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Born Free (1966)

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The story of George and Joy Adamson and the orphaned lion cub, Elsa, they adopt.


James Hill, Tom McGowan (uncredited)


Joy Adamson (book), Lester Cole (screenplay)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Virginia McKenna ... Joy Adamson
Bill Travers ... George Adamson
Geoffrey Keen ... Kendall
Peter Lukoye Peter Lukoye ... Nuru
Omar Chambati Omar Chambati ... Makkede
Bill Godden Bill Godden ... Sam
Bryan Epsom Bryan Epsom ... Baker
Robert Cheetham Robert Cheetham ... Ken
Robert S. Young Robert S. Young ... James (as Robert Young)
Geoffrey Best Geoffrey Best ... Watson
Surya Patel Surya Patel ... Doctor


Married couple George Adamson and Joy Adamson have long lived in northern Kenya for George's work as the senior game warden of the region. One of George's primary responsibilities is to deal with dangerous animals that may be chronically threatening to humans, livestock and/or crops. It is in this vein that George and his staff end up killing a man eating lion and its lioness, resulting in their three young female cubs being orphaned. Although difficult to begin, George and Joy are able to wean and take care of the three cubs, who they adopt as pets. But soon, they know they have to provide a more suitable environment for the cubs, namely sending them to Rotterdam Zoo... that is except for the smallest, who they have named Elsa and to who Joy in particular has become attached as the emotional fighter among the three. As Elsa grows into lioness maturity, George and Joy provide her with greater freedom away from their property, which may get her into trouble as a largely tame animal. ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The book that enthralled 50 million readers...Now a Great Motion Picture! See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for some wild animal action and brief language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

22 June 1966 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Frei geboren - Königin der Wildnis See more »

Filming Locations:

Kenya See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The real-life Adamsons, George and Joy, were not the blissful couple portrayed on screen, with Joy's rather headstrong and sometimes bullying attitude becoming such an annoyance that she was banned from the set. See more »


Before George has told Joy that he still has Elsa while they are driving back you can tell he isn't situated directly behind the steering wheel but rather a little to the left of it. Perhaps this is why the truck is shown swerving? See more »


Joy Adamson: Elsa, Elsa
[Joy cries sitting out on the hood of the truck as they ride in search of the young lioness]
George Adamson: Let's try this.
[2 shots ring out from his gun. George sees Elsa stumbling through the grass, approaching their vehicle]
Joy Adamson: all my nightmares had come true.
[Now Elsa rests in their tent as they argue over her]
George Adamson: ...she can't make it. she can't think. she can't mix with her own kind... She can't do anything the wild animals do to survive. You've done too good a job on her. You've made her tame. It's ...
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Referenced in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003) See more »


Born Free
Music by John Barry
Lyrics by Don Black
Sung by Matt Monro
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

One of the most Important Films in History
25 February 2006 | by SintelinSee all my reviews

While thoroughly entertaining for audiences of all ages, this mostly accurate true story has the distinction of being one of the most important films ever released. Why you say? Until the publication of the Adamson Born Free trilogy of books (Born Free, Living Free and Forever Free) lions, and most wild animals, were considered in the human consciousness in one way - dangerous. This franchise of books and movies, most especially the widely viewed Born Free film, changed all of that throughout the entire world. The Adamsons, both in real life and as depicted so expertly by real life husband and wife actors Travers and McKenna (who actually spent as much time with their actor lions as the Adamsons had with Elsa and family had) demonstrated that a wild animal, Elsa, could be emotional and full of love for her caretakers. Having personally raised an African lion for more than a decade (not to mention countless other wild animals) I can attest to this being so. But more importantly Born free showed the world this was so. As an impressionable pre-teen when this film was initially released, I can recall the impact it had on all of those my age and their parents as well. That change in attitude continued to grow and the development of insightful studies via National Geo, Discovery Channel, et. al, has assisted mightily in helping protect animals. I'm afraid, without Born Free we would have succeeded in eradicating all free roaming wildlife, thank goodness that at least some remain! While Born Free accomplished this change in mankind's perspective, there are true heroes who have dedicated their lives to protecting animals in whatever manner they may. Perhaps the greatest of these protectors is world renowned Jane Goodall, who has been studying and communicating with the world on wild chimpanzees since the release of Born free in 1960 or so! People fret that the youth have no role models, they are out there folks, and visible, just need to direct these impressionable minds to the right people like Jane Goodall.

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