Famed for their playfulness and elegance, dolphins are natural stars. From humble beginnings in black-and-white on the small screen to starring in big-screen roles, dolphins are Hollywood royalty. Many dolphin movies have graced the silver screen much to the delight of audiences. On television, famous dolphins catapulted the porpoise into the limelight. These are a few of the dolphin’s most notable on-screen appearances.
The granddaddy of all dolphin-related media, Flipper was a television and film series. The first movie arrived in 1963, while the dolphin TV show came soon after. Starring the titular dolphin Flipper, considered the most famous dolphin of all time, the series follows her heroic feats. Park ranger Porter Ricks and his two children protect Coral Key Park and Marine Reserve alongside Flipper. Appearing as one dolphin, Flipper was actually played by six bottlenose dolphins.
Dolphins Susie and Kathy portrayed Flipper for the most part. Patty, Scotty and Squirt filled in when needed. The dolphins were all female, a decision made in part due to their uniform appearance. Only one male. Clown, made an appearance. Clown performed Flipper’s famous tail walk trick.
In 1995, Flipper – The New Adventures rekindled the series. A remake of the 1963 film starring Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood released the following year. Rather than use a living dolphin for some of the more involved stunts, the film utilized an animatronic dolphin. The American Humane Association oversaw the production, ensuring safe handling.
In the pantheon of dolphin films and dolphin TV shows, Flipper retains the title as most renowned.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Movies with dolphins come no grander than Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Jim Carrey stars as Ace Ventura, an unorthodox investigator solving animal-related crimes. This slapstick comedy follows Ventura as he rescues a very famous dolphin from the clutches of evil: the mascot for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Featuring cameos by famous Dolphin Dan Marino, the film puts Snowflake the dolphin front-and-center of the caper.
Snowflake’s signature trick, flipping a football through the uprights, antagonizes the film’s villain. Snowflake’s portrayal featured several different dolphins as the catalyst provoking the film’s shenanigans. Featuring Snowflake and the Miami Dolphins, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective stands out as a famous dolphin movie.
The Day of the Dolphin
A science-fiction thriller may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about dolphin movies, but here we are. In 1973, The Day of the Dolphin introduced Alpha and Beta, two dolphins trained to speak English and partake in covert operations. The film’s climax features the dolphins in a scenario that would put James Bond to shame.
No thriller would be complete without tension. Alpha and Beta fall under control of the villain and are directed to assassinate the President of the United States. Owing to their gentle nature, the dolphins return to the side of good and blow up the enemies instead.
Movies about dolphins tend to reflect on the mammal’s playfulness and empathy. In The Day of the Dolphin, the animal’s smarts take precedence. Alpha and Beta proved that dolphins are capable of accomplishing complicated tasks, even political espionage.
No thriller would be complete without a dollop of mystery. Alpha and Beta were portrayed by two dolphins. Buck portrayed Alpha, named for the movie’s screenwriter. Ginger played the role of Beta, after famed dancer Ginger Rogers. On the penultimate day of filming, the pair escaped and never returned. While Alpha and Beta may have been keen on helping the good guys win, they may have sought freedom a little more.
Dolphins gifted audiences with an up-close-and-personal look at dolphins in their natural habitat. The documentary followed scientists who seek to learn more about the intricate lifestyle of the dolphin. As far as movies about dolphins go, Dolphins may be the most pure of heart.
The film highlights bottlenose, dusky, and the Atlantic spotted dolphins. Narrated by Pierce Brosnan with a soundtrack by Sting, Dolphins utilizes IMAX cameras. In stunning clarity using the large-format cameras, Dolphins inspire awe. Released in the year 2000, Dolphins remains an epic showcase of dolphins in their natural habitat.
The film visits exotic locations from the Bahamas to Argentina in search of dolphins. One dolphin in particular becomes the star of the show. JoJo, a bottlenose dolphin, is the National Treasure of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The documentary highlights the fact that JoJo interacts with humans voluntarily, a rare trait for wild dolphins. One human and star of the film, Dean Bernal, created The Marine Wildlife Foundation inspired by his interactions with JoJo.
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