Stories about adoption can be heartbreaking, uplifting, or, sometimes, even comical. When Diablo Cody wrote her acclaimed screenplay, Juno, the world watched an unconventional and comical story about unplanned pregnancy and adoption. Adoption is a great part about society that offers refuge and love to millions of children each year, with about 140,000 children adopted by American families alone, per Adoption Network. At the same time, it gives parents who are unable to have children, the gift of parenthood. Throughout the years, we have seen stories of adoption played out on both stage and screen. They offer us a glimpse into family dynamics, and in most cases, a happy ending.
The legendary play Annie has been adapted several times, making it possibly the most famous story centered around adoption. Stories like Annie teach you to never give up on chasing your dreams and looking for love. At the same time, there have been darker takes on adoption like the popular film, Orphan, following a grown woman who poses as a young child and commits murder. The film has a prequel coming out soon, entitled Orphan: First Kill, that many fans are excited for. With that said, most stories of adoption are a celebration of family love and parenthood. Let’s dive into the best movies about adoption, ranked.
10 Ideal Home
In Andrew Fleming’s Ideal Home, we follow Erasmus (Steve Coogan) and Paul (Paul Rudd), a couple whose lives are disrupted after an unexpected 10-year-old appears on their doorstep who claims to be Erasmus’ grandson. The film is a great blend of drama and comedy, and we watch a couple who are completely unprepared for a child adapting to a new lifestyle. It is a great film about sacrifice, family dynamics, and parenthood. At the same time, the chemistry between Rudd and Coogan is fantastic.
Somewhat based on a true story, Orphan is a chilling horror film that follows a couple, played by Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard, who adopt a young girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). The audience soon finds out that there is something very sinister about Esther, and it is finally revealed that she is a fully grown woman with a rare medical condition that makes her appear to be a child. It is an effective horror movie with twists and turns, and a top-notch performance from Fuhrman. A prequel for Orphan is currently in the works, with Furhman returning and Julia Stiles attached to star.
Matilda is a classic story based on Roald Dahl’s highly creative book of the same name. The film follows a lonely young girl, Matilda (Mara Wilson), with a very unloving family. She soon finds out that she has telekinetic powers while she befriends her caring teacher, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz). In the end, Miss Honey adopts Matilda, giving us a warm and satisfying ending. Danny DeVito directed the film and did the story justice with his unique and quirky directing style, and the film is still watched by many to this day.
7 The Light Between Oceans
Although Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans was not a huge box office success, it was still a very thought-provoking story filled with fantastic performances. The movie follows a couple (Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander) who adopt an abandoned child, only to have the child’s mother (Rachel Weisz) come looking for the child years later. It’s a heartbreaking story about love, pain, and life. The cinematography is breathtaking, and Cianfrance once again puts his directing style to good use.
6 Annie (1982)
Millions have enjoyed the classic story of Annie on Broadway, as well as the many screen adaptations that followed. The 1982 film may be the most highly regarded adaptation, following the young orphan who finds a new family after being adopted by Daddy Warbucks (Albert Finney). Aileen Quinn is fantastic as Annie and Carol Burnett was certainly the right choice for the despicable Miss Hanigan. The film is full of love, romance, and several iconic songs.
5 Secondhand Lions
Secondhand Lions follows a young boy, played by Haley Joel Osment, who is sent to live with his tough uncles, played by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall. The unlikely trio soon learns that they are the perfect fit for each other after a series of adventures and revelations. It is a fantastic film with fine performances from each cast member. Secondhand Lions has everything, including love, mystery, and comedy.
4 The Blind Side
The Blind Side tells the story of NFL player Michael Oher though his journey from poverty to being taken in, and eventually adopted, by a wealthy family. Sandra Bullock gives the finest performance of her career as Oher’s new mother-figure. Bullock’s character is fierce, highly intelligent, and very loving. The film also incorporates the power of sports on a child’s life, and it is endearing from start to finish. Bullock went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Dev Patel gives an amazing performance as Saroo Brierley, a young man who was adopted by an Australian couple, who eventually goes on a quest to find his birth parents. It is a fantastic film about self discovery, as well as love. The entire cast, including Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara, shine from beginning to end. Lion went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards.
2 Manchester By The Sea
Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester By The Sea is a heartbreaking story about a broken man named Lee (Casey Affleck) who must care for his nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the sudden death of Lee’s brother (Kyle Chandler). The heart of the story is an unexpected bond between Lee and his nephew as Lee tries to move through his severe depression and pain. Lee must decide whether he will adopt his nephew, and eventually makes the right decision. The film is a gut-wrenching story filled with emotion and brilliant performances.
Jason Reitman’s Juno featured a sharp, brilliant script from Diablo Cody, earning her an Academy Award win. The story follows Juno (Elliot Page) who unexpectedly gets pregnant and decides that she will give her child up for adoption to a couple played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. While it is a comical story at heart, there are several honest and dramatic moments highlighting the complicated dynamics of relationships and parenthood.
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