top of page

documentaries & feature films


Adopted  (Barb Lee) - "Adopted reveals the grit rather than the glamor of transracial adoption."

Adopted or Abducted?  - Dan Rather's Emmy-nominated investigation into treatment of birth/first mothers in America and Australia during the "Baby Scoop Era."  

A Girl Like Her (Ann Fessler) - Based on her book, The Girls Who Went Away.  Fessler interviews women who surrendered their babies for adoption during what has been dubbed "The Baby Scoop Era" in the last half of the 20th century. 

A Simple Piece of Paper (Jean Strauss) -  Follows Illinois adoptees as they receive their OBCs. 

Adopted:  For the Life of Me (Jean Strauss) -  The quest for records access,  broadcast nationwide on PBS.

Big Fertility: It's All About the Money (Jennifer Lahl) -  Riveting follow-up to her blockbuster "Eggsploitation." 

Bio-Dad (Barry Stevens) - A man born of artificial insemination finds stunning answers in a search for his biological father. 

Broken Ties (Debra Baker) - Award-winning documentary about being an "unwed mother" in 1967, having to relinquish her baby, and the lifelong effects on birthmothers.  

Calcutta is My Mother - Adoptee Reshma McClintock, creator of, returns to her native India in search of answers and herself.  

Closure (Angela Tucker) - A transracial adoptee searches for her birth family. 

Daughter from Danang (Heidi Bub) -  The story of a mixed-race "Operation Babylift" adoptee from Viet Nam. 

Dawnland (Upstander Films) -  The story of systematic severing of Native American children from their culture. Scheduled for broadcast on PBS Independent Lens Nov. 5, 2018. 

Donor Unknown (Jerry Rothwell) - "Hello. I'm your sister. Our father is donor 150." 

Eggsploitation ( Jennifer Lahl) - "The infertility industry has a dirty little secret." 

Father Unknown (David Quint) - A son and his father journey to a Swiss castle/former orphanage to unlock secrets of the past.  

Four Birthmothers for Mothers (Jean Strauss) - Women who surrendered children for adoption speak candidly about their experiences, feelings, and what was and was not "promised" to them. 

From Place to Place (Paige Williams) - Foster care alumni Mandy and Raif set out to change the system that raised them.

Future People (Michael Rothman and Jason Momoa) - This documentary tracked offspring of Donor 5114 for a period of eight years as they find each other, connect and share their struggle for identity.

I Lived on Parker Avenue (David Scotton) - Interviews with David, a college student and adoptee who was almost aborted, his birth and adoptive parents leading up to their first meeting. Trigger alert for birth/first parents.    

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (DeeAnn Borshay Liem) - Liem returns to Korea to solve the mystery of the girl whose place she took in America. From the maker of "First Person Plural."  Both are PBS POV films.   

Lost and Found (Debra Baker) - the filmmaker's experience searching for, and finding, the son she relinquished 30 years earlier. 

Missing Threads: The Story of the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (Susan Reetz) -  At one point in US history, an alarming number of Native American children were removed from their families and placed with non-native families.

Mum's the Word (Colin Scheyen) - an interactive documentary on the history and legacy of the adoption mandate in Canada as seen through the eyes of some 350,000 women who lived it and those who still feel it today.

Open Secret (Steve Lickteig) - What if everyone in your town knew the secret of your origins, except you?

Our Father (Netflix) - A DNA test reveals that an Indianapolis fertility doctor, unbeknowst to his patients, inseminated hundreds of patients with his sperm.  Most of the offspring live within 25 miles of each other and are mortified.

Resilience (Tammy Chu) -  A Korean adoptee raised in South Dakota seeks to navigate a new relationship after reuniting with his birth/first mother on Korean national television. 

Roots Unknown (Zara Phillips) - A compilation of interviews with adult adoptees and their spouses. 

SideXSide: Out of a Korean Orphanage and into the World (Glenn Morey) - 100 interviews with Korean adoptees filmed in 7 countries, 16 cities, and six languages. 

Six Word Adoption Memoirs (Derek and Ridghaus) -  The title says it all.     

The Forty Year Secret (Linda Dawe) -  A couple forced to relinquish their daughter in high school meet at their 40 year reunion and resolve to find her. 

Three Identical Strangers (Tim Wardle) - Triplets separated at birth and adopted into different families discover their connection by serendipity and struggle to untangle their stories.  Debuted in 2018 at the Sundance Film Festival. 

Unlocking the Heart of Adoption (Sheila Ganz) -  Bridges the gap between birth and adoptive families through diverse personal stories. 

We're Not Blood (Jeff Togman) - Fatherhood drives a college professor to search for his roots. 

You Follow -  Adoptee Nisha Grayson returns to India with four of her best friends.  

You Have His Eyes (Chris Wilson) - After finding his mother, Chris must learn about his father as well. 


A Walk in the Clouds (1995) - Keanu Reeves plays a young man, orphaned as a child, who finds himself, love with a girl pregnant with another man's baby, and family after an impulsive wartime marriage.  

Antwone Fisher (2002) - A volatile young navy recruit must confront his anger by facing his past.  Denzel Washington.

August Rush (2007) - A boy leaves his orphanage, believing that music can lead him to his parents. 

Baby Mama (2008) -  Amy Poehler and Tina Fey of SNL star in this cringeworthy comedy about a successful businesswoman who discovers she is infertile and decides to hire a working class woman to be her surrogate. 

Bundle of Joy (1956) - Debbie Reynolds finds a baby outside an orphanage, takes it home, and people assume the tyke is hers. Attitudes about adoption from 1956 abound!

Blossoms in the Dust (1941) - The Hollywood version of the story of Edna Gladney, founder of the Texas Children's Home. 

Delivery Man (2013) - Vince Vaughan plays David Wozniak, a likeable down-on-his-luck "loser" who discovers that he has fathered 533 offspring through sperm donation. 

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot (2018) - Gus Van Sant's unflinching biopic about cartoonist, adoptee, and alcoholic who became quadriplegic in a car accident John Callahan. Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara.

Flirting With Disaster (1996) - An all-star cast in a slapstick look at search and reunion.  Ben Stiller, Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Mary Tyler Moore, Tea Leoni. 

I am David (2003) - a 12-year-old boy separated from his parents escapes from a communist work camp in Bulgaria carrying a sealed envelope with instructions to get to Denmark and trust no one.  

I'm Glad My  Mother is Alive (2009) - Inspired by true events, the film was written and directed by father and son team Claude (“A Secret”) and Nathan Miller.  Click link for NYT review. 

Instant Family (2018) - a "dramedy" based on a true story. A couple adopts three siblings from foster care. Mark Wahlberg, Octavia Spencer. 

Juno (2007) -  When a sarcastic teenage girl is impregnated by a friend, she decides to screen potential adoptive parents herself and refers to her unborn child as "the thing." 

Lion (2016) - A young man adopted from India by an Australian couple must find closure. Nominated for six Oscars. Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman.  

Loggerheads (2005) -  A HIV+ adoptee sleeps on the beach and watches the nocturnal habits of Loggerhead turtles as they return to the place where they were born, while his first mother longs for her relinquished son after a suicide attempt, and his religious adoptive parents (whom he hasn't seen since age 17) struggle with loss as well. 

Luce (2019) - A star high school athlete, who was adopted by white parents after conscription as a child soldier from war-torn Eritrea, is suspected of all kinds of things because of his writings, background, company and allegations made by others.  Despite its stellar cast, writes, "“Luce” is the worst kind of provocateur; it tosses out all manner of outrageous ideas and then, like those pathetic dudes on Twitter, it yells out “DEBATE ME!” As soon as you accept the challenge, the film folds like cheap origami." 

Martian Child (2007) - John Cusak plays a widower who adopts a boy who believes, or at least feels like, he is an alien. 

Mother and Child (2009) - Three women's lives are intertwined by relinquishment and adoption.  Annette Bening, Kerri Washington, Naomi Watts, Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson. 

My Other Mother (2014) - Essence Atkins plays a tough adoptee news reporter who goes in search of her first mother. Can they overcome personality and class barriers to form a relationship?   

Not Wanted (1949) - Ida Lupino stars as a naive young girl who falls for a musician and becomes pregnant.  

Orphan (2009) -  A normal couple adopts a young girl who is not at innocent as she at first appears.  

Orphans (1987) - Two orphaned brothers survive as petty thieves until a small-time criminal on the run from the mob appears as a father figure.   

Orphans, best movies about ( - 40 top films about orphans and orphanages. 

Papa (2018) - A man's search for his biological father leads him to a man in a mental institution and reveals unanticipated secrets and challenges.  Robert Scott Wilson, Ann-Margaret, Frankie Avalon, Daryl Hannah.  

Philomena (2013) - Dame Judy Dench in the title role as the real woman forced to surrender her son for adoption, in this Golden Globe and Oscar winning tour de force.  

Private Life (2018) - "We're doing everything short of kidnapping to try to start a family."  Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti.

Second Best (1994) - William Hurt plays a single Welsh postal carrier who decides to adopt a boy, aided by the wisdom and wit of a social worker.  

Secrets and Lies (1996) - Golden Globe winner about the emotional impact of interracial search and reunion on a British family. 

The Innocents (2016) - Polish nuns are raped by Russian soldiers in 1945 and must confront the moral collapse of the space between faith and war.  Based on true events. 

The Italian (2005) - A Russian boy is adopted by a wealthy Italian couple, but wonders about his mother. 

The Kids Are All Right (2010) -  Two teens conceived through artificial insemination and raised by a lesbian couple decide to seek out their "donor" father. Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo. 

The Magdalene Sisters (2003) - "A harrowing look at institutional cruelty" perpetrated against unwed mothers.

The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956) -  Gregory Peck plays a man struggling in post-war America, haunted by memories of a wartime romance that produced a child. 

The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012) - An infertile couple envisions their dream child and buries the written dream in the back yard garden, with miraculous results. 

The Other Mother (1995) -  Based on the book by birth/first mother Carol Schaefer.  See also the GMA interview with Carol, her son Jack, and his adoptive mom Rosemary by Joan Lunden about their story.

The Other Son (2012) -  Infant sons of Israeli and Palestinian couples are accidentally switched during an emergency hospital evacuation, but their families only learn of it years later. 

The Thirteenth Year (1999) - An adoptee learns that his birth mother is a mermaid after he starts to grow fins and scales at age 13. 

The Truman Show (1998) - Jim Carrey stars as the unknowing subject of a hit 24/7 television show, into which he was "adopted" as an infant.  Vanity Fair comments that since then, life has imitated art.   

The Young Don't Cry (1957) -  An orphaned teen tries to help a wrongly convicted man who has escaped from prison, and must confront whether or not to allow abandonment to make him cynical and mercenary. 

Then She Found Me (2007) - Helen Hunt and Bette Midler face the challenges of a mother-daughter reunion in the midst of Hunt's romantic turmoil.  

To Each His Own (1946) -  A wartime romance between a soda fountain girl (Academy Award winner Olivia de Havilland) and an aviator (John Lund) result in her pregnancy and his death before the two can marry.  She is forced to surrender her son for adoption, but follows his life from afar as she builds a successful career. 

bottom of page