Mermaids have captured our hearts for thousands of years. In the same way that the ocean itself has seemingly called to humans, the story of a mermaid has stayed in the back of our minds throughout our shared history. They come from all cultures and all times, so let’s look at some of the best mermaid stories now on the big screens!
Credited to be one of the first times mermaids were seen on the big screen, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid follows the story of Mr. Peabody (William Powell) - who discovers the mermaid he names Lenore (Ann Blyth) while on vacation with his wife. The movie was shot and filmed mostly at the Weeki Wachee Springs resort, who at the time had just begun their very own live mermaid shows. The movie captures the spirit of the freeness and power of mermaids!
Splash is a romantic comedy, in which a young mermaid reunites with the love of her life, a boy she saved from drowning as a kid. Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks) fails miserably at relationships, feeling his true connection is with the young girl he saw when he once almost drowned under the sea. Nearly twenty years later, Bauer falls into the sea again, and this time drops his wallet. Finding his information, Madison (Daryl Hannah) emerges from the water to find him. Madison and Bauer fall in love in a silly adventure story showing the power of true love. This is considered a classic!
One of the most beloved Walt Disney Classics, this movie was also inspired by the Han Christain Anderson fairy tale. The story follows Ariel (Jodi Benson), a young mermaid obsessed with human life, trading her voice for the chance to live on land with the human Prince (Christopher Daniel Barns) she loves. This movie was considered to be the one that saved the Disney Studios, the studio won two Academy Awards for it’s animation and music. The animation proved that the mouse still had a chance, and kicked off what is known as the Disney Renaissance Era.
A Disney Channel Original Movie, this feature is a little special as it stars a merman instead of a mermaid. Cody Griffin (Chez Starbuck) has just turned 13, and with that birthday comes a few unexplainable changes. Adopted from birth, Griffin was already a fast swimmer - however now he seems to slice through the water farther than ever before. Griffin grows scales and is generating electricity, he is becoming sticky, and his breath hold under the water is astounding. It is revealed that Cody is in fact the son of a mermaid, and his transformation may just endanger her to a local mermaid hunter. It was at the time of release, the second highest rated film from the Disney Channel Original Movies.
Diving into the first of our many horror genres, this movie follows the story of a couple who find a carnie in Ireland that has captured a mermaid. When they plan to use her as a carnival attraction, the carnie warns this mermaid is too dangerous, as it has killed his wife. Not to be deterred, the couple steal the mermaid and begin a quest to take her to America. The boat ride quickly becomes perilous as the mermaid reveals more magic than humans are ever going to understand. This movie was both criticized for being too cheesy, and praised for it’s claustrophobic setting and good few jump scares.
After a couple of fisherman kill a merman, they are threatened and nearly killed by a mermaid. This mermaid is revealed to be the daughter of the merman they just killed, Diana (Erika Heynatz) who goes to land despite her hatred for humans to find her two sisters. One of her sisters is working at a bar where she swims in a tail for patrons, though not her real one. The other works at a sea park and has been living on land for three years. Despite their differences, the three come together to get revenge on the fishermen who killed their father and is harming the sea. This movie was both hated and loved by critics, while it didn’t make a big splash, it still found its home in the hearts of many.
One of the world’s most popular fantasy series out there couldn’t stay away from the fish people of the sea for too long. In the fourth book and the fourth movie installment, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) must compete in the Goblet of Fire. One of his many challenges is facing down the devilish mermaids who live in the lake below his magical school, Hogwarts. While only a small part of the plot, the mermaids in Goblet of Fire caught the attention for their unique designs and the power of their singing - which could only be truly heard under the water.
The Barbie movie franchise is no stranger to mermaids, having produced multiple computer animated films starring the elusive sea creatures. During the run of one of Barbie’s first sequels, a young fairy named Elina (Kelly Sheriden) must travel to the underwater world of Mermaidia to help her friend Nalu (Alessandro Juliani), prince of Mermaidia. Along the way, she meets Nalu’s good friend and love interest Nori (Chiara Zanni) who agrees reluctantly to help her and forms a bond with Elina. The plot has Elina even give up her fairy wings for a tail.
A proper chick-flick, Aquamarine follows two friends as they discover a mermaid has been washed up in their pool after a massive summer storm. Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (JoJo) are hopeless at the idea that this is their last summer together, as Hailey’s mother has to relocate to Australia for a new job. Finding out that Aquamarine (Sara Paxton), the mermaid, can grant a wish to any who help her, the two friends try to help the young mermaid find love so they can stay together. Aquamarine must prove to her father that true love exists in just three days time, or else she will be married off. This film was a mild success, most critics finding it a charming and breezy story for young girls.
