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25+ Best Movies About Adoption That Show All Families Don't Look the Same

These can start a beautiful conversation with your family.

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Scene From 'Instant Family' — movies about adoption
Paramount Pictures

Though many people tend to think of adoption as a married couple bringing home a baby that looks a lot like them and raising it as their own, that’s only one example of adoption (and an increasingly rare one at that). For instance, it’s also possible to adopt embryos, or foster a child first and then adopt them. And, of course, there’s single-parent adoption, stepparent adoption, international adoption, and same-sex adoption. There are also plenty of movies about adoption — but not all movies about adoption are created equal.

Just like there are different types of adoption, the films featuring adoption or foster care can vary. Here are some of the best movies about adoption and foster care, including true stories, and some that feature an adoption reunion.

Movies About Adoption and Foster Care

1. Anne of Green Gables (1985)

OK, yes: Technically, this is a miniseries and not a single movie, but given that it’s one of the best adoption stories of all time, it deserves a spot on the list. If you’re not familiar with the plot, which is based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 book of the same name, it follows Anne Shirley, an orphan from Nova Scotia. She gets adopted by a middle-aged brother and sister (Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert) living in the town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. Although the Cuthberts originally sent for a boy (to help with farm chores), there was a miscommunication, and they got Anne instead. So while it does eventually work out, the miniseries also shows that the transition to a new family isn’t always smooth and picture-perfect.

2. Lilo and Stitch (2002)

If you’re looking for a movie about adoption to show your little ones, Disney’s Lilo and Stitch is a great place to start. In case you haven’t already seen it a million times, following the death of their parents, a kinship placement requires adult-aged Nani to be the guardian of his six-year-old sister Lilo and her pet alien, Stitch. Ultimately, Lilo and Stitch are both adopted into their “ohana,” or created family.

3. Three Identical Strangers (2018)

Out of all the movies about adoption reunion, this has to be one of the wildest stories. And did we mention that it’s true? Three Identical Strangers tells the story of identical triplets separated at birth and adopted and raised by different families. The brothers’ reunion came in 1980, when, at age 19, they discovered each other by chance in New York City. Though the first part of the documentary is a look back at their separate lives, as the triplets and the audience learn more of the story behind their adoption, it gets pretty dark fairly quickly. In other words, this one might be best to watch after the kiddos go to bed.

4. Instant Family (2018)

In this dramedy, Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne play a husband and wife who decide to become foster parents. Like many potential foster and adoptive parents, they go in envisioning being placed with a baby or younger child but end up being talked into adopting a 15-year-old girl and her 6- and 10-year-old siblings. They become foster parents to all three children, which, of course, turns their previously child-free life upside down. When the foster placement occurs, the children’s mother is in prison but later is released and wants to reunite with her children. The rest of the movie centers on the complexities of this situation (and obviously has a happy ending).

More Movies About Adoption and Foster Care

  1. Angels in the Outfield (1994)
  2. Martian Child (2007)
  3. The Great Gilly Hopkins (2015)
  4. The Book Thief (2013)
  5. Annie (1982)
  6. Annie (2014)
  7. Secondhand Lions (2003)
  8. Juno (2007)
  9. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
  10. Life as We Know It (2010)
  11. Private Life (2018)
  12. Matilda (1996)
  13. Elf (2003)
  14. Stuart Little 2 (2002)
  15. Earth to Echo (2014)
  16. Chimpanzee (2012)
  17. Lion (2016)
  18. Butter (2011)
  19. The Kid With a Bike (2011)
  20. A Shine of Rainbows (2009)
  21. Just Like the Son (2006)
  22. Free Willy (1993)
  23. The Blind Side (2009)

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