The Book Thief

Critics Consensus

A bit too safe in its handling of its Nazi Germany setting, The Book Thief counters its constraints with a respectful tone and strong performances.



Total Count: 146


Audience Score

User Ratings: 50,151
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Movie Info

Based on the beloved international bestselling book, The Book Thief tells the story of an extraordinary, spirited young girl sent to live with a foster family in WWII Germany. Intrigued by the only book she brought with her, she begins collecting books as she finds them. With the help of her new parents and a secret guest under the stairs, she learns to read and creates a magical world that inspires them all.

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Roger Allam
as Death, Narrator
Heike Makatsch
as Liesel's Mother
Julian Lehmann
as Liesel's Brother
Gotthard Lange
as Grave Digger
Kirsten Block
as Frau Heinrich
Ludger Bokelmann
as Football Urchin #1
Paul Schalper
as Football Urchin #2
Nozomi Linus Kaisar
as Fat Faced Goalie
Oliver Stokowski
as Alex Steiner
Robert Beyers
as Jewish Accountant
Levin Liam
as Franz Deutscher
Rafael Gareisen
as Walter Nazi Soldier
Carl Heinz Choynski
as Jüergen the Groundsman
Carina Wiese
as Barbara Steiner
Rainer Bock
as Buergmeister Hermann
Barbara Auer
as Ilsa Hermann
Sebastian Hülk
as Gestapo Agent
Beata Lehmann
as Woman with Champagne
Laina Schwarz
as Neighbor
Georg Tryphon
as Neighbor
Martin Ontrop
as Herr Lehmann
Jan Andres
as Fellow Conscript
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News & Interviews for The Book Thief

Critic Reviews for The Book Thief

All Critics (146) | Top Critics (42)

  • The film is hamstrung by the novel's structure, unsure whether to be a 12A-certificate family outing, or to luxuriate in morbid irony.

    Jan 2, 2018 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • It's certainly pretty to look at, reminiscent of those Disneyland parades where horses are much in evidence, but their excrement (thanks to neat little sacks attached to the creatures' nether regions) never soils the ground.

    Feb 28, 2014 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • It's a worryingly lenient and obtuse approach to history and historical evil, which are smothered in feelgood tragi-sentimental slush.

    Feb 28, 2014 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…
  • A frank and adventurous portrayal of love in the margins.

    Feb 27, 2014 | Rating: 3/5
  • The movie lacks the nerve to treat death as anything more menacing than the tooth fairy.

    Dec 10, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Markus Zusak's enormously successful young-adult novel seems to have been adapted as a movie for middle-aged children.

    Nov 25, 2013 | Full Review…

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Book Thief

  • Feb 22, 2016
    It's not even that bad. It's just that the film, lacking in the source material's depth and forceful grip, failed to meet the demands of such a powerful and compelling book.
    Maymay A Super Reviewer
  • Apr 15, 2014
    This is one of those sentimental melodramas that's probably gonna be a bigger hit with audiences than with critics. And the professional reviews, and crowd reactions, certainly prove my point. I'm stuck somewhere in the middle, while I wasn't a fan of its sentimentality or its wishful tone, I do think there's still more good than bad in this film. The performances in the film are more than solid and the film offers a different perspective about World War 2 than you'd normally see. Not saying this film is unique or different, but it just offers a different viewpoint to the war than is normal. And the film, while certainly wishful, does have a very respectful tone, I think it's clear that this was a labor of love and getting the story just right was clearly a big concern. Some of it works, some of it doesn't. I think the film certainly plays it safe with the Nazi Germany setting, when it really could've been used far more effectively. Almost as if they were afraid of backlash. Displaying the true ugliness of the Nazi agenda should be front and center in any film dealing with this subject. The film showcases some of that, but it's done with kid gloves. The film also shines a spotlight on humanity itself and how, in the same person, you can see the absolute worst and best in them. How can one person justify the persecution of someone else based on their skin color, religion, sexuality, etc while also doing good things for others. How can both sides exist in one person? I think that was certainly one of the film's important points. One of the things I didn't like was Death being the narrator. It probably reads better in the book than it does in the film, I think in a book there's far more that Death can comment on and question because there aren't strict time constraints to work with. I bet Death feels like a fully formed character, who opines on the human condition and how humanity has practically destroyed itself, etc, etc, in the book. I think it just comes across as a little bit silly in the film though. His interjections don't really help create a character as much as tie the film together in a nice little bow at the end. He's there to fill the gaps and not to give his insight on humanity. That's probably the main reason I'm interested in reading the book, in seeing how Death in the book differs from Death in the film. The acting, as mentioned, is more than good. I think Geoffrey Rush steals the show. I think he's incredible and he can play the most detestable of characters, see Quills, while also managing to play absolutely endearing characters, see this and The King's Speech. This guy can do everything and he's a big reason of why I liked this film so much, he's charming, funny, and full of warmth. Emily Watson is great as the nagging wife, putting up a tough act as she's really far more emotional than she lets on, that eventually grows fond of Liesel. And Sophie Nelisse is quite good, but I thought her delivery was poor at times. Still, considering her age and the role she's playing, she does a great job here and she already has great on-screen presence. She doesn't really need to carry the film on her own, as she's surrounded by very talented actors, but she does a good job here nonetheless. I wish the film wasn't so afraid to use its setting to really show the ugly side of humanity, as Death mentions in his narration, and I thought it was too sentimental at times, but this is still a good movie with a good story and great performances.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Mar 20, 2014
    I expected a lot from this American-German war drama film based on the novel of the same name by Markus Zusak. Directed by Brian Percival and written by Michael Petroni, with an Oscar-nominated musical score composed by John Williams and starring Emily Watson, Geoffrey Rush, Sophie Nélisse, Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch, and Joachim Paul Assböck, it had all the elements to be outstanding, but it didn't break the "average" barrier. I liked the unique approach of narration by the Angel of Death (Roger Allam) of the events starting in April 1938 in Nazi Germany. We hear that Angel of Death telling us how the young Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) has piqued his interest. Liesel is traveling on a train with mother (Heike Makatsch) and younger brother when her brother dies. At his burial she picks up a book that has been dropped by his graveside (a gravedigger's manual). Liesel then finds herself in a new family, foster parents Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) Hubermann, because her mother, a Communist, is in danger. When she arrives, Liesel makes a very strong impression on a neighbour boy, Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch), and they become best friends. I liked the performances of Sophie Nélisse as Liesel Meminger, and Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as Meminger's foster parents. Smooth, almost effortless and innocently lovely! I wish the director Brian Percival and screenwriter Michael Petroni could reach that level... but they were simply craftsmen serving up just another tasteful, staiged Hollywood imagination of the terrible times. There was no feeling or excitement and the slow pace didn't bring the suspense or mystery or even heaviness... most of the time ignited a wish for the director to speed up the things! It was a watchable movie but there was lack of honesty in it!
    Panta O Super Reviewer
  • Mar 09, 2014
    For all the hype, there's just nothing really that noteworthy about this film. The story isn't particularly entertaining, and although it is somewhat interesting, it's badly developed. The characters, aside from Liesel and Geoffrey Rush's character, aren't really that interesting either.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer

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