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The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

PG-13 | | Drama | 17 October 2008 (USA)
2:38 | Trailer

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In 1964, a teenage girl in search of the truth about her mother runs away to a small town in South Carolina and finds a family of independent women who can connect her to her past.


Gina Prince-Bythewood (screenplay), Sue Monk Kidd (novel)
12 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Dakota Fanning ... Lily Owens
Queen Latifah ... August Boatwright
Jennifer Hudson ... Rosaleen Daise
Alicia Keys ... June Boatwright
Sophie Okonedo ... May Boatwright
Paul Bettany ... T. Ray Owens
Hilarie Burton ... Deborah Owens
Tristan Mack Wilds ... Zach Taylor (as Tristan Wilds)
Nate Parker ... Neil
Shondrella Avery ... Greta
Renee Ford Clark Renee Ford Clark ... Doll (as Renée Clark)
Sharon Conley ... Violet (as Sharon Morris)
Nicky Buggs ... Cressie
Jasmine Burke ... Sugar Girl
Emma Sage Bowman Emma Sage Bowman ... Young Lily


Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the tale of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father T-Ray, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret to her mother's past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters, Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping. Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Bring Your Girlfriends, Sisters, Mothers and Daughters



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

17 October 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Secret Life of Bees See more »

Filming Locations:

Watha, North Carolina, USA See more »


Box Office


$11,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$10,527,799, 17 October 2008, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$37,766,350, 22 February 2009

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$39,947,322, 27 May 2013
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(director's cut) |

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby (as Dolby Stereo)| SDDS | Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Early on in the film Lily is telling Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) about a dream she had, which involved the Supremes. Years earlier Hudson starred in Dreamgirls (2006) which is heavily based upon the career of the Supremes. Both films are also set in the early 60's. See more »


When Lily and Zach are kissing, Lily's hair keeps moving back and forth from behind her ear to the side of her face depending on the camera angle. See more »


Lily Owens: You think something being an impossibility makes you think about it even more?
May Boatwright: Like what?
Lily Owens: I don't know. Like... kissin'.
May Boatwright: That ain't impossible. When I was 15, I made a 7UP cake for this boy. After that, he kissed me all the time.
Lily Owens: What'd it feel like?
May Boatwright: Like I was gonna burst.
Lily Owens: Miss May, I know you get real sad sometimes. My daddy never feels. He never felt anything. I had rather be like you.
May Boatwright: A worker bee weigh less than a flower petal, but she can fly with a load heavier than her. But she only ...
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Alternate Versions

Home video versions (DVD and Blu-ray) include both the original theatrical version and the extended director's cut of 114 minutes. See more »


Featured in The 14th Annual Critics' Choice Awards (2009) See more »


Baby I Need Your Loving
Written by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland (as Edward Holland,
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Mediocre but moderately entertaining
15 March 2009 | by ArgemalucoSee all my reviews

I went to see The Secret Life of Bees thinking it would be a light version of The Color Purple and,on some way,it resulted to be like that.However,I would not call it a copy,because although it deals with similar subjects to the ones of that excellent movie,The Secret Life of Bees has a different style and sensibility.But the biggest difference is that,while The Color Purple was tremendously honest,The Secret Life of Bees feels thick and a little bit cloying.This is a mediocre film but I cannot deny it kept me moderately entertained.First,let's see positive points.At the difference of many ex-childish actors,Dakota Fanning is facing her adolescence with aplomb,good presence and brilliant histrionic ability,as she shows on this movie.I am also very happy to see that her image as a "miniature adult" has disappeared.It will be very interesting to see the future of her career and I hope she has as much luck as Jodie Foster,Ron Howard and other ex-childish stars who avoided emotional and professional problems on their adult career.Jennifer Hudson and Queen Latifah have conventional characters (independent woman and wise matron,respectively) but they bring very competent performances.However,the member of the cast who most impressed me is Paul Bettany.He completely becomes into his character and he shows an unusual level of intensity and credibility.And,as I have previously said,the movie kept me moderately entertained in spite of being mediocre.Now,let's go to the negative elements.The Secret Life of Bees is based on a book written by Sue Monk Kidd and the adaption director and screenwriter Gina Prince-Bythewood made suffers from the syndrome of "book taken to the big screen".Maybe,Prince-Bythewood wanted to include moments from the book which may were important for her,but not necessarily to the story and as a result,we have many irrelevant moments and other ones which come from nowhere and they do not contribute in anything to the story.Besides,there are various forced scenes which try to make us cry at any cost.In other words,those scenes do not feel honest at all,because they have a lot of manipulation and artificial dramatism.The Secret Life of Bees is not a bad movie.I just found it redundant and too forced,while all the moments which should be honest feel forced.I think I can give this movie a slight recommendation because of its excellent performances and because it kept me moderately entertained.

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