You wouldn’t imagine a being that’s half-fish to be alluring, mysterious, or lovely in any way, but for whatever reason, mermaids are all of those things. Perhaps it has to do with the fantasy of them, and that in pop culture, they are overwhelmingly portrayed as beautiful and feminine.
Mermaid movies have been around forever, but they can be few and far between. They can also be of varying genres; not only love stories like Splash feature the likes of a mermaid. Horror, fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, and many other types of movies have featured the mythical half-human, half-marine creature that has fascinated people for centuries. And there are far more mermaid movies out there than I even realized, until I began specifically seeking them out.
The ladies on this list are definitely beautiful, and when dressed as a mermaid, they are even more so. But mermaids, it turns out, also encompass a broad range of personalities, and have vastly different intentions; not all mermaids are good. The cartoon mermaid Ariel, a well-loved Disney princess, is very cute, sweet, and demure. On the other end of the spectrum, though, are mermaids the likes of the ones seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean: beautiful but perilous devilfish more closely related to ghouls or witches than Disney princesses.
With nearly three-quarters of the earth’s surface covered by water, it is no wonder that marine creatures of all kinds have been thought up in the imaginations of every generation. Although mermaids are indeed fictitious beings, people have still reported seeing them in real life, kind of like Big Foot (except completely opposite of Big Foot when it comes to attractiveness). Luckily, there have been plenty of actresses in both Hollywood and elsewhere on this watery planet that have personified the legendary mermaid in the absence of real ones.
Mermaids, the figments of our imaginations, have manifested into something real when portrayed by gorgeous actresses. 15 of them can be found on this list, along with the details surrounding their films. Read on to find out who these beautiful women are, and see them at their most entrancing, as maidens of the sea.
15. The Girls From Mermaids
The 2003 television film Mermaids starred Nikita Ager, Erika Heynatz, and Serah D’Laine as the three beautiful mermaids at the center of the story. The trio are sisters who in the movie team up to avenge their father’s death. He was accidentally killed by fisherman. In this version of mermaid folklore, mer- people gain legs when dry and a tail when wet, so throughout the film, the sisters are interchangeably between land and sea. All three sisters have powers such as superhuman strength, the ability to hypnotize men, and the ability to break glass when they screech, among others. The story of sisters Diana, Venus, and June is at once a love story, an adventure, and a fantasy. It has a happy, if bittersweet, ending that sees the sisters deciding to stay on land together, with the implication that they will have many more adventures to come.
14. Sara Paxton in Aquamarine
One of the more recent mermaid-based movies is 2006’s Aquamarine, starring Emma Roberts, JoJo Levesque, and Sara Paxton as the mermaid Aquamarine. It is the story of two teenaged girls in a sleepy Florida coastal town who, after a storm, discover a mermaid in their beach club’s swimming pool. The blonde beauty is desperate to get out of an arranged marriage, and promises the girls to grant them one wish if they help her find true love on land. Luckily, they have just the guy: the hunky lifeguard played by Jake McDorman. Sara, who was obsessed with The Little Mermaid as a child, said it was her dream come true to play one. In an interview, she said it took two and a half hours every day to squeeze her body into the tail and then get it sipped up, glued in, airbrushed, and painted. Then she would be carried by five guys on a stretcher to the pool, and dropped in. All the hard work paid off though, because she made a gorgeous mermaid.
13. Alyssa Milano in Charmed
Best known for her roles on Who’s the Boss?, Melrose Place, and Charmed, Alyssa Milano actually had a much bigger role than most people know. She was the inspiration for an iconic and timeless character, and one of the Disney princesses, Ariel. She confirmed the rumors in 2013, acknowledging that Ariel, The Little Mermaid, was created in her likeness as a child. Ariel is based on photos of Alyssa as a child, along with a few other girls. But Alyssa has also played a mermaid on television. In the first two episodes of the fifth season of Charmed, Alyssa’s character Phoebe Halliwell temporarily becomes a mermaid. In “A Witch’s Tail Parts One and Two”, Phoebe, a witch, is transformed into a mermaid after a location spell. But all’s well that ends well, and Phoebe does turn back into a human/witch eventually.
