The film was a box office success and grossed $36,776,544 at the box office in Australia. It has received considerable acclaim from critics: it was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, winning Best Visual Effects. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film.
Babe, an orphaned piglet, is chosen for a "guess the weight" contest at a county fair. The winning farmer, Arthur Hoggett, brings him home and allows him to stay with a Border Collie named Fly, her mate Rex and their puppies, in the barn.
A duck named Ferdinand, who poses as a rooster to spare himself from being eaten, persuades Babe to help him destroy the alarm clock that threatens his mission. Despite succeeding in this, they wake Duchess, the Hoggetts' cat, and in the confusion accidentally destroy the living room. Rex sternly instructs Babe to stay away from Ferdinand (now a fugitive) and the house. Sometime later, when Fly's puppies are put up for sale, Babe asks if he can call her "Mom".
Christmas brings a visit from the Hoggetts' relatives. Babe is almost chosen for Christmas dinner but a duck is picked instead after Hoggett remarks to his wife Esme that Babe may bring a prize for ham at the next county fair. On Christmas Day, Babe justifies his existence by alerting Hoggett to sheep rustlers stealing sheep from one of the fields. The next day, Hoggett sees Babe sort the hens, separating the brown from the white ones. Impressed, he takes him to the fields and allows him to try and herd the sheep. Encouraged by an elder ewe named Maa, the sheep cooperate, but Rex sees Babe's actions as an insult to sheepdogs and confronts Fly in a vicious fight for encouraging Babe. He injures her leg and accidentally bites Hoggett's hand when he tries to intervene. As punishment for injuring his owner, Rex is then chained to the dog house, muzzled and sedated, leaving the sheep herding job to Babe.
One morning, Babe is awakened by the sheep's cries and sees three dogs attacking them. Though he manages to scare them off, Maa is mortally injured and dies as a result. Hoggett arrives and, thinking that Babe killed her, prepares to shoot him. Fly is so anxious to find out whether he is guilty or innocent that, instead of barking orders at the sheep, she calmly talks to them to find out what happened. Learning the truth, she barks to distract Hoggett, delaying him until Esme mentions that the police say feral dogs have been killing sheep on neighboring farms and asks him why he has taken his shotgun out. Realizing Babe is innocent of Maa's death, Hoggett unloads his shotgun and spares Babe.
When Esme leaves on a trip, Hoggett signs Babe up for a local sheep-herding competition. As it is raining the night before, Hoggett lets him and Fly into the house. However, Duchess scratches him when he tries to speak to her, so Hoggett immediately confines her outside. When she is let back in later, she gets revenge on Babe by revealing that humans eat pigs. Horrified, he runs out to the barn and learns from Fly that this is true. The next morning, Fly discovers that Babe has run away. She and Rex alert Hoggett and they all search for him. Rex finds him in a cemetery and Hoggett brings him home. However, he is still demoralized and refuses to eat. Hoggett gives him a drink from a baby bottle, sings to him "If I Had Words" and dances a jig for him. This restores Babe’s faith in Hoggett's affection and he begins eating again.
At the competition, Babe meets the sheep that he will be herding, but they ignore his attempts to speak to them. As Hoggett is criticized by the bemused judges and ridiculed by the public for using a pig instead of a dog, Rex runs back to the farm to ask the sheep what to do. They give him a secret password, first extracting a promise that he will treat them better from now on. He returns in time to convey the password to Babe, and the sheep now follow his instructions flawlessly, to the stunned silence of the judges and audience. Amid the crowd’s acclamation, he is unanimously given the highest score. While he sits down next to the farmer, Hoggett praises him by saying, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do."James Cromwell as Arthur Hoggett
Magda Szubanski as Esme Cordelia Hoggett
Brittany Byrnes as The Hoggetts' granddaughter
Wade Hayward as The Hoggetts' grandson
Paul Goddard as the Hoggetts' son-in-law
Zoe Burton as the Hoggetts' daughter
Roscoe Lee Browne as the Narrator
Christine Cavanaugh as Babe
Miriam Margolyes as Fly, a female Border Collie
Hugo Weaving as Rex, the lead sheepdog
Danny Mann as Ferdinand, a white Indian Runner duck
Miriam Flynn as Maa, an old ewe on Hoggett Farm
Russi Taylor as Duchess, the Hoggetts' cat
Michael Edward-Stevens as The Horse
Charles Bartlett as The Cow
Evelyn Krape as Old Ewe
Paul Livingston as Rooster
John Erwin as a TV Commentator
According to actor Cromwell, there was tension on the set between producer Miller and director Noonan. Noonan later complained, "I don't want to make a lifelong enemy of George Miller but I thought that he tried to take credit for Babe, tried to exclude me from any credit, and it made me very insecure... It was like your guru has told you that you are no good and that is really disconcerting."
Miller shot back, “Chris said something that is defamatory: that I took his name off the credits on internet sites, which is just absolutely untrue. You know, I’m sorry but I really have a lot more to do with my life than worry about that... when it comes to Babe, the vision was handed to Chris on a plate.”
The musical score for Babe was composed by Nigel Westlake and performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Classical orchestral music by 19th-century French composers is used throughout the film, but is disguised in a variety of ways and often integrated by Westlake into his score. The theme song "If I Had Words" (lyrics by Jonathan Hodge), sung by Hoggett near the film's conclusion, is an adaptation of the Maestoso final movement of the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns, and was originally performed in 1977 by Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keeley. This tune also recurs throughout the film's score.
There are also brief quotations within the score from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite.
Other music featured is by Leo Delibes, Richard Rodgers, Gabriel Fauré, and Georges Bizet.
Babe received widespread critical acclaim; it currently holds a 97% "Certified Fresh" approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was also a box office success, grossing $254,134,910 worldwide.
It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It won the award for Best Visual Effects, defeating Apollo 13. In 2006, the American Film Institute named Babe #80 on its list of America's Most Inspiring Movies.
Because of its subject being a piglet, Babe was initially banned from Malaysia in order to avoid upsetting or annoying Muslims, who view pigs as haram, although the ruling was overturned almost a year later and the film was released direct-to-video.
When Babe was released in the USA, it is reported that "activists around the country staked out movie theatres with flyers documenting the real life abuses of pigs". The film had a marked effect on the growth of vegetarianism, particularly among the young. It also promoted a more sympathetic view of the intellectual, emotional and social capacities of animals. James Cromwell became an ethical vegan as a result of starring as Farmer Hoggett, saying, "I decided that to be able to talk about this [movie] with conviction, I needed to become a vegetarian." In 1996 he went on to organize a vegetarian dinner for the Los Angeles homeless at a “Compassionate Christmas” event in order to reverse the barnyard view that "Christmas is carnage".68th Academy AwardsBest Picture for Bill Miller, George Miller and Doug Mitchell (lost to Braveheart)
Best Director for Chris Noonan (lost to Mel Gibson for Braveheart)
Best Adapted Screenplay for George Miller and Chris Noonan (lost to Sense and Sensibility)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role for James Cromwell (lost to Kevin Spacey for The Usual Suspects)
Best Art Direction for Roger Ford and Kerrie Brown (lost to Restoration)
Best Film Editing for Marcus D'Arcy and Jay Friedkin (lost to Apollo 13)
Best Visual Effects for Scott E. Anderson, Charles Gibson, Neal Scanlan and John Cox (Won)
53rd Golden Globe AwardsBest Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Won)
22nd Saturn Awards
Best Fantasy Film (Won)
Best Writing for George Miller and Chris Noonan (lost to Andrew Kevin Walker for Se7en)