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Blackfish (2013)

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A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales.


Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Eli B. Despres (as Eli Despres) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 6 wins & 38 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tilikum ... Himself (archive footage)
John Hargrove John Hargrove ... Himself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
Samantha Berg ... Herself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
Mark Simmons Mark Simmons ... Himself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
Kim Ashdown Kim Ashdown ... Herself
Dean Gomersall Dean Gomersall ... Himself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
James Earl Jones ... Himself (archive footage)
Shamu Shamu ... Himself (archive footage)
Carol Ray Carol Ray ... Herself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
John Jett John Jett ... Himself - Fomer SeaWorld Trainer
Dawn Brancheau Dawn Brancheau ... Herself - SeaWorld Trainer (archive footage)
Jeffrey Ventre Jeffrey Ventre ... Himself - Former SeaWorld Trainer
Thomas Tobin Thomas Tobin ... Himself
Dave Duffus ... Himself - OSHA Expert Witness, Whale Researcher
Jim Payne Jim Payne ... Himself (archive footage)


Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Never capture what you can't control. See more »


Documentary | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing and violent images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | Spanish

Release Date:

18 October 2013 (Iceland) See more »

Also Known As:

Blackfish - Egy kardszárnyú delfin története See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$75,962, 21 July 2013, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,063,312, 13 October 2013
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Manny O Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In March 2016, Seaworld announced that Tilikum had contracted a fatal and incurable form of lung bacteria at 35 years old. He was captured at 2 years of age. See more »


Whoopi Goldberg: We don't speak Whale.
See more »


Features The View (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

More a polemic than documentary at times, but it is effective as such
8 June 2014 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

I had heard about this film long before I got to seeing it; there are a couple of very liberal media outlets that I use and this film was very much promoted on them – so I had heard good things but was conscious that it was maybe from an easy audience sector. Anyway, I knew enough about it to be pretty sure that we wouldn't be hearing much from Seaworld in the film itself and indeed at the end it is confirmed that they refused to be interviewed for this film. Many have pointed out that this makes the film rather one-sided, but personally I do not think that having an official Seaworld presence in the film would have made much of a difference to that and to be honest it is probably for the best that they didn't get involved.

I say this because, although it is not too unfair or aggressive, the film really is a polemic rather a passive documentary; the case is made in a systematic and effective fashion, building the case and it does it in a way that is really hard to not be affected by. The film is at its best when it is as much of a documentary as it can be – so informing the viewer of the nature of orca whales in the wild, their community and their connections, because this then informs us about the actions taken to separate families from one another – and like the massive butch guy who can barely talk about doing it, it is hard not to be really moved by the idea and the reality. Other such contrasts are well done, such as the statements on lifespan etc, however the film doesn't always do it as well.

Relating to the older actions (and the illegal ones in particular), the film is a bit unfair to present these next to a silent Seaworld – I know they are not involved but it would have been nice to hear the film confirm if they had ever admitted wrong doing etc. Just mentioning it and moving on makes it look like it was gotten away with, never addressed looking back etc. The interviews with the ex-trainers are all pretty engaging and emotive but there is a lot of personal statement and issues-driven passion in there; this is fine but it means the film has to do a bit to make sure it remains a documentary – I think it could have done more in that regard.

These are flaws in the film as a documentary but even with these it is hard to really take the subject and conclusions to issue. It builds its case well, presenting the base of cruelty and the impact to trainers and animals of the Seaworld shows. It does push too far to one side and it doesn't really give you food for thought so much as conclusions, but it is an impacting film and it is hard for me to really take issue with what it is saying even if I had reservations over how it says it.

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