Adoption Themes in 2015’s Oscar-Nominated Films


This guest blog is by Addison Cooper, founder of Adoption At the Movies

When I set out to review movies from an adoption perspective, I wondered if I’d ever run out of material. I don’t think that I will.

When I started writing on my site, Adoption at the Movies, I had a list of 100 already-released films that I wanted to review, along with reviewing any new films that had adoption connections.

Now, two and a half years later, I’ve found that adoption themes are so frequently present in today’s current, mainstream films that most of the films I watch and write about are current releases.

It’s Academy Award season, and the films that have been nominated for awards are a good sample of the films that have been released this year.

Let’s take a look at the adoption or adoption-relevant themes in some of this year’s nominees.


It’s nominated for six awards, including Best Picture. The film covers more than a decade in the life of Mason, his sister Samantha, and their family.

Mason and Samantha are early grade-school-age when the film starts, and are being raised by their single mother. They haven’t seen their father in years.

They are introduced to two new father figures by their mother, but both men fade out of their lives, eventually. One of those men had kids, who were part of Mason’s family, but only for a season.

Adoptees – and perhaps especially people who have been in foster care – might resonate with Mason’s experience of “family” sometimes feeling like a tentative word.

Into the Woods

Meryl Streep is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in as The Witch in this musical. She really was excellent.

The film might touch some raw nerves with parents who pursued adoption after experiencing infertility. The whole plot of the film is driven by the fact that The Witch cursed a poor couple with infertility.


This Polish film is nominated for both Best Foreign Feature and Best Cinematography. It’s a beautifully-filmed story of a young novice nun.

Before she is allowed to become a permanent nun by making her lifelong vows, her superior requires her to learn about her own history.

Ida was not raised by her biological parents. Ida travels great distances to uncover her history, and then has to decide how to incorporate it into her life.

The most direct adoption connections were to be found in the nominees for Best Animated Feature Film. Two of the films feature adoptive families – and in fact, both of these nominees were also award winners in the second annual Adoption at the Movies Awards last week.

The Boxtrolls

A young human boy named Eggs is being raised by a community of friendly but misunderstood trolls. Fish, the troll who has taken a fatherly role, is exceptionally nurturing.

Eggs eventually reunites with his birthfather, and it seems like his birthfather and the trolls will get along well. Prior to reunifying with his birthfather, Eggs must wrestle with the fact that he doesn’t look like the Boxtrolls.

He wonders whether he can be family with them if they don’t look alike. Ultimately, it is clear that they are his family and his community. The Boxtrolls won “Best Adoptive Family” and Fish won “Best Adoptive Parent” in the Adoption at the Movies Awards.

Big Hero 6

Brilliant child inventor Hiro Hamada is being raised by his Aunt Cass. Hiro has lost his parents and his brother. Through the unwavering love of Aunt Cass, the support of friends, the memory of his brother, and his own good choices, Hiro overcomes his grief and losses, and is able to thrive while developing into a hopeful, healthy person. This one won Best Movie and Best Animated Movie at the Adoption at the Movies Awards.

Why not plan a family movie night this week? There are lots of good, entertaining, and helpful films out there!

Addison Cooper, LCSW is the founder of Adoption at the Movies and also writes about film for several adoption-focused magazines. Outside of the theater, he is a clinical supervisor at a foster care and adoption agency in Southern California. Find him on Facebook at and follow him on Twitter @AddisonCooper.

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