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Drama . Documentary

Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.

Actors: Tilikum , James Earl Jones , Dean Gomersall , Mark Simmons , John Hargrove , Ken Balcomb , Kim Ashdown , Samantha Berg
Directors: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Country: USA
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  • Steve Persall

    Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite creates a fascinating character study of Tilikum, part of a revered species without a single confirmed kill of a human in the wild. Captivity is where Blackfish's evidence continually points the blame for Tilikum's deadly behavior.

    Tampa Bay Times Full Review
  • David Lewis

    For the most part, Cowperthwaite keeps the preachiness in check, letting the scientists, former SeaWorld trainers and other witnesses tell it as it is. Indeed, the scary training scenes - uniformly gripping - do most of the talking.

    San Francisco Chronicle Full Review
  • David Edelstein

    It’s true that the number of whales in captivity isn’t huge. But they’ve now become the mightiest symbols of our cultural hubris — of our inability to manage creatures we have the power to capture and imprison. It’s a metaphor for the ages.

    New York Magazine (Vulture) Full Review
  • Joe Neumaier

    An extraordinary, must-see examination of what humans do to killer whales so that these amazing creatures can become one more entertainment.

    New York Daily News Full Review
  • 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.

    Variety Full Review
  • Eric Kohn

    The movie makes a strong case against the captivity of killer whales under sub-circus conditions, but the stance is made even more horrifying because so little has changed in the history of the organization. Blackfish is less balanced investigation than full-on takedown of a broken system.

    indieWIRE Full Review
  • Andrew O'Hehir

    Cowperthwaite builds a portrait of an intelligent but profoundly traumatized animal who was taken from his family in the North Atlantic as an infant, and has been driven to anger, resentment and perhaps psychosis after spending his life in a series of concrete swimming pools. Full Review
  • Jeannette Catsoulis

    Unapologetically designed both to inform and affect, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s delicately lacerating documentary, Blackfish, uses the tragic tale of a single whale and his human victims as the backbone of a hypercritical investigation into the marine-park giant SeaWorld Entertainment.

    The New York Times Full Review
  • 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.

    Village Voice Full Review
  • 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.

    The Hollywood Reporter Full Review
  • Janice Page

    What’s on camera is both damning and expertly assembled, a filmmaking effort worthy of standing with 2009’s Oscar-winning documentary about dolphin abuse, “The Cove.”

    Boston Globe Full Review
  • Michael O'Sullivan

    It’s upsetting and scary to watch the footage of orca attacks collected in Blackfish, a damning documentary about the treatment of the animals by marine parks.

    Washington Post Full Review
  • Tirdad Derakhshani

    Very few of us would like to think about the physical and emotional toll that life in captivity takes on these magnificent creatures. Gabriela Cowperthwaite's powerful, heartbreaking, and beautifully crafted documentary, Blackfish, forces us to do just that.

    Philadelphia Inquirer Full Review
  • Roger Moore

    This is as thorough a take-down of a business and its practices as you’re likely to ever see.

    McClatchy-Tribune News Service Full Review
  • Kimber Myers

    It succeeds not just because of the gripping footage and troubling stories of the spectators and trainers close to the incidents, but also because it consults experts in the field who offer insights into killer whales’ biology and psychology.

    The Playlist Full Review
  • Bill Goodykoontz

    Blackfish is a disturbing movie, one that will make you rethink parks like SeaWorld and their value.

    Arizona Republic Full Review
  • Jenny McCartney

    As an indictment of the industry, this is strong stuff.

    The Telegraph Full Review
  • David Parkinson

    Impassioned and disturbing, this documentary matches "The Cove" for marrying cool intellect with real fire.

    Empire Full Review
  • Kevin Harley

    Like a more obvious underwater twist on Herzog’s "Grizzly Man," Blackfish presents a persuasive, passionate argument: wild nature’s right to freedom demands respect, cock and all.

    Total Film Full Review
  • 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.

    Wall Street Journal Full Review
  • Joshua Rothkopf

    Blackfish, a troubling exposé of Sea World’s hazardous entertainment trade, does much to restore a realistic sense of danger, interviewing former park workers who detail their shoddy, nonscientific training, and chronicling the much-suppressed history of whale-on-human violence.

    Time Out New York Full Review
  • Rene Rodriguez

    Today, 54 percent of Sea World’s whales have Tilikum’s genes, which is a terrifying thought.

    Miami Herald Full Review
  • 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.

    Chicago Sun-Times Full Review
  • Michael Phillips

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

    Chicago Tribune Full Review
  • Peter Rainer

    One glaring question the film doesn’t raise: Why, given his history, is Tilikum still entertaining in sea parks?

    Christian Science Monitor Full Review
  • Peter Travers

    Forget "The Conjuring," Blackfish may be the scariest movie around.

    Rolling Stone Full Review
  • Bill Weber

    The Frankensteinian rebellion of orcas against their corporate captors turns this doc into a sort of showbiz horror film.

    Slant Magazine Full Review
  • Tomas Hachard

    The film, it should be said, does not blame Tilikum for his actions. It posits instead that, like a disenfranchised youth driven to a life of crime, Tilikum is a product of his upbringing.

    NPR Full Review
  • Tasha Robinson

    Taken as a whole, Blackfish does an admirable job of preaching without force-feeding, seamlessly blending opinion with reportage, and addressing its central issues from enough angles to make a series of end-runs around dubious viewers.

    The Dissolve Full Review
  • 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.

    Los Angeles Times Full Review
  • Jordan Hoffman

    It’s unlikely anyone who sees Blackfish will be trekking to Shamu Stadium this summer. Full Review
  • Mike D'Angelo

    Blackfish’s strongest argument against the existence of parks like SeaWorld is how much more gorgeous orcas look in the open ocean than leaping about an oversized swimming pool. And the audience won’t get soaking wet watching them frolic in movies, either.

    The A.V. Club Full Review
  • Geoff Pevere

    As more than one orca expert points out in the film, when you take a creature born to roam thousands of miles of open water and stick it in a pool to do tricks, there’s going to be some behavioural blowback. In Tilikum’s case, it’s actually described as a form of induced “psychosis.”

    The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Full Review
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