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Blackfish (2013) More at IMDbPro »

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Blackfish -- Killer whales are beloved, majestic, friendly giants, yet infamous for their capacity to kill viciously. Blackfish unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the story of the notorious performing whale Tilikum, who -- unlike any orca in the wild -- has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. Blackfish expands on the discussion of keeping such ...
Blackfish -- Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top animal trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.


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8.1/10   37,689 votes »
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Down 23% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite (written by) &
Eli B. Despres (written by) ...
View company contact information for Blackfish on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
18 October 2013 (Iceland) See more »
Never capture what you can't control.
A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Nominated for BAFTA Film Award. Another 12 wins & 29 nominations See more »
(237 articles)
VOD Review: 'Tyke Elephant Outlaw'
 (From CineVue. 11 August 2015, 12:52 AM, PDT)

Steve-o Arrested for Climbing Crane in SeaWorld Protest
 (From Rolling Stone. 10 August 2015, 7:22 AM, PDT)

Blackfish Has Caused Sea World's Profits To Completely Crash
 (From Cinema Blend. 9 August 2015, 7:40 PM, PDT)

User Reviews:
Nice orca; let's torture it. Murder mystery with SeaWorld as villain and you as willing accomplice. See more (129 total) »


  (in credits order)
Tilikum ... Himself (archive footage)
John Hargrove ... Himself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
Samantha Berg ... Herself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
Mark Simmons ... Himself - Former SeaWorld Trainer

Kim Ashdown ... Herself
Dean Gomersall ... Himself - Former SeaWorld Trainer

James Earl Jones ... Himself (archive footage)
Shamu ... Himself (archive footage)
Carol Ray ... Herself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
John Jett ... Himself - Fomer SeaWorld Trainer
Dawn Brancheau ... Herself - SeaWorld Trainer (archive footage)

Jeffrey Ventre ... Himself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
Thomas Tobin ... Himself (also archive footage)
Dave Duffus ... Himself - OSHA Expert Witness, Whale Researcher
Jim Payne ... Himself (archive footage)
Martha Sugalski ... Herself (archive footage)

Whoopi Goldberg ... Herself (archive footage)
David Kirby ... Himself (archive footage)

Anderson Cooper ... Himself (archive footage)
John Crowe ... Himself - Diver
Howard Garrett ... Himself - Orca Researcher
Eric Walters ... Himself - Former Trainer, Sealand
Ken Balcomb ... Himself - Director, Center for Whale Research
Steve Huxter ... Himself - Former Director, Sealand
Christopher Porter ... Himself - Former Trainer, Sealand
Kelty Burn ... Herself (archive footage)
Corinne Cowell ... Herself
Nadien Kallen ... Herself
Lori Marino ... Herself - Neuroscientist
Kelly Clark ... Herself - SeaWorld Head Trainer (archive footage)
John Black ... Himself - OSHA Attorney (archive sound)
Ken Welsch ... Himself - Jusge (archive sound)
Katina ... Herself (archive footage)
Kalina ... Herself (archive footage)
Kasatka ... Herself (archive footage)
Takara ... Herself
Kandu ... Herself (archive footage)
Corky ... Herself (archive footage)
John Sillick ... Himself - SeaWorld Trainer (archive footage)
Tamarie Tollison ... Herself (archive footage)
Orkid ... Herself (archive footage)
Splash ... Herself (archive footage)
Robin Sheets ... Himself (archive footage)

Meredith Vieira ... Herself (archive footage)
Ken Peters ... Himself - SeaWorld Trainer (archive footage)
Daniel Dukes ... Himself (archive footage) (as Daniel P. Dukes)
Estefania Rodriguez ... Herself
Alexis Martinez ... Himself - Loro Parque Trainer (archive footage)
Suzanne Allee ... Herself - Former Video Supervisor, Loro Parque
Mercedes Martinez ... Herself - Alexis' Mother
Valerie Dratch ... Herself - Witness (archive footage)
Jim Solomons ... Himself - Spokesman, Orange County Sheriff's Office (archive footage)
Thad Lacinak ... Himself - Former SeaWorld Executive (archive footage)
Dave McDaniel ... Himself - Reporter (archive footage)
Chuck Tompkins ... Himself (archive footage)
Jeff Andrews ... Himself - SeaWorld Expert Witness (archive footage)
Diane Brancheau ... Herself - Dawn Brancheau's Sister

Directed by
Gabriela Cowperthwaite 
Writing credits
Gabriela Cowperthwaite (written by) &
Eli B. Despres (written by) (as Eli Despres)

Tim Zimmermann (co-writer)

