The reason this film is so moving is because it is about freedom. We all value freedom and the human spirit longs to be free. Animals are born to run free, on the earth or in the sea. The thought of trapping a whale in a tank just large enough for dolphins seems rather cruel. So, we cheer on, as a 12-year-old spunky street kid makes freeing this beautiful Orca whale possible.
Jesse is the star of this movie and is at first a troubled kid who keeps thinking his mother will come back to take him home. Willy is the whale who was also taken from his family, so the two find common ground. When Willy saves Jesse's life, they form a bond of friendship and Jesse is the only one who can train the whale. The owner of the Pacific Northwest Aquatic Park plots to get insurance money by destroying the tank and when Jesse hears of the plans he has to race against time to save his friend.
The scenes of the Pacific Northwest are spectacular and the whales playfully dancing in the water is a pure display of joy. These are truly on of God's most magnificent creations. Keiko, a 7,000-pound Orca is the whale star, but they also have back-up from a full-sized "animatronic" whale. I could not tell the difference between the whales, it was that good.
One of the best parts of the film is when Jesse spends his pocket money to buy the whale his favorite treat, salmon. I just thought that showed Jesse's true character. While he acts tough on the outside, he seems to be fascinated with nature and animals and that brings out his more loving side.
Throughout the movie, the theme of family is very important and I think that might be why this film is such a favorite. There is a music video at the beginning of this video and there is also information for children about helping save whales from becoming extinct. Overall, I felt this was a great movie for children and adults and it teaches such great lessons: that we all need a family and that we should respect animals. I was captivated from beginning to end. A wonderful movie for all ages.
~The Rebecca Review
on May 8, 2001
Whales are a source of constant wonderment and awe for millions of people all over the world, which is what makes "Free Willy" such an awesome flick. The movie chronicles the friendship and tribulation of a boy and a 7,000-pound orca whale, instantly winning over our hearts with its family oriented entertainment. The characters are a division of the likeable and the despised, with a story that pits man against nature and proves to be a race for survival.
Jesse is a troubled preteen boy who, after caught by the police for spray-painting graffiti at a waterpark, is taken to live with Glen and Annie Greenwood, who welcome him despite his detached attitude. Forced to clean up the mess he's made, he soon finds himself fascinated by the mere presence of the park's giant orca, Willy, and the two quickly become friends. Jesse is the only one Willy will respond to, which makes the whale's greedy owner ecstatic, as well as surprising the park's owner, Randolph, and the trainer, Ray.
The owner soon makes plans to put Willy in the spotlight, which draws a large and noisy crowd, giving Willy a severe case of stage fright and causing the show to fail. Since Willy brings in no revenue, the owner capitalizes on the fact that Willy is worth $1 million in insurance money, and plots to have him killed. At this point, the movie becomes a race against time as Jesse, Randolph, Ray, Glen and Annie struggle to take Willy back to his natural habitat.
First and foremost, what makes this movie a big success is the animal character, Willy, which, with the exception of scenes in which Jesse comes into actual contact with him, is a real whale named Keiko. The whale performs some amazing stunts that are not new to anyone who's paid a visit to Sea World, but certainly have not lost their luster. Animals can be trained to do lots of things, and the movie proves that no matter how many times you watch some of these stunts, they still prove to be awe-inspiring even later.
I found that it was not so much the stunts the mammal performed that intrigued me as much as it was the increasingly connective bond between Willy and Jesse. Perhaps it is the circumstances which bring them together that is what cements their friendship: in the beginning, Willy is taken from a family of whales out in the ocean, who pay visits to him while he is captive. Jesse is also an orphan, abandoned by his mother as a young boy. Their backgrounds give good reason for their understanding of one another, which is not merely a fable of fiction.
The movie's appeal is furthered through its deeper meanings and themes, which are simple enough for children to understand. Jesse and Willy's friendship tells a powerful message about the bonds and the circumstances that shape them, and the resolve of the characters to save him in the end proves that human strength overcomes any situation, perilous or no. This simplicity will appeal to the younger and older sets without compromising its standards as a family film.
The cast interacts well with one another, and heading up the ensemble is Jason James Richter as Jesse, who plays the troubled teen syndrome to perfection. His change from mischievous to good-natured is convincing because of his friendship with the whale as well as the acting. August Schellenberg plays Randolph, the park owner with an Indian background. Glen is played by Michael Madsen, who plays him as stern and unrelenting in trying times. This provides a bit of angst between he and Jesse, which is interesting to watch. Ray is played by Lori Petty, and Annie is played by Jayne Atkinson, who is gentle and kind in the role.
"Free Willy" is solid family entertainment that delivers a power-punch story for children and adult enjoyment. The whale alone is enough to watch the film for, while the story never fails in delivering one good performance and twist after another. Sit down with everyone and enjoy the ride; it's just a good movie!
on March 5, 2004
Young Jesse -- abandoned by his mother at an early age -- is a troubled kid. His antics keep his social worker and foster family worried and busy. He runs away, begs for spare change, steals food and spray paints graffiti on walls. His foster parents really love and care for him but Jesse resists them, believing that his mother will someday return.
