Blackfish: A Movie Review

Has anyone else ever watched a movie while taking a bath?

…Sometimes I do that. In fact, over thanksgiving break, I set up my computer next to a relaxing bubble bath so I could unwind while watching a documentary that had been highly recommend by a friend. However, as soon as I was settled in the hot water with the right amount of bubbles, the movie began to play and I realized I’d made a huge mistake.

Blackfish, a new and popular documentary, is about the mistreatment of killer whales in sea world.

As the movie progressed, I began to feel very uncomfortable watching from my (suddenly confining) bathtub.


Although I do not recommend watching Blackfish while taking a bath, I do recommend it in any other setting. It did exactly what a documentary should do: bring an alarming problem to my attention that I otherwise would not have known about, and inform me of the situation in detail.

Blackfish begins by chronicling the history of killer whales in captivity, focusing on the whale Tilikum, and accumulates to the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. Dawn was pulled under by Tilikum and killed in 2010: after watching the movie it becomes clear that the treatment of the whale up to that point was likely to have been the cause of his fatal aggression.

Animals are more like us than we know, and we often forget that. The documentary does an amazing job of explaining just how empathetic killer whales are, bringing in scientific research to back up their points. I’ll leave it to you to watch the film to find out about all the facts and figures supporting this, but I’ll tell you they do a terrific job and you will be convinced that the whales are truly suffering in their environment (as I was).

Not only does it explain why the whales are suffering, the majority of the film is about the violent behavior that results from this. In fact, the documentary does less of a job convincing the audience that the whales are empathetic creatures as it does laying out evidence for how their entrapment has led to injury and death for trainers, as well as injury to the whales themselves. Even with the mistreatment of whales put aside, something needs to be done about the situation if people and animals are being hurt. Although Dawn Brancheau’s death was the most publicized, there were many other injuries and deaths of trainers that were shockingly kept under the radar.

SeaWorld has had to do some serious PR work following the documentary. In their defense, SeaWorld does philanthropic work saving beached whales, some of which are killer whales. They refute the idea the whales are not cared for enough, and insist they receive high quality treatment. They released a statement you can read about “here.” 

Watching this documentary and learning about just how intelligent these giant animals are, it now just seems so silly that humans even thought for a second we could keep them in tanks, away from their social units, force them to perform tricks, and expect them to be happy, or even content for that matter.