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 Dry land is not just our destination, it is our destiny!


Starring Kevin Costner and directed by Kevin Reynolds, co-released with a tie-in Novel and Game. It used a then record-breaking budget of $175 million, but was a massive flop in the U.S., only grossing $88 million at the box office. However, it did quite well at the foreign box office, where it managed to make $176 million, saving it from becoming a financial failure, or not; it's complicated.

Set In a World where the polar ice-caps have melted (due to a havoc caused by a geomagnetic reversal) the world is covered by water. What's left of humanity is surviving on ramshackle crafts tied together to make Atolls (villages). The Mariner (Costner) enters one of these Atolls to trade, but is discovered to be a mutant and sentenced to death. After a group of pirates known as the Smokers attack the Atoll, a woman named Helen and her adopted daughter Enola bribe The Mariner to take them to Dryland, the legendary last remaining island. Enola conveniently has a map on her back.

The Smokers chase the Mariner and kidnap the girl. The Mariner sneaks onto their base of operations (an old oil tanker, now converted into a city) and saves the girl. The heroes are finally able to read the map on Enola's back, which leads them to Dryland.

Contains Examples of the Following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Not for the movie itself, but the Universal Studios show based on it is actually quite good and has been running for a fairly long time.
  • After the End
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey: Deacon every so often mentions "Old Saint Joe" with the same reverence as an actual saint. Near the end of the movie it's revealed that the Smokers' base is the remains of the Exxon Valdez and "Old Saint Joe" is a portrait of the ship's disgraced captain, Joseph Hazelwood.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Don't like Kevin Costner's gills.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The smokers seem to fit this to a t.
  • Anti-Hero: In typical 90's fashion.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 2
  • The Apunkalypse: Civilization has collapsed humans are adrift and the punkish, scavenging Smokers play the part of a large jet ski gang.
  • Artistic License Biology: Somehow, the Mariner can inhale water with his gills and exhale breathable air indefinitely to allow Helen to breathe underwater. Um... gills do not work that way.
  • Artistic License Geology: If you melted all the ice on the planet, you would cause a 60m (about 180 feet) rise in sea level, which is not nearly enough to create the ocean planet depicted.
    • Not to mention the shores of the island at the end had sandy beaches. It takes a long time to erode rock to sand...
    • And if there were enough ice to cover the world to the extent depicted, the ocean salt water would become diluted enough to be drinkable. (And kill everything that's adapted to live in salt water.)
  • Artistic License Physics
  • Big Bad: The Deacon
  • Brutal Honesty
  • Bullet Holes and Revelations
  • But Now I Must Go
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: played straight.
  • Character Development: Kevin Costner's character changed from Jerkass to Jerk with a Heart of Gold halfway through the movie and lost his "jerk" persona by the end of the movie.
  • Conflict Ball: Helen, listen, first of all, when you've just blackmailed someone into saving your life, expecting trust is a little much. On top of that, in the middle of a firefight when that someone is trying to save your life and his is a really stupid time to answer any random question he asks you with "Can I trust you?!"
  • Crapsack World: Nathan Rabin said it best:

 Consequently, successful post-apocalyptic joints must offer something to offset their innate pessimism and ugliness [...] 'Waterworld, by comparison, offers only pessimism and ugliness, spiritually as well as aesthetically, most spectacularly in the form of the some of the most hideous sets ever created, extravagant eyesores even the film's production designer must have been happy to be seen torn down.

