The Orphanage

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Orphanage Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Decent old-school ghost story, Spanish-style.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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.


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

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An intentional drug overdose (not for recreational purposes).

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJohn Walsh February 11, 2012

A very emotionally disturbing piece

Despite it's R-Rating, it is more of a PG-13 movie. It is not very gory (there are, of course some bad injuries and decaying bodies). One use of F**k and S... Continue reading
Adult Written byDaniel L. August 1, 2020

Disturbing movie and very scary

R: disturbing images of intense violence and tense moments
Teen, 15 years old Written byjfmp501 September 20, 2009

Great Thriller/Drama, might be a little disturbing to young kids

For an R-Rated movie, The Orphanage is surprising appropriate, and could have easily been PG-13. There is no sex or nudity at all, and there are only two swears... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byastist7 May 10, 2009

I loved this movie passionately.

Have you ever noticed that horror movies nowadays are just become hack 'n' slash, sexed up, gored out movies without any real emotion or feeling?

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 better ones that use mood and suspense, rather than blood/gore/sex/bad taste, to 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.

Talk to your kids 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

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