We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, starring Johnny Depp, brings mermaids back to the big screen. If you get the urge to see mermaids (or other similar sea women) at home, try out some of these titles. It’s The Scorecard Review’s TOP 7 Mermaid Movies.
7. Night Tide (1961)
Recap: Sailor Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper) meets a beautiful woman named Mora (Linda Lawson) while on shore leave in Santa Monica. He pursues her and things seem to be going well, until she reveals that she not only plays a mermaid on the Amusement Pier, but also believes she’s really a “sea person.” Then Johnny learns two of her past boyfriends died mysteriously and wonders if he’s in trouble.
Reason: Though not technically a mermaid, a “sea person” is pretty much a mermaid without the fish tail. This is the only film that sets up a mermaid to be a possible killer, usually she’s a damsel in distress. It’s an interesting premise and because of the low-budget, the background characters and scenes give an idea of what the Santa Monica Pier was like back in the day. Unfortunately, the film’s not that great, it has classic b-movie moves like dialogue scenes with weird pauses in the middle and a heroine who looks pretty, but isn’t much of an actress. Still, if you want to see it the film is available to watch online.
6. Aquamarine (2006)
Recap: Two young teens find a mermaid named Aquamarine (Sara Paxton) in a swimming pool after a stormy night. When they discover she’s looking for true love, they offer to help her if she’ll grant them a wish (one girl’s about to move and they don’t want to be separated). Aquamarine sets her sights on Raymond (Jake McDorman) a local lifeguard who all the girls have a crush on.
Reason: A tween fantasy film, Aquamarine is about love, friendship, and also girls fighting over boys. It’s cute, fluffy fun about a mermaid who’s a little bit of a fish out of water (of course she shows up naked, haha she doesn’t get modesty!) But she actually fits in much better than you would expect. The subplot of girls lying and being nasty over Raymond (who doesn’t seem to get why all the girls are into him either) left a bad taste in my mouth. Still, the end is sweet and was better than I expected.
5. Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948)
Recap: Arthur Peabody (William Powell) is having a midlife crisis, so he does the normal thing and falls in love with a mermaid named Lenore (Ann Blythe). Oh, and he’s married so he has to hide Lenore from his wife and anyone else who, you know, might get freaked out by seeing a mermaid. This leads to a series of comic misadventures while he’s on vacation.
Reason: I love William Powell normally, between My Man Godfrey and the Thin Man series, he’s made some of my favorite movies. But this one is a bad male wish fulfillment fantasy. Arthur’s wife is annoying so you can see why he’d like Lenore, but the man/mermaid relationship is less cute than creepy, especially since he’s so much older than her. I don’t know why that matters since the fact that they’re different species should be more of an obstacle. There are good moments, I was just turned off by the overall condescending tone of the film.
4. Lady In the Water (2006)
Recap: Apartment building maintenance man Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) finds a water narf (Bryce Dallas Howard) in the complex’s swimming pool one night. She’s being menaced by wolf-like creatures who want to destroy her. It will take help from all the apartment residents to save her and return her home.
Reason: This movie got terrible reviews and made little money, but I enjoyed it. Like the underrated Unbreakable, Lady in the Water takes a fairy tale and casts it in the real world. Though not technically a mermaid, the narf shares many characteristics. She’s a beautiful woman in need of a hero and she shows up naked. But what I liked about the movie was how the story unfolds. It’s kind of a mystery, who will play what role in this story? I know, Shyamalan lays on the metaphors pretty thick, like naming the narf “Story.” Also, he shouldn’t have cast himself as an actor. But it’s a movie where plot does come first, and that’s kind of rare now.
3. The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)
Recap: A little girl named Fiona is sent to live with her Grandparents on the Irish coast. There, she learns her family’s history, notably that she’s descended from a selkie, women who wear seal skins so they can swim in the water. She believes her long lost younger brother is being kept by the selkies on the Island of Roan Inish and that if she can move her family there, they will give him back.
Reason: This is just a really beautiful movie. It takes the legend at face value, everyone just believes that selkies exist and behaves accordingly. They’re sad creatures, they can be trapped on land but they’re only happy when they’re free. Fiona is the narrator and leads the action while weaving together the family stories and their current reality.
2. The Little Mermaid (1989)
Recap: Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) is a mermaid princess who longs to know more about the humans who live on land. While spying on people, she saves the life of a prince named Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) and falls in love with him. She sneaks behind her father’s back and makes a deal with Ursula, the sea witch, to be given legs so that she can woo Eric. But she must give up her voice, and if she cannot make Eric kiss her within three days, she’ll be Ursula’s forever.
Reason: This one’s a Disney classic. I remember seeing this movie in the theater with my sisters. We loved it, but it was a little terrifying. Those horrible little things that Ursula turns the merpeople into after capturing them? It makes me shudder thinking about it. The film has an excellent mix of music, story and a heroine with a proactive take on life. Ariel was the first animated female who really took control of her life instead of letting princes, mice or dwarves make her choices for her. The film would be the first in an animated renaissance for Disney’s animation studios. If you want to know more about that, watch the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty.
1. Splash (1984)
Recap: As a child, Allen has an encounter with a mermaid, which he puts behind himself as an adult. Until years later, he’s saved by her again. After being separated, she goes to New York City to find him, and proceeds to walk around naked. Allen (Tom Hanks) bails her out of jail, names her Madison (Daryl Hannah) and tries to ignore her more unusual traits. But a scientist is on her tail, determined to prove her a mermaid and keep her as a science experiment.
Reason: Splash is the rare romantic comedy that takes the comedy part seriously. Hanks, John Candy and Eugene Levy, all at the height of their comedic powers, make serious funny in a literal fish-out-of-water tale. The script also honors those comedic giants and knows how to have fun with that. But it’s also a sweet romance. It’s the first movie that showed Hanks for the romantic, sweet everyman he’s beloved as. Plus it’s one of those great, ’80s New York movies where people are always yelling at one another on the street. It’s just a solid film.