Free Willy 3: The Rescue

For devoted -- and young -- Willy fans only.
  • Review Date: March 3, 2005
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 86 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Whale savior Jesse pointedly steals his employer's boat ... but it's for yet another heroic mission.

Violence & scariness

Threatened whale harpoonings. One (human) barroom brawl.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drunkenness among the adults.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this third film in the series has a slower, more deliberate pace (and a shorter running time) and a bedtime-story feel to this nature-loving sequel. That's good, since the audience for this sequel to the popular original aimed this film at 5- and 6-year-olds. Most older kids will find the eco-lessons labored andsimplistic. This film touts animal rights and vegetarianism. Some kids may want to become vegetarians after watching this film. On that note, a little boy faces down his fisherman/whaler father about the morality of Dad's occupation. Parents should decide how they want to present animal-rights issues to their children before acquiring this video.


Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Whale poachers are at large in the second Free Willysequel, and Willy the Wonder Orca and boy hero Jesse must change the minds of harpoon-happy humans. FREE WILLY 3: THE RESCUE follows Jesse (Jason James Richter) as he helps with a whale research expedition. Jesse meets young Max (Vincent Berry), who tells him that he's learned that his dad's salmon fishing crew is really hunting killer whales. As in the other two films, Jesse sets out to save the whales and stop those who would harm them.

Is it any good?


It's no fluke: as with the last two films in this series, there are painless rivulets of whale (and whaler) trivia streaming through the plot. Environmentalism also continues to be an issue. This is the most lyrical and pretty-looking of the Willy adventures. Free Willy 3: The Rescue is also the most brazen in pushing its animal-rights agenda on impressionable viewers. Parents should decide how they want to present animal-rights issues to their children before acquiring this video.

There is some balance, however. The marauding whaleboat crew are not demonized as kill-crazy monsters, but proud men carrying on a long heritage. Given the tone of these movies, that's as even-handed as you can get, even with the cliched finale in which Willy's good deeds raise the issue of whale sainthood. Not even fearsome spearguns and a heated saloon fight (between the whalers and Jesse's old pal Randolph) can boil a mist of niceness off the material. This softness will work better for the under 12s. Older viewers may yearn for a bit more edge.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what parents do for a living and how that interacts with their beliefs. What types of jobs encourage social change? What do kids want to do when they grow up?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 24, 2005
DVD release date:January 28, 2003
Cast:August Schellenberg, Jason James Richter, Patrick Kilpatrick
Director:Sam Pillsbury
Studio:Warner Bros.
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Ocean creatures, Wild animals
Run time:86 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements involving whale hunting, and for brief mild language

This review of Free Willy 3: The Rescue was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 12 years old January 22, 2012
age 7+

Great movie!!

Free Willy three is a must see if you enjoy the others. There is a lot of attempted whale harpooning that may be sas and startling to younger viewers and a little bit of drinking among the adults; this movie is still a great family pick!
Teen, 15 years old Written byhomealonefan123 December 19, 2011
age 9+

great messages and ungreat messages. but unforgettable movie for the whole family

this movie is good. a little less entertaining than "Free Willy" 1& 2. but still a good hearted family movie. there is both good and bad messages. the good messages are about courage, respect and love. the bad messages are about whale hunting. it is spoiling the animal kingdom. the other good message is about preventing whale hunting and enjoy nature the way it is. this is a movie for all ages. perfect for the whole family.
Kid, 10 years old June 29, 2009
age 2+
I love this
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass