Movie Review: Blackfish

Blackfish is a documentary that was released in early 2013. It is currently streaming on Netflix. Documentaries have been my favorite kinds of movies for a long time. It is a gift to live in a time with such great access to well-made, educational films!

Blackfish tells the story of orca whales in captivity - especially the story of Tilikum. Many of Seaworld's past trainers are interviewed in the film. Tilikum was taken from his mother at a young age. He is an orca whale with a history of aggression. But as the film progresses, viewers realize why he is so broken.

Words to describe this movie: disturbing, haunting, important, powerful, educational

I knew very little about orcas before watching this film. They are amazing creatures. And as the subtitle on the movie poster reads: "Never capture what you can't control."

Orcas are extremely communal animals. When they are placed in captivity, they have extremely limited space and they are placed alongside orcas of other family groups. It is a very unhealthy environment for these beautiful, majestic creatures.

The film tells the story of how some of the orcas were captured from the wild. Heart-breaking. The stories of the trainers that have been killed are also extremely heart-breaking.

Watch this movie. It brings a lot of awareness to issues regarding wildlife in captivity. Animal shelters and rescue zoos are a different issue. I'm thankful for places like The Bird Sanctuary in Florida. This film is not targeting those kinds of environments.

Specially, the film addresses the issues of orcas in captivity. I encourage you to watch it, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Emily's Star Rating: 8.5/10


  1. My heart goes out to any animal that is held in some sort of captivity...... constrained from enjoying freedom, exercise, community, natural life functions in the wild. Peer into their eyes, hear their cries ... you can feel the pain of their broken spirit. I've seen Shamu, dolphin, etc perform at SeaWorld. Fun to watch, but I have to wonder .... how aware are they about what's going on, are they happy or sad, do they miss normal life (as they know it), will they attack humans near them when some action or perception sparks their innate wildness. We've seen this unpredictable behavior in many different "wild" animals held in captivity: bear, elephants, gorillas, gators, ..... I think it's OK for them to "entertain" if they enjoy it of their free will, but not when forced. And how do we know? We are just dumb humans who think everything in this world is subservient to us..........unaware and/or uncaring about the other precious spirits that share this wonderful planet with us.

    1. Pete, have you seen the movie? You should watch it! Scientists actually know quite a bit about orcas - and even their brains. They are so communal by nature and extremely intelligent - I think they are sad in captivity and there are so many signals of that. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the movie if you get a chance to watch it. Great thoughts here - thank you for expressing them.

    2. Em, have not seen the movie, yet. Tried finding a streaming version on the Internet, but they have been pulled for copyright reasons. Just now found an excellent 1/2 hour interview with documentarian Gabriela Cowpethwaite and one of the former trainers at SeaWorld ......


      ..... which closely mirrors my own feelings. I'll still search around and find the movie. Perhaps we can do coffee some day and discuss.

      We continue to learn more about these and other animals as time marches on, but still get very surprised at times when we see behaviors not seen before; like a pod of Orca attacking a Great White Shark, or tantalizing a whale and her baby until the baby gets separated from mom (then killing the baby). All part of nature.

      A pod of Orca swam by our cruise ship in Alaska, but I was on the wrong side of the ship.