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Water for Elephants (2011)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  22 April 2011 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 90,520 users   Metascore: 52/100
Reviews: 260 user | 279 critic | 35 from

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)
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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 »


When Marlena, Jacob, and August drink Champagne in a New York speakeasy, they drink from fluted glasses, but saucer glasses were used commonly in 1931. 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 »


Referenced in Bad Movie Beatdown: Review of 2011 (2012) See more »


Barnum & Bailey's Favorite March
Written by Karl King (as Karl L. King)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

a spectacular film
15 April 2011 | by See all my reviews

When I read Water for Elephants the book, I knew the film would be difficult to make and I was ready to be disappointed. Surprisingly, they managed to capture most of it in picture. Some things were lost on the way, of course, the most unfortunate one being old Jacob's struggles as an old man who refuses to retire from life before his time actually comes. Other details that made the book a masterpiece seemed more suitable for a book so they were not missed, mainly because the core story was there to its finest details.

The reenactment of America in Great Depression was good, and the circus was everything you would expect it to be. Such chaos and life and acts and performers and runes and animals all mashed up in a beautiful lively atmosphere. Scenes flowed one after the other smoothly and nothing seemed out of place. This is a hard thing to accomplish when it comes to adaptations. Most of them end up looking like a slide show of pictures or events taken from the book (see Hardwicke's Twilight for a perfect example). This film was a success.

The acting was another noteworthy aspect. People will have to acknowledge Robert Pattinson as a first class actor after watching this; and Waltz will be the go-to person for the upcoming psycho roles. He just digs it, I think and he creates the most intimidating gentleman on screen. Witherspoon looked average to me as Marlena, but I may be biased so I won't go into it much. All in all, it would be bizarre if at least one out of the three did not get an Oscar nod.

129 of 180 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Anyone else feel this film was... Lacking? Minae
Why would Jacob mispronounce his own name? Nastassya
Why did the Cornell people disrupt his exam? jmhow
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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