Free Willy (1993) - Rotten Tomatoes

Free Willy (1993)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The touching story of a boy and his killer whale made this family drama a surprise box office hit. Jesse (Jason James Richter) is a kid without parents who has bounced from one foster home to another and is living on the streets. One night, he's caught spraying graffiti with his friend Perry (Michael Bacall) in a theme park. Jesse and Perry are caught red handed by Dwight (Mykel T. Williamson), a policeman who thinks that Jesse needs a more stable and disciplined environment. Dwight arranges for Jesse to stay with a new foster family, Glen and Annie Greenwood (Michael Madsen and Jayne Atkinson), with whom Jesse has an initially stormy relationship. Part of Jesse's punishment involves cleaning up the damage he caused at the park, where the new attraction is Willy, a killer whale who is being trained to do tricks. However, Willy was traumatized when he was stolen from his family by mercenary fisherman and does not respond well to the genuine concern of his trainers, Rae (Lori Petty) and Randolph (August Schellenberg). Jesse and Willy, both stranded without families in a place where they don't fit in, develop a close emotional bond, and with Jesse's help, Willy begins to display aptitude as a performer. Thanks to his friendship with Willy, Jesse develops a new sense of responsibility and a healthier relationship with the Greenwoods. However, Dial (Michael Ironside), the owner of the park, doesn't much care for animals and isn't happy with the slower-than-expected progress of Willy's training; having insured the whale for $1 million dollars, he figures that Willy is worth more dead than alive, and Jesse, Rae, and Randolph have to rescue their aquatic friend and return him to the ocean when Dial seems ready to live up to his threats. Free Willy, which featured a star performance by a killer whale named Keiko (who is doubled in some scenes by animatronic models) included the theme song "Will You Be There," a top-ten hit for Michael Jackson, and spawned two sequels. ~ Mark Deming, Rovimore
Rating: PG (Mild Language)
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Kids & Family
Directed By:
Written By: Keith Walker, Corey Blechman, Tom Benedek, Keith A. Walker
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 5, 2001
Warner Bros. Pictures


Lori Petty
as Rae Lindley
Jayne Atkinson
as Annie Greenwood
August Schellenberg
as Randolph Johnson
Michael Madsen
as Glen Greenwood
Mykelti Williamson
as Dwight Mercer
Willis Van Dusen
as Fish Vendor
Jim Michaels
as Announcer
Betsy Toll
as Passerby No. 1
Rob Sample
as Passerby No. 2
Merrilyn Jones
as Passerby No. 3
as Willy
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Free Willy

Critic Reviews for Free Willy

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (9)

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | July 16, 1993
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 23, 2008
Top Critic

A wayward boy befriends a moody killer whale.

Full Review… | December 15, 2010
Common Sense Media

Audience Reviews for Free Willy



The story is pretty cute and entirely inspirational but it's not that emotionally involving and a majority of its run time involves watching the orca jump. In comparison though it doesn't have enough cuteness or charm to be a memorable piece. It's worth a look. Just jump right in with lowered expectations.

Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer


Free Willy is a decent family film. I remember liking it as a kid, but it's one of those family films that doesn't really age well. I can think of many other childhood favorites that are better than this. Everyone knows the story of Free Willy. This is one of those films that really doesn't do anything that great. I enjoyed it as a kid, but it's not one of those films that stand out among other childhood favorites. Looking back now, the film is good, but is never anything great. The acting is average for a film like this, and so is the story. The best actor in this film is Michael Ironside and the rest of the cast are really so-so. Free Willy is a decent family film, never anything great, and compared to the films from my childhood, Free Willy is my least favorite. The film isn't really memorable. As a family film, it's perfect, but one should realize that this isn't a film that will stick with you, unlike so many other family films such as Toy Story, The Sandlot and Home Alone. Free Willy is entertaining, but it feels so ordinary in terms of a family film. This isn't the type of film that can withstand multiple viewings. Free Willy might have been good as a childhood film, but it's one that hasn't stood the test of time. I'll stick with Toy Story, at least that film is timeless, and lots of fun with good acting on the actors parts. But this, this feels like it tries too hard at being a sentimental film, and it just doesn't cut it.

Alex roy

Super Reviewer

Makes me cry everytime! A childhood favourite and a classic!

Bethany Murphy

Super Reviewer

Free Willy Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss Free Willy on our Movie forum!