Film Review: Won't You Be My Neighboor?

by Julia DeKorte | 30 Jun 2023

Book Reviews

The 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? directed by Morgan Neville is a wonderful tribute to Fred Rogers and his renowned children’s TV show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The film covers the life of Rogers, his different philosophies on life, teaching, and children, and has interviews from his family, friends, and colleagues, as well as archival recordings from Fred Rogers himself. The documentary was incredibly successful, becoming the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all time.


Beginning with his early life and his foray into seminary education, the film then follows Rogers as he enters the world of television. He began on the set off The Children’s Corner doing off-camera work with puppets, which is where Daniel the Striped Tiger, who appears often in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, originated. Wanting to do something more for the education and enlightening of children, Rogers becomes the star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The documentary goes into depth about Rogers’ philosophy on educating children focusing on social and emotional development and emphasizing speaking honestly to children. Referencing specific episodes when Rogers explains particularly difficult subjects like the JFK assassination and death, the documentary shows where Rogers’ philosophy really shines through.


The film covers Rogers’ brief hiatus from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as well as why he decided to come back after previously ending the show. His later life is also discussed: backlash he received in the form of parodies and critiques on his belief that all children are special and deserve to be loved. His cancer diagnosis and tragic death are covered as well, and the nationwide sadness that occurred.


Overall, the film was well-organized, well-structured, and very clearly full of love. Viewers get to know Rogers off-camera, finding that he really isn’t that different than his television persona. The love he gave to the world was very clearly given back, evident through the love and affection from those that knew and loved him.


mister rogers fred rogers

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