Here is a list of mermaid movies I have discovered over the years. It doesn't have a rating system because I don't see any point to that...
Hopefully, you will be able to read between the lines of my reviews and get an idea if you will like the movie or not.
For a selection of mermaid videos instead of full length movies click here.
- An old movie made back in 1948 (same year as Mr. Peabody, see below) about a doctor who is rescued by a mermaid while on vacation in Cornwall. The mermaid, named Miranda Trewella, asks that the doctor take her to London to see what life on dry land is like. The doctor agrees and to hide her tail disguises her as an invalid in a wheelchair. He even hires a nurse to complete the charade. On land, Miranda's siren instincts come to the fore and she begins seducing, in a G manner, all the men she meets. This is a cute and very pleasant film that I would recommend to anyone. This is the first mermmaid movie I can remember seeing but it was on so rarely that for many years I wondered if I really had seen it. Fortunately, TCM came to the rescue and still shows it occasionlly.
- Mad About Men
- The sequal to Miranda with Glynis Johns again as Miranda and Miranda's identical human cousin Caroline. She trades places with Caroline so Caroline can go biking (?) and procedes to dump Caroline's fiance and replace him with another. Not as good as the original, IMHO, espeically due to the extremely silly mermaid Berengaria who seems to get much too much screen time. Released in 1954.
- Night Tide
The first commercial movie by director Curtis Harrington who passed away recently. It was released in 1961. It is about a young sailor (Dennis Hopper) who meets a woman who plays a mermaid in a carnival. Some grisly murders and a strange dream begin to convince Hopper that the woman is a real mermaid who kills, werewolf-like, during the full moon. An eery, interesting entry in the killer mermaid sub-subgenre. The movie is available in VHS, DVD and wide-screen DVD.
- Ineo Gongju
- A Korean movie from 2004 whose English titles are The Little Mermaid and My Mother the Mermaid. Foreign mermaid movies are kind of strange. This film is a fantasy but the fantasy is not where you think it might be. Really, there are no mermaids as such. (This is the case in a surprising number of mermaid movies I haven't included here.) The title mermaid is really a pearl diver. I have read somewhere that women who dive in other to derive income or sustenance from the sea are one possible origin of the mermaid legends. This may or may not be true.... The point is that such women are called mermaids and are usually the strong, self-reliant type. Getting back to the movie, the fantasy comes in when a young woman visits the island where her parents met and somehow passes through a timewarp. She ends up meeting, and befriending, her mother as a young woman. This is a revelation for her because the mother she knew was an angry, unyielding monster.... The woman she meets on the island is hopeful and full of aspirations. This is a movie about the changes that life forces on us. How events shape our characters - not always for the better. In a way it is like the dark side of "Back to the Future". It is not your typical escapist fantasy but a movie of deep feeling and compassion.
- Sea People
John (Hume Cronyn) and his wife Bridget (Joan Gregson) are mer-people, or Sea People, living on land in a village in Nova Scotia. Amanda (Tegan Moss), a lonely teen-ager, one day "saves" John whom she sees jump off a bridge into very cold water. John shows her that he can swim just fine and doesn't mind the cold. Amanda, however, is freezing and he takes her to his home to warm up. There Amanda begins to suspect that John and Bridget are not your average human beings. They eat algae, drink seaweed tea and sleep in large tanks of icy water.
This is a charming little family film in the Disney mold but very well done. Most of the credit goes to the cast, writer and director. Like most good mermaid movies it has few special effects. Primarily aimed at teen-agers and children adults will enjoy it too.
Most animated mermaid movies are cartoons based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. This one is a computer-generated movie, like Toy Story, with characters based on the Barbie dolls line. I do like the animation here, it is not in the same league as Shrek or those other multi-million-dollar films, but it is very good. The story is a feminist reversal of the usual fairy tale, here the girls set out to rescue a prince. Mermaidia was made with a great deal of care, the quality of the acting, story and animation all surprised me. From my own personal point of view the only bad thing about this movie is that it is aimed at 12-year-old girls.
I am a sucker for romantic comedies and was not disappointed with this one. It was an early vehicle for Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah (the mermaid), John Candy and Ron Howard (the director), and they all do their jobs well. Only bad point is that the mermaid is so passive. Take a look at the folk tales on this site and you will see that mermaids are movers and shakers. I suspect that the writers didn't do much research into mermaids before writing the script. It would have been nice, too, if they had added a touch of the mystical to her character. There are a couple of hints of the mystical but they are never developed or emphasized. All in all, though, it is one of the most enjoyable mermaid movies around.
