Follow TV Tropes

Following

Characters / Matilda

Go To

    open/close all folders 

Titular Character

    Matilda Wormwood 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/matilda_movie.png
Played by: Mara Wilson (6 years old); Alissa and Amanda Graham & Trevor and James Gallagher (newborn); Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks (nine months); Sara Magdalin (4 years old)

The title character and main protagonist.


  • The Ace: She's a brilliant and confident Little Miss Badass who's able to use her intelligence to excel at school and outsmart adults, and after she learns to control her Psychic Powers, she becomes pretty much unbeatable. She also has social skills and gets along well with all her classmates, as lampshaded in the book. Her only "flaw" is having a terrible family.
  • Adorably-Precocious Child: An adorable child with the maturity of someone twice her age.
  • All-Loving Hero: Despite being raised by a despicable family, Matilda is a bright and intelligent child that quickly made friends at her new school.
  • Badass Adorable: A brave little girl with supernatural powers.
  • Badass Bookworm: She prefers to read books rather than watch TV for fun, unlike the rest of her couch-potato family.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Being accused of something she didn't do—and this is actually what triggers her Psychic Powers in the first place.
    • She can't stand other children being hurt, or her books being taken from her.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Matilda is one of the nicest children you could wish to meet—as long as you don't make her mad.
  • Blue Is Heroic: In the movie, Matilda often dresses in blue, though she’s often seen wearing a red hair ribbon.
  • Book Smart: Matilda is only 5 but has exceptional reading and mathematical skills, to the point that she Surpassed the Teacher at school.
  • Brainy Brunette: Very, very brainy, and is usually depicted with brown hair.
  • Bully Hunter: Of the anti-Sadist Teacher variety.
  • Childish Bangs: To emphasize her young age, despite her massive intelligence.
  • Child Prodigy: She spoke in full sentences when she was one and a half, taught herself to read adult novels when she was four, and by the time she's in first grade, has already memorized the 12-times table (in the film, she is able to multiply 13×379 in her head in about 3 seconds, as well as figure out how much money her father earned in a day selling low-quality cars), can write limerick poetry, and single-handedly devises a plan to get rid of the school's abusive headmistress using nothing more than her powers, a piece of chalk, and some information about said headmistress's past she was able to glean from talking to Miss Honey.
  • Children Do the Housework: She had to pretty much raise herself because her parents are so neglectful that they repeatedly forget she even exists. By age of 5, she had already taught herself how to cook.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Matilda has kept adoption papers on hand since she was big enough to xerox them for herself.
  • Cute Bookworm: Matilda loves reading more than anything else.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Responsible to Michael's Foolish.
  • Genius Book Club: Matilda has already made significant inroads into the Western Canon by the time she starts school.
  • Good with Numbers: She's able to multiply large numbers in her head in a few seconds.
  • Guile Hero: Once she learns Trunchbull's weakness—she's extremely superstitious, she exploits it to her full advantage.
  • Happily Adopted: By Miss Honey, at the end.
  • Kid Hero: She's only five in the book and musical, six and a half in the film.
  • Lady And A Scholar: Matilda is a genuinely sweet-natured kid, and never thinks of herself as superior for her brains. If she's asked anything intellectual, she will respond in a polite fashion. She really only dislikes people who are annoying or rude to her. The book carefully emphasizes this. And even then, she tries to have some patience with her parents.
  • Like Parent, Unlike Child: Matilda's parents are incredibly horrible and vapid people who prefer watching mindless Soap Operas and Game Shows. Matilda's father in particular is an incredibly dishonest car salesman. Matilda in contrast however is a very sweet and extremely intelligent girl who loves books and learning. She's also fully aware how wrong and dangerous the stunts her father pulls to make a quick buck. How she could be the child to such horrible people is beyond baffling.
  • Little Miss Badass: Able to use her prodigious intellect (and newly discovered telekinetic powers) against Trunchbull.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Matilda is very good at this especially towards her family in particularly her dad like this exchange:
    Harry Wormwood: You little cheat. You saw the paper!
    Matilda: (deadpan) From all the way over here?
  • Mind over Matter: Matilda's telekinetic powers.
  • Nice Girl: She's very polite and friendly by nature; it takes a lot to make her angry.
  • Only Sane Woman: She is a very bright and intelligent young woman while her family (well, her parents mainly) are wretched and shallow people. Her brother is average and generic in the book, a Big Brother Bully in the movie and a Kindhearted Simpleton in the musical.
  • Plucky Girl: So what's a little super-smart girl to do? Obviously, play some 'subduing' pranks on your boastful, corrupt father to take him down a peg, then develop your latent psychokinetic powers to help that nice teacher who recognised your genius.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: It is clear that Matilda has intellectual capabilities that are certainly beyond those of her teacher, Miss Honey.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Downplayed example, but Matilda did not seem to hold a lot of regard toward her parents, though that's more because they were shallow and superficial people. It's not known how she felt toward her brother, though.
  • Token Good Teammate: Again, in her family.
  • The Un-Favourite: At least with her dad, who prefers Michael over her. Not much seen with their mother, though Matilda does seem a little closer to her mom. In the movie, Harry explicitly refers to Matilda as a "mistake" (when talking about his children with Miss Trunchbull he says, "I got a boy, Mikey, and one mistake, Matilda.")
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: She's the serious child to her wacky, ignorant parents. Deconstructed in that, due to their Anti-Intellectualism, this serves as a major source of tension between them.
  • White Sheep: Matilda serves as this compared to the rest of her family, or rather her parents, who are rude, dishonest jerks, whilst she wants to be a good, intelligent and cultured person. Her brother is somewhere in the middle.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: She says she likes to read just about anything. It's implied that the two reasons she wasn't in advanced placement (until the end) were because her parents don't believe in the value of education—and, of course, the Trunchbull's dislike of young children.
Advertisement:

Wormwood Family

    The Wormwoods 

The mean and abusive parents of Matilda.


