Metascore
83

Universal acclaim - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 33
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 33
  3. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Aug 15, 2013
    100
    Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite creates a fascinating character study of Tilikum, part of a revered species without a single confirmed kill of a human in the wild. Captivity is where Blackfish's evidence continually points the blame for Tilikum's deadly behavior.
  2. Reviewed by: David Lewis
    Jul 25, 2013
    100
    For the most part, Cowperthwaite keeps the preachiness in check, letting the scientists, former SeaWorld trainers and other witnesses tell it as it is. Indeed, the scary training scenes - uniformly gripping - do most of the talking.
  3. 100
    It’s true that the number of whales in captivity isn’t huge. But they’ve now become the mightiest symbols of our cultural hubris — of our inability to manage creatures we have the power to capture and imprison. It’s a metaphor for the ages.
  4. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Jul 18, 2013
    100
    An extraordinary, must-see examination of what humans do to killer whales so that these amazing creatures can become one more entertainment.
  5. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Jun 4, 2013
    100
    Righteous, captivating and entirely successful as single-issue-focused documentaries go, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film draws on startling video footage and testimonies from former orca trainers, building an authoritative argument on behalf of this majestic species.
  6. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Jun 4, 2013
    91
    The movie makes a strong case against the captivity of killer whales under sub-circus conditions, but the stance is made even more horrifying because so little has changed in the history of the organization. Blackfish is less balanced investigation than full-on takedown of a broken system.
  7. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Jul 21, 2013
    90
    Cowperthwaite builds a portrait of an intelligent but profoundly traumatized animal who was taken from his family in the North Atlantic as an infant, and has been driven to anger, resentment and perhaps psychosis after spending his life in a series of concrete swimming pools.
  8. Reviewed by: Jeannette Catsoulis
    Jul 18, 2013
    90
    Unapologetically designed both to inform and affect, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s delicately lacerating documentary, Blackfish, uses the tragic tale of a single whale and his human victims as the backbone of a hypercritical investigation into the marine-park giant SeaWorld Entertainment.
  9. Reviewed by: Alan Scherstuhl
    Jul 16, 2013
    90
    The movie is revealing, wrenching, and important, a reminder that what feels wrong in our gut—the effort to turn free-roaming and unknowable beasts into caged vaudevillians—is always worth investigating.
  10. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Jun 4, 2013
    90
    Focusing on the notoriously aggressive orca Tilikum, this gripping film presents a persuasive case against keeping the species – and by extension any wild animal – in captivity for the purposes of human entertainment.
  11. Reviewed by: Janice Page
    Jul 31, 2013
    88
    What’s on camera is both damning and expertly assembled, a filmmaking effort worthy of standing with 2009’s Oscar-winning documentary about dolphin abuse, “The Cove.”
  12. Reviewed by: Michael O'Sullivan
    Jul 26, 2013
    88
    It’s upsetting and scary to watch the footage of orca attacks collected in Blackfish, a damning documentary about the treatment of the animals by marine parks.
  13. Reviewed by: Tirdad Derakhshani
    Jul 25, 2013
    88
    Very few of us would like to think about the physical and emotional toll that life in captivity takes on these magnificent creatures. Gabriela Cowperthwaite's powerful, heartbreaking, and beautifully crafted documentary, Blackfish, forces us to do just that.
  14. 88
    This is as thorough a take-down of a business and its practices as you’re likely to ever see.
  15. Reviewed by: Kimber Myers
    Jul 16, 2013
    83
    It succeeds not just because of the gripping footage and troubling stories of the spectators and trainers close to the incidents, but also because it consults experts in the field who offer insights into killer whales’ biology and psychology.
  16. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Aug 8, 2013
    80
    Blackfish is a disturbing movie, one that will make you rethink parks like SeaWorld and their value.
  17. Reviewed by: Jenny McCartney
    Aug 3, 2013
    80
    As an indictment of the industry, this is strong stuff.
  18. Reviewed by: David Parkinson
    Jul 22, 2013
    80
    Impassioned and disturbing, this documentary matches "The Cove" for marrying cool intellect with real fire.
  19. Reviewed by: Kevin Harley
    Jul 19, 2013
    80
    Like a more obvious underwater twist on Herzog’s "Grizzly Man," Blackfish presents a persuasive, passionate argument: wild nature’s right to freedom demands respect, cock and all.
  20. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Jul 18, 2013
    80
    More persuasively still, Blackfish — an Indian name for orcas — argues against the very concept of quasiamusement parks like SeaWorld that turn giant creatures meant for the wild into hemmed-in, penned-up entertainers.
  21. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Jul 16, 2013
    80
    Blackfish, a troubling exposé of Sea World’s hazardous entertainment trade, does much to restore a realistic sense of danger, interviewing former park workers who detail their shoddy, nonscientific training, and chronicling the much-suppressed history of whale-on-human violence.
  22. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Aug 1, 2013
    75
    Today, 54 percent of Sea World’s whales have Tilikum’s genes, which is a terrifying thought.
  23. Reviewed by: Bill Stamets
    Jul 26, 2013
    75
    Dispiriting as Blackfish is at times, it offers beautiful advocacy for orca freedom. Anecdotes and data indicate these mammals are highly sensitive and social. Treating them as we do for our entertainment and profit is unconscionable.
  24. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Jul 25, 2013
    75
    The film may be depressing. But even with a terrible, watery musical score, it's also good.
  25. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jul 19, 2013
    75
    One glaring question the film doesn’t raise: Why, given his history, is Tilikum still entertaining in sea parks?
  26. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Jul 19, 2013
    75
    Forget "The Conjuring," Blackfish may be the scariest movie around.
  27. Reviewed by: Bill Weber
    Jul 13, 2013
    75
    The Frankensteinian rebellion of orcas against their corporate captors turns this doc into a sort of showbiz horror film.
  28. Reviewed by: Tomas Hachard
    Jul 19, 2013
    70
    The film, it should be said, does not blame Tilikum for his actions. It posits instead that, like a disenfranchised youth driven to a life of crime, Tilikum is a product of his upbringing.
  29. Reviewed by: Tasha Robinson
    Jul 17, 2013
    70
    Taken as a whole, Blackfish does an admirable job of preaching without force-feeding, seamlessly blending opinion with reportage, and addressing its central issues from enough angles to make a series of end-runs around dubious viewers.
  30. Reviewed by: Gary Goldstein
    Jul 17, 2013
    70
    Blackfish, named after the Native American term for orcas, remains decidedly one-sided. But when that "side" is such a vital, convincing proponent for the greater protection and understanding of such evolved and majestic creatures, it can't help but win.
User Score
8.4

Universal acclaim- based on 70 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 14
  2. Negative: 1 out of 14
  1. Jul 20, 2013
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. excellent documentary exposing the harsh brutality of SeaWorld who ruthlessly abuses Orcas and hides what they are doing to the public. Reveals how SeaWorld negligently exposes naive trainers to fatally dangerous situations in which several young trainers have lost their lives. Full Review »
  2. Jan 4, 2014
    9
    An effective piece of filmmaking. I now want to do something to help these beautiful giants. There's so much disturbing evidence displayed here to show the cruelty inflicted on these creatures, as well as a real understanding of the orca's emotional intellect and sense of family, that you can't walk away from this and not be affected. Which is what all good documentaries are supposed to do. Well done. Full Review »
  3. Dec 31, 2013
    8
    This is a devastating look at how these Killer Whales are treated. This was a difficult watch with many tears shed for these majestic creatures. I know this has affected Sea World's business and rightfully so. A- Full Review »