Original Title:


Alternative Title(s):


Year of Release:



136 Minutes VHS and DVD. An extended version shown only on TV, mostly in the US, but possibly elsewhere, has clocked in at 176 minutes. More on that below.

Country of Origin:



'Beyond the horizon lies the secret to a new beginning'

Reviewed Version Rating:



      By Michael Petch
5th Feb 07 
Waterworld is quite an anomaly. Sure it's a wasteland adventure, but it spins the idea on its head, exchanging the dry desert land for an infinite sea. One of the main reasons that these movies continue to be made is that the budget needed to film action out in a desolate deserted desert is miniscule. Deciding to completely flood the world with water suddenly makes absolutely everything, by my primitive calculation, 50 times more expensive than Mad Max 2, and therefore 100 times more expensive than the majority of PA movies. Waterworld cost approximately $175million, making it reportedly the most expensive film ever made at the time, and therefore the most expensive post-apocalyptic movie ever. Upon release many critic panned the movie, and it was regarded as a huge flop. In retrospect the film made a lot more money than it was given credit for, more than making back its budget, and it's actually quite an enjoyable comic-book style movie that I so nearly put into category A, but with so much water, and not even a whiff of nukes, I simply couldn't.

Now, I aim to review most post-apocalyptic films in depth, but that’s because they are mostly rare, out of print, hard to find movies. Waterworld is probably sitting on a shelf in your nearest DVD shop, which is pretty unusual. Despite what a lot of people have said, it's still a good movie so go out and get it!

The film starts out with good old Kev (Kevin Costner, who doesn’t receive a name in the film) keeping himself busy out on his rusty old catamaran, drinking his own urine and generally enjoying the peace and quiet that a world of water offers the professional sailor. Everything in this world is rusty brown, which we all know to be an important PA rule, so prepare yourself for two hours of brown and blue.

After casually floating around for a while and a first encounter with a raiding party of the jet-ski riding bad guys nicknamed the Smoker,’ Kev decides to head off to one of what must be the numerous floating ports that's surrounded by a huge retaining wall. He's allowed entry after showing off his collection of soil which impresses the gate keepers greatly. The port seems to be some kind of floating town, with a lawman, a weird bubbling vat used as a graveyard and a general store that seems to be out of stock of most items. Naturally, the two most important commodities are water and food and this is the reason for Kev’s trip into town. His "pure dirt" manages to buy him a small tomato plant and some water from the store, which is run by Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn). When Kev heads back to his boat, some people try to get him to take their daughter with him (Not the first or last time Costner has been offered a woman in his films). When he refuses, a scuffle breaks out and it's revealed that Kev is a bit of a mutant. He has gills and webbed feet.

I wonder what the actual process is all about? Are they gonna eat this goo?

The girl is 'offered' to Kev...

...until they discover his gills, for which he is....

Kev is arrested and locked up in a cage, which is scheduled to be dropped into the yellow vat of gunk they use as a kind of compost graveyard. Luckily for Kev, an old man seems to take a liking to him. The old man looks after Helen and a young girl called Enola, and he seems to think that Kev can help them find some dry land, of which location is tattooed onto the back of the young Enola. Unfortunately, the old man has no way of letting Kev out without the sheriff stopping him.

...promptly locked up.

The next morning, Kev is about to be executed when the Smokers attack the port. A huge part of the budget must have gone into this great little fight. The Smokers arrive with two large attack barges, one with a huge anti-aircraft gun mounted to it, multiple jet-ski’s and even water-skiers pulled by a boat-plane. The old man escapes in a hot air balloon, which rises too fast for Helen and Enola to reach. Their only option is Kev, who is sinking fast in his cage. He promises to help them escape and they let him free. After a bit of wrangling they manage to escape from the Smokers, who easily tear the port to pieces.

The best scene of the film? Probably, as there are no side plots to worry about, simply action.

Dennis Hopper plays The Deacon, leader of the Smokers and all round bad egg. Having been tipped off about the possible map to the fabled dry land, he’s desperate to get his hands on the map tattooed to Enola. The Deacon heads back to his home ship the Deez (the Exxon Valdes!) in a bad mood due to both the girl escaping and him loosing an eye in the battle. In his spare time he likes to be driven around his ship in a Cadillac to the Blues Brothers soundtrack, mercifully throwing cigarettes to the dirty crowd of people who live on the ship and do whatever he demands. How the tobacco has survived for so long is debatable. The trailer on the DVD has a voice-over that claims it is set centuries from now, the rust on the ships look pretty old, especially the barnacles on the Deez. Yet tinned food and cigarettes surely wouldn’t still be edible/smokable so far in the future?

The one and only car in the film.

Meanwhile, back on Kev’s ship, Helen and Enola immediately get on Kev’s nerves. He certainly likes his solitude and threatens to dump the kid overboard and not give them any of his valuable water and food. Helen strips off and offers herself to Kev in an attempt to win him over, but he still refuses. This goes on for quite a while but Kev slowly warms to the pair.