  • Abusive Parents: Matilda's parents verbally berate her and neglect her every need.
  • Adaptational Karma: Subtly done with the setting change from the UK to America. In the end of the book, the Wormwoods flee the authorities to Spain. At the end of the film, they flee to Guam. But since Guam is a US territory, it's likely that the FBI might catch up to them, thus giving them a direct comeuppance for their abuse of Matilda and Harry's dishonest business.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: When Miss Honey visits Matilda's parents, Mr. Wormwood noisily slurps a beer and both parents take cheap potshots at Matilda's teacher. In the movie, Matilda's super glue hat prank plays out in public.
  • Anti-Role Model: They are horribly negative examples of parents or people in general.
    Harry: Why would you want to read when you got the television set sitting right in front of you?
  • Big Bad Wannabe: As it turns out, Agatha Trunchbull is far worse than they are.
  • Chubby Mama, Skinny Papa: They're this in the book, but it's inverted in the film.
  • Daytime Drama Queen: Matilda's parents are addicted to television, which is shown as one of their many character flaws. When Miss Honey goes to visit them at home, there's an American soap opera on, and Mrs. Wormwood in particular objects to being interrupted when "Willard is just about to propose to Angelica!". (The film version changes it to a boxing match, and Mrs. Wormwood gets upset for missing out on the end).
  • Doesn't Know Their Own Child: In the movie adaptation, they both think Matilda is only four, and she answers, "I'm six and a half. I was six in August!" In a later scene, her father even calls her "Melinda".
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Matilda's parents don't understand Matilda's love of books and learning, rejecting her for it. They prefer the more mundane Michael who shares their love of television and is being coached to take over his father's company.
  • Fat Bastard: Matilda's mother in the book and her father in the movie.
  • Happily Married: Well, you can tell they are perfect for each other. Although they have occasional spats and she is a Gold Digger Trophy Wife, they manage to make up within a matter of hours and generally seem happy together.
  • Insufferable Imbecile: They are both abusive Jerkasses and uncultured idiots, and Harry actively gets mad that Matilda likes reading.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: In the film, the family successfully flees the FBI, but they fled to Guam. Guam is a US territory, and US law enforcement is perfectly capable of arresting them there and extraditing back to the US, so their lack of book smarts likely bit them on the ass in the end.
  • Laughably Evil: For the most part, Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood (at least in the movie) are incredibly goofy as opposed to terrifying. While they're neglectful jerks, they're not violent to Matilda. They're silly, their home decor is pure kitsch and their fashion sense is very tacky. Most of their antics are played for laughs, and Matilda can run rings around them and humiliate them any time they mistreat her badly.
  • Meaningful Name: The Wormwoods (Matilda excluded) are as sleazy as they come.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: More Jerkasses than villains, but had they not sent Matilda to Crunchem Hall, then there would be nobody that could stop Miss Trunchbull's reign of terror.
  • Pair the Dumb Ones: They are both ignorant and shallow people who take pride in their Anti-Intellectualism, to the point that they hate their smart daughter because she loves reading books.
  • Parental Neglect: The Wormwoods leave Matilda alone in the house all day. It gets worse when Matilda starts going to school, and they're not concerned for her safety even when she returns home late at night.
  • Skewed Priorities: In the movie. When Trunchbull keeps the school five hours over regular dismissal, Mr. Wormwood demands to know where Matilda was upon her arrival home. Not because he was worried about his daughter's safety, but because his packages weren't brought in. Same with his wife; she wasn't the least bit concerned over her husband berating Matilda, but was instead upset over the packages that he gets for his business.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Matilda's mother believes herself to be beautiful and seductive, while her husband regards himself as sly and intelligent. Neither could be further from the truth.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Both book and movie. In the book, Matilda's mother is tall and pudgy, and her father is short and skinny. While their Fat and Skinny roles are reversed in the movie, their relative heights are still the same as in the book.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: The Wormwoods are this to Matilda, but not to Michael.

    Harry Wormwood 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/harry_30.jpg
Played by: Danny DeVito

Matilda's dishonest father.


