Dolphin Reef

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Dolphin Reef Movie Poster Image
Entertaining, educational nature docu has some peril.
  • G
  • 2020
  • 75 minutes

Parents say

age 4+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Viewers learn about characteristics and behaviors of range of creatures and plant life in and around coral reef of Polynesia. Narrator helps explain their attributes and habits, each creature's role in preserving the ecosystem, their relationships to each other. The species are mutually dependent, also rely on humans to help conserve their natural environment.

Positive Messages

Dolphins are said to be very similar to humans in some ways, including their loyalty, physical closeness, and dedication to their families. Relationship between "mother and calf" is said to be one of strongest bonds in nature. Sea creatures like dolphins and whales rely on extended families for comfort, safety, survival. Teamwork and collaboration are key to survival.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Adult dolphins and whales protect their young, teach them skills they'll need to escape predators and corral food. Pods protect each other. Every creature has a role to play, however small, in maintaining balanced and complex ecosystem.

Violence & Scariness

The ocean has a clear food chain; animals are both predator and prey. Several creatures are caught or eaten during film. Dolphin pod is attacked; youngster Echo gets lost for the night, wandering into a dangerous underwater canyon. Humpback whale and her calf are surrounded, chased by predator orcas; they're only saved when other whales come to their defense.

Sexy Stuff

Mention of "poop."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the educational documentary Dolphin Reef is about much more than just dolphins. Viewers will learn about the entire ecosystem of the Polynesian coral reef and the traits and behaviors of many of its creatures. A dolphin mother and her calf are the stars, and their tender relationship is both heartwarming and enlightening. A sequence in which the calf gets separated from his mother and pod and is lost for the night, facing dangers on his own, could potentially upset some viewers. Likewise, a scene in which a humpback whale mother and calf must escape a group of predator orcas is set to tense music. Narrator Natalie Portman explains the idiosyncrasies and beauty of this underwater cast of characters, reminding viewers at the end that "their world is our world."


User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byhotcigar November 26, 2020


I was floored by the narration in this documentary. It was original and kept kids engaged with very little lecturing on specific details about the species. Hig... Continue reading
Adult Written byRyan H. May 17, 2020

An excellent documentary for young children.

As long as your child knows that animals eat other animals, this is a perfect documentary for 5 year olds; otherwise, I agree with the recommended age of 6+. It... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMar mbl June 8, 2020
Kid, 8 years old May 17, 2020


It’s educational and perfect for a family movie night. 7 and up for peril but that is just the real world for you. Kids will learn about the ocean and most anim... Continue reading

What's the story?

Echo is a 3-year-old bottlenose dolphin still learning survival skills from his mother, Kumu, in DOLPHIN REEF. She has much to teach him, despite his short attention span: Echo would rather play with the other sea creatures and balance a shell on his rostrum than follow his mother's lessons. But soon he'll learn how important those skills for survival are, especially one stormy night when he's separated from his pod. Echo's world, the Polynesian coral reef, is a deeply interconnected ecosystem where every creature plays a role in its functioning. As Echo grows up, he'll learn his own role and that of others.

Is it any good?

Outside of two key scenes of suspense, this is a remarkably soothing film. Chalk that up to the gentle narration of actress Natalie Portman, or to the sweet mother-calf pairs at the story's heart. Or maybe it's the calming blues of the ocean world complemented by the vivid colors of the coral reef and its inhabitants.

The main gist of the narration is the delicate balance of this underwater world, and captivating footage takes us right up close to witness creatures deep inside the sea and flying high above it for a bird's-eye view of the water's surface. If you've ever wondered how a film like Dolphin Reef gets made, stay for a short series of behind-the-scenes pictures and videos that accompany the closing credits.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how dolphins are similar to humans, as we're told they are in Dolphin Reef.

  • Which underwater creature seemed the most menacing to you, and why?

  • Have you ever had an opportunity to see beneath the ocean with your own eyes? How and what did you see?

  • How did the filmmakers capture the images of so many creatures under and above the water?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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