  • Did Not Do the Research: Everything about the ice melting and covering the entire Earth.
    • And about the result being undrinkable.
    • The total mass of ice is so enormous that complete melting would take centuries. And even if it all melted, it'd only take out coastal areas; there'd still be plenty of land.
    • Oh, and the Exxon Valdez had long since been renamed and sold by the time of production. As of 2010 it's not even an oil tanker anymore, but now an ore carrier in the Far East. On the other hand, the very fact that it's still out there...
      • It's not the ship's fault it ran aground.
      • And leaking a huge quantity of oil is far more damaging to the environment than spilling ore into the sea.
  • The Dragon: The Nord
  • Dull Surprise: Costner, a notorious contrast to Dennis Hopper's Ham and Cheese.
  • Epic Movie
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Mariner. Subverted in the extended edition, wherein after the heroes reach Dry Land, Helen gives the Mariner a real name just before he heads back out onto the ocean. It's "Ulysses", a derivation of the Latin version of the name of the sailor who was the main character of Homer's Odyssey.
  • Eyepatch of Power: The Deacon gains one during the movie.
  • Future Imperfect: While going through The Mariner's belongings, the Atoll's citizens assume that a yo-yo, flute, and exercise machine are garrote wire, a spy listener, and a torture device.
  • Green Aesop: Surprisingly averted, considering the film's portrayal of a ruined Earth and the bad guys' use of an oil tanker, which would have been a perfect opportunity to exploit an environmental message about pollution.
  • Jerkass: The Mariner. He tossed a little girl overboard to drown.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Kevin Costner has evolved gills behind his ears.
  • Large Ham: Dennis Hopper as the Deacon, the leader of the smokers.
  • Logo Joke: The Universal globe floods to the levels seen in the movie proper.
  • Made of Explodium: The Deacon knocks Enola out of the balloon, and the Mariner bungees her to safety, causing a Wronski Feint between two smokers on jet skis, and, of course, a resulting giant-fireball explosion. What fuel they used to create the massive, towering fireball is still unknown. There are also traces of Outrun the Fireball but on a bungee.
  • Mood Whiplash: So the world has gone crap, few survivors left are squabbling against each other and there's tension between the protagonist and two female he saved... Suddenly, over-the-top Smokers hijinx!
  • More Dakka: the smokers' idea of a siege weapon is a four-barrel anti-aircraft machinegun emplacement trained at your enemy's floating citadel. It gets hijacked by the good guys, and shows itself very effective against ships too.
  • No Indoor Voice: "Maybe he has some FOOD!"
  • Ocean Punk
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: The Smokers make the residents of a small trading post, whom they've recently killed, appear to be waving to the Mariner as the latter approaches, intending to draw him into a deadly trap. Unfortunately for them, the Mariner isn't fooled by the charade.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket
  • Plot Induced Stupidity: Leaving Enola alone on the ship to get kidnapped by the Smokers.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "MU-TA-TIOOOON!" "HE'S-A-MU-TAAAANT!"
  • Rasputinian Death: The Deacon.
  • Recycled in Space: It's Mad Max... on JET SKIS!
  • Religion of Evil: In the extended edition, The Deacon refers to the Smokers as the Church Of Eternal Growth when talking with Enola.
  • Ruins of the Modern Age
  • Scavenger World
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Enola is "alone" spelled backwards. Fitting considering she was orphaned.
  • Technology Porn: Done for Padding.
  • This Looks Like a Job For Aquaman
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: When the Smokers raid the atoll, the Mariner impales one of them with a thrown machete.
  • Title Drop: "Nothing's free in Waterworld"
  • Token Romance: The Mariner and Helen.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Enola, who lives in a world covered in water and doesn't know how to swim.
    • The people who persecute "mutants" who can breathe under water (never mind how this makes any sense). You live on a planet of water, guys. Why are you chasing away one of the most useful people you could possibly find? In fairness it is actually a somewhat believable reaction, considering most peoples' instinctive (if unfortunate) tendencies to fear anything that's different to them. No-one said it was a smart reaction, though.
    • Enola is actually justified by reality, too. You might think that a sailor not knowing how to swim was the stupidest thing you'd ever heard, but it used to be exceptionally common. Besides, if the water was full of stuff like what the Mariner killed by using himself as bait (meaning: yes they do see humans as food), would you want to hop in and learn to swim?
      • Thing is, sailors not knowing how to swim was either because it wasn't part of the requirements, making employment easier, and/or because the crews viewed anybody who tried to swim away from a sinking ship a coward. That's hardly the case in this water covered Earth.
        • Indeed, in the days of press gangs, men who didn't know how to swim were more desirable as impressed sailors, as they wouldn't be liable to escape!
      • Also, in some areas (such as the North Atlantic) swimming in icey cold waters would probably kill you quicker than drowning, so swimming wasn't really a useful life saving skill for some sailors.
  • Traumatic Haircut
  • Underwater Ruins