  • Abusive Parents: By far the worse of the two parents, in both the book and movie. He's awful to Matilda. He talks down to her almost all the time especially in times where she’s showing off her intelligence. He once destroyed a book she took from the library with his novel counterpart doing it out of spite for American authors and out of jealousy of his daughter’s intellect.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: As far as we know, his book counterpart doesn't know anything about Trunchbull's evil and abusive ways. In the movie, he decides to send Matilda to school only after talking to principal Trunchbull, who makes it very clear that she's a sadistic Child Hater. He even agrees with her that beating up children is a good thing.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Downplayed. He is still a mean dad in the film, but unlike in the book, he has some humanizing moments.
    • In the book, he tears apart Matilda's library book out of envy (and because it was written by an American), whereas in the film, he did it because he thought she was reading pornography.note 
    • When Matilda insists on being adopted by Miss Honey, Harry shows reluctance about that decision and empathetically asks Zinnia if they should allow it.
    • Considering both the narrator and Harry are voiced by Danny DeVito, it is implied he genuinely regretted his treatment of Matilda.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: Mr. Wormwood wasn't particularly attractive in the book, but he still looked better than Danny DeVito.
  • Animal Motifs: In the book, he is described as having rat-like qualities and the accompanying artwork gives him facial features to match, which is appropriate, given his profession and personality.
  • The Atoner: Considering both Harry and the narrator are played Danny DeVito, it is implied Harry deeply regretted how he treated Matilda in the film-verse.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Harry scowling at a baby Matilda with a groan after she's born quickly establishes what kind of person he is.
  • Fiction 500: In the film at least, is apparently a multi-millionaire with "money and banks all over the planet". Considering how his family lives, take this with a grain of salt.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The narration implies or outright states several times that his frustration over Matilda's intelligence is a matter of envy, and that he, a grown man who prides himself on his (supposed) cleverness, can't stand being "shown up" by someone so much younger and smaller than himself; he is already in a bad temper coming home on one occasion, but seeing her ignoring the television to focus on reading her library book makes him downright furious, and he destroys it page by page in a fit of spite. Even when he's pleased with himself one evening after making a great deal of money, Matilda quickly figuring out in her head what the correct amount was—a long but rather simple sum that took him almost ten whole minutes to do and still got it wrong, on paper—makes him feel like a complete idiot and spoils his mood for the rest of the night.
    Matilda froze. The father kept going. There seemed to be little doubt that the man felt some kind of jealousy. How dare she, he seemed to be saying with each rip of a page, how dare she enjoy books when he couldn't? How dare she?
  • Hate Sink: Despite having some humorous qualities, he is a greedy, callous, and barely redeemable asshole who verbally/emotionally abuses and neglects Matilda, and cons people by selling them cheaply made cars that he deliberately modifies to appear better, and overall has nothing remotely sympathetic about his personality.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Provides the page image. His secondhand car business. Matilda's dad is the stereotypical sleazy car salesman, even putting sawdust in the oil so that the engine will burn out and they have to come back and buy a new car. The film even contains a scene in which Mr. Wormwood teaches Michael the tricks to making a lemon look better... long enough for the customer to get far away from the dealership before it breaks down, so they can't just walk back and complain. It eventually happens to Miss Trunchbull who figures him out too little too late.
  • Jerkass: His used-car company sells cars made from stolen parts—at outrageous prices—that only survive for a few miles. And then there's how he acts around Matilda...
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: In the movie, his eventual decision to send Matilda to school is seen as a nice gesture by Matilda, who even hugs him. But Matilda doesn't know that he only decides that after talking to Trunchbull, who explicitly tells him what she thinks about children, so he willingly sends his daughter to a sadistic child-hating principalnote :
    Trunchbull: My school is a model of discipline! Use the rod, beat the child. That's my motto.
    Harry: Terrific motto!
    Trunchbull: You have brats yourself?
    Harry: Yeah, I got a boy, Mikey, and one mistake, Matilda.
    Trunchbull: They're all mistakes, children! Filthy, nasty things. Glad I never was one.
    Harry: Uh, huh. Well, since you're an educator, I'm going to make you a great deal.
  • Karma Houdini: He manages to sell a defective car to the Trunchbull and get off scot-free!
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: One of the people Mr. Wormwood scams is Ms. Trunchbull. If one knew what she is actually like, they'd say being scammed out of a large sum of money was the least she deserved. Unfortunately, Trunchbull vented her anger on poor Matilda...
  • Parental Favoritism: He inexplicably resents Matilda and refuses to believe she is any more intelligent than a lima bean, favoring her average if not mildly-crooked brother, Michael.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • A small one in the film near the end. When Matilda was asking her parents to let Miss Honey adopt her, he seems to visibly struggle with the decision. He gets upset with Matilda and Michael talking because he is concentrating and trying to determine what his decision should be. Like his wife, he seemed to have some hesitance about handing his daughter over to her teacher despite his prior treatment of her, suggesting that he really did care about her on some level.
    • He has a strange enigmatic case of this in the musical. When it's clear The Mafiya is after him, he runs to the library to find Matilda rather than leave her behind. In his conversation with Honey, he addresses Matilda as his daughter after spitefully calling her "boy" and actually questions leaving Matilda with a stranger. This astonishes Matilda and perhaps convinces her that there's some humanity left him in and she saves him from getting beaten by the Mafia.
    • While ultimately it was a bad decision in hindsight, Harry does decide to give his daughter an education. And when Matilda hugs him in gratitude, his does genuinely, albeit standoffishly, tell her it is going to be a good school.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: It's not touched on that much, but Mr. Wormwood in the book has a few lines of dialogue showing him to be prejudiced against Americans. Notably, the book he defaces is The Red Pony by John Steinbeck because according to him, American authors only write about filth.
  • Slimeball: Apart from being a bad father and a complete Jerkass, he is also a greedy and unscrupulous con artist who takes pride in ripping off his customers.
  • Smug Snake: Shown best when he gleefully brags about the tricks he uses to scam customers without a hint of shame.
  • Starter Villain: Serves as the antagonist for the first few chapters... but he quickly loses this title when the Trunchbull is introduced.

    Zinnia Wormwood 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/zinnia.jpg
Played by: Rhea Perlman

Matilda's superficial mother.


