A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Positive MessagesThe movie essentially calls for an end to aquatic theme parks and for freedom for whales. Even though the parks give people a chance to see these magnificent whales close up, the treatment of the whales is not worth it. It makes an argument about the whales being miserable and tortured while in confinement, and that this misery leads to outright danger for humans. It also argues that the park owners do their best to hide all this information from both the public and from employees, with the goal of keeping the parks open and making money.
Positive Role ModelsIt could be argued that simply showing up and being interviewed for this documentary makes these people heroes. Many of them admit to having been fooled or misled while working at SeaWorld, and they're now willing to set the record straight. Their motivations seem to stem mainly from care and concern for Tilikum and the other whales.
Violence & ScarinessFirst, there's the whale-on-whale violence. Female whales are described as "raking" Tilikum, and the various, horrible teeth marks -- and a shot of profuse bleeding -- are shown. Then, there's the footage of humans being harmed by whales, either grabbed and dragged underwater or bitten. Overall, events are more described than shown, but there is a generous amount of (real) blood shown, as well as some fairly disturbing video footage of attacks in progress. There are harrowing, verbal descriptions of dead whales and swallowed human body parts.
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Sex, Romance & NudityNo human sex, but there's a frank discussion about the breeding of the whales, including mentions of sperm as well as a shot of trainers extracting the sperm from what could be a whale penis.
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LanguageThere is one use of the word "s--t" (as in "scared s--tless"), as well as uses of "damn," "hell," "oh, God," and "butt." One character uses the humorous phrase "whole fam damily" (a play on "whole damn family").
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Products & PurchasesSeaWorld is mentioned by name, and some television ads are shown. The movie mentions the selling of tickets as well as stuffed toy whales, and there's a shot of a young girl cuddling her new stuffed toy. By no means is this film an ad for SeaWorld, however; rather, it tries to keep people away.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Blackfish is a documentary about captive whales that perform at theme parks and sometimes attack and kill humans. The movie claims that whales in the wild are generally peaceful, intelligent, and emotional creatures and that their treatment at the hands of corporate theme parks possibly created anxiety and frustration that led to the attacks. It contains some disturbing imagery, including wounded whales, some real blood (from both whales and humans), and video footage of actual attacks. More violence is verbally described but not shown. There is frank discussion of the breeding of whales, including a shot of what could be a whale's penis. The movie contains some occasional strong language, including one use of "s--t" and some uses of "damn" and "hell." SeaWorld ads are shown, and some of their products (stuffed toys whales) are shown. It's not for young kids, and it can be disturbing, but this is a powerful, effective documentary for teens and up. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite packs an incredible amount of information and emotion into the 83-minute documentary. It's probably just as well that SeaWorld representatives declined to be interviewed. As it is, her message comes across clearly and without anger. She does interview several former employees, who seem mortified about having believed the company line and saddened that they took part in this particular treatment of Tilikum and other whales.
We learn about how whales in the wild have never been known to attack humans and how -- despite SeaWorld's claims -- they live much longer there than in captivity. We learn that the whales are extraordinarily intelligent and emotional creatures and how their attacks are possibly based more on frustration than aggression. Overall, Blackfish is brutal -- it shows several attacks and wounds -- and heartbreaking; it conjures up great sympathy for these magnificent, mysterious creatures. You'll never see a whale the same way again.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.