The film is notable for being the first film released by the Walt Disney Studios' Touchstone Pictures label, which had been created that same year in an effort to release films targeted at adult audiences, with mature content not appropriate for the studio's flagship Walt Disney Pictures banner. Splash had received a PG-rating for including some profanity and brief nudity.
In 1964, 8-year-old Allen Bauer (David Kreps) is vacationing with his family near Cape Cod. While taking a sight-seeing tour on a small boat, he sees something below the ocean surface that fascinates him. Allen jumps into the water, even though he cannot swim. He grasps the hands of a girl (Shayla Mackarvich) who is inexplicably under the water with him and an instant connection forms between the two. Allen can now breathe under water as he is in the hands of a mermaid. However, Allen is pulled to the surface by the deck hands and the two are separated, though apparently no one else sees the girl. Allen comes to believe the encounter was a near-death hallucination, but his bond with the mermaid proves so strong that his subsequent relationships with women fail as he subconsciously seeks the connection he felt with the mermaid.
20 years later, Allen (Tom Hanks) is now co-owner of a wholesale fruit and vegetable business in New York City with his womanizing brother Freddie (John Candy). Depressed after his latest breakup, Allen returns to Cape Cod, where he encounters eccentric scientist Dr. Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy). After Allen is left alone when his motorboat conks out, he falls into the sea, and is knocked out when the boat hits his head. He wakes up with a headache on a beach, where he encounters a beautiful naked woman with long blonde hair and the inability to talk (Daryl Hannah) who, unknown to him, is the mermaid he met as a boy. After kissing him, she dives into the sea and leaves Allen to return home. Kornbluth, while diving in order to seek proof of strange sea creatures, also encounters the mermaid in her sea form, causing him to become obsessed with finding her again.
The mermaid finds Allen's wallet in the water and goes to a sunken boat where she finds a map. Using Allen's wallet to find where he is from, she then decides to find him in New York. She comes ashore naked at the Statue of Liberty, where she is arrested for indecent exposure. Using information from Allen's wallet, the police contact Allen, and the mysterious girl gets released into his care. She learns how to speak English from watching television, and is eager to see a big city for the first time in her life. Unable to say her real name in human language, she selects Madison from a Madison Avenue sign. She tells Allen that she will be in New York for "six fun-filled days when the moon is full", but if she stays longer, she can never go home again (the reason for this is unexplained). Despite Madison's occasional unusual behavior, she and Allen fall in love. Allen proposes to Madison, but she declines and runs away. After pondering her reason for coming to the city in the first place, Madison returns to Allen and agrees to marry him, with the added promise of telling him the truth about herself at an upcoming dignitary dinner to welcome the President of the United States.
Meanwhile, Kornbluth, realizing that the naked woman at Liberty Island was the mermaid he had encountered, pursues the couple trying to expose her as a mermaid by splashing her with water. Many attempts are unsuccessful, and Kornbluth ends up with multiple injuries including a badly broken arm and whiplash. Kornbluth finally lies in wait with water tanks at the dignitary dinner, splashing Madison with an attached hose and successfully proving the existence of mermaids. Madison is seized by government agents and taken to a secret lab, headed by Kornbluth's rival Dr. Ross (Richard B. Shull), for examination. Kornbluth regrets his actions after he learns that Madison is due to be dissected, as he just wanted to prove that he wasn't crazy.
Allen is shocked by Madison's secret, but when he voices his disillusionment to his brother, Freddie lashes out at him, telling his brother how unbelievably happy he was with her. Realizing he still loves Madison, Allen tries to make contact with government officials to let him see Madison, but to no avail. He then confronts a guilt-ridden Kornbluth, who agrees to help him rescue her.
Impersonating Swedish scientists, Freddie and Allen enter the lab with Kornbluth and smuggle Madison outside. Freddie decides to be arrested in Allen's place, while Kornbluth unsuccessfully tries to stop United States troops from catching the couple. Despite being under hot pursuit by troops, Allen and Madison make it back to the docks at the New York harbor. Madison tells Allen that he can survive under water as long as he is with her, causing Allen to realize she was the young mermaid he had met so long ago. Although Madison warns him that if he comes to live in the sea he can't return, he jumps into the water after her. They elude their pursuers and Allen discards his jacket, signifying him forsaking his miserable life on dry land. The credits roll as they swim along the ocean floor, while Madison shows Allen how beautiful life in the ocean is. The last shot of the film is the loving couple as they swim toward what appears to be an underwater kingdom.Tom Hanks as Allen Bauer
David Kreps as Young Allen
Daryl Hannah as Madison
Shayla MacKarvich as Young Madison
John Candy as Freddie Bauer
Jason Late as Young Freddie
Eugene Levy as Dr. Walter Kornbluth
Jeff Doucette as Junior
David Knell as Claude
Royce D. Applegate as Buckwalter
Dody Goodman as Mrs. Stimler
Howard Morris as Dr. Zidell
Richard B. Shull as Dr. Ross
Shecky Greene as Mr. Buyrite
Bobby Di Cicco as Jerry
Patrick Cronin as Michaelson
Tony Longo as Augie
Nora Denney as Mrs. Stein
Joe Grifasi as Manny
Rance Howard as McCullough
Lee Delano as Sergeant Leleandowski
Migdia Chinea Varela as Wanda
Eileen Saki as Dr. Fujimoto
Jodi Long as Reporter
Patrick O'Rorke as Boy on Pier
Bill Smitrovich as Ralph Bauer
Than Wyenn as Mr. Ambrose
Clint Howard as Wedding Guest
Screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel both make cameo appearances in the film. Ganz plays Stan the Tour Guide in the scene set at the Statue of Liberty. Mandel plays the man in charge of ice skate rentals who tackles Tom Hanks' character when he tries to run out with his skates still on. Director Ron Howard's father, actor Rance Howard, can be seen early in the film as Mr. McCullough, an unhappy customer screaming at Allen about his cherries. Howard's brother Clint Howard can be seen as a wedding guest, identified by Candy's character as the bride's brother and yelled at by Hanks.
