3 Tear-Jerker Marine Animal Movies Where Kids Make a Difference

Too often, kids go through life feeling like things are happening to them – things that are out of their control. They don’t have the power to speak up, much less to take big action. And much of the movies geared towards the kiddos feed right into that passive mode. Sure, they entertain. They wash over you, and keep you in your seat. But few get you so angry you cry, uplift you so that you dare to dream, and make you feel the potential of everything you just might dare to be.

Whether your child has a penchant for the mysterious mammals under the sea or you’re just looking to incite some mega emotions with movie magic, these tear-jerking animal movies will make you hurt so good that you’ll want more.

Dolphin Tale

2011, PG

2011’s Dolphin Tale is a fun, heart-warming, aquatic story between a child and an incredibly adorable dolphin. Abandoned by his father, eleven year-old Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) is in over his head at school… and failing at making friends. The young boy spots a fisherman (Richard Libertini) helping an injured dolphin who got caught in a crab trap. With a severely injured tail, the dolphin is taken to Clearwater Marine Hospital where Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.) and his daughter, Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) try to help the dolphin with the motto “Rescue, Rehab, Release.”

The dolphin is named Winter… and her fight for survival has only begun. Tail-less and depressed, Winter’s recovery takes a turn for the worst when she refuses to accept a prosthetic tail. At one point, she even hurts her caretaker, Sawyer, who has devoted so much time to helping her. To add fuel to the fire, Dr. Haskett has to find Winter a pool mate before a U.S. Agriculture Inspector removes her to another facility. To save Winter, it’s going to take a dedicated team of doctors, experts, biologists, and maybe even… a miracle.

The flick is inspirational and full of compassion – not only between a devoted boy and a dolphin, but also among a group of strangers who unite for the same fight. Based on a true story, Dolphin Tale is fun, unique, and memorable… and will get you to shed a few tears too. With bits of comedy, romance, and teamwork, this movie is great for kids (think loads of positive role models) and adults. Catch the gang in this remarkable story of courage and determination with a powerful message of hope. Playing herself in the movie, Winter proves to be a fighter in her battle for recovery and rehabilitation.

Free Willy

1993, PG

Released in 1993, Free Willy tells the story of a twelve year-old boy named Jesse (Jason James Richter) who befriends an orca that’s held in captivity. A family favorite and timeless classic (with a catchy soundtrack!), this tearjerker flick captured the hearts of millions in theaters – and still does today.

Jesse’s life is a bumpy ride – what with bouncing around foster homes. But his new parents remain kind, loving, and patient towards the boy. Still, boys will be boys. The rebellious and distant pre-teen gets caught spray-painting graffiti at an adventure park near his home. When he’s forced to clean it up as punishment, he meets an orca named Willy.

The boy notices that the whale seems to enjoy the tunes from his harmonica – and a deep, warm friendship ensues. Jesse can relate to the whale: They’re both out of their element, feeling homeless, and removed from their families.

In no time at all, Rae (Lori Petty) and Randolph (August Schellenberg), two workers at the park, realize that the boy can communicate with the orca… a task that no one else at the park could do. Jesse becomes a whale trainer, which only strengthens their bond. There is even a touching scene where Willy saves Jesse from drowning. Trouble settles in when greedy park owners want to exploit Jesse and the whale’s relationship and then kill Willy for insurance money.

Will Jesse be able to free Willy? How will they escape? The movie isn’t only a heart-warming story, it’s also relatable to youngsters who might feel abandoned or alone. The flick is about self-discovery, taking risks, and a memorable adventure. Entertaining for kids with a powerful message, the movie can also hold the attention of adults. If you haven’t seen this one, it’s a must – whether you’re an animal lover, or are just looking for an amazingly sweet adventure! It doesn’t hurt that Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There” song is a perfect, catchy tune to this fun and memorable story.

Whale Rider

2002, PG-13

Set in the splendor of New Zealand, Whale Rider is all about love, oppression, and triumph. Despite the deep-rooted traditions of her patriarchal Whangara tribe, eleven year-old Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) believes she is the one destined to ride the back of a whale and become the new chief.

Her tribe’s legend has it that their ancestor, Paikea, escaped death by riding to shore on the back of a whale. Since then, first-born boys have been considered Paikea’s direct descendants – and eligible for leading the tribe. The true heir to the village, Pai’s twin brother, dies at birth… leaving Pai to confront the role. How can Pai fulfill what she believes is her destiny when she not only has to fight thousands of years of tradition – but her beloved grandfather as well?

Beautiful and moving, this film won audience awards at both Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals, where it was met with standing ovations and audiences in tears. It will win your hearts too. Keisha Castle-Hughes glows in her role as Pai and is completely credible – whether she’s down-trodden and discouraged, learning the secrets taught only to Maori boys, or fighting the big fight. Supporting actors are also phenomenal.

Expect unexpected endings, real heroes, and a movie that uplifts even when you’re bawling. 

Do you have a beloved animal sob story you love watching over and over with the kids?

Tags : films   movies   animal movies   

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