A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Shot on location in and around Kenya, viewers will get to see animals in the wild with predators chasing and killing prey, and see the life of a Kenya game warden in the 1960s. They will also see the pains the Adamsons take in turning a very tame lion into a wild and self-sufficient lion.
As the title spells out, this movie explores what it means for an animal to be free and living in the wild. It may be more dangerous, but it speaks to an animal's true spirit. It's also a lesson in letting go.
Positive Role Models
Joy Adamson cares so much about Elsa the lion that she works tirelessly to set her free and make her self-sufficient. Her husband, even while recovering from malaria, continues to help his wife succeed.
Violence & Scariness
The opening scene shows lions devouring a zebra. Other animals are eaten, some are shot at by wardens, including the parents of the orphaned lions. One lion kills a woman; viewers see a lion rush at her cowering figure and then blood running in a river. A beloved pet dies of old age. Elsa the lion nearly starves and is bloodied by other lions. George contracts malaria and has a fit from taking too much medicine. Elephants stampede and a village is shown afterward in ruins.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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"Dammit" is uttered once.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A small animal is chastized for drinking alcohol left on a table. Adults drink at meals.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this heartwarming story about returning a tamed lion to the wild doesn't shy away from showing nature as it is. Lions kill and devour animals frequently and are shot and killed by wardens; Elsa the lion causes an elephant stampede, nearly starves, and is roughed up by other lions; and one lion even kills a human, though only blood in a river is shown. Viewers will enjoy both the love Joy Adamson shows Elsa the lion by setting her free and the beautiful views of Kenya and all its wonderful wildlife. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Joy Adamson's bestselling book, Born Free, spawned several films and a TV series; this one is the first, and best, of the bunch. Adamson's relationship with Elsa the lioness is captivating from start to finish, and the question of whether a domesticated animal can be returned to the wild is compelling. When the Adamsons first meet young Elsa and her siblings, they're irresistibly big-eyed bundles of fluff. But the adult Elsa is a different kind of beast -- headstrong and stubborn. Growing up underfoot in the Adamson household, Elsa is treated like an overgrown house-pet, and she's often quite funny.
BORN FREE feels authentic; the relationship between Joy and Elsa is developed so well that the film often feels like a documentary. Other scenes of animals in their habitats are thrilling. Although the elephant stampede is a little scary, it's followed by a lighthearted sequence featuring Elsa herding an adorable baby elephant. A 9-year-old viewer was initially reluctant to watch, claiming he didn't like "old" movies, but after one glimpse of the cubs he was hooked. It's hard to watch Joy return Elsa to the wild -- as viewers, we grow as almost attached to the lion as Joy is.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.