According to the documentary on the Splash: 20th Anniversary Edition DVD in 2004, producer Brian Grazer had pitched the film to numerous studios but was turned down repeatedly until Walt Disney Productions, then headed by Ron Miller, agreed to produce the film. The key to the proposal's success was that Grazer changed the premise description from the idea of a mermaid adjusting to life in New York City to that about a love story about an ordinary man in New York City meeting a mermaid. An issue at the time of production was the competition between Splash and another announced mermaid film from Warner Bros. that had lined up Warren Beatty as its star. Director Ron Howard promised the studio that Splash would be filmed more quickly and cheaply than the other film, which eventually fell through. Many big name actors such as Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Richard Gere, Kevin Kline, Bill Murray, and John Travolta were all considered for the lead role before the producers decided on the then lesser known Tom Hanks. Before Daryl Hannah was cast as Madison, it had already been turned down by Tatum O'Neal, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lynne Frederick, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Genie Francis, Melanie Griffith, Fiona Fullerton, Diane Lane, Kathleen Turner and Sharon Stone.
Principal photography began on March 1, 1983 and completed on June 30, 1983 in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York. The beach where Tom Hanks first encounters the nude Daryl Hannah is on the former Gorda Cay in the Bahamas, which now is known as Castaway Cay, the private island of Disney Cruise Line.
Darryl Hannah's mermaid tail was designed and created by Academy Award-winning visual effects artist Robert Short. The tail was fully functional. Hannah swam with the mermaid tail so fast that her safety team could not keep pace with her. According to the DVD documentary, Hannah had been swimming "mermaid" style with her legs bound together since she was a child, due to her fascination with Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" story. However, the exceptionally detailed film tail was difficult to remove. For the sake of efficiency, Hannah at first kept it on while the cast had lunch. In the documentary contained on the 20th-anniversary Splash! DVD, Tom Hanks recalled how the other cast members would drop French fries over the side of the tank to her as though she were a trained sea mammal, because she couldn't leave the water while her legs were "shrink-wrapped."
The movie was a huge financial success. It was produced on an US$8 million budget, grossing $6,174,059 in its opening weekend and finished its domestic run with $69,821,334, making it the tenth highest-grossing film of 1984. The movie was also well received by critics and is considered to be one of the best films of 1984. It earned a 92% "Fresh" rating from the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.Wins
Saturn Award for Best Actress – Daryl Hannah
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay – Bruce Jay Friedman, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay – Bruce Jay Friedman, Lowell Ganz, Brian Grazer, Babaloo Mandel
Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay – Bruce Jay Friedman, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
Saturn Award for Best Direction – Ron Howard
Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor – John Candy
Saturn Award for Best Make-Up – Robert J. Schiffer
Saturn Award for Best Make-Up – Robert Short
Young Artist Award for Best Family Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
American Film Institute ListsAFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – Nominated
AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – Nominated
AFI's 10 Top 10 – Nominated Fantasy Film
A soundtrack album of Lee Holdridge's music for the film was released on both vinyl LP and cassette in the UK by Cherry Lane Records Ltd in 1984, with the music re-recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer. Both have been out of print for many years. The catalogue numbers for these releases were PIPLP 710 and ZCPIP 710 respectively. In 2000 the original music was released on a twenty-six track CD in the U.S. by Super Tracks Music Group. The back cover states that this product is "For Promotional Use Only" and that it has been "Manufactured for the composer...". Although this release is very hard to find brand new and may in fact be out of print, it is still obtainable from certain movie soundtrack specialist retailers and also occasionally used from certain online stores. This CD has every track that the LP and cassette have but has a considerably longer running length due to the twelve extra tracks. These extra tracks include more of the original music from the film, the theme song (by Lee Holdridge and Will Jennings) sung by Rita Coolidge and alternate versions of some of the tracks which appear on the LP and Cassette. The catalogue number for this release is LH CD – 02.
