Hydrogel-like biomaterials are often too soft to support robust cell adhesion, yet methods to increase mechanical rigidity (e.g., covalent cross-linking the gel matrix) can compromise bioactivity by suppressing the accessibility or activity of embedded biomolecules. Nanoparticle templating is reported here as a strategy toward porous, layer-by-layer assembled, thin polyelectrolyte films of sufficient mechanical rigidity to promote strong initial cell adhesion, and that are capable of high bioactive species loading. Latex nanoparticles are incorporated during layer-by-layer assembly, and following 1-ethyl-3-[3-dimethylaminopropyl]carbodiimide/N-hydroxysulfosuccinimide (EDC-NHS) cross-linking of the polyelectrolyte film, are removed via exposure to tetrahydrofuran (THF). THF exposure results in only a partial reduction in film thickness (as observed by ellipsometry), suggesting the presence of internal pore space. The attachment, spreading, and metabolic activity of pre-osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells cultured on templated, cross-linked films are statistically similar to those on non-templated films, and much greater than those on non-cross-linked films. Laser scanning confocal microscopy and quartz crystal microgravimetry indicate a high capacity for bioactive species loading (ca. 10% of film mass) in nanoparticle templated films. Porous nanofilm biomaterials, formed via layer-by-layer assembly with nanoparticle templating, promote robust cell adhesion and exhibit high bioactive species loading, and thus appear to be excellent candidates for cell-contacting applications.