  • Adaptational Dumbass: While Matilda's mom is very shallow in the book, she's also marginally Closer to Earth than her husband. This doesn't apply to her movie version, where she's just an airhead.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the movie. Despite being portrayed as vapid and frivolous (even more than in the book), she's actually the most decent out of Matilda's three family members, while in the book it was Michael (who gets the Adaptational Jerkass instead). At the end, she shows regret that she never understood her daughter, which never happens in the book. When the family is fleeing the country, she's the only one to wave good-bye to Matilda, while in the book it was Michael the one who did wave good-bye to Matilda and both parents didn't even look back.
  • Dumb Blonde: An airheaded blonde, though she dyes her hair.
  • Female Misogynist: Played for Laughs. In all adaptations and in the book, she looks down on women who read and are educated saying that "Bluestockings" don't get husbands and tells Miss Honey to her face that she's less better off than her... because she chose to get educated as a teacher and is working "teaching brats the ABC" and is unmarried, while Mrs. Wormwood is a Happily Married Trophy Wife sitting pretty (nothing could be further from the truth).
  • Named by the Adaptation: Mrs. Wormwood's first name is not revealed in the book. The film calls her Zinnia.
  • Only Sane by Comparison: In the original book, she's a vain, vapid Trophy Wife who believes women should prioritize looks over books, but she still comes off as more reasonable and practical than her husband, even if not by much. This doesn't carry over to most adaptations.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • In the book, after Matilda collapses from practicing her telekinetic powers for the first time, Mrs. Wormwood shows some concern towards her.
    • In the movie, it's somewhat implied at the end that despite all her neglect and dislike for her, she does hold some affection for Matilda; she shows regret that she never understood her daughter, and humanity by giving her daughter away because she is better suited to a life with Miss Honey (while in the book, both parents drop their daughter without a second thought).
    • She tells her daughter that there's food for her every time she leaves. While she really should stay at home and take care of her daughter or at least take her to a daycare instead, she has the decency to make sure to leave Matilda something to eat.
  • Trophy Wife: She's a housewife who wears exuberant (at best) clothing and doing nothing but dyeing her hair and cooking TV dinners, who boasts that she "chose looks" instead of books like Miss Honey and is better off for it. Except she is less visually attractive and older than the usual trope, and she's chosen a life where she's got nothing to do but sit around and watch TV.
  • Women Are Wiser: Book only, Mrs. Wormwood is marginally more rational than her husband; Mrs. Wormwood herself says something akin to this to Matilda.

    Michael Wormwood 
Played by: Brian Levinson; Nicholas Cox (6-years-old)

Matilda's older brother.


  • Adaptational Dumbass: In the book, he's not particularly bright but not exactly stupid either. In the musical, he's a Kindhearted Simpleton who completely lacks his parents' nastiness but is much too stupid to be of any use.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the book, he's a "normal boy" who has a neutral to positive relationship with his sister, but in the film he becomes an obnoxious Fat Bastard like his father as well as a Big Brother Bully...
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: ...While in the musical, he's become a Kindhearted Simpleton who seems genuinely fond of his sister but is simply too stupid to realize when their parents are mistreating her.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: In the book, he was of a normal weight. His movie counterpart is significantly chubbier.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Given that Michael is something of a Flat Character who is barely mentioned in the book, it makes sense that any adaptation would want to expand his personality in different ways, depending on the media.
  • Age Lift: In the book and movie, he's ten years old. In the musical, he's a teenager played by an adult actor.
  • Big Brother Bully: In the movie, he joins his family in being wretched to his sister. Averted in the book as they don't interact that much. Given how he did wave good-bye to his sister when his and the Wormwoods were fleeing the country, it's implied that they had at least a mildly decent relationship.
  • Childish Older Sibling: In the movie adaptation, he's much more immature than his younger sister Matilda. This is also present in the book, though it's to a much lesser degree and mainly in relative terms; he doesn't seem particularly immature for his age, but he still comes off as fairly childish compared to his very precocious younger sister.
  • Fat Bastard: In the film, he's like his dad. He throws objects and insults at Matilda when they're alone. He's also physically big, being overweight.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: A mild example since we know little about Michael, but he could be considered the Foolish to Matilda's Responsible. Played very straight in the movie and the musical.
  • The Generic Guy: The first chapter describes him as a "perfectly normal boy" and he never gets much characterization. The entire point of him is to compare Matilda in terms of being extraordinary when compared to him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Implied in the book. While he inherited his father's "love of crookery", he seems to have a fairly good relationship with his sister and waves goodbye to her when their parents take him with them out of the country; at least one audio drama adaptation has Matilda say that he's the only family member she'll actually miss. We say "implied" because he doesn't have much characterization.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: The musical's depiction of him. He's not a bad person, but he is about as stupid as Matilda is intelligent. Most of his dialogue consists of repeating the last word the person before him spoke, in a dopey voice.
Advertisement:

Crunchem Hall Elementary School

    Jennifer Honey 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ms_honey_5.jpg
Played by: Embeth Davidtz; Amanda and Kristyn Summers (2 years old); Phoebe Pearl (5 years old)

Matilda's kindly teacher.