10.) Fishtales, 2007. Directed by Alki David and Michael Greenspan.
A more comedic twist in the tail, Fishtales follows a young professor Thomas Bradley (Billy Zane) and his daughter, Serena (Amber Savva) as they travel to an island off of the coast of Greece in order to pursue a lead on ancient Greek love spells. While there, a mermaid named Nereid (Kelly Brook) accidentally speaks a love spell with the professor, causing them both to fall in love. This movie has probably the lowest ratings on this list, but it’s always worth a watch to form your own opinions!
11.) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, 2011. Directed by Rob Marshall
In the fourth installment of the most beloved Pirates of the Caribbean movies, we finally get the pirates facing off against the ladies of the deep. Pirates had a long time history of involving old magic tales - the first movie, Curse of the Black Pearl, the pirates were turned into immortal zombies after stealing treasure from a cursed chest. It only made sense that the swashbucklers would eventually encounter some of the oldest magic in the water. The plot of Stranger Tides is a search for the Fountain of Youth, which needs the tear of a mermaid to work correctly. So the pirates sail into mermaid infested waters to capture one - and they do successfully manage to net Syrena (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) after a deadly battle. As with the rest of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the movie is a fun, action filled adventure.
12.) Killer Mermaid, 2014. Directed by Milan Todorovic
In this horror movie, two young girls on a vacation to the Meditearan discover an island holding the secret lair of a killer mermaid under an abandoned military base. Their happy and fun vacation is cut short swiftly by the attack of the mermaid, and her human partner who kills others to help quench her blood lust. This movie scored low for critics, but many fans say they enjoyed it for the cool atmosphere and mystery of the mermaid and the man who feeds her.
13.) Pan, 2014. Directed by Joe Wright
The mermaids of Neverland, as seen in many and almost all forms of Peter Pan, are simply iconic. In the Disney animated classic, they’re seen as vindictive and catty - however in Pan, the mermaids actually save Peter - showing how they have a soft spot for the boy who never ages. In Pan, a young Peter first being introduced to Neverland and his powers is almost killed by a crocodile, and it is the mermaids who come to his rescue and fend off the crocodile.
14.) The Mermaid, 2016. Directed by Stephen Chow
The Mermaid is a Chinese film that was released in the year of 2016. It follows the story of a businessman, Liu Xuan (Deng Chao), falling in love with a mermaid, Shan (Lin Yun) who was sent to kill him to stop his rich exploits of the mermaids’ habitats. The story was heavily inspired by Hans Christain Anderson’s Little Mermaid - with a modern environmentally conscious message mixed in. It is rated R for it’s fight scenes between mermaids and humans. It is rated as one of the highest grossing films in China.
15.) Blue My Mind, 2017. Directed by Lisa Brühlmann
Blue My Mind is a dark coming of age story where 15 year old Mia finds her puberty transformation a bit more intense than most other girls. Instead of just simply dealing with acne and growing spurts, Mia is growing a tail. A German film, the film averages around 80% of people liking it. The story can be dark and grotesque at times, as Mia does everything and anything to halt the process to no avail.
Mermaid Movies on Netflix:
A great way to watch movies is streaming services: here’s a few movies on one of the most popular services - Netflix!
Barbie movies are all over netflix, and they are classic mermaid tails to keep you hooked! In Dolphin Magic, Barbie is on vacation in the Bahamas when she discovers a strangely colored dolphin, and meets a new mysterious stranger who is dedicated to keeping the dolphin away from the prying eyes of marine scientists.
Middle school is already hard enough as it is, adding a move and the struggle of trying to keep a band together doesn’t make it any easier for our main hero, Kai. However, the little town he moved too has rumors of the fish people that swim around - and that they are attracted to music. It’s no surprise then, that Kai meets a little mermaid named Lu. The story is wildly zany and super fun, and will definitely make you smile!
Another beloved Peter Pan retelling, Hook sees the boy who never grows up grown up
and working hard to provide for his family. However, after Captain Hook steals away Peter’s children, the now adult has no choice but to return to Neverland to reclaim them alongside some of the old childhood magic. As in all Peter Pan stories, the mermaids still have a soft spot for him and save him from drowning by giving him oxygen underwater. Be sure to check this one out soon, as it leaves Netflix July 31st, 2021!
Mermaid TV Series
Mermaids have also had huge success on the silver screen! Take a look at some of the most popular TV shows here!