12. Ann Blyth in Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid
The lovely Ann Blyth starred as a beautiful mermaid in the 1948 film Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid. In this story, a middle-aged Bostonian on vacation with his wife in the West Indies catches a mermaid whilst fishing. The two share no common language, but when he takes her home, they fall in love. There are plenty of vintage black and white photographs of Ann as the mermaid in this movie, and they all make her look stunning. She was known for having a “dark, petulant beauty” and often played more serious roles in films like Mildred Pierce and Danger Signal. Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid was one of her lighter films, a comedy not to be taken too seriously, and her fans ultimately preferred her usual darker characters.
11. Cara Delevingne in Pan
Although it was not a huge role, model Cara Delevingne played twin mermaids in the 2015 film Pan, based on the classic tale Peter Pan. Then 22, Cara appeared in the movie starring Hugh Jackman and Amanda Seyfried. Cara’s natural beauty made it easy for her to transform into the ethereal, enchanting mermaids in the reimagining of a story we all know and love. Like the story itself, Cara’s portrayal of the mermaids is magical and mythical. The fairytale shows her off as an actress and not a model, which is how we usually see her. But her athletic body helped Cara through the demanding role, which required a lot of underwater work and stunts. The above is a drawing Cara did herself and posted to Instagram, with the captions #whyistherenomermaidemoji and #mermazing. It seems the model-turned-actress has a hidden artistic side.
10. Cariba Heine in H20: Just Add Water
South African-born Cariba Heine makes a very pretty mermaid. For her role as Rikki Chadwick in the Australian show H20: Just Add Water, Cariba trained with a personal swimming coach to build up her strength in the water. The show is about three friends who turn into mermaids after a strange island transforms them. Cariba’s character is the new girl in town with a mysterious past, and she played the character for all four years the show was on, then reprised it in 2016 for another Australian mermaid show called Mako Mermaids, although her part has been much less significant. Cariba has the look one would expect a beachy, California girl to have: golden hair, sun-kissed skin, and a fun vibe. So it is no wonder she did so well playing a creature of the sea.
9. Kelly Brook in Fishtales
This mermaid tale (no pun intended) tells the story of a young girl who meets a beautiful mermaid while staying on a Greek island. The mermaid, played by Kelly Brook, is in danger from an evil fisherman, but falls in love with an Oxford professor (and the little girl’s father), played by her real-life fiancé, Billy Zane. Fishtales was a comedy film released in 2007, and Kelly Brook was the perfect choice to embody the feisty mermaid Neried, who has a jewel-encrusted tail and is graceful as she swims in the sea. Even compared to the arguably more successful mermaid movies like Splash, Kelly’s performance was hailed as something flawlessly elegant in a silly, family-friendly film. But not everything was fun and games with this lighthearted movie: the British actress almost drowned filming one scene, after bumping her head and being unable to swim in the costume. Luckily, the divers were close by to help, and pulled her to safety.
8. Glynis Johns in Miranda
The film Miranda is the light and funny tale of a man who is fishing alone and gets captured by a mermaid, who keeps him prisoner in her underwater cavern. She will only let him go if he agrees to show her London, so he disguises her as a patient in a wheelchair and takes her to the city for a month. In the end, she must make an escape because people begin to find out what she really is. Glynis Johns, now 93, looked ravishing on that rock, her long curls covering her bare chest, appearing coy and seductive. The South African-born Welsh actress was also known for playing Winifred Banks in Mary Poppins, Molly Shannon’s grandmother in Superstar, and a whole lot of other projects in between.
7. Pam Dawber in The Little Mermaid
Two years before Disney’s The Little Mermaid was released in 1989, a live-action version of the beloved fairytale first penned by Hans Christian Andersen came out. It was part of Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre, a children’s television show in the 1980’s that showcased various fairytales. Pam Dawber, known best for playing Mindy in Mork and Mindy, portrayed the mermaid Pearl. The Faerie Tale Theatre tried to keep the story as accurate as possible, and since it is actually melancholy tale, this version was not as upbeat as some are, like the Disney version. It is essentially the same old story we all grew up with (the mermaid princess lives under the sea with her father the king, longs to “feel the sand beneath her toes”, and pretty much sells her soul to do so, then ends up falling in love with a prince). However, this version is darker, although it was still made with children in mind.
