The Zookeeper

6.81 h 39 min200113+
In the midst of a devastating civil war in an Eastern European country, a disillusioned ex-Communist is left behind to take care of the animals in the capital's zoological gardens until a U.N. rescue force arrives.
Ralph Ziman
Sam NeillGina McKeeUlrich Thomsen
English [CC]
Audio languages

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Supporting actors
Om Puri
Under The Milky Way
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Alcohol usefoul languagesexual contentsmokingviolence
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3.3 out of 5 stars

31 global ratings

  1. 35% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 11% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 15% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 29% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 10% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

BryanReviewed in the United States on March 21, 2021
2.0 out of 5 stars
A complete snifflefest.
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I like Sam Neill but, this movie is a relentless downer. I don't like movies that put innocent animals at risk or worse kill them for a cheap dramatic effect. I also don't need a movie to teach me that war is bad and people are horrible. There is nothing profound or meaningful in stating the obvious. I watch cinema to try and escape, if only briefly, this horrid existence not revel or wallow in it.
11 people found this helpful
cyrusReviewed in the United States on April 13, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
get drunk and cry for two hours
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This film is so upsetting. If one treasures animals, the film is hard to watch. It's best to get drunk. You'll cry for two hours straight. How human beings can be so hurtful to each other and to other creatures--it's too much too absorb.
9 people found this helpful
Carmen L.Reviewed in the United States on October 22, 2021
2.0 out of 5 stars
Depressing. Poor animal care. Not AZA accredited zoo.
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Well I think it did a good job about showing how awful a war is and how it affects men, women, children and animals differently. I feel like the animals actually died to make this film which is animal cruelty and should be done with CGI so real animals don't have to actually suffer, blow up, get smoke inhalation, and die long deaths.

Furthermore, the animals mostly had no shelter and no water to begin with so they were already experiencing neglect. Bringing them food is one thing, but they need regular access to water. All the animals need an enclosed space to go inside to stay warm, and only the wolves had one. The horses, zebras, and elephants just had to stand there in freezing cold with no barn or tree to take shelter under or in. So of course they died. The zookeeper's apathy towards the elephant death bothered me, he ought to have built a shelter for the not sick elephant so they both don't die of hypothermia. He basically was a bad zookeeper who gave up too often. Why were the lions in a pit with no water and no cave to take shelter from the snow? All the cages were too small for the animals to not experience stress like pacing and pulling out hair. They needed bigger cages and opportunities to socialize with their own species and shelter and water.

I can understand the food rations but why would he curse at the elephants and say they are cursing him? It's better to speak Kindly to animals. There was too much cursing, too much drinking and smoking. I think if the vet hadn't drank then he probably would still be alive because he would have heard the soldiers and could hide from them rather than wake up from a drunken stupor. It's sad how he died.

They never said what happened to the capuchin monkey? Did she survive? Did she have her baby? We need to know. The last we saw of her, he just locked her in a tiny cage when the soldiers were there and left. Did she survive the burning of the monkey house because she wasn't there? Did they just forget about her and they left her to starve and freeze to death because she was in an outdoor cage with no shelter from the snow?

I do struggle to understand people who don't care about the animals and they tell the zookeeper to leave them. I would stay to care for the animals and I would take really good care of them (giving them food, water, and shelter) and I would not leave even if I were threatened with death or someone asked me to join them. I would just keep on protecting the animals or I would find a way to take them all with me. I would not just leave them to fend for themselves because I know if I let them out that people will kill them for food and I want to keep them safe and alive. Hopefully wherever the UN is taking them, they have actual shelter, 24-hour access to water, plenty of food and can socialize with their own species in a large enough space so their stress levels can go down. Plus toys or enrichment like hiding peanut butter inside something they have to open (just for fun) they should have access to plenty of easy to find and eat food at first because they are too weak from hunger to play just yet (unless they are pups or cubs).

Anyway I liked that they showed he has poetry and a daughter and wife who miss him and how he's feeling bad about being a communist. And I liked the description of the treatment of women by sadistic men because it sounded really accurate and felt authentic how she lived through the torture and what she did to survive. But what I did not like was when they had sex together, especially when she said I "JUST" want you to hold me...and then he went and had sex with her anyway. I just want you to hold me does NOT mean I want sex now, completely opposite. Maybe she was just cold and needed body heat from someone else. So I thought it was disgusting and horrible how he took advantage of her being in his bed and he went and had sex with her from behind the exact same way that the nasty rapist man did with a knife stabbing her neck, knowing what it had done to destroy her mind and body. What a horrible man he is. Furthermore, he is cheating on his wife with her which makes him additionally disgusting. His wife and daughter are waiting for him and are loyal to him and he doesn't care about them and is cheating on them by having sex with her. Then it made no sense that she was like oh I'm in love now and kissing him etc. I was like literally why are you doing this, you SAID you JUST wanted him to hold you, and he didn't get your verbal consent for sex and now he is a rapist, WHY ARE YOU KISSING HIM? Do you have Stockholm syndrome? So that was disturbing and I was hoping she'd realize he's also a rapist but not quite as violent as the other one so she can tell him "just cuddling means just cuddling, do not touch my rape scars" and set some healthy boundaries but then she got shot before being able to set healthy boundaries and tell him No means No. So that sucked, also it sucked that the boy lost his mom. How is he going to go back and introduce the boy to his wife and daughter? "This is the orphan boy I have adopted during the war whose mom I had an affair with but now I want to be your dad (to his daughter) and husband (to his wife) again even though I cheated on you, you have a brother? By the way we have a pet wolf. :)"

