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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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
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 (including one F-word) although they only appear in the subtitles since the audio is in Spanish. There is even very little gore or violence-although there is one scene where we get a 5-second glance at the mutilated face of a car crash victim; in another scene, we get a quick glance at the distorted face of a child born with facial deformities. Other than that, though, there are no disturbing or gory images. Young children may be disturbed by some elements in the plotline, though. Although there is little gore, The Orphanage is still meant to be a psychological horror film, so its overall tone is very dark and creepy. A theme of dead/dying children is present throughout, including some talk of murdered children and an instance of suicide. In the beginning of the film, a child is said to be HIV positive (nothing sexual is implied). The end of the film is very tragic but moving, young kids may find it upsetting though. Overall, this is an extremely poignant film about a mother's undying love as she searches for her missing son. It is beautifully written and has an excellent storyline. If your kids are uncomfortable about talk of death, or if you are not comfortable with your kids hearing talk of death, this may not be the movie for you. Other than that, though, there is no real inappropriate content. My 9-year-old sister watched this and was fine. In my opinion, this would be completely appropriate for anyone 13+; for younger kids, you should judge for yourself on a case-by-case basis. As long as your kids are not easily scared, The Orphanage is okay to watch as a family movie.
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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