, meaning there's FridgeBrilliance: Michael has figured out that by conforming to his parents' lifestyle rather than rejecting it like Matilda does, he won't be picked on. Matilda is exceptionally brave and intelligent; she can stand on her own and doesn't need her parents' approval to be fulfilled. Michael is neither brave nor intelligent enough to resist the pressure to become a mean, lazy, TV-watching Wormwood.
* LoveToHate: The Trunchbull in the movie, mainly because Pam Ferris' performance makes her entertaining despite all the atrocities she commits.
* NightmareFuel:
** The scene where Matilda has snuck into the Trunchbull's house, hiding under the table as the Trunchbull's shadow gets closer... closer...
** The Chokey is even more terrifying on-screen. The nails sticking through the door are easily long enough to impale someone on.
** The scene where Matilda "haunts" the Trunchbull's house. Even though the audience knows Matilda is behind all of it, you have to admit that seeing Magnus' portrait flying down the staircase and hanging itself on the mantle followed by the clock striking midnight is pretty damn spooky.
* WhatDoYouMeanItsForKids: The film has a bunch of kids getting hammer-tossed out of windows, first-graders getting packed into a closet with rusty nails and adults downright insulting childrens' intelligence and calling them hurtful names. Then again this is Creator/RoaldDahl we're talking about. On the upside, the abuse isn't that severe and the protagonist does win in the end. On top of that, it's a family film, so the violence is mainly for the adults, no matter how [[DudeNotFunny cruel]] it may seem.
!! TheMusical
* AwardSnub: When the 2013 Tony Awards came around the four little girls playing Matilda (Oona, Bailey, Milly, and Sophia) were snubbed from the Best Actress in a Musical award unlike their West End counterparts, who were nominated for the equivalent Olivier Award and won. The excuse was that the judges might not have had a chance to see all four girls, which is fine until you discover the three boys who played ''Theatre/BillyElliot'' were eligible ''and won''. Instead they get [[ConsolationAward Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre]]. And fans were NOT happy that ''Matilda'' didn't win Best Musical -- it lost out to ''Film/KinkyBoots''.
* CrowningMusicOfAwesome: "Revolting Children" is a show-stopping, standout number.
* EarWorm: So many from the musical. "Naughty", "When I Grow Up" and "Revolting Children" in particular.
* EnsembleDarkHorse: Subverted, whilst all Matilda's are reasonably praised, West End!Matilda's Sophia and Eleanor are the most popular seemingly.
* FandomBerserkButton: Just remember, whatever it says in the Playbill, it's "The Escapologist". NOT "The Escape Artist".
* FriendlyFandoms: At least on Tumblr, there's a good deal of overlap between this show's fanbase and that of another West End musical based on a Creator/RoaldDahl novel: ''Theatre/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory''. (The shows also share a choreographer, and there have been child actors in the West End who've logged time in both.)
* GenkiGirl: Not in-universe but Broadway!Matilda Oona is definitely this and West End!Matilda Eleanor is to a lesser extent.
* OutOfFocus: West End!Matilda Sophia is always speaks less in interviews, compared to say Cleo. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaEUamnLwKo This]] interview highlights it and she always looks moody. In reality she is a massive sweetheart and gave up her ''Matilda'' contract because she missed her normal life, looking forward to going back to dancing and violin lessons and almost turned down the role. Plus thanking her brother and sister in her Olivier speech. Aww.