Orca is a 1977 American adventure horror film directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, starring Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampilng, and Will Sampson. It is based on Arthur Herzog's novel of the same name. The film follows a male orca whale tracking down and getting revenge on a captain for killing  the whale's pregnant mate.


Captain Nolan is an Irish Canadian who catches marine animals in order to pay off the mortgage of his boat and eventually return to Ireland. Nolan's crew is currently looking for a great white shark for a local aquarium, but a scientist named Ken is targeted by the shark. An orca intervenes and kills the shark, saving Ken's life. This switches Nolan's target to the orca. Later while hunting with his crew, Nolan tries to capture what he believes to be a male orca, but mistakenly harpoons a pregnant female. Nolan and his crew get the orca on board, where she subsequently miscarries. The captain tosses the dead fetus overboard as the male orca looks on screaming in anguish.

Seeking release for his near-dead mate, the male orca tries to sink the ship. One of Nolan's crew members, Novak, cuts the female off the ship, but the male leaps up and drags him into the sea too. The following day, the orca pushes his now dead mate onto shore. Al Swain berates Nolan on his actions after finding the dead whale. Nolan denies responsibility, but Swain and the villagers eventually find out his involvement. The villagers insist that he kill the orca, as the latter's presence is causing the fish vital to the village's economy to migrate. The orca then terrorises the village by sinking fishing boats in broad daylight and then breaking fuel lines, thus destroying the village's fuel reserves.

Dr. Rachel Bedford, a colleague of Ken and a whale expert, shows him how similar whales are to humans and tells Nolan that, "If he [the orca] is like a human, what he wants isn't necessarily what he should have." Nolan confesses to Bedford that he empathizes with the whale, as his own wife and unborn child had previously been killed in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. Nolan promises Bedford not to fight the whale, but the orca attacks his sea-front house, containing an injured crew member of Nolan's, Annie within it. The house starts slipping into the sea and the whale bites Annie's left leg off. Nolan decides to fight the orca, although with Novak dead and Annie maimed and unable to help, Nolan and Paul are now the only crew members left. Bedford and Ken join the pursuit, along with a Native American man, Jacob Umilak, enlisted for his orca knowledge.

The crew begins to follow the whale after he signals Nolan to follow him. Ken is leaning over the side when the whale surfaces and grabs him, killing him in the process. They follow the whale until they reach the Strait of Belle Isle, though when Paul starts to get into a lifeboat, the orca knocks Paul out of the boat and drowns him. The next day, the whale shoves an iceberg into the boat and starts to sink it. Nolan manages to harpoon the whale just before he and Bedford escape from the boat, while Umilak is crushed beneath an avalanche of ice just after sending out an SOS.

Nolan and Bedford hide on an iceberg, although Nolan slips onto another. The orca separates the icebergs, trapping Nolan. The whale jumps onto the ice, causing it to tilt and sending Nolan into the water. The whale lifts Nolan up with his tail and throws him onto another iceberg, killing him. Bedford looks on as Nolan slips into the water in a cross shape. With his revenge complete, the whale swims southward under the ice, while a helicopter is seen which presumably will rescue Bedford.

As the credits begin to roll, the orca is shown swimming beneath the thick Arctic ice and butting his head against it, attempting unsuccessfully to surface for air. Though his fate is ultimately uncertain, it is suggested that the orca will likely drown beneath the ice, his revenge having cost his own life as well. Other viewers have alternately suggested that the whale, with his revenge done and his rage gone is left with only the feeling of devastation and loss and is seeking to end his own life by drowning.

List of deaths Edit

List of deaths in the film, Orca

Name Cause of Death Killer On Screen Notes
Great White Shark Killed Orca Yes Defend Ken from being killed
Female Orca Shot with harpoon (while pregnant) Captain Nolan Yes Accident
Unborn Orca Killed Captain Nolan Yes Accident
Novak Eaten Orca Yes
Ken Eaten Orca Yes
Paul Drowned Orca Yes
Umilak Crushed by ice N/A Yes Caused by the Orca
Captain Nolan Catapulted against iceberg Orca Yes Revenge for killing his mate and child
Orca Drowned beneath ice Himself No Suicide; debatable


  • Richard Harris as Captain Nolan
  • Charlotte Rampling as Rachel Bedford
  • Will Sampson as Umilak
  • Bo Derek as Annie
  • Keenan Wynn as Novak
  • Robert Carradine as Ken
  • Peter Hooten as Paul
  • Scott Walker as Al Swain
  • Don "Red" Barry as Dock Worker
  • Yaka and Nepo as Orca

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