6. Phoebe Tonkin, H20: Just Add Water
Australian actress Phoebe Tonkin is known for many television series, such as The Originals, The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle, and Home and Away. Like Cariba Heine who we already talked about, Phoebe played one of the three mermaid friends in the Australian series H20: Just Add Water. Her character is called Cleo Sertori. Phoebe was initially not the strongest swimmer, but worked hard to learn, and ultimately it paid off because she played Cleo from 2006-2010. Clearly beautiful, Phoebe’s bronze skin and slim figure make her a great choice to play a mermaid. She is one very versatile actress who can pull off a sassy, sexy werewolf with fangs just as easily as she can a half-human, half- sea creature with fins.
5. Tiffany Boone in Once Upon a Time
Tiffany Boone of Beautiful Creatures fame has been confirmed for her role as Morgana in the 2018 live-action re-make of The Little Mermaid. Morgana is the sister of King Triton (Jamie Foxx) and Ursula (Conviction‘s Merrin Dungey). The new version of the fairytale will also star Bella Thorne and Samuel L. Jackson. But for now, let’s focus on Tiffany’s portrayal of Young Ursula in a 2015 episode of Once Upon a Time. In the episode titled “Poor Unfortunate Soul”, a complicated past between Hook and the evil Ursula is revealed. Seen in the flashbacks is Young Ursula, who wants to run away from home and unwisely decides to trust the pirate Hook, who leaves with her singing voice. Named after a song from The Little Mermaid, this episode has two other songs made famous by the movie, “Part of Your World” and “Fathoms Below”, which Tiffany vocalizes.
4. Amy Yasbeck in Splash Too
Splash Too followed its better known predecessor, Splash. And even though Amy Yasbeck wowed as a mermaid, it was not her most famous role like it was Daryl Hannah’s. Released in 1988, Splash Too is the sequel to the romantic story of mermaid Madison and the man she rescued from drowning as a boy, Allen. Now married and living on an island, a bored Allen, played by Todd Waring, convinces Madison to return to New York so he can save his business. Amy Yasbeck (known for The Mask, Pretty Woman, and most recently an episode of Pretty Little Liars) went through extensive physical training in preparation to play Madison. She could not fit into the original mermaid tail worn by Daryl Hannah, so a new one was made for her by creating a cast of her body contour. It looks pretty realistic to me.
3. Daryl Hannah in Splash
And of course we have Splash, whose star Daryl Hannah is recognized worldwide for having played Madison the mermaid. Tom Hanks played her love interest, Allen. At the time of filming, the stunning Daryl was actually very shy about her body, and wore Band-Aids and makeup over her nipples to cover them. Interestingly, she had been swimming with her legs bound together mermaid-style since she was a child, because she was so fascinated by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Little Mermaid. She was so good at that way, in fact, that her speed was great enough (even with the 35-pound tail!) that her safety team could not keep up with her in the water! Since Splash came out in 1984 and Disney’s The Little Mermaid came out in 1989, the folks at Disney who had originally wanted Ariel’s hair to be blonde, ultimately decided to change it to red to distinguish Ariel from Madison.
2. Diane Webber in Mermaids of Tiburon
This stunning woman played the Mermaid Queen in the 1962 film Mermaids of Tiburon, about a diver who searches for sunken treasure with the aid of beautiful mermaids. Diane Webber, also known by her birth name of Marguerite Diane Emprey, was a model and actress, and became a sort of symbol to people of what a real mermaid would look like. The two-time Playboy Playmate of the Month (in 1955 and 1956) was a woman who took an interest in nudism, and with her classic beauty, always appeared tasteful and elegant when photographed without clothing. A belly dancer as well as an actress and model, the buxom and curvaceous knockout also portrayed a mermaid in the 1967 film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: The Mermaid. Sadly, Diane passed away in 2008 from complications following surgery for cancer. She was 76.
1. The Pirates of the Caribbean Mermaids
In the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jack Sparrow aims to exploit the power of the Fountain of Youth, but before he can do so, he must obtain a single tear from a mermaid. And these are no ordinary mermaids. They are strikingly beautiful- that is, until they morph into vicious monsters of the sea. Visual Effects Art Director Aaron McBride had intended to create a “beautiful aesthetic”, and he did just that. The exquisite and bewitching aquatic creatures use their skills of seduction to lure men to their watery graves. Some of the notable mermaids in this film were Syrena, Tamara, Marina, Morveren, Aquala, and Aquila. Among others, they were portrayed by Gemma Ward, Sanya Hughes, Antoinette Nikprelaj, and Astrid Berges-Frisbey. All were deadly beauties of the deep, just as dangerous as they were enticing.