  • Abled in the Adaptation: Wears glasses in the book, but not in the movie.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Miss Honey is blue-eyed in the book but brown-eyed in the movie.
  • Affectionate Nickname: In the movie, she reminisces that her father used to call her "Bumblebee." Matilda makes note of this.
  • Age Lift: In the book, Miss Honey is twenty-three years old. Embeth Davidtz was thirty-one when the movie was released.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The pretty and sweet Cool Teacher in contrast to the hideous Sadist Teacher Trunchbull.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Miss Honey is a very nice woman. However, in the movie, she finally stands up to Miss Trunchbull when she threatens to lock Matilda up in the Chokey.
  • Broken Bird: She's very traumatized due to her Dark and Troubled Past and being raised by a sadistic and abusive aunt.
  • Cool Teacher: There's a reason why all her students love her; in the film, her classroom has her students' art projects and colourful posters plastered all over the walls, which are covered up by plain and dull screens and curtains whenever the Trunchbull comes over for an inspection.
  • Cowardly Lion: In the film. She claims she wasn't brave enough to stand up to Miss Trunchbull, but she protects Matilda at every turn, from springing her out of the Chokey to taking the fall for being at her house.
  • Daddy's Girl: As a child, she was very close to her father.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: A terrible childhood, due to the loss of her father. Being raised by her Aunt Trunchbull from that point onward certainly didn't help.
  • Determinator: In making sure Matilda's genius is recognized and finding other opportunities for Matilda when neither Miss Trunchbull nor the parents agree.
  • The Dog Bites Back: When Ms. Trunchbull threatens to break her arm in front of the classroom, Miss Honey's first instinct is to yank it away fiercely.
    "I am not seven years old anymore, Aunt Trunchbull!"
  • Extreme Doormat: Justified. Trunchbull terrorized her for most of her life and she was initially too scared of her to defend herself and her students (although she still tries her best to be a kind Team Mom). She eventually Grew a Spine thanks to Matilda's influence.
  • Friend to All Children: The main characteristic that makes her the polar opposite of the Trunchbull.
  • Hot Teacher: G-rated version; she's apparently so lovely that she inspires Matilda to compose a poem about her the first day of class.
  • Mama Bear: While she seems an Extreme Doormat at first, she becomes protective of Matilda and always stands up for her.
  • Meaningful Name: Miss Honey is a very sweet teacher.
  • Nice Girl: A kindhearted, loving and selfless woman who genuinely cares about her students.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: After dealing with her abuse for a long time, Miss Honey finally stands up for herself against Trunchbull in the climax.
  • Only Sane Woman: When you look at the other main adults in Matilda's life, both of her parents are mean-spirited, apathetic and neglectful (along with Mrs. Wormwood being a vapid airhead in the film), and Trunchbull is an ill-tempered, sadistic Child Hater. Miss Honey ends up becoming the only reasonable one out of all of them through her consistently acting as a kind and protective Parental Substitute to Matilda, and at one point in the film calls out Mr. Wormwood for caring more about his TV than his own daughter.
  • Parental Substitute: To Matilda, obviously. She adopts her at the end.
  • Shrinking Violet: Unlike Matilda, she's very submissive and shy, especially when it comes to Miss Trunchbull. She gets better at the end.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: She may be a shy, sweet Shrinking Violet, but she's not afraid to speak her mind.
  • Stepford Smiler: As mentioned by the narrator in the movie: "Miss Honey was a wonderful teacher, and a friend to everyone. But her life was not as simple and beautiful as it seemed. Miss Honey had a deep, dark secret. And though it caused her great pain, she didn't let it interfere with her teaching."
  • Team Mom: She's not motherly just towards Matilda, but also the other children of her class.
  • Took a Level in Badass: She finally stands up to the Trunchbull on behalf of her students near the story's end. What's especially noteworthy is that she musters up the physical strength to push one of the Trunchbull's arms away from her, despite the latter woman being an Olympian behemoth who has already broken Miss Honey's arm at least once in the past.

    Agatha Trunchbull 
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/agatha_trunchbull.jpg
Played by: Pam Ferris
"Am I wrong? I'm never wrong. In this classroom, in this school, I AM GOD!!!"

The cruel principal of Matilda's school.


