Born to Be Wild Movie Poster Image

Born to Be Wild



Sweet, inspiring tale of two wildlife fairy godmothers.
  • Review Date: March 31, 2011
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 40 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn a great deal about the two species followed in the documentary -- elephants and orangutans. The film teaches kids about the complexities of raising and caring for babies that belong in the wild. There are some references to the importance of habitat preservation and discussion of a few of the reasons that the animals are being left motherless.

Positive messages

The movies makes the case that people should care about the future and welfare of orphaned wild animals like elephants and orangutans. Galdikas and Sheldrick both show how a life of passion and dedication to conservation can save hundreds and thousands of animals. Although the movie doesn't focus on how humans are responsible for the endangerment of the animals, it does stress that everyone can -- and should-- help rescue efforts around the world.

Positive role models

Dame Sheldrick and Dr. Galdikas are both exemplary women who have devoted their careers -- and their lives -- to conservation and wildlife preservation efforts. Using their expertise and their passion for elephants and orangutans, each has been able to make a huge difference by saving animals and then releasing them back to their native environments.

Violence & scariness

The narration references how the baby elephants and orangutans were orphaned -- mostly because of poachers and habitat loss. A few times an animal baby has an injury -- like a chewed up ear or a missing tail -- that's mentioned and explained (i.e., hyena attack).

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this brief (40 minutes) IMAX documentary is a safe choice for younger kids because there aren't any upsetting scenes of predatory violence or deaths, both of which are common in comparable, longer films about the animal kingdom. There are, however, some references to the reasons that animals were orphaned (mostly due to poachers, since predators don't typically leave young animals alive). The two female experts followed in the documentary are wonderful role models, particularly to kids interested in zoology and nature, because they've dedicated their lives to researching and rescuing animals, as well as preserving their natural habitats.

What's the story?

Shot in IMAX 3-D, BORN TO BE WILD is a wildlife documentary that alternates between following primatologist Birute Galdikas in the jungles of Borneo and elephant expert Daphne Sheldrick in a Kenyan wildlife preserve. Audiences watch as the two conservationists and their staffs work tirelessly to rescue orphaned orangutans and elephants, respectively, acting as surrogate mothers (even sleeping with and "nursing" the juveniles with a specially concocted formula) until they're old enough to be released back into the wild.

Is it any good?


Narrated by the soothing tones of Morgan Freeman, this documentary makes up for in content what it lacks in length. At a sprightly 40 minutes, it's just long enough to entertain even younger moviegoers with short attention spans. It may not always provide the most comprehensive view of the elephant and orangutan crisis (there's no sociopolitical commentary about why local practices contribute to the hunting of the adult elephants and orangutans), but it does provide an in-depth look at how two determined women, with the help of dozens of animal-loving staffers, have single-handedly made a tremendous impact on wildlife protection around the world.

It's hard to dislike a documentary that focuses on adorable baby animals. Watching a team of Indonesian women put diapers on newborn orangutan orphans and then sing a sweet lullaby as one of the babies falls asleep will be enough to make any mothers in the audience shed a tear or two. But despite the often-sentimental visuals, director David Lickley doesn't allow the narration to be overwrought or maudlin. Instead, he often hands over the narration to Galdikas and Sheldrick so that they can tell us in their own words why they're so passionate about these animals -- and why we should care about their plight. And even better than the touching documentary are the conversations you and your kids can have afterward about the enormity of the work of these dedicated experts.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of wildlife documentaries. Why are they so popular? What makes the lives of animals so compelling to us?

  • What does the movie teach about keeping elephants and orangutans safe from poachers and habitat loss? How can viewers get involved?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 8, 2011
DVD release date:April 17, 2012
Cast:Morgan Freeman
Director:David Lickley
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Science and nature, Wild animals
Run time:40 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of Born to Be Wild was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


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; OK 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 these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Stunning high-def series spotlights world wonders.
  • Stunning, loving documentary; some intense peril.
  • Gorgeous educational docu dives deep for facts; kids OK.
  • As pretty and light as a feather on the wind.

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

Parent of a 6 and 8 year old Written byRubyRose April 21, 2011

Great movie for the whole family.

Absolutely amazing movie about people who have devoted their lives to caring for orphaned orangutans and elephants. The 3-d aspect is fun and my 6 and 8 year olds managed the glasses fine. There were no gruesome shots of injured animals just a voiceover explaining why the animals were there (poachers, etc). The walk away message for both children was "hey, thsoe animals are a lot like us!" Short movie but lots of charm.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent Written byganc123 July 27, 2011

Enjoyable Nature Show

My young family really enjoyed it. No violence was shown, some mention of poachers and injuries but really the focus was on people trying to help orphaned animals, and preserve their habitat.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Parent Written byzinnia January 13, 2012

Educational and Lovely!!

Wonderful story - highly recommend to any family with children 5 and older!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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