Orphan (2009 film)

Orphan is a 2009 psychological horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by David Leslie Johnson from a story by Alex Mace. The film stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, C. C. H. Pounder and Jimmy Bennett. The plot centers on a couple who, after the death of their unborn child, adopt a mysterious nine-year-old girl.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJaume Collet-Serra
Produced by
Screenplay byDavid Leslie Johnson
Story byAlex Mace
Music byJohn Ottman
CinematographyJeff Cutter
Edited byTimothy Alverson
Distributed by
Release date
  • July 21, 2009 (2009-07-21) (Westwood)
  • July 24, 2009 (2009-07-24) (United States and Canada)
  • October 22, 2009 (2009-10-22) (Germany)
  • December 30, 2009 (2009-12-30) (France)
Running time
123 minutes
Budget$20 million[3]
Box office$78.8 million[3]

The film is an international co-production between the United States, Canada, Germany and France. It was produced by Joel Silver and Susan Downey of Dark Castle Entertainment, and Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran of Appian Way Productions. Principal photography for the film took place in Canada, in the cities of St. ThomasTorontoPort Hope, and Montreal.

Orphan was released theatrically in the United States on July 24, 2009, by Warner Bros. Pictures. Although the film received mixed reviews, Fuhrman's performance was lauded and positively received, with some critics comparing her performance as Esther to that of Linda Blair in The Exorcist and Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed.[4] It grossed $78 million worldwide against a $20 million budget.


Kate and John Coleman's marriage is strained after the stillbirth of their third child, Jessica, whose loss is particularly hard on Kate, who is also recovering from alcoholism. The couple adopt a nine-year-old Russian girl, Esther, from the local orphanage. While their five-year-old deaf-mute daughter Max embraces Esther almost immediately, their 12-year-old son Daniel is less welcoming. Kate bonds with Esther as she teaches her piano, and reconciles with John.

One night, John and Kate have sex but are interrupted by Esther. Kate becomes suspicious when Esther expresses far more knowledge of sex than expected of a child her age, but John tells her not to worry about it. Soon, Esther demonstrates hostile behavior, killing an injured pigeon and injuring a classmate at the park, furthering Kate’s mistrust.

After Sister Abigail, the head of the orphanage, warns Kate of bad things happening when Esther is around, Esther kills the nun with a hammer and pushes her body into a ditch, hiding the evidence in Daniel's treehouse. She catches Daniel spying on her, interrogates him, and threatens to kill him if he mentions anything to his parents. Kate becomes further convinced that something is wrong with Esther, but John does not believe her. When John suggests that Esther could do something nice for Kate, she intentionally brings her a bouquet of flowers from Jessica's grave, angering Kate who roughly grabs Esther's arm in response. Later that night, Esther purposely breaks her arm and blames Kate. The next day, Esther releases the brake in the car, causing it to roll into oncoming traffic with Max inside. When Esther points out the wine bottle she found in the kitchen, John decides to take some time away from Kate, taking the children before demanding a divorce. Kate later discovers that Esther came from an Estonian mental hospital and the orphanage Esther claims she was from has no records of her.

When Daniel learns about Sister Abigail's death from Max and searches the treehouse, Esther sets it on fire, causing Daniel to fall and be knocked unconscious. Esther attempts to kill him but is stopped by Max. While Daniel is in the hospital, Esther smothers him with a pillow but he is revived. Realizing what Esther did, Kate attacks her but is restrained and sedated. That night, Esther attempts to seduce a drunk John, who realizes that Kate was right all along and threatens to send Esther back to the orphanage.

At the hospital, Kate gets a call from Dr. Varava of the Saarne Institute, and learns that Esther is actually a 33-year-old woman named Leena Klammer. She has hypopituitarism, a rare hormonal disorder that stunted her physical growth and caused proportional dwarfism, and has spent most of her life posing as a little girl. Leena has murdered at least seven people, including the last family that adopted her after failing to seduce the husband. The ribbons Esther wears around her wrists and neck have been hiding scars from trying to break out of a straitjacket. Meanwhile, Leena removes her disguise and proceeds to kill John, which Max witnesses. After Kate rushes home, Leena grabs a gun and attempts to shoot Max in the greenhouse, but Kate breaks through the roof and lands on top of her.

Kate and Max escape to a frozen pond, unaware that Leena is pursuing them. Leena attacks Kate, knocking the gun away and hurling them onto the ice. Max tries to shoot Leena but shatters the ice, sending Leena and Kate into the water. Kate climbs out, with Leena clinging to her legs. Kate viciously kicks Leena in the face, breaking her neck and letting her body sink to the bottom of the pond. Max and Kate are met by the police moments after.



Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard were cast in main roles in late November 2007.[5][6] Principal photography for the film took place in Canada, in the cities of St. Thomas, Toronto, Port Hope, and Montreal.[5]


Orphan had its world premiere in Westwood, Los Angeles on July 21, 2009. The following day, it screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Canada. The film was released theatrically in North America on July 24, 2009. It was then released in the United Kingdom on August 7, 2009 by Optimum Releasing.

