When the Whales Came (1989)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  20 October 1989 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.5/10 from 279 users  
Reviews: 7 user | 5 critic

A pair of children befriend an accentric old man, who lives isolated on the far shore of their island home. But it turns out that the old man knows a terrible secret about the island and ... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay)
0Check in
3 wins. See more awards »


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Hawk (1993)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

Housewife Annie Marsh suspects her husband might be The Hawk, a brutal serial killer. Complicating matters is the fact that she once was incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital. When she ... See full summary »

Director: David Hayman
Stars: Daryl Webster, Thomas Taplin, Joshua Taplin
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Vic Mathews teaches a remedial class at the Blessed Edith Semple School in Scotland. Some at the school are trying to discover the two more miracles that would promote the late Edith Semple... See full summary »

Director: Charles Gormley
Stars: Tom Conti, Helen Mirren, David Hayman
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

1908: Pascali, a spy for the Sultan, sends reports to Istanbul that nobody reads. His suspicions are roused when a British archeologist appears, who may not be quite what he seems.

Director: James Dearden
Stars: Ben Kingsley, Charles Dance, Kevork Malikyan
Cal (1984)
Drama | Thriller | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Cal, a young man on the fringes of the IRA, falls in love with Marcella, a Catholic woman whose husband, a Protestant policeman, was killed one year earlier by the IRA.

Director: Pat O'Connor
Stars: Helen Mirren, John Lynch, Donal McCann
Hussy (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.9/10 X  

Beaty is a prostitute working out of a high-class London cabaret where Emory is a technician. They begin an affair encumbered by her job, his lack of money, and their pasts: Beaty has a ... See full summary »

Director: Matthew Chapman
Stars: Helen Mirren, John Shea, Paul Angelis
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

After a rich Edwardian widow impulsively marries a handsome but poor Tuscan dentist and dies in childbirth, her English in-laws try to gain custody of the baby.

Director: Charles Sturridge
Stars: Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Davis, Rupert Graves
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Based on the true story of the 1981 hunger strike in a British prison, in which IRA prisoner Bobby Sands led a protest against the treatment of IRA prisoners as criminals rather than as ... See full summary »

Director: Terry George
Stars: Helen Mirren, Fionnula Flanagan, Aidan Gillen
Biography | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Bethune has long been a hero in China. Perhaps for reasons of politics and personality, however, his fame in North America lagged far behind. The film explores the complexity of a character... See full summary »

Director: Phillip Borsos
Stars: Donald Sutherland, Helen Mirren, Helen Shaver
Losing Chase (TV Movie 1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Chase (Mirren), a lifetime resident of Martha's Vineyard, married Richard (Bridges), and like the area, grew into the Upper-Middle-Class. Her distaste for artificiality leads her to a wild ... See full summary »

Director: Kevin Bacon
Stars: Helen Mirren, Kyra Sedgwick, Beau Bridges
Painted Lady (TV Movie 1997)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

From the Irish countryside to London to New York and back again, Maggie reenters the world as a countess and shady art dealer. With her panache and charisma, she finds more than an auction,... See full summary »

Director: Julian Jarrold
Stars: Helen Mirren, Iain Glen, Franco Nero
Happy Birthday I (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.2/10 X  
Director: Helen Mirren
Stars: Jenica Bergere, Ken Hudson Campbell, Beverly D'Angelo
The Quiz Kid (1979)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A hopeless quiz team is revived by the addition of a bright young lecturer but all is not well when the barmaid takes a shine to him and this upsets her boyfriend.

Director: Bill Hays
Stars: Helen Mirren, John Woodvine, Michael Elphick


Cast overview, first billed only:
The Birdman
Jack Jenkins
Clemmie Jenkins
Helen Pearce ...
Gracie Jenkins
Max Rennie ...
Daniel Pender
Mr. Wellbeloved
John Hallam ...
Treve Pender
Barbara Ewing ...
Mary Pender
Big Tim
Joanna Bartholemew ...
Miss Tregarthen
Auntie Mildred
Irene Wilson ...
Molly Woodcock
Fergus Rees ...
The Birdman as a Boy
Kerra Spowart ...
Margaret Pender


A pair of children befriend an accentric old man, who lives isolated on the far shore of their island home. But it turns out that the old man knows a terrible secret about the island and the narwhales who sometimes come. Meanwhile WWI is making life hard in the village. Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

island | girl | boy | redemption | curse | See All (18) »




PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

20 October 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cuando vuelvan las ballenas  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


See  »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Beautiful adaptation of a charming story
24 August 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When the Whales Came, based upon Michael Morpurgo's charming story, is a beautiful well-meaning film, that I do think is worthy of a lot more praise than it is given. The cinematography and scenery were gorgeous, and so was the enchanting music score. The part when the villagers drive the Narwhal into the sea was such a poignant moment. The script was fine and so was the direction and the acting. The two children are believable, and Helen Mirren and David Suchet, two exceptional actors give fine support. Though the real kudos have to go to Paul Scofield, who was fantastic, and to Jeremy Kemp as Mr Wellbeloved, who wasn't only warm and loving towards the children, but it was also an altogether sensitive portrayal. My only minor complaint with the movie was the pace, it was a tad slow, but overall this film is beautiful. 9/10 Bethany Cox

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
When the whales came janetbeat
Available on Love Film! branwen_blaidd
Discuss When the Whales Came (1989) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: