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Blackfish Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Variety Justin Chang

    Righteous, captivating and entirely successful as single-issue-focused documentaries go, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film draws on startling video footage and testimonies from former orca trainers, building an authoritative argument on behalf of this majestic species.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times Gary Goldstein

    Blackfish, named after the Native American term for orcas, remains decidedly one-sided. But when that "side" is such a vital, convincing proponent for the greater protection and understanding of such evolved and majestic creatures, it can't help but win.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Bill Stamets

    Dispiriting as Blackfish is at times, it offers beautiful advocacy for orca freedom. Anecdotes and data indicate these mammals are highly sensitive and social. Treating them as we do for our entertainment and profit is unconscionable.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

    The film may be depressing. But even with a terrible, watery musical score, it's also good.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    More persuasively still, Blackfish — an Indian name for orcas — argues against the very concept of quasiamusement parks like SeaWorld that turn giant creatures meant for the wild into hemmed-in, penned-up entertainers.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    Village Voice Alan Scherstuhl

    The movie is revealing, wrenching, and important, a reminder that what feels wrong in our gut—the effort to turn free-roaming and unknowable beasts into caged vaudevillians—is always worth investigating.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter David Rooney

    Focusing on the notoriously aggressive orca Tilikum, this gripping film presents a persuasive case against keeping the species – and by extension any wild animal – in captivity for the purposes of human entertainment.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 13 & under

Powerful, heartbreaking, disturbing doc about captive orcas.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Blackfish is a documentary about captive whales that perform at theme parks and sometimes attack and kill humans. The movie claims that whales in the wild are generally peaceful, intelligent, and emotional creatures and that their treatment at the hands of corporate theme parks possibly created anxiety and frustration that led to the attacks. It contains some disturbing imagery, including wounded whales, some real blood (from both whales and humans), and video footage of actual attacks. More violence is verbally described but not shown. There is frank discussion of the breeding of whales, including a shot of what could be a whale's penis. The movie contains some occasional strong language, including one use of "s--t" and some uses of "damn" and "hell." SeaWorld ads are shown, and some of their products (stuffed toys whales) are shown. It's not for young kids, and it can be disturbing, but this is a powerful, effective documentary for teens and up.

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. Could this story have been told as effectively without the blood, attacks, and injuries shown?
  • Does this movie make a good argument for closing sea parks for good? What could be an argument for keeping them open?
  • How does Blackfish compare with The Cove, a movie about the mistreatment of dolphins? What makes humans do these sorts of things?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: The movie essentially calls for an end to aquatic theme parks and for freedom for whales. Even though the parks give people a chance to see these magnificent whales close up, the treatment of the whales is not worth it. It makes an argument about the whales being miserable and tortured while in confinement, and that this misery leads to outright danger for humans. It also argues that the park owners do their best to hide all this information from both the public and from employees, with the goal of keeping the parks open and making money.

  • rolemodels true0

    Role models: It could be argued that simply showing up and being interviewed for this documentary makes these people heroes. Many of them admit to having been fooled or misled while working at SeaWorld, and they're now willing to set the record straight. Their motivations seem to stem mainly from care and concern for Tilikum and the other whales.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: First, there's the whale-on-whale violence. Female whales are described as "raking" Tilikum, and the various, horrible teeth marks -- and a shot of profuse bleeding -- are shown. Then, there's the footage of humans being harmed by whales, either grabbed and dragged underwater or bitten. Overall, events are more described than shown, but there is a generous amount of (real) blood shown, as well as some fairly disturbing video footage of attacks in progress. There are harrowing, verbal descriptions of dead whales and swallowed human body parts.

  • sex false0

    Sex: No human sex, but there's a frank discussion about the breeding of the whales, including mentions of sperm as well as a shot of trainers extracting the sperm from what could be a whale penis.

  • language false2

    Language: There is one use of the word "s--t" (as in "scared s--tless"), as well as uses of "damn," "hell," "oh, God," and "butt." One character uses the humorous phrase "whole fam damily" (a play on "whole damn family").

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: SeaWorld is mentioned by name, and some television ads are shown. The movie mentions the selling of tickets as well as stuffed toy whales, and there's a shot of a young girl cuddling her new stuffed toy. By no means is this film an ad for SeaWorld, however; rather, it tries to keep people away.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not applicable