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The Cove (2009)


Average Rating: 8/10
Reviews Counted: 126
Fresh: 119
Rotten: 7

Critics Consensus: Though decidedly one-sided, The Cove is an impeccably crafted, suspenseful expose of the covert slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

Average Rating: 7.7/10
Reviews Counted: 36
Fresh: 33
Rotten: 3

Critics Consensus: Though decidedly one-sided, The Cove is an impeccably crafted, suspenseful expose of the covert slaughter of dolphins in Japan.


Average Rating: 4.3/5
User Ratings: 25,065


Movie Info

In the 1960s, Richard O'Barry enjoyed a lucrative career as a specialized animal trainer; he captured the five dolphins that were used in the popular television series Flipper, and taught them the tricks and special commands they used on the show. Four decades later, O'Barry has renounced his former life as a trainer and become an animal rights activist, speaking out against the hunting of aquatic mammals and keeping them in captivity. O'Barry is not welcome in Taiji, a town along the Japanese … More

PG-13 (for disturbing content)
Directed By:
Written By:
Mark Monroe
In Theaters:
Dec 8, 2009
Box Office:
Roadside Attractions - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Cove

All Critics (126) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (119) | Rotten (7) | DVD (8)

The Cove does what every great documentary with a cause should: It educates, entertains, and inspires audiences to take action.

Full Review… | May 6, 2011
Top Critic

There's an effective thriller element to this vividly assembled doc.

Full Review… | October 23, 2009
Time Out
Top Critic

The Cove is guerrilla journalism at its best. Structured and paced by director Louie Psihoyos as a thriller/caper movie, it brings audience-grabbing cinematic conventions to work in telling its story of dolphin genocide

Full Review… | August 23, 2009
Top Critic

In effect, by looking at nature The Cove shows us what it means to be human.

Full Review… | August 21, 2009
MovieTime, ABC Radio National
Top Critic

As the subject of a documentary, this grim enterprise distinctly lacks the warm and fuzzy appeal of The March of the Penguins. So director Louie Psihoyos ingeniously reinvents his film as a spy caper.

Full Review… | August 19, 2009
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

There are five minutes in this documentary that ought to be mandatory viewing. The entire 90 minutes is utterly compelling, but the five alone are worth the price of admission.

Full Review… | August 7, 2009
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Too much drama, not enough documentary.

Full Review… | July 11, 2012

One of the most suspenseful documentaries ever made, "The Cove" marries ecological espionage to a frightening domino effect of imperialism, political corruption and a socio-environmental disregard.

Full Review… | September 25, 2010

A-team adventure needs a fifth column

Full Review… | March 13, 2010
Movie Habit

Then there's the redemptive human drama. O'Barry, acting like a modern-day Ahab after a spiritual awakening, the self-realized incriminations etched into his face, is the driving force of this film.

Full Review… | February 24, 2010
Indie Movies Online

I don't think I can go to marine parks anymore.

Full Review… | February 19, 2010
Seacoast Newspapers (NH/Maine)

No Hollywood film, fiction or non-, can ever prepare you for the reality of what goes on in that cove. Please don't show this film to young children. Devastating and excellent.

Full Review… | December 29, 2009

Adding to the film's strength is its central figure, who is akin to a modern-day vigilante superhero... All O'Barry is missing is a mask and costume.

Full Review… | December 29, 2009
Window to the Movies

One of the year's best documentary films, a stirring call to action against the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

Full Review… | December 16, 2009
Laramie Movie Scope

Sounded like something I didn't want to see: a preachy nature documentary. But the actual film is much more daring and memorable.

Full Review… | December 11, 2009
Combustible Celluloid

A confirmation of human dignity in the face of the unspeakable. Text "dolphin" to 44144. Now.

Full Review… | December 5, 2009
Projection Booth

Restrained and harrowing.

Full Review… | October 30, 2009
Times [UK]

This outstanding documentary is as exciting as a thriller.

Full Review… | October 30, 2009
Observer [UK]

This documentary is also as well made as anything released all year, blending hard facts, cold scientific reason plus the thrills of a Hollywood spy movie to terrific effect.

Full Review… | October 30, 2009
Daily Mirror [UK]

This film virtually creates a new genre: the horror doc. It's a gripping and compelling film about something utterly unthinkable.

Full Review… | October 28, 2009
Shadows on the Wall

A taut, thrilling documentary that plays out like a heist movie while never overshadowing its message or activist credentials.

Full Review… | October 23, 2009
Empire Magazine

The Cove stands out from the crowd due to the readily apparent awfulness of the event it depicts.

Full Review… | October 23, 2009

The great strength of this documentary about the covert killing of wild dolphins in Japan is its aesthetic: artful edits, zippy music, even a few jokes. Radical stuff for an eco-documentary.

Full Review… | October 23, 2009

A gripping, powerful and heart-wrenching expose ... activist filmmaking at its best.