- The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid was one of a series of fairy tale movies that brought Disney back from a long slump. The best of the bunch in my opinion is Beauty and the Beast, but The Little Mermaid runs a good second.
The movie takes liberties with Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, on which it is based. Ariel, in the movie, is strong-willed and self-reliant. She has no serious competition for the Prince except from Ursula, and as we all know the bad girl never gets the guy in the end. The character of Ursula is considerably larger and more filled-out than the equivalent character in the fairy tale.
Maybe because of the sexuality associated with mermaids, and hence mermaid movies, Disney had some unusual problems with this picture. The cover art and one of the scenes in the movie were said to contain subliminal messages. By the time of the re-release these "messages" had been eliminated.
- She-Creature (2001)
I will be honest and say that I have not seen this movie yet but everything I have read about it makes it sound good. Let me say that I am a fan of good "B" movies - there aren't too many of them. This is the story of a mermaid who, while beautiful and sexy, turns out to also be a psychotic killer.
At first I was disappointed to have my favorite type of lady turn out to be a mere slasher. Then I remembered that the mermaid is not the passive, I-need-to-be-rescued type. The Rusalki, vengeful Russian mermaids, would probably feel right at home in a film like this. Maybe this will bring about a revolution in mermaid movies to a more feisty, empowered mermaid.
- She-Creature (1955)
This is an early entry in the killer mermaid movies subgenre. In a way it is the inspiration for it's sequal above. This film, however, is a poor "B" movie about a stage hypnotist who regresses a woman back to a prior life when she was a sea monster. Somehow, the monster she was materializes in the present time and goes around killing people. The best thing I can say about this movie is that Mystery Science Theater 3000 had one of their best episodes with it. Some movies do not seem to work for them, while others seem to have been written especially for them. This film falls neatly into the latter category. Unfortunately, the MST3K version is not available on DVD. Note: the only DVD available with this movie has it on a double-bill with another picture called The Day the World Ended.
- The Secret of Roan Inish
If I was giving out stars, which I am not, this movie would get all of them. Mermaid movies rarely focus on the mystical and I think that is a mistake. Men have always had a mystical link to the ancient goddesses and the mermaid has evolved from these goddesses. She should still carry at least a little of their power and magic.
John Sayles, director and screenwriter of this movie, did an excellent job. He has a great feel for the mystical which he incorporates into the selkies and their fae children. He understands the subtle interplay between fairy tales and reality. I have been a fan of his since The Howling and I think he always did his best work with fantasy. Compare this to the rather limp fantasy in the next movie....
- Mermaid movies made for cable and are like most made for cable movies - kind of weak. There are bits of mermaid lore thrown out here and there, but nothing much is done with them. I think the original idea was to kick-off a TV series or a series of mermaid movies but nothing ever came of it. The story is about three mermaid sisters searching for their father's murderer. Like in Splash, they have legs that turn into tails when they get wet. One sister is a siren with the power to enchant and control men. Another is a warrior with a magic hair ornament that turns into a full-sized trident. The movie ends with the sisters deciding to live on land to see if there is anything to that whole fall-in-love-with-a-mortal-get-a-soul idea.
I hesitated to include Dagon in this list of mermaid movies. It is really just a horror movie that has a mermaid in it. She plays a small but crucial role. She acts as "bait" to bring the hero to the island so he may discover it's secrets and his own true nature. Also, she isn't really a mermaid. In the hero's dream visions she appears as a beautiful mermaid swimming about seductively. When he actually encounters her later in the film she is really just another monster.... And the monsters in this movie are pretty unpleasant looking. Most of the rest is brainless gore with only a smidgin of plot. It is very loosely based on H. P. Lovecraft's story The Shadow Over Innsmouth. One of my favorite Lovecraft stories but I don't feel they do it justice.
- Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid
- Old movie made back in 1948 about a middle-aged man who catches a mermaid while on vacation in the Caribbean. He takes the mermaid home and "hides" her in the bathtub. Strangely, this simple ruse fools his wife so completely that even when he tells her about the mermaid she continues to believe it is just a fish. Mermaid movies rarely have so many good people working on them as this one but it is still no more than light entertainment. For more on this movie see my Mr Peabody and the Mermaid page.
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