- "Love Came For Me (Love Theme)" (2:34)
- "Madison In Bloomingdale's" (1:37)
- "Mermaid On the Beach" (2:32)
- "Underwater" (2:20)
- "Reflection" (1:03)
- "Rainy Night" (2:40)
- "Face To Face" (1:25)
- "Escape And Chase" (2:54)
- "Madison And Allen" (3:04)
- "Moonlit Night" (2:56)
- "Daydream" (:55)
- "Raid On A Museum" (:50)
- "The Leap To Freedom" (3:35)
- "Return Home" (1:23)
- "Main Title" (1:51)
- "First Meeting" (1:33)
- "The Boat/Mermaid On The Beach" (2:34)
- "Underwater – Version No. 1" (1:29)
- "Underwater – Version No. 2" (1:25)
- "Daydream" (:57)
- "Madison At Bloomingdale's" (1:09)
- "In The Bar" (2:12)
- "Late At Night" (2:35)
- "Watching TV" (1:24)
- "I Love You" (1:41)
- "Rainy Night" (2:38)
- "All Wet" (1:07)
- "Sneak Attack" (1:03)
- "Raid On A Museum" (:43)
- "Reunion" (1:21)
- "Escape And Chase" (2:55)
- "The Leap For Freedom" (2:20)
- "Return Home" (2:14)
- "Love Came To Me (Love Theme) – Rita Coolidge" (4:30)
- "End Title" (3:07)
- "Rainy Night – Version No. 2" (2:37)
- "Escape And Chase – Film Version" (2:54)
- "The Leap For Freedom – Film Version" (2:20)
- "Love Came For Me – Solo Sax Version" (2:36)
- "Love Came For Me – Solo Guitar Version" (3:48)
Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's 2006 book Freakonomics credits the film with popularizing the name "Madison" for girls, as does Steven Pinker's 2007 The Stuff of Thought. In the film, Daryl Hannah's character takes her name from Madison Avenue after walking past a road sign. Hanks' character comments that it is not a real name as, at the time, it was a rather unusual name for a woman. However, in the years since the film was released in theatres and re-released on VHS and then DVD, the name's popularity has skyrocketed.
According to the Social Security Administration, the name "Madison" was the 216th most popular name in the United States for girls in 1990, the 29th most popular name for girls in 1995, and the 3rd most popular name for girls in 2000. In 2005, the name finally cracked the top 50 most popular girls' names in the United Kingdom, and articles in British newspapers credit the film for the popularization. In a 2014 interview, Hannah commented on the irony of the name's popularity and subsequent acceptance as a standard first name given its origins as joke based on Madison being primarily known as a street name at the time:
It's funny because no one understands the irony, because the whole point of me choosing that name was because it [was such a] silly name...Obviously everyone knew it as the name of the street. No one really saw it as a first name and that was a joke. And now, of course it's not funny at all. It's just like, Oh, what a beautiful name!'…It was funny at the time and now it's not even ironic.
Butch Hartman once credited the Eugene Levy character as the inspiration for his character of Denzel Crocker on The Fairly OddParents. Both characters are obsessed with a certain legendary creature and spend their free time trying to prove that such creatures exist. In both cases, the characters have practically no social life and various enemies.
In Tom Green's 2001 film Freddy Got Fingered, when Gord is showing his cartoon "Zebras in America" to the head of the cartoon studio in an attempt to shop the drawings, he compares the cartoon to Splash calling it "A fish out of water story".
Actress and underwater stunt woman Mermaid Melissa's films, Real Life Adventures, are a tribute to Splash by replicating the mermaid tail used for the movie. Underwater scenes are filmed using the tail not only as a prop but as a functional swimming peripheral.
Film actor and underwater performer Merman Christian uses fully functioning silicone tails that often feature the fin shape seen in Splash.
Educator, mermaid performer, and owner of Halifax Mermaids Raina Mer had both of her signature personal fully functional swimming peripheral tails specifically made to resemble the one worn by Daryl Hannah in Splash!Splash, Too (directed by Greg Antonacci), was a television film released in 1988 (contradicting the first movie's finale revelation that if Allen goes to live in the sea, he can never return) starring Todd Waring as Allen Bauer, Amy Yasbeck as Madison, and Donovan Scott as Freddie Bauer. Only one member of the original cast, Dody Goodman, the Bauers' slightly deranged assistant Mrs. Stimler, reprises her role.
A novelization of the film, written by Ian Marter (under the pen name Ian Don), was published by Target Books in the United Kingdom.
A Telugu film released in 1996 titled Sahasa Veerudu Sagara Kanya is loosely based on the film.
Producer Brian Grazer recently revealed in an interview with CNBC that he’s working on a remake of the 1984 romantic comedy Splash, only with a twist. The only information Grazer has stated is that he gave a vague hint in which he said "there's a movie star that's going to be involved", and stated it'll most likely be from the point-of-view of the mermaid and will be closer to an earlier draft of Splash. On August 1, 2016, Deadline reports that Jillian Bell and Channing Tatum will star with Bell as the female human and Tatum as the merman. Tatum will also produce the remake through his production company Free Association with his producing partners Reid Carolin and Peter Kieran, while Howard and Grazer will also produce from their production Imagine Entertainment with their partner Anna Culp will be the executive producer and Marja-Lewis Ryan will pen the remake.