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83

Universal acclaim - based on 33 Critics What's this?

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8.4

Universal acclaim- based on 87 Ratings

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  • Starring: , , ,
  • Summary: While in captivity, Tilikum, a performing killer whale, has been responsible for the deaths of three people, including a top orca trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of capturing and confining such intelligent and sentient creatures.
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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: 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Reviewed by: Jenny McCartney
    Aug 3, 2013
    80
    As an indictment of the industry, this is strong stuff.
  6. 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?
  7. Reviewed by: Geoff Pevere
    Jul 18, 2013
    63
    As more than one orca expert points out in the film, when you take a creature born to roam thousands of miles of open water and stick it in a pool to do tricks, there’s going to be some behavioural blowback. In Tilikum’s case, it’s actually described as a form of induced “psychosis.”

See all 33 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 17
  2. Negative: 1 out of 17
  1. Jul 20, 2013
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand 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. Expand
  2. Jun 19, 2015
    10
    Whether through brilliant editing and brilliant subject selection or through genuine portrayal, the trainers come off as wholly sympathetic.Whether through brilliant editing and brilliant subject selection or through genuine portrayal, the trainers come off as wholly sympathetic. And it is clear that many of them are distressed over the treatment of the animals in their care and over their own participation in the exploitation of killer whales.

    Seaworld Parks & Entertainment, meanwhile, comes off as devious, ruthless, and wholly unsympathetic. For me the salient points in determining that those running the park are indeed all of the above are the lies they told the public through their trainers.

    First lie: Orcas don't live as long in the wild as they do in captivity. This is a blatant falsehood, the lifespan of orcas in captivity is much shorter than that of orcas in the wild. Only through cunning manipulation of statistics can Seaworld even attempt to assert otherwise. Orcas in the wild have a lifespan similar to humans. In captivity, it's a rare orca that lives to see age 30.

    Even worse is the lie that calves are not separated from their mothers (as told to the public in Seaworld's spin ads after Blackfish released). Calves are indeed separated from their mothers, and when Seaworld denies this, they are using verbal trickery and hoping viewers don't realize that in the wild orcas stay with their mothers all their lives. So when Seaworld says it doesn't separate calves, what it means is, it permits calves to stay with their mothers for a certain number of years before separation. This does not mimic wild behavior. In fact, Seaworld does not even wait until the calves are in their teens to inflict separation, even though orcas don't reach full maturity until then.

    When a trainer expressed her concern over a calf being separated from its mother, she was mocked ruthlessly by a Seaworld exec. The trainers have genuine love and concern for the animals in their care, but the corporate decision makers are infinitely ruthless.

    Furthermore, orcas are not in family groups while in captivity. Orcas from different parts of the globe (with correspondingly different languages and customs) are forced together in ways that would never take place in the wild. And because of the close quarters, all orcas are forced into unnatural acts of aggression, since a dominant member cannot chase away a rival because there is no open ocean for the rival to flee to.

    Finally, it is evident from the documentary that, while the trainers were dedicated and to some extent well-trained, they were not always made aware of the dangerous nature of their employment. Attacks were explained away as trainer error or non-aggressive behavior, and the danger presented by Tilikum in particular was not fully revealed to his trainers, though it was clearly known to the higher ups.

    I grew up in Orlando, and I have many happy Seaworld memories, but I'm convinced by Blackfish: Orcas don't belong in captivity.
    Expand
  3. Jan 2, 2014
    9
    People need to understand that these animals have a natural instict and they are very powerful as well. They are the rival of the great whitePeople need to understand that these animals have a natural instict and they are very powerful as well. They are the rival of the great white for god sake.
    Evidence 10/10
    People/witnesses 9/10
    Proof 10/10
    back-story 9/10
    footage 10/10
    overall 9.5/10
    Sea World I built off of lies and stupidity for even thinking they could actually try to tame something that is suppose to be roaming the oceans.
    Collapse
  4. 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 majesticThis 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- Expand
  5. Dec 23, 2013
    7
    To be honest, this documentary proved to be much more political than what the brief summaries provided on the streaming website let on (ITo be honest, this documentary proved to be much more political than what the brief summaries provided on the streaming website let on (I watched this on Netflix), so a word of caution to those who thought it was simply another nature documentary. It's pretty narrow in terms of opinions provided on the subject, providing very little counterargument, but is informative and no less eyeopening to what goes on in the blackfish-based theme parks. You don't need to be a die hard animal rights activist to sympathize with the cases presented in the film. I work at a wildlife rehabilitation center, and it's sad to say the killer whales aren't just an isolated case; we can apply the same troubles to just about any other facility that handles wild animals and other exotic species that were never meant to be put behind plexiglass and bars. While the argument it tries to make has its merits, it comes off a tad idealistic with unrealistic solutions to a greed-riddled world. Expand
  6. Sep 2, 2014
    7
    An insightful look into the disturbing treatment of whales and sea-life at SeaWorld over the past thirty years. We are captivating and easilyAn insightful look into the disturbing treatment of whales and sea-life at SeaWorld over the past thirty years. We are captivating and easily feel the cruelty inflicted on innocent animals. Expand
  7. Dec 13, 2013
    0
    This film was a huge disappointment. It lacked a clear focus and was not at all what it claimed to be. This seems more like a sideways attemptThis film was a huge disappointment. It lacked a clear focus and was not at all what it claimed to be. This seems more like a sideways attempt to sling mud at SeaWorld in a circumferential manner, though it seems this claim may have some merit (there seems to have been some deliberate or negligent mismanagement). This film is nothing like the great Planet Earth series.

    I would not recommend you watch this film.
    Expand

See all 17 User Reviews

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