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Water for Elephants (2011)

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Set in the 1930s, a former veterinary student takes a job in a traveling circus and falls in love with the ringmaster's wife.



(screenplay), (novel)
3,596 ( 563)
3 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Rosie's Caretaker
Mr. Erwin
Mr. Robinson


After his parents' death, Jacob Jankowski is left penniless and homeless. Events lead him to joining the circus as their vet, working under their unstable boss August whose violent tendencies give everyone reason to be cautious around him, including his beautiful and quiet wife Marlena, whom August is very possessive of and who Jacob finds himself soon falling in love with. Written by mel47

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Life is the most spectacular show on earth.


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for moments of intense violence and sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:





Release Date:

22 April 2011 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Agua para elefantes  »

Box Office


$38,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$16,842,353 (USA) (22 April 2011)


$58,700,247 (USA) (5 August 2011)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

| |


| (home movie sequence)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2009 Blacklist; a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year. See more »


August says Jacob is an Ivy League grad. Although the term "Ivy Colleges" was used in the early 1930s, "Ivy League" was first used in the Christian Science Monitor on February 7, 1935. The "Ivy League" wasn't officially established until 1954. See more »


[first lines]
Russ: [in the rain] Uh, Excuse me sir. Can we help you? Can we help you with something?
Old Jacob: Did I miss the Spec?
Charlie: Uh, yeah, I'm afraid so. The show was this afternoon.
Old Jacob: Oh.
Charlie: Did you come with the folks from Green Haven? Why don't we get out of the rain, and we'll call them for you.
Old Jacob: No, no! I came on my own.
Russ: It's okay. We're gonna call the home. We're gonna have them come pick you up.
Old Jacob: I'm telling you, I didn't come with the home! Why don't you take those rings out of your head, and maybe you ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

In 'The producers wish to thank' section of the credits, the Circus World Museum is listed as being in Barbaroo, WI. The actual town is Baraboo, WI. See more »


Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #1.13 (2011) See more »


I Do Like to Be Beside by the Seaside
Written by George Wilson and John Glover Kind (as John Glover-Kind)
Courtesy of APM
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A truly spectacular movie!
13 April 2011 | by (Sweden) – See all my reviews

OK, I'll try to tell you a bit of what I thought about "Water for Elephants", without spoiling anything. I have not read the novel (even though I plan to do it now) so I'm only offering my views on the movie.

First of all: It's amazingly beautiful. The costumes and sets are gorgeous, the cinematography is exquisite, the animals are cute (especially Rosie the elephant) and the three leads are very easy on the eyes as well.

Robert Pattinson was actually quite good. This was a surprise to me, since I didn't really think he was anything special in any of the Twilight movies or "Remember Me". He looked very appropriate for the time the movie was set in, and even though I love Emile Hirsch (who auditioned for Jacob too) I'm confident that Robert was the best choice there was for this role, it was perfect for him. Hal Holbrook was also very fitting for the role of older Jacob. The two actors really made me believe that they were the same person in different stages of his life.

Reese Witherspoon was okay. She looked beautiful, was charming and cute but it felt like something was missing - however, I can't think of any other actress I would have liked better in the role, so I came to the conclusion that it was probably the character Marlena that was a little bland, not Reese.

But the true star of this movie was Christoph Waltz. I may be a bit biased since I loved him in "Inglorious Basterds", but he was even more perfect in this movie. His portrayal of August was amazing, he made him likable and interesting and I was always compelled by his scenes. The character reminded me a lot of Miles in "King Kong" (played by Jack Black), a character that also wanted fame and success more than anything and used questionable and even cruel methods to get it. He was terrifying in some scenes too, but always believable. Also, in the beginning of the movie i really felt the chemistry between August and Marlena, which made the character even more interesting; however, I did feel like Jacob and Marlena had chemistry too, and in my opinion this way it was more realistic (both men loved her and she also cared about both of them).

I loved the movie, and I really recommend it to everyone. I would sincerely give it 10/10 stars. Of course there was some parts of the movie I didn't like (particularly towards the end of it), but overall it was a magical, spectacular and epic period movie, and I can't wait to see it again!

190 of 262 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Recent Posts
Anyone else feel this film was... Lacking? Minae
Why did the Cornell people disrupt his exam? jmhow
Why would Jacob mispronounce his own name? Nastassya
Anyone else feel this film was a remake of Walt Disney´s Dumbo? franciscocastro
The math of Jacob’s Age diogenes-13
Am I the only one who sees the resemblance? SwayBreezy
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