Most people are familiar with the mermaid myth, the so-called fish women who sing to lure desperate sailors into the sea. The website Ocean Info reports that stories about mermaids can be traced back to 1000 BCE in Assyria, when goddess Atargatis leaped into the sea and became half fish. More recent reports came from explorers, like Christopher Columbus, and pirates, such as Blackbeard. Movies about fish women emerged as soon as motion pictures started being made, as early as 1907 when Georges Méliès directed the film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Méliès’ short adventure follows the experience of a fisherman in an underwater dream where he is lost amidst an underwater reef. The fisherman is swarmed by a group of fish ladies and then awakens from his nightmare.
Even in this early depiction, mermaids are represented as being graceful, alluring, and secretly threatening. Since then, mermaids in motion pictures have been interpreted in a number of ways. The stories have illustrated them as monstrous and evil, simply beautiful, or more creatures than humans. Whatever the case, the mermaid myth is perpetually entertaining and holds many possibilities for new, interesting tales. If you are looking to satisfy your curiosity about mermaids, the following movies show these fish people at their most beautiful and at their ugliest, at their naughtiest and at their nicest. Here are eight movies about mermaids, ranked.
8 Lady In The Water
This 2006 film Lady in the Water features a building manager, Cleveland Heep (played by Paul Giamatti), who pulls a mysterious girl from the pool he maintains. He learns that she is a creature from a bedtime story, a “narf” who has been chased into the human world by the monster from her world, the Scrunt. The movie is directed by M. Night Shyamalan and includes a more beautiful, magical, less-threatening mermaid, however, the world from which she comes is unsettling.
Another softer depiction of mermaids can be found in this woman’s coming-of-age flick. Two best friends, Claire and Hailey, discover a mermaid, Aquamarine, in their local club’s pool after a large storm. Aquamarine must prove to her father that true love exists to avoid an arranged marriage and asks the two human girls to help her. Aquamarine sets her sights on a particular boy and tries to get him to fall in love with her. This representation is similar to that of The Little Mermaid and stars young Emma Roberts, Jojo, and Sarah Paxton.
She-Creature, written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, is a much darker interpretation of mermaids. In Ireland, two carnival workers, Lily and Angus, steal a mermaid from her original captor and attempt to deliver her overseas to America. During the voyage, the mermaid escapes and devours a man who once hurt Lily. From there, Lily recognizes that the mermaid is very dangerous and will eat more men if she remains on the boat. Although dark and sometimes horrifying, Lily and the mermaid share a special bond.
5 The Mermaid
The Mermaid is a Chinese Hong-Kong romantic comedy written, directed, and produced by Stephen Chow (known for Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle). In this film, Liu Xuan, a playboy, and businessman, buys a wildlife reserve called “the Green Gulf” and uses sonar technology to kill the region’s sea life. The Green Gulf is actually home to a family of mermaids and to prevent further destruction, they send a beautiful mermaid named Shan. In her attempts to change Xuan’s mind, Shan falls for him and brings further friction between the two worlds.
4 Queen of the Sea
This silent film was released in 1918 and follows the journey of Merilla, Queen of the Sea. Merilla, a mermaid, discovers a book at the bottom of the ocean that predicts she will rescue four human beings and earn an immortal human body. Master of the Storms, King Boreas, wrecks many ships and in one of these instances, Merilla saves four sailors. Enraged, Boreas emprisons Merilla who is then saved by one of the humans she rescues. They fall for one another, but the human is already engaged. Like many mermaid films, this is a story of true love and transformation, from mermaid to human, and is one of the most underrated movies of the silent era.
3 The Secret of Roan Inish
Written and directed by John Sayles, The Secret of Roan Irish explores the tales of Selkies in Roan Inish, an Irish fishing village. A young girl, Fiona, learns that Selkie’s blood runs in her family when she is sent to live with her grandparents. There is a suspicion that her younger brother was stolen by the sea because of this connection to seals. On one of her visits to Roan Inish, Fiona believes that she sees her little brother playing on the shore and becomes fixated on solving the mystery. Although the movie is not directly about mermaids, it contains the same mystery and wrath of the sea, and remains a magical, fascinating cult classic of the ’90s.
2 The Little Mermaid
This mermaid classic cannot go unmentioned, and remains what most moviegoers base their idea of merpeople on. Loosely based on the 1837 story by Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid features Ariel the mermaid princess who falls in love with a human prince, Eric. To transform into a human and fulfill her true love, Ariel strikes a deal with a sea witch, Ursula. The whole premise relates to a couple of movies that have already been mentioned and contains similar themes such as longing to be human, true love, and trying to escape the wrath of the sea.
This 1984 work is directed by Ron Howard and stars the beloved Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. Splash follows Allen Bauer who experienced a near-death drowning as a kid and encountered a mysterious girl while he was in the water. As an adult, Allen tries to forget the girl but encounters her again on a diving expedition. The mermaid, after saving Allen’s life a second time, seeks out Allen in New York. They fall in love, even though the mermaid must return to the sea within seven days. Daryl Hannah swam so well with the mermaid tail that the safety team could not keep up. In this movie, all of the mermaid troupes meet in a humorous way but still maintain the expected conflicts.
Just by looking at this list, it’s clear that all mermaids have similar problems. They have escaped their powerful home-world, they’re being chased by their controlling fathers or greedy human beings (often men, pursuing women), they want to become human and find true love, and they always rescue somebody. Despite these recurring themes, there are still lots that can be done with the mermaid myth (as evidenced by the recent bizarro horror film The Lure), and these classic films are always fun to revisit.
Kim Kardashian Dons Original Marilyn Monroe Dress, Historians Voice Concern
About The Author