Matilda Wormwood is a genius, but her parents, Harry and Zinnia, and her brother Michael ignore and mistreat her.
Since babyhood, Matilda has displayed incredible learning ability and develops a strong sense of independence due to her often being left alone at home every weekday when her father is at work, her mother is playing bingo, and Michael is at school.
To pass the time, Matilda learns the route to the public library to read books.
At age six-and-a-half, Matilda begins to lose patience with her parents, expressing a desire to go to school, which her parents refuse blatantly and mock her.
In retaliation for her father constantly berating her, she resolves to punish him each time, first by adding hydrogen peroxide to his hair tonic to turn his hair an unhealthy blonde, and then gluing his hat to his head after learning about his cheating car business.
Coincidentally, unlucky things begin to happen around Harry when Matilda gets angry with him.
Harry finally relents to letting Matilda go to school after meeting a client named Agatha Trunchbull, the tyrannical principal of a rundown elementary school, Crunchem Hall.
There, Matilda befriends several children and learns of Trunchbull’s violent nature and overtly harsh punishments of the students.
Thankfully, Matilda‘s teacher, Jennifer Honey, is a kind woman who adores her class and takes an immediate liking to Matilda’s gentle and humble nature despite her incredible genius.
She requests to Trunchbull that Matilda be moved up to a higher class, but Trunchbull refuses. That night, Miss Honey pays the Wormwoods a visit to encourage them to spend more time with Matilda, but they snub her.
Meanwhile, Matilda discovers that her family is under surveillance by FBI agents Bob and Bill due to her father’s illegal dealings, but her parents refuse to believe her, as Zinnia thinks they are speedboat salesmen.
Upon discovery of the newt, Trunchbull accuses Matilda, whose anger at the injustice leads her to telekinetically tip the glass over, splashing water and the newt on Trunchbull.
Afterward, Miss Honey invites Matilda to her house for tea. On the way, they pass Trunchbull’s house, and Miss Honey reveals a secret of hers:
When she was two, her mother died, so her father, Magnus, invited his stepsister-in-law, Trunchbull, to live with them and look after her. However, Trunchbull regularly abused her.
When Miss Honey was five, her father died of an alleged suicide. Eventually, she moved into a small cottage. Matilda and she sneak into Trunchbull’s house while she is out to obtain some of Miss Honey’s belongings.
But Trunchbull’s unexpected return leads to a cat-and-mouse chase, with them only barely escaping without revealing themselves.
When Matilda‘s telekinetic powers manifest again during an argument with her father, she trains herself to use them at her own will.
he returns to Trunchbull’s house and uses her telekinesis to wreak havoc in an attempt to scare her away. She almost flees, but Trunchbull finds Matilda‘s hair ribbon and realizes her presence.
The following day, Trunchbull visits Miss Honey’s class again to get Matilda to admit her guilt.
Matilda magically writes a message on the blackboard, posing as the ghost of Magnus, accusing Trunchbull of murdering him.
Trunchbull goes berserk and attacks the students, but Matilda keeps them out of harm’s way with her powers, and together they force Trunchbull out of the school permanently.
Miss Honey subsequently moves back into her true home.
The FBI finally uncovers enough evidence to prosecute Harry, and the Wormwoods prepare to flee to Guam.
They stop by Miss Honey’s house to pick up Matilda, but she refuses to go with them and suggests Miss Honey adopt her.
In that moment, a remorseful Zinnia laments over not understanding her daughter and regrets that she didn’t treat her better. She and Harry subsequently sign the adoption papers that Matilda had kept for a long time.
They escape and Matilda lives a happy life with Miss Honey, who becomes the new principal of Crunchem Hall.