Produced by
Judy Bart .... executive producer
Rick Brookwell .... executive producer
Gabriela Cowperthwaite .... producer
Erica Kahn .... executive producer
Manny Oteyza .... producer (as Manuel V. Oteyza)
Tim Zimmermann .... associate producer
Original Music by
Jeff Beal 
Cinematography by
Jonathan Ingalls 
Chris Towey  (as Christopher Towey)
Film Editing by
Eli B. Despres  (as Eli Despres)
Gabriela Cowperthwaite (uncredited)
Production Management
David A. Davidson .... post-production supervisor
Sim T. Davidson .... post-production producer
Manny Oteyza .... unit production manager (as Manuel V. Oteyza)
Art Department
Syd Garon .... graphics
Sound Department
Shawn Coffman .... additional sound recordist
Jonathan Ingalls .... additional sound recordist
Henry Moyerman .... assistant sound editor
Craig Plachy .... sound re-recording mixer
Jeff Stone .... location sound
Vince Tennant .... sound supervisor
John Warrin .... sound effects editor (as John Warren)
C.J. Carpenter .... dialogue editor (uncredited)
John Warrin .... sound designer (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Angela Bernardoni .... additional camera: San Juan Island
Redd Claiborne .... additional camera: Atlanta
Sara Hoff .... additional camera: Orlando
Zoe Morrison .... still photographer
Xavier Ramirez .... archive footage
Animation Department
Gary Breslin .... animation creative director: ODD-NY
Tim Case .... animation executive producer: ODD-NY
Charles V. Salice .... animation executive producer: ODD-NY
Matthew Turke .... animation head of production: ODD-NY
Editorial Department
Elisa Bonora .... additional editing
David A. Davidson .... colorist
David A. Davidson .... on-line editor
Andrew Jewell .... assistant on-line editor
Matthaeus Szumanski .... assistant editor
Yasu Tsuji .... assistant on-line editor
Chad Wilson .... assistant on-line editor
Music Department
Alisha Bauer .... musician: cello
Jeff Beal .... conductor
Jeff Beal .... music producer
Jeff Beal .... musician: bass
Jeff Beal .... musician: piano, trumpet
Chris Bleth .... musician: woodwinds (as Chris Bieth)
Briana Brandy .... musician: viola
Jennifer Choi-Fisher .... musician: violin
Samuel Fischer .... musician: violin (as Sam Fischer)
Larry Greenfield .... musician: violin
Thomas Harte .... musician: bass (as Tom Harte)
Cheryl Kim .... musician: violin
Songa Lee .... musician: violin
Jason Lippman .... musician: cello
David Low .... musician: cello
Luke Maurer .... musician: viola
David Mergen .... musician: cello
Neli Nikolaeva .... musician: violin
Grace Oh .... musician: violin
Aaron Oltman .... musician: viola
Jeff Richman .... musician: guitar
Mark Robertson .... musician: violin
Rodney Wirtz .... musician: viola
David Low .... orchestra contractor (uncredited)
Mark Robertson .... concertmaster (uncredited)
Christopher Ward .... composer: additional music (uncredited)
Other crew
Dan Braun .... distribution advisor: Submarine Entertainment
Josh Braun .... distribution advisor: Submarine Entertainment
Lisa Callif .... clearance counsel
Dean R. Cheley .... clearance counsel
Shawn Coffman .... production assistant
Syd Garon .... title designer
Martin Guigui .... financing consultant
John Martin .... legal counsel
Luis Romero .... poster/web designer
Christine Towey .... production assistant
Dahlia Waingort .... financing consultant
Jordan Waltz .... researcher/archivalist
Deborah Frogameni .... special thanks
Colleen Gorman .... special thanks
Robert Messinger .... special thanks
Lara Pozzatto .... special thanks
Nancy Slokker .... special thanks
Jan Van Twillert .... special thanks

Production CompaniesDistributorsSpecial EffectsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing and violent images
83 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.78 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Jurassic World director Colin Treverrow told Empire Magazine that Blackfish was a big influence on the movie. The behaviour of the captive Indominus Rex, was based on Tilikum's behaviour in captivity.See more »
Himself - Orca Researcher:There is no record of an orca doing any harm to a human in the wild.See more »
Movie Connections:
Features Orca (1977)See more »


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53 out of 61 people found the following review useful.
Nice orca; let's torture it. Murder mystery with SeaWorld as villain and you as willing accomplice., 22 August 2013
Author: TheSquiss

In February 2010, reports of the accidental death of a killer whale trainer, Dawn Brancheau, at SeaWorld, Orlando featured in newspapers and TV bulletins across the globe. How could such a tragedy occur? What on earth was Brancheau thinking? How could she make such a silly mistake? Then the story changed and it appeared this very experienced trainer was attacked by the orca, Tilikum. Shockwaves rippled. What? A gentle giant killed a human that cared for it? Suddenly killer whales lived up to their fearsome moniker and became the villains of the moment.

