Blackfish (2013)


Critic Consensus: Blackfish is an aggressive, impassioned documentary that will change the way you look at performance killer whales.


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Movie Info

Magnolia Pictures invites you and a guest to attend an advance screening of BLACKFISH, an eye-opening documentary directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Many of us have experienced the excitement and awe of watching 8,000-pound orcas, or "killer whales," soar out of the water and fly through the air at sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet, in our contemporary lore this mighty black-and-white mammal is like a two-faced Janus-beloved as a majestic, friendly giant yet infamous for its capacity to kill viciously. BLACKFISH unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who-unlike any orca in the wild-has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what exactly went wrong? Shocking, never-before-seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest the orca's extraordinary nature, the species' cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades, and the growing disillusionment of workers who were misled and endangered by the highly profitable sea-park industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals. (c) Magnolia

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Critic Reviews for Blackfish

All Critics (126) | Top Critics (31)

A troubling exposé of Sea World's hazardous entertainment trade.

Jan 1, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Blackfish makes an especially strong case for the innate marvel of these animals: that they are smart, social, communicative and loving.

Jan 1, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

In the wild, orcas live between 50 and a hundred years. In captivity, it's half that. It's simply a strong argument to free all the Willies.

Oct 23, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

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

Aug 8, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Blackfish is intended to rattle and provoke in the hopes of bringing about change.

Aug 2, 2013 | Rating: 3/4

"Blackfish" is grim. But then again, so is the plight of these magnificent, intelligent whales.

Aug 2, 2013 | Rating: B | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Blackfish


A revolting and well-edited documentary that exposes the infuriating reality behind aquatic shows performed by poor orcas that are kept in captivity and in extremely cruel conditions - and let's only hope it will make people reconsider going to parks like SeaWorld ever again.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Blackfish is an eye-opening exploit drenched in heartbreak and controversy as it explores the extent of captivity. A documentary hell-bent on impact and change that is both memorable and provoking. 4.5/5

Eugene Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

A heart-wrenching, truly saddening documentary which concerns the corrupt practices of SeaWorld, notably how they put the well-being of their trainers on the line in the name of money and profits. This film is geared to get the viewer angry, and it does that by giving many examples of how SeaWorld knew what they were doing was wrong, but still lied about it to cover their own tracks. The death of Dawn Brancheau and how they have the gaul to blame her for her demise instead of the killer whale that viciously murdered her. It is a heavy film, at times threatening to pummel the viewer down into submission, but ultimately is an effective one that will not leave you quickly.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

At the very least, this scathing attack on SeaWorld will question your decision to support this amusement park with a visit. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite's research is impeccable. In the account she makes a very powerful case that killer whales should not be kept in captivity at all . That their confinement is to the detriment of both the animal as well as humans involved. The cruel conditions they're kept in is a contributing factor. She lambastes the practice of separating wild whale pups from their mothers. The accompanying footage replete with piercing sounds of a wailing mother is heartbreaking. More than a dozen testimonies from trainers, employees and experts discuss the inner workings of these parks. Many of it from former employees at the actual Sea World park where Tilikum now resides. It's clear that many guides have been misled by SeaWorld officials on the dangers posed by these 5-ton beasts. Blackfish is more than mere entertainment. It's necessary viewing and one of the most important documentaries of the year.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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