And it also sucked how no one really spent time talking to the boy about how you don't have to go around killing everyone in a war, there are ways to get things you need and survive that don't involve shooting guys with your machine gun. So it annoyed me that no one told the boy about nonviolent resistance and teamwork to stop violence, pickpocketing if you're desperate for food and you can't steal it directly but need to barter and trade, they were just shouting and cursing at the boy for shooting people dead without giving him alternative options for survival, because they were just not helpful, they spent too much time crying and screaming. If I was there, I would try to calm him down and have a long conversation or several short ones with him discussing various ways to survive that do not involve shooting people dead. And they wondered why he kept shooting people dead. Come on people, he is a kid, you have to teach him things. You can't expect him to know everything.

I also was annoyed how the zookeeper carried the dying monkey out of the burning building while leaving all but one cage of the living monkeys to burn to death? Why would he do that? To feel like a hero? So he can say to himself "I saved a dying monkey?" Wouldn't it make more sense to open all the cage doors and let all the living monkeys go and then go to get the dying monkeys in case they still die of smoke inhalation? I guess maybe they are trying to say he is acting really illogical and super emotional...also the cages were probably really hot because they were metal and maybe he could not touch them? But doesn't he have something wrapped around his hands? I guess in a war maybe people act way more emotional than logical so more animals end up dead when they do.

I am glad that he said to the boy that it's okay to cry. Not being able to cry during a war surrounded by death is a huge problem for him and contributes to his rage. What happened to the other 2 wolf pups and the other adult wolf? Did they run away into the city when the last pup was abandoned and the adult wolf died? Are the zebras and donkeys going to make a herd now? Why can't they take the pregnant capuchin monkey and the wolf pup and a donkey with them so they have a donkey to ride when they get tired and a warm animal to hug when they are sad.

Also what is gonna happen to that lion cub? He needs to have his own pride and be taken away from the sadistic soldiers who are cruel enough to burn the zoo to the ground. The cub should be released into the wild in Africa when he is a grown up. He shouldn't be a mascot for a bloodthirsty guy like that. It will only end in that lion cub's death. The UN needs to go get that lion cub away from that nasty man.

I was glad to see that the man and the boy and the wolf cub survived as well as the animals which the UN was able to rescue and relocate to other zoos. That at least was good.
HoneygirlReviewed in the United States on March 29, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent portrayal of war. Extremely emotional.
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Incredibly sad, realistic depiction of war. Great performance. Brutal for animal lovers. Wonderful acting by 3 main characters. Not at all like The Zookeepers Wife which was much more Hollywood for the masses. Both very good but not comparable.
Get out the tissues.
One person found this helpful
MrpapawReviewed in the United States on July 23, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
Well-acted Drama
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This movie was well-acted, and most likely historically accurate, but be warned - it is kind of depressing. Set in a zoo in the Balkans, during a time of civil war between 3 different factions, Sam Neill volunteers to stay behind and be the caretaker of the animals at a zoo, after everyone else has been evacuated. Not a ‘warm-fuzzy’ type of movie, it reminds me of a quote from a Swedish movie about an imminent start to WWIII: “War teaches us nothing!"
9 people found this helpful
Bruce KerslakeReviewed in the United States on March 6, 2013
4.0 out of 5 stars
Sam Niell.... what a versatile, under-rated actor
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This is another one of those obscure, brilliant movies and great performances, that nobody has ever heard of. Set in war torn eastern Europe in the troubles of the 80's, it is a story of a zoo keeper (Sam Niell )whose deep love for the animals locked up in a zoo, who are in mortal danger from stray bombs, mortars, hungry soldiers, etc, make him stay behind and fend for the animals as best he can. He is alone in his endeavours, until a young boy, followed by his mother dressed as a man (for obvious reasons in war time) seek refuge in "his" zoo. At first aggressive, he softens to their presence, and gets the boy involved with the animals, while the woman sets up house in the zookeepers tiny hut. To tell the rest of the story would spoil it, but there is no fairy-tale ending. An excellent, virtually solo performance by Niell, this is a very well made film, with a good story line and a very plausible plot. Something different in a story line and well worth the money.
9 people found this helpful
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United States on May 27, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
I hate war. It's not the soldiers who die in ...
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I hate war. It's not the soldiers who die in battle but all the peripheral casualties. Good movie, got it before due date, great condition.
3 people found this helpful
Kari B. RolfeReviewed in the United States on March 5, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Four Stars
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It was loosely based on a true story. However, it was well written and well acted. Almost 5 Stars.
3 people found this helpful
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