Jesse's life takes a turn for the better when he encounters Willy, a giant orca, at a marine park nearby. Jesse's fascination with the whale leads to an emotional bond based, at least in part, on their similar circumstances. Willy misses his mother and, like Jesse, tends to 'act out' once in a while.
I saw "Free Willy" in 1993 when it was released in theatres. I remembered agreeing with the critics who praised it as great family entertainment and I'm happy to say that the film remains very effective today.
My niece (age 8) was thoroughly entertained by this movie but the younger children in the group were alienated by the somewhat advanced, dramatic themes of abandonment, responsibility and love. For what it's worth, I enjoyed the film immensely.
Over a decade since its release, "Free Willy" holds up quite well. I got "misty" and "choked up" throughout the desperate climactic rescue sequence that gives the movie its name. The opening sequence, during which Willy is captured, is also quite touching.
This is efficient storytelling offering a steady, sustained buildup to a thoroughly satisfying climax.
"Free Willy" also offers believable performances by all members of its small ensemble cast, including Michael Madsen, Michael Ironside, Lori Petty, Jason James Richter (as Jesse) and Keiko (as Willy).
on November 13, 2014
A CHEESY movie for sure. Typical bad guy as the 'man', always in a suit. Sure it's considered a classic for some people but the whole thing is just a bit odd to me. It felt a LOT longer than its run time.
on August 4, 2015
I Love this movie ALWAYS HAVE However my only disappointment was they didn't release the Trilogy (yes I know there was a 4th Free Willy movie with Bindi Irwin BUT IT'S NOT FREE WILLY UNLESS Jason James Richter is in it) and they could have done it and it would have saved them alot of money
on February 9, 2016
I took my son to Sea World twice - I know, I know. I do think it's nice for kids to experience Sea World, but at this point, I just wanted him to understand why we wouldn't ever be going back. He cried because he wanted to take Shamu home when he was about 4, but now at 7 he cried because of the emotions in this movie. I've always loved this movie and I'm glad he was able to enjoy it as well and truly grasp the concept. He was happy Willy was freed!!
on March 15, 2016
I've seen this movie like a million times and here and there I have to watch it again. I love the story behind it. The fact that the kid has no family and then Willy was taken away from his family. It's just such a cute story. A must watch. I watched it with my 5 year old twin boys but they didn't get interested by it do they fell asleep, maybe I will introduce it again in a few years.
on June 13, 2016
This movie is definitely dated; but the message is more important than ever. This movie brought this to light way before Blackfish but the point is the same. Orcas, along with all wild creatures must not be kept in captivity. My 10 year old now understands this, and why we do not support Seaworld, Discovery Cove, Zoos, etc. Have your child watch it and explain why this is so important to know.
on July 15, 2016
My all time favorite movie.
I can remember watching it when I was a little girl.
When I seen it on Amazon prime movies I just had to watch it with my 3 boys. They all enjoyed it just like their mama did.
Now my oldest who is 6 wants to learn more about the killer whale.
Brings tears to my eyes I just love it.
on March 18, 2001
Anyone who didn't like this film probably doesn't know the film's true meaning and message. This film is about freedom and forever-lasting friendship between two very unique characters who hardly have anything in common. FREE WILLY gives the message that everyone should be free -- something that every human, animal, and plant on this earth feel even if we cannot express it openly. It also gives the message that even if you don't think you have something in common with someone, you can still be friends with that person -- or animal for that matter -- even if you are very different.
FREE WILLY captures the heart and soul of a young 12-year-old orphan boy and his beloved 7,000 pound Orca [Killer] Whale, Willy, who is also an orphan. The story is solid and amazing. The setting of the Pacific Northwest is brilliant. The acting is surpurb by the entire essemble cast, especially Jason James Ritcher, who gives an outstanding performance as Jesse, the young boy who befriends Willy. FREE WILLY is basically about Jesse, who at the beginning of the movie, is a struggling, troubled kid who lives on the streets. His mother left him years ago, and he's always hoping his mother would come back for him. He hangs out with a regular street-gang of kids, who steal to get food and money. When the gang splits up as being chased by the cops, Jesse and his best friend hide out in Willy's labratory tank. They find some paint cans in the workshop and decide to "decorate" the place by spray painting the entire labratory. The cops find the two boys in the labratory. Jesse's friend escapes, but Jesse is caught and arrested. Jesse is punished by one of the cops: He must live with a couple who wants to adopt him and clean up the mess he and his friend made in the labratory. Jesse reluclenty agrees to this plan, and goes to live with the friendly couple and cleans up the mess. Jesse eventually meets Willy and they instantly become attached to each other, especially after Willy saves Jesse's life when he falls into his tank by accident. The owner of the labratory claims that Willy isn't trying to be friendly -- Willy is probably the most unfriendly animal they have at the labratory. But when the man who sponsers the labratory wants to destroy Willy's tank in hopes that they will get a high insurance rate, Jesse must find a way to save his friend and put him back into the ocean with his family.
FREE WILLY is a very charming, heartwarming tale. The theme song by Michael Jackson, "Will You Be There" is an excellent addition for the movie. A movie not to be missed by anybody. This film is followed-up by two, just as amazing and solid squels: FREE WILLY 2: THE ADVENTURE HOME and FREE WILLY 3: THE RESCUE, which I also recommend.