The Orphanage

  • Review Date: June 2, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Decent old-school ghost story, Spanish-style.
  • Review Date: June 2, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Horror
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 105 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Even the lonely ghosts turn out not to be "evil" (though they seem to be vengeful, and capable of causing harm). One, who is hideously deformed, turns out to be not as monstrous as his appearance. There is a sense of motherly heroics and parental sacrifice in the leading lady -- despite the mortal danger. Simon's maintenance troubles and restlessness as an adopted child might not set a positive tone in some foster households.


An old woman fatally mutilated after being struck by a car (tearing her jaws open grotesquely). A character's fingers caught in a slamming door, causing a fingernail to come off. A bloody leg injury. There is a theme of infanticide and dead children. Nothing is shown, but we get news of children causing a playmate's death, then being killed (by poison) themselves.

Not applicable

The F-word uttered once (in the Spanish-language, English-subtitled version).

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

An intentional drug overdose (not for recreational purposes).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that even though the R-rating is too harsh, brief but grotesque visuals let us know the filmmakers could do worse if they wanted to. Disturbing imagery includes a mutilated victim of a car collision and a deformed kid with a skull-like face. A suicide attempt figures in the ending. There is a theme of infanticide and dead children. Nothing is shown, but we get news of children causing a playmate's death, then being killed (by poison) themselves. An HIV-positive character is part of the plot, and it's pretty much given as a death sentence.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

A Spanish-made ghost tale, THE ORPHANAGE (original tite: \"El Orfanato\") happens at a sprawling old mansion, a former orphanage, looming by the seacoast. Laura (Belen Rueda) used to be housed here as a child. Now she's a doctor, and she, along with her physician husband Carlos (kind of odd we never see them do any actual work) buy the building and move in with their own adopted boy Simon (Roger Princep). Simon is dying of AIDS, but the doting parents keep it a secret -- that plus the fact that he's not really their child. Disturbingly, Simon learns these things anyway. He claims his new \"imaginary\" friends in the mansion have told him. After strange glimpses of disappearing kids, and clues that something terrible happened to the orphanage children after Laura left, Simon vanishes. His adoptive mom turns to psychics and mediums to desperately come up with an answer.

Is it any good?


In the crowded field of movie ghost stories, The Orphanage belongs with the ones like The Haunting (1961) and The Changeling that try to use mood and suspense, rather than blood/gore/sex/bad taste, to create evoke shock value. Even so, sharp-witted viewers of any age might be asking themselves sensible questions, like why didn't this family, uh, check out the tragic history of the creepy old building before buying it? But there's a neat dark-fairy-tale atmosphere, a minimum of gross-outs (except a horribly mangled victim of roadkill), and a really clever way the script turns the Peter Pan plot inside-out, to suit a more modern and ominous story of Really Lost Boys (and girls). Give this one a chance on Halloween, subtitles and all.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what parts of the movie are scariest, and does the (generally) non-gore approach work? Do you agree with Laura's choice at the end? How does this film stack up to other favorite movie ghost tales?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 11, 2008
DVD release date:April 22, 2008
Cast:Belen Rueda, Geraldine Chaplin, Roger Princep
Director:J.A. Bayona
Studio:New Line
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some disturbing content

This review of The Orphanage was written by

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  • 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.

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written bymilkandhoney August 2, 2011


i loved it it wasn't really scary but it had a great story and was very much effective in the horror genre i loved tomas and his head bag thing i loved loved loved the costume i know he was meant to be scary and all but he's soo cute i just wanna adopt him :P
Kid, 12 years old October 30, 2010

This is one of the best horror movies ever made

This movie was really, really scary. But it was also unlike any horror movie of the decade. It wasn't cliche like every horror movie seems to be and it was good. This is up there with Drag Me to Hell. An amazing movie.
Teen, 14 years old Written bydanielellarby July 9, 2011

Sanish horror movie

Very entertaining, sweet and well acted out movie. With a great performance by Belén Rueda and a captivating and absorbing plot that will transfix you till the end. Even though there may be a scene of a little gore this movie is more like a drama since not all of the movie is horror and it focusses quite a bit on the characters relationships and the grief of the loss of a loved one.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence


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