Then the story changed again and the truth began to emerge…

Blackfish is a startling documentary from Gabriela Cowperthwaite that investigates the reality behind the sparkling waters and bright lights of the SeaWorld parks, not that they are alone in their mistreatment of these startling, intelligent, beautiful creatures. She trawls through the archives to reveal that Brancheau's death was neither a freak accident nor an isolated attack from a vicious animal, but just one of many examples since humans decided it was acceptable to kidnap young orcas for the pleasure and pockets of humans. Kidnap? Is such a strong word appropriate? Watch Blackfish, listen to the mother make "sounds we've never heard an orca make before" in a harrowing display of grief and then decide.

Watching Blackfish and still choosing to visit SeaWorld or another such aquatic zoo is surely on the same level as taking your kids to McDonalds even though you know you're poisoning them. If I were reviewing the subject of Blackfish, like 2009's powerfully distressing The Cove, it would surely warrant a perfect score. Upon the evidence here, even if you've chosen not to see the truth of our actions in the past, there's no contest. It's wrong, it's unacceptable, it's a despicable thing we do when we steal these creatures from their oceans and trap them in tiny prisons. But the review is not for the subject matter but for the manner in which it is presented to us.

Blackfish isn't perfect. It doesn't have quite the same profound, lasting impact as The Cove. Perhaps that is, in part, down to the lack of shocking imagery. The footage of orcas bleeding copiously into their pools, having been attacked by other killer whales, is sickening but because it is on a smaller scale than the mass slaughter of dolphins that dyed the cove scarlet there is a risk the impact will be reduced. It shouldn't be, it mustn't be, but… We shouldn't need to see it to believe it, but we've become a far more visually inspired breed in recent years.

More than that, Blackfish doesn't give a lot of time to the other side of the story. I'm intrigued to know quite how SeaWorld could possibly defend its actions but, as they declined to be interviewed, this is a very one-sided documentary. I can't help thinking this imperative cause would be even more compelling if we could hear the excuses.

Another unexplained mystery is how Cowperthwaite obtained the footage she has of SeaWorld. Presumably they didn't give it to her willingly. But these are minor quibbles with a documentary that is as sickening as it is compelling. Interviews with apologetic, horrified former SeaWorld trainers and tear-streaked 'kidnappers' impart the information we need to educate, inform, convince or perhaps even convert us.

First, Cowperthwaite teaches us about the orcas: Their brains are superior to ours in certain aspects; their emotional attachment far exceeds ours, with offspring remaining with their mother long into adulthood; each family group (or pod) has it's own culture and 'language' for communication.

She then counters that with the lies perpetuated by the SeaWorld staff that we choose to believe: Orcas live longer, up to 35 years, in captivity due to the care available – actually, in the wild, it's up to 50 for males and can be closer to a hundred for the females.

Male dorsal fin collapse is normal – absolutely, it's 100% in captivity. However, in their natural environment it occurs approximately 1% of the time.

Killer whales enjoy performing the tricks in tiny pools for us – um…

As more and more evidence of orca psychosis brought on by cruelty and captivity unfolds, Blackfish becomes increasingly difficult to watch. The sight of peeling paint in a tiny, floating warehouse into which the orcas are herded every night is saddening. Hearing that they are punished for not performing perfectly is horrifying. Watching them bleed, observing them rock in grief or cry out to their stolen offspring is heartbreaking.

The message throughout Blackfish is that faceless managers steal killer whales (along with dolphins and countless other creatures) from their natural habitats, subject them to abuse and solitary confinement in woefully cramped enclosures so that we can pay to watch them perform unnatural tricks for our cameras, and so the owners can watch their bank accounts swell. The message is, it isn't about entertainment or protection of a species, it's about money.

But what stamps the reality more indelibly than anything that comes before it, is the comment from one of the former trainers in the final scene. As they sail through the ocean, watching a pod of killer whales free and at peace in their natural environment, he comments, "We saw orcas swimming in straight lines with straight dorsal fins... it was an honour."

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Discuss this movie with other users on IMDb message board for Blackfish (2013)
Recent Posts (updated daily)User
you guys make me sick hapathy
Where's the incentive for sea world? geoffmasterplan
Nadine Kallen - Why is she smiling at the whole time???? molylepke
Just watched this for the first time and malakiman_sam
What's Seaworld's Excuse for Dawn's Death? lana-otoya
Is Tilikum still alive? iwillservemypeople
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