Full Review… | October 23, 2009

Audience Reviews for The Cove

Eye opening documentary about Dolphin abuse in Taijii, Japan. The Cove exposes an important subject, one that needs to be exposed. Hard to watch, but necessary, The Cove is a must see movie, and it's really one of the most important documentaries in recent memory. The film is quite disturbing, but it confronts an issue that needs to be addressed. Dolphins are smart creatures, and they're not ours to eat, trap and abuse. I viewed the film purely as an unbiased point of view, and I was shocked at what I've seen here. I am an animal lover and this film really showed some of the cruelty against these smart animals. Brilliantly shot, telling a powerful story, The Cove is an intense experience that you won't forget. Some footage is hard to watch, but it is necessary in order to shine light on this subject. A lot of people don't know that this is going on, and it needs to be made aware of because the way they're slaughtered is barbaric. If you're hesitant about seeing the film because of its content, don't. The film though disturbing is a documentary that is important, and really worth seeing because it's a subject that needs to be addressed. I love eating meat and fish; however I do believe that there are some limits when it comes to nature. I believe certain species should not be killed because it's not right and frankly it's barbaric. With that being said, will this documentary make Japanese fishermen stop emptying oceans of fish, I doubt it. However this film has the power to make you ask several questions and eventually maybe they'll sufficient pressure on the Japanese to make them realize what they're doing can eventually hurt the world's fish supply. In regards to Dolphins and other whales, they should be protected by laws as Dolphin meat is not good enough for human consumption due to high levels of mercury. The Cove is a standout picture that will stay with you long after you've seen it.

Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer


The Cove is a harrowing and haunting documentary on the dolphin slaughter in Japan. Benefiting from explanations of dolphin psychology and lots of footage of them in their natural habitat and hearing stories of the connection with people helped create a personal connection to the animals. Though the documentary is very one-sided, it's very suspenseful, emotional, shocking and disturbing, but also left me wanting more. At only an hour and a half long, The Cove could have taken time to explain more about the mercury poisoning, views from the Japanese side, etc. I wouldn't have minded the longer running time since they got me so involved in the loves of the dolphins. The is an essential documentary for everybody to see nonetheless. It will stay with you long after you have seen it.

Raymond Wieser
Raymond Wieser

Super Reviewer

Richard O'Barry: If you aren't an activist, you're an inactivist. 

"Shallow Water. Deep Secret."

You don't have to be a tree hugging hippy to be completely saddened by the events that dolphin activist Richard O'Berry and director Louie Psihoyos are able to capture in this real life spy thriller. Obviously it is a documentary, but it would be unfair to only label it as such. It not only informs the viewer on the issue that takes place every September in Taijii, but it also shows it in excruciating detail, and serves as a rallying cry for every person that is enraged by what they see. And to show the shocking conclusion to what happens when the dolphins are enclosed in the Cove, which is off limits to everyone, is not an easy thing to do. 

Richard O'Berry used to be the trainer for the television hit, Flipper. He captured all five dolphins that were used on the show. He changed his tune on the issue though, and now believes dolphin capturing to be an extreme injustice. He feels as though he has to make up for what he did on the show Flipper. He also believes that he is to blame for a lot of the stuff that has come from the shows popularity. What made him stop being a trainer, and instead become the biggest activist against dolphin capture? He tells us it was one of the dolphins from the show, Kathy, which committed suicide in his arms because of the major depression that plagued it. It's hard not to believe O'Berry. The first time I watched this documentary, I was sort of worried that it was just some nut job blowing smoke. When we first meet O'Berry, he is in a car where he tells the director that they are being followed and if the fisherman could, they would murder him. After twenty minutes, I wholeheartedly believed him. 

The Cove doesn't go into great detail about why these fishermen do what they do. That isn't because of a lack of trying on their part, but because they really don't have a reason. They have excuses, but they don't make much sense. They say it is their heritage. Well damn, we used to hang women that could do math. It's our heritage, so I guess it's okay. Still, if it were their heritage you'd think more of them would know about it. Countless interviewees attest to never hearing about dolphin fishing and are shocked to hear that people actually do eat them. Then they say that the meat is beneficial to their diet. Too bad it has extremely high levels of mercury, which slowly tear apart all of your sensory functions like sight and hearing, until you finally die. Finally, there is the fact that they want to cut down on the population, saying that the dolphins are actually pests because, get this, they eat fish. They say the dolphins eat to much fish and it is destroying their fishing. It probably isn't the dolphins that are pulling out hundreds of thousands of fish per day because they want to make sushi.

Where the movie really takes form is in its director and activists decision to sneak into the private cove and set up a bunch of hidden cameras. Doing this is extremely dangerous because if they are caught two things will happen, either they will be arrested(which in Japan is no minor thing) or be killed. They still go through with it and are successful. What comes next is a sobering five minutes where no words are spoken, probably because words can't describe what we are seeing. 

It all seems so mindless. There seems to be no real point. The way these fishermen act towards the dolphins is the way that the weird kid in your first grade class acts towards ants on the play ground. That kid has a compulsion to stomp every ant he sees, and the action of these men is eerily similar. 

At the very end of the movie, they give details on just how you can help the cause if you are affected by what you see. Richard O'Berry says he wants to see this slaughter ended before he dies, and for his and the dolphins sake, I hope his wish can come true. The fact that the video has been publicly displayed, yet the slaughter still occurs annually is mind boggling.

Melvin White

Super Reviewer


A riveting, powerful documentary that centers in on Japan's greedy, despicable slaughter of dolphins and whales along their coasts. While it is not necessarily the best, most engrossing documentary from this particular year (that belongs to "Anvil! The Story of Anvil"), it is a subject that definitely demands attention. By showing the courage these activists (led by Rick O'Barry, whose passion is commendable and genuine) possess, one immediately becomes emotionally involved and interested in their cause. It is definitely a film that angers you, moves you, and stays with you after it is over, and these are all signs of a phenomenal film.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

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