  • Acrofatic: More huge and muscular than actually fat, but in the movie she does say, "I like a joke as well as the next fat person!" She's also seen gorging on massive amounts of chocolate cake, which she cites as a personal snack she probably eats every day. Yet, she is a former Olympian and maintains athletic prowess.
  • Adaptational Karma: In the book, after being scared by Matilda writing on the blackboard with her powers, she just faints and then is brought to the sick room by other teachers, and by the next day, she has completely disappeared (from both the school and her house). In the movie, before leaving, she gets a much bigger Humiliation Conga in front of the entire school, with all the children actually getting back at her. Notably, Bruce Bogtrotter shoves a handful of chocolate cake in her face in retaliation for her punishment against him.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In both the book and the film, she's a Sadist Teacher to be sure, but it seems that in the film, she's even worse. Her 5-hour detention punishment she inflicted on the whole school happened only in the movie (in the book she just dismisses them saying "Go to Blazes."), as is her punishing Matilda with Chokey Time just for the actions of her father. And when she faints after being scared by Matilda's trick and wakes up, she doesn't do what she did in the book and just leave and disappear. She essentially goes mad and throws another kid out of the window like she did with another child earlier (though this time Matilda saves him) and then tries to ram Lavender (which Matilda also stopped), which justifies her bigger karma there. Plus beforehand, she threatens to put Matilda into a place where not even the crows could land their droppings on her (which would most likely be even worse than the Chokey).
  • Ambiguously Human: The movie version has suspiciously superhuman strength, and generally seems more like some kind of ogre or giant than a mere human.
  • Ax-Crazy: She's very unstable, prone to frightening violence against children, and is also capable of murder.
  • Berserk Button: Miss Trunchbull hates many things, but one thing she apparently really can't stand is pigtails.
  • Big Bad: As the Evil Principal in charge of Crunchem Hall, she abuses the children under her care, and Matilda's goal is to resist and somehow stop her regime.
  • Born as an Adult: She insists that she was never a child or a baby, and the fact that she apparently never was one is why she hates kids so much. She admits to Miss Honey that she was once a girl, but that she "became a woman very quickly."
  • Brawn Hilda: She's a hulking, squinty-eyed, downright scary ex-jock with a rotten temper.
  • The Brute: Especially when chasing Matilda and Miss Honey around her house.
  • The Bully: She's basically a high-school Jerk Jock in the body of a middle-aged woman.
  • Cassandra Truth: The reason (other than sadism) why she punishes her students in the most unbelievable, over-the-top methods possible is so she will get away with it while the students are dismissed as liars.
  • Child Hater: The only logical reason she could have decided to become a principal at an elementary school full of children she claims to despise was so that she could have the authority to punish them however she pleased.
  • Dean Bitterman: She seems to be this trope taken to its irrational extreme, as the headmistress inflicts acts of extreme and horrible violence and cruelty upon her young students, knowing their parents won't believe them if she makes the punishment extreme enough.
  • Destination Defenestration: One of her favorite methods of punishment is to toss children out of the entire building.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Any and every time she decides to discipline a kid, it takes this form.
    • She once hurled a male student, Julius, out of a window just for stuffing two M&Ms in his mouth during class.
    • She makes Bruce Bogtrotter eat an entire chocolate cake meant for ten to fifteen people in front of students at assembly after he was caught supposedly stealing a snack from her kitchen. Bruce successfully downs the whole thing after encouragement from the students... but then Trunchbull slams and breaks the plate on his head in retaliation, and (though the last part is only in the film version) forces the entire assembly to remain five hours after school or get sent to the Chokey for objecting.
  • The Dreaded: Even upperclassmen like Hortensia—and adults, like Miss Honey—are afraid of her. For most of the story, anyway.
  • Evil Aunt: To Miss Honey, being her maternal aunt. She was physically abusive to her niece with at least one incident resulting in her breaking the girl's arm. She eventually took over the house with Miss Honey leaving for her own safety. It's implied in the movie that she killed Miss Honey's father, leaving his young daughter in her cruel aunt's care. Even with Miss Honey all grown up, Trunchbull still maintains control over her niece through threats and acts of intimidation.
  • Evil Brit: She's portrayed as such in the film, since the film's set in the U.S. instead of Britain. She doesn't even hide her strong British accent.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Miss Honey. Both are adult teachers who work with children, but Honey is a Friend to All Children, while Trunchbull hates children and only wants to hurt them.
  • Eviler than Thou: Matilda's father simply cannot hope to compete with her, and she is the true villain of the story. He's verbally abusive to his young daughter, but Trunchbull is a danger to an entire school of children, raised Ms. Honey to believe she's worthless, and it's strongly implied that Trunchbull murdered Ms. Honey's father for ownership of the Honey estate.
  • Evil Is Bigger: She's a tall and bulky woman even to other adults, much less the children she's in charge of teaching, and a very horrible and hateful tyrant.
  • Evil Is Hammy: She is very over the top in the movie and yells a lot of her lines, to show how much she is Ax-Crazy.
  • Evil Principal: She is a Child Hater and Dean Bitterman taken to the extreme, sadistically punishing kids with wildly outlandish punishments like forcing them to eat a whole cake in one sitting, chucking them out the window for eating during class, or, her favorite, making them stand in the Chokey. She isn't just abusive to her students, either—it's heavily implied that she was involved in the death of Miss Honey's father.
  • Evil Virtues: She surely isn't lacking in determination and force of will, given that she managed to compete in the Olympic Games. However, she's completely unwilling to teach such qualities to her students.
  • Fat Bitch: Rather ironic when considering that she used to be an Olympian in the past. She's quite muscular though.
  • Faux Affably Evil: At one point, she gathers the entire school in the gymnasium and orders Bruce to the podium, accusing him that he pilfered the cake that belonged to her. He outs himself by saying that his mother's cake is better, to which she politely replies that he can't know for sure until he tries some more and has him eat a huge piece of the cake, and after he's done, she asks if he liked it. After he admits he did, she brings out the rest of the cake and orders him to eat it in front of the entire school. When he manages to do so thanks to the cheers of the other children, she smashes the plate over his head and (only in the movie) gives the entire school 5 hours of detention.
  • For the Evulz: Miss Trunchbull's main reason to do anything.
  • Freudian Excuse: She mentions that she's glad she "never was" a child, which suggests she may have had a bad childhood. In the book, when Miss Honey objects to this for obvious reasons, Trunchbull backspaces and says she wasn't one "for long".
