The film also picked up another two nominations and one win in awards. Some of the film's scenes were shot on location in the village of Theale, near Reading, Berkshire, where all of the buildings and shops in the High Street were painted dark green. When the film was released in the United Kingdom, it opened on #2, behind Alien: Resurrection. The next week, the film regained the position, though under Tomorrow Never Dies.
Young Pete Lender (Bradley Pierce) is setting up traps around his house, explaining to his parents that things in their house are being stolen, despite his parents believing they are simply misplaced. However, it turns out that a family of tiny people ("Borrowers"), are living in the house, borrowing stuff without being seen. Pod Clock (Jim Broadbent) and his children, Arrietty (Flora Newbigin) and Peagreen (Tom Felton), make their way through the kitchen to "borrow" the radio's battery.
Arrietty, while treating herself with some ice cream in the freezer, is accidentally shut inside just as the Lenders return. Pod manages to rescue Arietty, but jams the ice cube tube in the process and is forced to leave one of his gadgets behind, which is found by Mr. Lender. Meanwhile, the will of Mrs. Lender's aunt Mrs. Allabaster is the only proof that the house rightfully belongs to the family, yet their lawyer Ocious P. Potter (John Goodman) cannot find it and has already made plans to demolish their house in order to build condominiums on the land, and the Lenders have until Saturday to move away.
Arietty is trapped by Pete, who is actually astonished to discover the Borrowers. Pete also explains to Arietty that the house is being demolished due to the absence of Mrs. Allabaster's will, meaning that both families will have to move. After Arrietty explains the situation to her family, Pod reluctantly agrees to have the family move to the new house, despite being somewhat upset that Arrietty has defied so much about the way of the Borrowers. Unfortunately, during the journey, Arrietty and Peagreen fall out of the moving truck and make their way back to the old house, where they find the new house on a map.
However, Potter turns up and finds the will hidden in a safe inside the wall. It turns out that Mrs. Allabaster had stated that she did not trust banks and preferred to keep the will in the house, something Potter deliberately kept from his clients. But as he tries to burn it, Arrietty and Peagreen recover the will, determined to save the house for both the Lenders and the Clocks. Upon seeing the Clocks' underground home, Potter calls the local exterminator Jeff (Mark Williams), but they manage to escape as Potter throws off the suspicions of Officer Oliver Steady (Hugh Laurie).
Meanwhile, Pod and his wife Homily discover that their children are missing and, with Pete's help, track them to the milk factory, where Peagreen is trapped in a milk bottle. Pod rescues Peagreen from drowning just as Arrietty and Spiller, an underground "outie" Borrower, reunite with them. Unfortunately, Potter catches them, steals the will and ties them to the cheese machine, intending to drown them in the liquid cheese. Spiller cheeks Potter to the point that Potter dumps him in another machine, apparently killing him, but Spiller manages to escape. Just before the cheese can hit, Pete arrives and turns the machine off.
With Jeff's help, Pete and the Borrowers follow Potter to City Hall to stop him arranging the demolition. He is briefly stalled thanks to the town hall clerk (Ruby Wax) who gives him confusing directions to the demolition office in response to his rude behavior. When he finally reaches the door, he finds himself trapped inside the storeroom instead where the Clocks tie his hands to his face with Cellotape. In his rage, Potter breaks off and attempts to vacuum the Clocks when an army of Borrowers turns up to save them. The Borrowers tie Potter up with wire and a ceiling fan and it is revealed that Spiller had survived the machine at the factory and summoned the army of Borrowers to aid the Clocks. Pod delivers a speech to Potter on the Borrowers' behalf. The door to the room is then unlocked, the Borrowers untie Potter and disappear right before the door opens. Pete and Jeff enter with Officer Steady. Pete recovers the will from Potter and shows it to Steady, proving Potter's deceit and his plan to cheat the Lenders out of their house. Potter tries to explain his story, but Steady, unconvinced, arrests him for fraud and theft.
Having retrieved the will, the Lenders move back into their house and Pete becomes friends with the Clocks and regularly gives them food while keeping their existence a secret.
During the credits, Potter explains his story to Steady and the other police officers while in custody only to be laughed at by the police before his mugshot is taken which he seems to enjoy.John Goodman as Ocious P. Potter, a crooked lawyer that seeks to destroy the Lender family's house.
Jim Broadbent as Pod Clock, the patriarch of the Clock family
Mark Williams as Exterminator Jeff, an exterminator who helps Potter.
Hugh Laurie as Officer Oliver Steady, a police officer that gets suspicious of Potter's motives.
Bradley Pierce as Pete Lender, a boy who befriends the Clock family.
Celia Imrie as Homily Clock, the matriarch of the Clock family.
Flora Newbigin as Arrietty Clock, the daughter of Pod and Homily.
Tom Felton as Peagreen Clock, the son of Pod and Homily.
Raymond Pickard as Spud Spiller, an "outie" Borrower.
Ruby Wax as Town Hall Clerk
Aden Gillett as Joe Lender, the father of Pete Lender.
Doon Mackichan as Victoria Lender, the mother of Pete Lender.
Bob Goody as Minty Branch
The film received generally positive reviews upon its release. Rotten Tomatoes gave 73% of positive reviews. The Guardian has described the film as "A spirited screen version of the Mary Norton stories about the tiny folk who live under the floorboards, and off human scraps. Jim Broadbent and Celia Imrie are a joy as the parents of little Arrietty..."
Roger Ebert in his review described the film, in the wake of numerous television adaptations, as a "big-screen, big-budget version with special effects so amusing it's like Toy Story has come to life...the charm comes in the way The Borrowers makes its world look like a timeless story book. If the action and the physical humour are designed to appeal to kids, the look of the film will impress adults who know what to look for."
This film was released on May 19, 1998, on VHS and on April 1, 2003 on DVD. On television, this film has aired on KidScene: HDNet Movies on February 2004, along with Babe: Pig in the City and Daddy Day Care.