We are a movie loving family. My kids have picked up on their parents’ ability to memorize movies line for line and to quote them at random. So it’s natural that we would use movies as a way to open up discussion with them about foster care and adoption and more recently, what it means to be an interracial family.
These are ten of our favorite movies that either feature an adopted character or that have adoption as a central storyline. (If your child is adopted, please consider where they are in regards to their relationship with their birth parents as some of the movies may be difficult for them to process.)
Warning: some of these have mild plot spoilers!
This is one of our favorite adoption related movies. Gru is a villain who adopts three orphaned girls–not out of love but because he needs them to help him fulfill his evil plan to steal the moon. Over the course of the movie he realizes just how special the girls are to him and they become a true, happy family. In the second film, Gru falls in love and gets married.
Adoption related ideas or themes include: adoption of a sibling group, an orphanage with a social worker, adoption by a single parent.
This could be the most quoted movie in our movie closet. Our entire family loves the story of Buddy the Elf. Buddy was an orphan who was unwittingly carried to the North Pole in Santa’s bag and was eventually adopted by Papa Elf. He was raised as an elf and doesn’t learn he is a human until he is an adult. After Papa Elf shares the story of his adoption with him, he departs on a journey to New York City to find his birth father.
Adoption related ideas or themes: an orphanage, adoption by a single parent, finding birth parents, adoption into a different culture.
Annie has always been one of my favorite movies. I will always stand by the 1983 version as being far superior to the more recent remake (you just can’t beat Carol Burnett singing “Little Girls”) although my children like both movies. Little orphan Annie grows up in an orphanage run by the horrible Miss Hannigan. Annie is unaware that her parents both died in a fire and she believes that they will be returning for her one day. She is taken in temporarily by billionaire Oliver Warbucks who is won over by her curly red hair and her precocious personality. Eventually Daddy Warbucks adopts Annie.
Adoption related ideas or themes include: an orphange, attempts to find birth parents, loss of birth parents
Jack Black, kung fu, and an adopted main character–what is there not to love about this movie? Kung Fu Panda is set in ancient China. Po is a kung fu obsessed accident prone panda who lives with his adoptive father, a goose named Mr. Ping. After a funny series of events, Po is named as the chosen one to bring peace to their land. He trains to become a kung fu warrior and joins his heroes–the Furious Five–as they attempt to defeat Tai Lung, the snow leopard who is rampaging their valley. In the second film, Mr. Ping shares Po’s adoption story. In the third film, Po finds his birth family.
Adoption related ideas or themes include: adoption across ethnic lines (a goose adopts a panda!), adoption by a single parent, finding birth parents.
Jesse is a troubled 12 year old who has been living on the streets since his mother abandoned him at six years old. After being picked up by the police for vandalism of a theme park, his social worker offers him another chance by placing him in a foster home and requiring him to clean up the graffiti at the theme park. He eventually begins working with a captive orca named Willy and quickly realizes that captivity is harming Willy and that he needs to return to the open sea. With the help of some of the theme park staff and his foster parents, Jesse is able to help Willy escape.
Adoption related ideas or themes include: foster care, troubled teen, abandonment, teen adoption.
This is a fantastic movie and features Sandra Bullock with big hair and a southern accent–how can you not love it? It is based on the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American teen who eventually becomes a first round NFL draft pick thanks to the love and care of Leigh Anne Tuohy and her family. (Oher is never legally adopted but at the end of the movie states that the Tuohys are his family.)
Adoption related ideas or themes include: foster care, teen adoption, adoption across ethnic lines.
The Littles go to an orphanage and bring home a charming new son–who just happens to be a mouse. Stuart does not receive a warm welcome from his human brother, George, or from the family cat, Snowbell. Just as he is finally starting to fit in, a mouse couple shows up claiming to be his birth parents.
Adoption related themes include: orphanages, adoption across ethnic lines (a human family adopts a mouse), death of birth parents, biological siblings having difficulty adjusting
Like the title suggests, this is a peculiar movie! Cindy and Jim Green are faced with the reality that they will not be able to conceive a child. As a coping technique, they write down all their dreams and wishes for the child they will never have. They place these wishes and dreams in a box and bury it in the backyard. After a storm, a strange boy name Timothy shows up at their door. They realize that Timothy is all the things they wished for in a child. They also discover he has leaves growing out of his legs that can not be removed. Each time he accomplishes one of the items on the slips of paper, a leaf falls off. Once all the leaves are gone, Timothy disappears. The movie ends with the Greens adopting a little girl.
Adoption related themes: infertility, adoption of an older child
This is hands down our absolute favorite adoption themed movie. There are some evolution themes that we have addressed with our children (the dinosaurs supposedly survived millions of years and evolved to the point that they can speak) but the underlying story is so good that it’s a must watch! Arlo is washed downstream during a storm and ends up miles away from home. He meets a Neanderthal boy, Spot, who has also lost his parents. Without giving too much away, let me way there is a scene at the end that directly relates to foster care and adoption. Our family got this from Redbox the first night our oldest foster son moved into our home–my hubby and I were crying buckets by the end!
Adoption themes: death of birth parents, foster care, adoption
Our girls absolutely love this movie! The underlying theme of the movies is Ohana which is a Hawaiian concept that means family (and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.) Lilo is a lonely girl who is being raised by her sister, Nani. Lilo’s social worker has concerns that Nani will not be able to adequately care for Lilo and she gives her three days to prove herself. Meanwhile, Lilo adopts what she thinks is a dog from the pound but in actuality, it is a creature known as Experiment 626 whom she renames Stitch. Stitch’s antics lead to Lilo being removed from Nani’s care and placed in a foster home. In the end, they all learn about the true meaning of Ohana.
Adoption themes: kinship guardianship/adoption, foster care, family values
I hope you enjoy these movies as much as my family!
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