After the phenomenal success of Disney’s movie version of The Little Mermaid, Disney planned to create a show for children that was puppet based. However, after the untimely death of Jim Henson, and production difficulties, the show was dropped in favor of the more ambitious idea for an animated show to be aired on their new network, the Disney Channel. It was the first of many animated spin offs to some of the Disney Classics. The show follows Ariel before the events of the famous movie as she lives under the sea under her father’s rule. The show was well loved by younger audiences and is available to stream on Disney+ today!
Emma, Cleo, and Rikki are three normal girls making their way through high school - until the fateful night that brings them together in a magical way. After being exposed to a magic pool on a mystical island, the three now sprout tails when wet. The three learn to hide the secret, discover the magic, and stay together in this super fun series. This series is considered a classic, and is widely popular thanks to its energetic storytelling and memorable characters. The first season was the beginning point of the girls mastering their secret mermaid life style and discovering their powers. The second season saw the girls’ friendships challenged with the arrival of a new mermaid. The third and final season had the girls come into their power as mermaids to protect the world. All three seasons are available to stream on Netflix!
Once Upon a Time is a TV show that brought fairytales from the like of the Grimm Brothers, Hans Christain Anderson, and even Disney to the small town of Storybrooke. The show ran for a whole eight seasons, and followed a seemingly normal girl as she tried to free the residents of this town from the Evil Queen. In a world where all fairytale creatures exist, it only took until the third season for mermaids to make their appearance on the show. They can summon storms and are “not to be trusted,” in classic siren fashion.
After the success of H20: Just Add Water, Jonathan M. Shiff wanted to revisit the same setting of Mako island, however with the story of mermaids turned human instead of just humans turned mermaids. This story is notable because it also saw a human boy turned into a merman in the style of the girls from the sister show, H20. Mako Mermaids had three seasons as well - the first surrounding Zac (Chai Hansen) and his threat to the already hidden mermaids. The second season follows the mermaids and Zac as they try to return the pod to Mako Island and convince them of Zac’s harmlessness. The third and final season saw the mermaids and Zac facing off against a legendary water dragon from the Eastern Seas who threatened to destroy all mermaids and mermen alike. The series was not as critically acclaimed as H20, but was enjoyed for its light hearted jokes and the ongoing mysteries of mermen. All three seasons are available to stream on Netflix!
Siren is a darker take on the mermaid myth. After a fisherman captures a mermaid while out at sea, the town of Bristol Cove, Washington, is turned on its head as a young woman wrecks chaos on land. This young woman is revealed to be Ryn (Eline Powell), the sister of the mermaid who was captured. Two marine biologists work together to help her find her sister and discover the truth of the mermaids surrounding the water near them. The show can be a little graphic and dark, but was heavily enjoyed for its story and characters.
A eight-part series followed a young woman who was just released from jail coming to the town of Orphelin Bay, where the existence of sirens is not only a common myth - it’s factual. The proof lies in the “tidelanders” - children of fishermen and sirens that live in the mysterious town. When a fisherman’s body washes ashore, it’s up to Cal McTeer to slowly and carefully unravel the town’s secrets of the water. The show only ran for eight episodes, but fans have been hoping for a season 2 or revival with fingers tightly crossed.
Mermaids are excellent side characters - best seen at a glance to keep their mysterious ways lost to the early morning fog. Here’s an excellent short film to check out as well!
Kiss of a Siren, 2017. Directed by Miguel Gauthier and Viktorija Pashuta
This short film was produced by NuMe, a hair care company. This short film sees a fisherman falling in love with a mermaid who bleeds gold. He creates a pair of legs for her so they may live together, however when she is discovered she must flee - as her golden blood can be poisonous to all she doesn’t love. The film won Best Film at the International Fashion Film Awards. It also won Best Costume Design at the same 2014 awards ceremony. The film was nominated for 8 categories total.
In 2011, the network of Animal Planet made some huge waves with the highly controversial mockumentary Mermaids: The Body Found. This was a documentary filmed in two different parts - a hypothetical account of what mermaids could have evolved from the regular humans, and the story of a young scientist trying to show mermaids as real against the wishes of the government. It was one of the biggest hits on Animal Planet, and in 2013 aired a sequel to it called Mermaids; The New Evidence. It’s still available to stream on Discovery+, and remains if anything, an entertaining watch.
Mermaids and creatures of the deep are inlaid in all of our stories as is all of our oceans. The huge, deep blue has forever enraptured the humans’ imagination, and so mermaids swim free and happy in our hearts and all forms of our stories. We’re always excited to see what impact they will make next on our most popular storytelling methods.