MNN Galleries

10 of the world's most famous whales

By: Shea Gunther on June 20, 2011, 1 p.m.
8 of 11

Keiko (aka 'Willy')

"Free Willy" was a 1993 movie about an unconventional friendship between a young boy and a captive orca that's forced to perform at a water park. In the movie, the title role was played by Keiko the orca (pictured), who really was captured from the wild as a young whale and brought to live at an aquarium in Iceland.

The movie's success created a wave of support for releasing Keiko back into the wild, and although that did eventually happen, it didn't produce a happy ending. Keiko died in 2003 at the age of 27, after coming down with pneumonia following his release.