  • A God Am I: Or at least she thinks so. Because she has complete control of the entire school, she considers herself one.
    Agatha: (to Matilda) You're a liar and a scoundrel, and your father's a liar and a cheat, one of the most corrupt lowlifes in the history of civilization! Am I wrong? I'm never wrong! In this classroom, in this school... I AM GOD!!!
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: She loses her temper very quickly, and her fury and anger is downright scary.
  • Hate Sink: A sadistic, cold-hearted and child-hating scumbag who is rotten to the core. Even moreso in the book with none of the Laughably Evil traits her film counterpart had.
  • Hypocrite: She boasts about children needing to build up a strong character, but everything she does is aimed at destroying it instead.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Her hatred of children leads to some seriously backwards rationalization, such as her idea of a perfect school "with no children at all".
  • Ironic Name: Her given name, Agatha, stems from the ancient Greek name for "good", and oftentimes refers to a kind woman. Agatha Trunchbull, however, is a cruel, sadistic villainess and the Big Bad of the story.
  • Jerkass: A sadistic child abuser.
  • Jerk Jock: As an ex-Olympian, she's pretty athletic.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Subverted in the movie. She's angry at Harry for the lemon he's sold her... but takes her anger out on Matilda instead. Played straight later when she threatens him over the phone. You'd almost want her to go through with it.
  • Large and in Charge: She rules Crunchem Hall with an iron fist and the movie and many book illustrations depict her as towering over the students and Ms. Honey to make her look more frightening.
  • Large Ham: She is extremely dramatic, which, by extension, includes the sheer amount of Disproportionate Retribution she hands out to the students in her school.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Obviously she's struck by this at the end, but much more evident in the movie than in the book.
  • Laughably Evil: In the movie, thanks to Pam Ferris's performance. Absolutely horrible and scary yet entertaining.
  • Meaningful Name: As her surname would imply, she is absolutely horrific. She has a bull's temper, and a tendency to trample anyone in her way when they set her off.
  • Misery Builds Character: Part of one of her speeches in the movie.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: As if Crunchem Hall wasn't already the school version of a concentration camp, her outfit in the film invokes this trope. She even gets a Hitler Cam close up shortly before force-feeding Bruce.
  • Nightmare Face: Thanks to an unflattering make-up and Pam Ferris' over-the-top expressions.
  • No Indoor Voice: She often yells at the students.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: She claims that her cruel treatment towards children is for their own good in order to make them properly behave, but of course, it's obvious that she's an insane Child Hater that just wants to dominate others that are weaker than her.
  • Obviously Evil: Her clear hatred of children and over-the-top punishments make it pretty obvious she's the villain. It's to the point that Miss Honey doesn't even doubt the idea Agatha likely murdered her father once Matilda suggests it.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Despite complaining about children, she has the temperament of a sadistic, domineering bully. She goes so far as to gloatingly eat chocolates in front of her niece like a nasty little brat.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The Trunchbull's over the top behavior and extreme punishments are a deliberate move on her part, as she's exploiting this trope for all its worth. Older students and Matilda explicitly note that her students' parents won't believe their child's story of the principal throwing a small girl over the school's fence by her pigtails, or that the principal threw them into an improvised iron maiden, precisely because of how outlandish it is.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The novel observes that the Trunchbull has none of the qualities necessary to be a good principal and it's a mystery how she got her job in the first place.
  • Sadist: She clearly enjoys the suffering she causes.
  • Sadist Teacher: She is the queen of this trope. Even Viola Swamp has nothing on her. She's also the current image for this trope.
  • Sinister Sweet Tooth: Loves chocolate almost as much as she enjoys tormenting children.
  • Slapstick Knows no Gender: Gets Amusing Injuries as part of her Humiliation Conga at the end of the movie, much to the children's amusement.
  • Slasher Smile: She frequently does this in the movie showing her rotten British Teeth.
  • The Sociopath: An extremely low-functioning example: self-centered, violent, manipulative and a (implied) murderer to boot.
  • Sore Loser: In the movie, After Bruce finishes the cake she force-fed to him and is met with cheers from the students, she smashes a plate on his head for beating her, and makes the assembly stay 5 hours after school and copy from the dictionary for cheering him on.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The book often calls her "the Trunchbull", removing her first name to make an already intimidating tyrant even more threatening.
  • Stout Strength: A big, athletic, and muscular Brawn Hilda who is also able to lift the back half of a car.
  • Super Strength: The movie version is strong enough to break a metal chain with her bare hands, as well as lift the back end of a car off the ground (which would weigh about 1500 pounds).
  • Trademark Favorite Food: She LOVES chocolate and is seen eating chocolate cake and chocolate candies (in rather horrifyingly messy fashion).
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: An adorable, heartwarming story about a genius little girl with magic powers. And the insane Miss Trunchbull who possibly murdered her step-brother-in-law, stole his daughter's inheritance, abused her for years (even going so far as to break her arm), then, while living in her possibly murdered brother-in-law's house, terrorizes an entire school of children with some very cruel punishments (The Chokey, throwing them over the school's fence, throwing them out the window, normal school punishments as you know). She's by far one of the darkest villains to ever appear in a children's novel.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After Matilda uses her psychic powers to terrify her.
  • Villainous Glutton: Implied. In the movie, we see her eat a huge piece of chocolate cake, and she shoves half the thing into her mouth in one "bite".
  • Villain Has a Point:
    • Subverted. While her speech about putting effort ("Perspiration!") into teaching is undoubtedly valid on a general level, it becomes awfully hypocritical when said by a principal whose only interest is terrifying and harming her own students.
    • She's entirely correct in her assessment of Harry Wormwood as a fraudulent scumbag, but chooses to take her frustrations out on his daughter.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: She's incredibly superstitious and fears snakes. She also fears black cats and ghosts the latter of which is exploited by Matilda to get her to leave.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: In the movie, she's afraid of black cats due to her superstitious personality.
  • Would Hurt a Child: And enjoy doing it. Her favored methods are throwing them out of windows and forcing them to stand in what amounts to a kind of Iron Maiden.
  • You Are What You Hate: Her hatred of children comes off as rather ironic when one considers her more immature traits like gorging herself on chocolate and picking on those weaker than her.

