Directed by Gillian Armstrong
Produced by Denise Di Novi
Written by Robin Swicord, Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
Starring Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Trini Alvarado, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Bale, Gabriel Byrne, Samantha Mathis, Eric Stoltz
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Geoffrey Simpson
Editing by Nicholas Beauman
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date December 21, 1994
Running time 115 minutes
Country United States
Budget $18 million
Gross revenue $50,083,616
Info & Plot
The film focuses on the March sisters – prim Meg (Trini Alvarado), tempestuous Jo (Winona Ryder), shy Beth (Claire Danes), and self-absorbed Amy (Kirsten Dunst) – growing up in Concord, Massachusetts during and after the American Civil War. With their father away fighting in the war, the girls struggle with major and minor problems under the guidance of their strong-willed mother, affectionately called Marmee. As a means of escaping some of their problems, the sisters revel in performing in romantic plays written by Jo in their attic theater.
Living next door to the family is wealthy Mr. Laurence, whose grandson Theodore (nicknamed Laurie)(Christian Bale) moves in with him and becomes a close friend of the March family. Mr. Laurence becomes a mentor for Beth, whose exquisite piano-playing reminds him of his deceased daughter, and Meg falls in love with Laurie’s tutor John Brooke.
While Marmee is away tending to her wounded husband, Beth contracts scarlet fever from a neighbor’s infant. Awaiting her return, Meg and Jo send Amy away to live with their Aunt March. Prior to Beth’s illness, Jo had been Aunt March’s companion for several years, and while she was unhappy with her position she tolerated it in the hope her aunt one day would take her to Europe. Amy thrives as Aunt March’s new companion.
Mr. March returns home just prior to Christmas. Four years pass; Meg and John Brooke are married, and Beth’s health is deteriorating steadily. Laurie graduates from college and proposes to Jo and asks her to go to London with him, but realizing she thinks of him more as a big brother than a romantic prospect, she refuses his offer. Jo later deals with the added disappointment that Aunt March has decided to take Amy, who is now seventeen (Samantha Mathis), with her to Europe instead of her. Crushed, Jo departs for New York City to pursue her dream of writing and experiencing life. There she meets Friedrich Bhaer (Gabriel Byrne), a German professor who challenges and stimulates her intellectually, introduces her to opera and philosophy, and encourages her write better stories than the lurid Victorian melodramas she has penned so far.
In Europe, Amy reunites with her old childhood friend Laurie. Finding he has become dissolute and irresponsible, she censures him and refuses to have anything more to do with him until he mends his ways. Laurie decides to go to London to work for his grandfather and make himself worthy of Amy.
Jo is summoned home to see Beth, who finally succumbs to the lingering effects of the scarlet fever that have plagued her for the past four years and she dies. Grieving for her sister, Jo retreats to the comfort of the attic and begins to write her life story. Upon its completion, she sends it to Professor Bhaer. Meanwhile, Meg gives birth to twins Demi and Daisy.
A letter from Amy informs the family Aunt March is too ill to travel, so Amy must remain in Europe with her. In London, Laurie receives a letter from Jo in which she informs him of Beth’s death and mentions Amy is in Vevey, unable to come home. Laurie immediately travels to be at Amy’s side. The two eventually return to the March home as husband and wife.
Aunt March dies and she leaves Jo her house, which she decides to convert into a school. Professor Bhaer arrives with the printed galley proofs of her manuscript and announces he is departing for the West, where he has found a position as a teacher. When he discovers it was Amy and not Jo who wed Laurie, he proposes marriage and Jo accepts.