Home mediaEdit

Orphan was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 27, 2009 in the United States by Warner Home Video and in the United Kingdom on November 27, 2009 by Optimum Releasing. The DVD includes deleted scenes, and one alternate ending. The opening previews also contain a public service announcement describing the plight of unadopted children in the United States and encouraging domestic adoption.


Box officeEdit

The film opened in the 4th spot at the box office, making a total of $12,770,000, behind G-Force, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and The Ugly Truth. The film has since grossed a total of $78,337,373.[3][7]

Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 56% approval rating based on 153 reviews, with an average rating of 5.47/10. The site's consensus reads, "While it has moments of dark humor and the requisite scares, Orphan fails to build on its interesting premise and degenerates into a formulaic, sleazy horror/thriller."[8] The film also earned a 42 out of 100 rating on Metacritic, based on 25 reviews, indicating "mixed to average reviews".[9]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Orphan 3​12 stars out of 4, writing: "You want a good horror film about a child from hell, you got one."[10] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle also gave a positive review, commenting: "Orphan provides everything you might expect in a psycho-child thriller, but with such excess and exuberance that it still has the power to surprise."[11] Todd McCarthy of Variety was less impressed, writing: "Teasingly enjoyable rubbish through the first hour, Orphan becomes genuine trash during its protracted second half."[12]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote: "Actors have to eat like the rest of us, if evidently not as much, but you still have to wonder how the independent film mainstays Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard ended up wading through Orphan and, for the most part, not laughing."[13] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D+ score, noting: "Orphan isn't scary – it's garish and plodding."[14] Keith Phipps from The A.V. Club wrote: "If director Jaume Collet-Serra set out to make a parody of horror film clichés, he succeeded brilliantly."[15]


Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result
2009 Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Movie: Drama Orphan Nominated
2010 Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival International Feature Length Competition Golden Raven Won


The film's content, depicting a murderous adoptee, was not well received by adoption groups.[16] The controversy caused filmmakers to change a line in one of their trailers from:

"It must be difficult to love an adopted child as much as your own," to "I don't think Mommy likes me very much."[17]

— Esther

Melissa Fay Greene of The Daily Beast commented:

"The movie Orphan comes directly from this unexamined place in popular culture. Esther's shadowy past includes Eastern Europe; she appears normal and sweet, but quickly turns violent and cruel, especially toward her mother. These are clichés. This is the baggage with which we saddle abandoned, orphaned, or disabled children given a fresh start at family life."[18]

There is a pro-adoption service message on the DVD, advising viewers to consider adoption.

See alsoEdit


In February 2020, a prequel film, titled Esther, was announced to be in development, with William Brent Bell signed on as director, with a script from David Coggeshall. The project will be a joint-venture production between Warner Bros. Pictures, eOne, Silver Pictures, and Dark Castle Entertainment. Alex Mace, Hal Sadoff, Ethan Erwin, and James Tomlinson will produce the film, with Leslie Johnson will serve as executive producer and creative consultant for the project.

A description for the prequel reads:

Lena Klammer orchestrates a brilliant escape from a Russian psychiatric facility and travels to America by impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy family. But Lena’s new life as “Esther” comes with an unexpected wrinkle and pits her against a mother who will protect her family at any cost.

Production is set to begin this summer.[19]


  1. ^ a b "Orphan (2009) | BFI". BFI. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d "LUMIERE : Film: Orphan". Lumiere. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Orphan (2009) – Financial Information". The Numbers.
  4. ^ Portman, Jamie (July 20, 2009). "Audiences Scream for Isabelle Fuhrman's "Orphan"". The Montreal Gazette. Archived from the original on September 19, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Siegel, Tatiana (November 29, 2007). "Sarsgaard, Farmiga join 'Orphan'". Variety.
  6. ^ Barnes, Jessica (December 1, 2007). "Sarsgaard and Farmiga Join 'Orphan'". Moviefone.
  7. ^ "Orphan (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  8. ^ "Orphan (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  9. ^ "Orphan Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 22, 2009). "Reviews: Orphan". Chicago Sun-Times.
  11. ^ LaSalle, Mick (July 23, 2009). "Review: Orphan". San Francisco Chronicle.
  12. ^ McCarthy, Todd (July 22, 2009). "Orphan Review". Variety.
  13. ^ Dargis, Manohla (July 24, 2009). "New Kid in the House, Clearly Up to Something". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (July 27, 2009). "Orphan Movie Review". Entertainment Weekly.
  15. ^ Phipps, Keith (July 23, 2009). "Orphan Review". The A.V. Club.
  16. ^ "Adoption groups angry with 'Orphan' stereotypes". San Francisco Chronicle. July 17, 2009.
  17. ^ Abramowitz, Rachel (July 10, 2009). "Quick Takes: Uproar over Orphan movie". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ Greene, Melissa Fay (July 15, 2009). "The New Movie Parents Hate". The Daily Beast.
  19. ^ "Orphan Prequel". The Wrap. Retrieved 20 February 2020.

External linksEdit