From Free Willy to Blackfish: How a movie taught me to love animals and how a documentary taught me to save them

When I was younger I would watch the movie Free Willy over and over again. I loved the relationship the little boy, Jesse (Jason James Richter) had with Willy, the killer whale. At the time, I didn’t understand why the owners of the aquarium wanted or needed to kill Willy, but I know I was glad Jesse wanted to save him. Being young and watching movies, you tend to think it is all real. And man did it look like fun riding a whale! I thought having a whale as a best friend would be the greatest thing on Earth and I wanted to be a kid trainer at the aquarium just like Jesse. It wasn’t until I got older that I got a glimpse of the sad side of animal captivity, and not until now after watching Blackfish, a documentary on orca captivity in SeaWorld, am I highly against it. The amount of times that I’ve seen Free Willy, and I never thought that it had a hidden meaning within the film.

Saying that I am against it because I saw this documentary isn’t completely true, but I do believe that it has made me realise I don’t support animal captivity anywhere. I remember when I was a young teenager I went to the circus. I was excited and looking really forward to it, I had never been before and only knew what I had seen in movies, which seemed like they always had the time of their lives. So the day came, and I’m eager to see the show. I sat down and got my popcorn ready, patiently waiting. It started with the Ring Master introducing himself and giving a few jokes. He then brought out the animals; two lions, a couple of horses, a pony, and a dog. There was also some tricks and acts made by acrobatics throughout the show. It was very underwhelming. The acrobatics are great and all but the show in itself wasn’t that fun or entertaining, I mostly felt sorry for the animals. They looked sad and in turn made me sad. But I was a very naive person then and I didn’t think much of it after that day. So I think from past experiences until now, I understand more on animal rights and captivity.

Although there are many doubts about the accuracy of Blackfish e.g. the debate of bias opinion, anthropomorphising orcas (to humanise the animal), and other minor flaws like the amount of variety of interviewees, Blackfish raises awareness that we need to look after captive animals and their conditions, not only for honouring animals rights but as humans with righteous morals. These animals have been found in the wild, we have taken them without their consent and trained them to do tricks for public entertainment. It’s hard not to sound bias towards animal rights, but I can’t see another way to even explain from SeaWorld’s view.

The great thing about media however, is that with enough attention, anything can happen. The success of Blackfish led to a recent action made by SeaWorld to stop orca breeding as the pressure from animal rights campaigns got too much. Although some believe this isn’t enough to be done, it’s a start.

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Useful Links:

You can sign up for Netflix if you don’t already have an account (first month free, $9.95 min every month after) and watch Blackfish on any device. See here:

You can find the official site of Blackfish and more information at

The Blackfish trailer:


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