    Lavender 
Played by: Kiami Davael

Matilda's best friend.


  • Dirty Coward: Her joke of putting a newt on the Trunchbull's water jar nearly leads Matilda to be expelled. In the novel, the narrator mentions that Lavender felt bad for Matilda, as she didn't want to cause her trouble but wasn't willing to confess either.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: Downplayed. She wears glasses in the movie, but her book counterpart doesn't.
  • Meaningful Name: Her name is a word which means "light purple", and in the movie, Lavender is mostly seen in purple clothing.
  • Nice Girl: Lavender is a sweet and humorous child.
  • Pint-Sized Kid: Described in the book as very small and tiny for her age, especially in comparison with older girl Hortensia.
  • Plucky Girl: She did play a prank on Trunchbull. According to the book, Matilda likes her because she is gutsy and adventurous, and Lavender likes Matilda for the same reasons.
  • Race Lift: In the book she was white, but is black in the movie. In the musical, she is colorblind-cast.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Lavender is one of the smartest kids at Crunchem Hall, only second to Matilda.

    Hortensia 
Played by: Kira Spencer Hesser

Matilda's older friend.


  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the book, Hortensia is noted for having a large boil on her nose. The movie omits the boil and makes her a Dark-Skinned Blond for good measure.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the book, she's fairly mean to Matilda and Lavender, though she does warn them about the Trunchbull. In the film, she is friendly and protective of them.
  • Big Sister Mentor: To Matilda and Lavender.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: One possible interpretation of her, since she had been going to school at Crunchem Hall for several years by the time Matilda started there. This might explain why she acts callously to Matilda and Lavender in the book.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Gives advice to newbie Matilda about Trunchbull and how to avoid her wrath. Although she's a Nice Girl only in the movie, since this is averted in the book, where she looks down on Matilda and Lavender and even insults them, though she still gives advice on Trunchbull.
  • Little Miss Snarker: In the movie, after telling Matilda about how Trunchbull hurled a kid out of class for eating candy.
    Matilda: Was he okay?
    Hortensia: After being thrown out the window? Of course he wasn't okay. He lived, if that's what you mean.
    • When Trunchbull throws a little girl across the schoolyard by her pigtails, Hortensia's first comment is "Good loft!"
  • Ms. Exposition: Tells Matilda about the Chokey and other horror stories about the Trunchbull.
  • The Prankster: She pulled two pranks on Miss Trunchbull and was sent to The Chokey both times because of this. And that's just the two times she tells us about; apparently, she actually went to The Chokey six times in total.
Advertisement:

    Amanda Thripp 
Played by: Jacqueline Steiger

Another schoolmate of Matilda.


  • Age Lift: In the book, Amanda is about ten years old, but in the movie, she's six and in the same class as Matilda.
  • Ascended Extra: In the book she's only mentioned in the pigtails moment. In the movie she appears in more scenes.
  • Butt-Monkey: Introduced only to show how horrifying Miss Trunchbull is. In the movie, she's threatened by Miss Trunchbull twice.
  • Childish Bangs: Has these combined with her pigtails. Even after she stops plaiting her hair, she still has the bangs.
  • The Cutie: Especially in the movie, she's ridiculously cute.
  • Girlish Pigtails: She makes the mistake of coming to school wearing her hair in pigtails. Unfortunately, Miss Trunchbull hates them.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: She's a sweet and innocent little girl with long blonde hair.
  • Made of Iron: Using her Olympic hammer training, Miss Trunchbull picks up Amanda by the pigtails, swings her around at great speed, and throws her across the grounds. This would probably kill a child in real life, but Amanda luckily lands on the grass, "bounces on the ground three times" and is perfectly okay afterwards.
  • True Blue Femininity: Amanda is described as wearing blue hair ribbons in the book. In the movie, she's mostly dressed in pink.

    Nigel Hicks 
Played by: Michael Valentine

A bright, if somewhat foolhardy, classmate of Matilda's.


  • Badass Bystander: He mouths off to the Trunchbull, he bravely tries to stand up for Miss Honey—and when Trunchbull faints out of fear for the "ghost of Magnus", Nigel reacts by throwing a mug of water at her. In the musical, he's the first one to stand up against Trunchbull by deliberately misspelling the word "cat" and start the entire Go Through Me scene.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Which gets him in trouble with Miss Trunchbull.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the book, he's the second-most prominent of Matilda's classmates, with only Lavender getting more attention. In the movie, he's only seen near the end as Miss Trunchbull throws him out the window but Matilda uses her powers to help him fly back to the school and push Miss Trunchbull onto the globe.
  • Fearless Fool: Played with. He clearly is afraid of Miss Trunchbull, but he still stands his ground and answers her in a very cheeky way even when she's in a rage.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Not really, but in the musical, Matilda claims to Miss Trunchbull that Nigel "suffers from the rare chronic sleep-disorder narcolepsy" to save him from punishment for a wrongly-accused prank. Nigel, of course, plays along.
  • Keet: He's rather small and very energetic.

    Bruce Bogtrotter 
Played by: Jimmy Karz

Another schoolmate that Matilda befriends.


  • Age Lift: In the book and the film, he's an older boy of about eleven, but in the musical, he's Matilda's age and one of her classmates.
  • Alliterative Name: Bruce Bogtrotter.
  • Ascended Extra: From a One-Scene Wonder in the book to a regular character in the film and musical.
  • Big Eater: He swipes a slice of cake from The Trunchbull's stash. By way of punishment, she makes him eat a gigantic three-layer cake bigger than his head. He manages, although he's completely zonked in a food coma at the end.
  • Burp of Finality: In the film, he lets out one after he finishes the whole chocolate cake and The Trunchball breaks the plate over his head.
  • Determinator: After the other children cheer him on, Bruce manages to finish the entire 18-inch chocolate cake.
  • The Dog Bites Back: At the end of the film, he stuffs a piece of chocolate cake into Trunchbull's mouth as payback while she's being chased out of the school.

Top