• Review Date: July 24, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2009

Common Sense Media says

Bad Seed-style horror movie is gory and ludicrous.
  • Review Date: July 24, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2009





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film's serious take on themes of adoption and loss are wholly undermined by the "killer child" plot; the film gives itself an out (in a twist too ludicrous to reveal), but much of it trades on a creepy, "taboo" images and concepts involving the 9-year-old at center of the action.

Positive role models

While the main characters' desire to adopt in the wake of a miscarriage at first presents a model of compassion and love, the film's gory, horrific violence soon wipes it away with a red tide of blood. Esther, the child they adopt, is pure evil, with no redeeming characteristics.


Extreme violence, much of it involving children. A young girl hurls a peer out of a play set, smothers another child to death, and points a loaded gun point blank at a third. She also kills adults via hammer beating, stabbing, and shooting. Perils include fire, vehicular endangerment, crashing through a frozen pond, fistfights, and more. A character is kicked in the head, hard, and the shot lingers on his/her breaking neck. Discussions of beatings and murders. Extensive blood, including violent surgical imagery. A character breaks his/her own arm to feign abuse.


A young child dresses and acts in a deliberately sexual, provocative manner, although her advances are rebuffed. A married couple engages in sexual acts in bed and in the kitchen; adults are seen stripped down to their underwear. A group of pre-teen boys looks at a pornographic magazine (nudity is shown). Sex is discussed with a younger child.


Extensive strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "prick," "crap," "a--hole," "oh my God," and more. "Retard" is frequently used as an epithet, and "Jesus freak" is used once.


Characters play the video game Guitar Hero; other brands shown on screen include Perfect Ten magazine and Lexus.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Extensive discussion of how one main character has had a problematic relationship with alcohol in the past, plus depictions of her being tempted to drink again. Another main character smokes cigarettes and gets drunk drinking an entire bottle of wine; viewers see some events from his woozy, boozy perspective.

Parents Need to Know


Parents need to know that this is a review of the movie shown in theaters and not the unrated version with an alternate ending available on DVD. Parents also need to know that this gory horror movie centers on extremely violent, sexual acts carried out by a 9-year-old girl. While the film's ultimate twist negates some of the queasy, sleazy feeling that comes from watching this kind of material, the bulk of the movie revolves around the shock value of seeing a child doing horrible things. Plus, there's lots of swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), as well as smoking, drinking, and sexual scenes between adults.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

After a miscarriage, parents John and Kate Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga) decide to adopt a third child into their family. Polite, reserved, and formal, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) seems like the perfect addition ... but she soon reveals a manipulative, malevolent side. Is Esther simply trying to fit in and gain a little social advantage in the family, or does she have a darker agenda in mind?

Is it any good?


Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, ORPHAN is clearly trying to follow in the footsteps of other bad-kid horror/thriller efforts like The Bad Seed and The Good Son. But even with the presence of the always-watchable Farmiga and Sarsgaard, Orphan buckles and breaks under the sheer weight of its own excess, piling ludicrous plot hole upon ludicrous plot hole and excuse upon excuse in the pursuit of thrills, chills, and rough, tough action.

 If Orphan were more exuberant -- a bit more diabolically crazy, a bit more swiftly-paced -- it might be fun; as it is, the film bogs down over its two-plus hours. Farmiga and Sarsgaaard are both good -- even if they're forced, by circumstance, to play people far stupider than they are -- but they can't break out of the script's narrow confines. Fuhrman lends a certain chill to Esther's crazier moments, but, at the same time, she's hampered by the story's contortions and weaknesses. Watching Orphan, you can't help but think that what was really needed wasn't an artist's hand on the camera but, rather, an editor's hand applied to the screenplay.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. Is it more or less realistic than what you've seen in other thrillers/horror movies? How does that affect its impact?

  • How do you feel about the fact that a child is the one committing the movie's most horrible acts? 

  • Does the movie's twist let the filmmakers off the hook for some of the more extreme moments?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 24, 2009
DVD release date:October 27, 2009
Cast:Isabelle Fuhrman, Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga
Director:Jaume Collet-Serra
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:123 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:disturbing violent content, some sexuality and language

This review of Orphan was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written bylittlemonster98 April 6, 2011

GRETA MOVIE.... very scary

GReat movie for anyone who is in for a scare

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 15 years old Written byarthur16morgana January 14, 2011

i watched this with my parents and two 15 year old friends and we all loved it. it was a really good and interesting movie.scary for younger viewers.

What other families should know
Too much sex
Kid, 10 years old Written byBellaBelle February 17, 2011


This is horrible!!!!!!! Kids in my 4 grade class said they watched this and told my about it!!!!!!!!!

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Top Kids' Movies: An Essential Guide for Families