The Orphanage Movie Poster Image

The Orphanage



Decent old-school ghost story, Spanish-style.
Popular with kids
  • 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.

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.

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/Streaming 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

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written byMr. Fat Bubble June 8, 2014

A Beautiful Horror

The Orphanage is the type of movie that will leave you breathless. It has the tension and suspense, the subtle paranormal activity without much gore, and the mind blowing plot twists. These qualities are just a few of the many that make The Orphanage, an amazing, though provoking experience. There are few reasons that this movie should be rated R. One being the constant reminder of the many children that have died. Another being the grossly unhinged jaw of a character as a result of a road accident. The F-Word is used once. However, this no cause for the R rating. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, the F-Word may be used once and still be under the rating of PG-13. This movie should not be rated as an R, but rather a strong PG-13. There are many complex ideas and theme in El Orfanto, but this causes many thought provoking questions. The reading constant reading may prove tiring for some viewers, but I believe it made me think about and understand what the characters were saying better. In the last 15 minutes of the movie, several heart retching plot twist are made that, in my opinion, turn this movie from a creepy horror movie, to beautiful story of love and devotion. This movie also provides the tension and suspense that reminds us of a world where horror movies were not just mediocre scripts, large budgets, sex, and poor Computer Generated Images (CGI). The Orphanage is one of the best horror movies I've ever seen and it deserves more than a three star rating. If you're looking for a good scare, this movie's got it. If you're looking for a story of love and compassion, this movie's got it. I give The Orphanage a nine out of ten for it's smart directing and incredible story.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Parent of a 17 year old Written byTsion February 9, 2013

Fantastic Mystery...Creepy but Not Gory

THE ORPHANAGE is a perfect scary movie for adults and teens who like unsettling myseries without lots of blood, carnage, or violence. The movie is genuinely scary, but not in a disturbing or scarring way. It's more of a what's-behind-the-door type, edge-of-your-seat exhilaration. The plot revolves around a woman named Laura, who plans on re-opening the orphanage where she spent her childhood. Soon after she arrives with her husband and son, the son starts speaking to a strange "friend" and other apparitions. Laura believes her son's imaginary playmates are harmless until he disappears, and she must confront the restless spirits in the house to get him back. Violence in the movie is mild by current horror standards, but is the reason for the mild R rating. A woman shockingly and suddenly gets hit by a bus, and we briefly see a flash of her corpse with its jaw dislocated. A woman overdoses on pills to commit suicide. The "f" word is used once or twice in the film's subtitles. Other than that, the movie is devoid of graphic images or sexual content.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 14 years old Written byTwilightluver16 March 13, 2010

sooooo scarey

I watched this movie the other day and it was really scarey!!! The only thing that was not really scarey in the movie was the childs face i actually felt bad for the kid! But besides that it was super scarey!!!!!!!!
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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