Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
Orphan Movie Poster Image
Bad Seed-style horror movie is gory and ludicrous.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 123 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 28 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 142 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Orphan is a 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. Note: This review is of the version of the movie shown in theaters, not the unrated version with an alternate ending available on DVD.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybobbyharrison December 1, 2020

A very enjoyable movie

yes, this movie has some inappropriate scenes, but if you skip them I think this movie could be 13+. I and my daughters watch this movie all the time, they real... Continue reading
Adult Written byCarlos Q December 7, 2020
This movie leaves you hanging in the edge of your seat
Although there is some nudity and sexual stuff in the film none of it is really graphic
The language isn... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byAnn4z April 11, 2021

Really good film, some graphic scenes.

I watched this at 10 and nothing really disturbed me. If you skip past the sex scenes (and maybe the scene where Esther breaks her arm) its an alright movie. N... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bypufferfishgirlie April 9, 2021

great movie, STUPID ACTIONS

this movie is violent, but i think its suitable for mature ages. great movie, HOWEVER THE CHARACTERS WERE SO STUPID! i was rooting for esther the whole time bec... Continue reading

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?

 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.

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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