Eventually, the Smokers catch up to Kev. There's an interesting scene where the boat plane gets attached to the mast of Kev's boat, and another where Kev manages to escape from a trap that the Smokers laid for him. Helen is under the impression that Kev knows where dry land is, so to prove to her that he doesn’t, he uses his underwater breathing gills to take her down below the waves to a ruined city, proving that the world was at one time dry in places. It's dark and desolate down there and Kev uses plenty of flares, of which he somehow constantly manages to have a good supply of throughout the movie. Upon their return to the surface they find the ship boarded by the Smokers. Enola is captured and the ship is set on fire. Kev and Helen dive down to escape from the bullets, and the Smokers believe them to be dead, neglecting the fact that Kev has gills to breath underwater.

The one and only giant mutated fish thing in the film.

Kev’s ship is in ruins, and all is lost until the old man with the balloon turns up. He flies them off to a small group of little boats that constitutes the rest of the survivors of the port battle. By this point, Kev has bonded with Helen and Enola, and proposes to sneak up on The Deacon and get her back. The rest are scared so he heads off alone on a captured jet-ski.

The comic book criminals back on the Deez are contemplating what the map means and Enola is spending her time trying to scare them with tales of Kev’s bravery. The Deacon finally gathers the people of the ship on the deck and speaks to them from up high in his control tower, keeping them happy with tales of dry land. At this point, Kev reaches the boat and sneaks on, stealthily killing the people who get in his way. Surprisingly, Kev does something really quite rash. He simply drops a flare into the petrol tank of the ship and blows the whole thing up, showing where another chunk of the budget went. There's very little CGI used in the movie so the set-piece explosions and actions look good, even when ridiculous. The Deacon runs off to the Boat Plane with Enola to escape, but one expensive stunt later and Kev has rescued the kid. Luckily, the hot air balloon turns up to rescue them. Just when it looks like everything is over and the Deez has sunk, The Deacon and a couple of other survivors manage to make one more stab at taking Enola, culminating in a very silly bungee jumping Kev and a nice explosion.

"oh no, my lovely boat!" - Kev

The money shot.

"oh no, my lovely boat!" - Deacon


Somehow, and this I really don’t understand, the old man suddenly understands the cryptic map on Enola’s back after seeing it upside down. A few days flying later and dry land is found, of which an extended scene as detailed later on this page is supposed to be Mount Everest. Everybody is happy except for Kev, who gets a dose of land sickness and builds a boat so he can go back home to the sea.

That must have been one huge mountain.

Final Thoughts:

It’s certainly a fun film. Sometimes it take itself a little too seriously, but most of the time it doesn’t take itself seriously enough. I really enjoyed Hopper's Deacon character, although I can see why some people would find it too comical. There are a million things that just don’t add up and need explaining throughout the movie. How does everybody manage to find each other so easily and quickly on the open sea? How are the tinned food and cigarettes still usable after so many years? How do they refine the oil left on the Deez for use in the engines? How did Kev become mutated and how can he swim so ridiculously fast? Luckily the action is fun and frantic enough to distract us from the story’s problems and it fails to get boring at any point.

Despite the obviously expensive action sequences, and the lack of communication between the main characters, it at times felt like this is a pilot for a series of adventures, pitting Kev against The Deacon and other inhabitants of the Waterworld. It just felt like more things could have happened and that there was much more to explain. It would have been nice to see Hopper going crazy on a week to week basis.

In the end it shouldn’t be taken as seriously as it probably wanted to be, and it shouldn’t be judged on how much it cost to make and how much it made at the box office. The important things are that it’s fun to watch and it’s a good escape film. Well done to Kev for trying something a little bit different.

Alternative Versions:

Researching Waterworld I was surprised to find out about this. There's a 40 minute longer version that was shown on US TV but has not been officially released. What really interests me about this is the amount of stuff that could possibly explain away some of my gripes about the movie, such as a supposed scene that reveals the final island they land on to actually be Mount Everest. I can't find a copy on eBay or anywhere but am planning to one day track this down. Below is copied from Wikipedia and I can't confirm any of this:
  • A Hydro Addict is trying to trade his hair for fresh Hydro. There are other people banging on the gates trying to get into the Atoll.
  • After the Mariner's capture at the Atoll, the inhabitants of the Atoll examine his belongings. Among them, they find a Thighmaster, which they think is a torture device; a yo-yo, which they believe is an assassin's weapon used to strangle people; and a clarinet, which they think is used as a spy's listening device. This is also where the Atoll decides to dump the Mariner into the Recycling Pit.
  • A scene that explains where exactly the Mariner got the jet-ski he uses to reach the Deacon's ship to rescue Enola. The survivors of the Atoll massacre are ambushed by two of the Deacon's men on jet-skis; the Mariner kills both men, and takes their weapons and one of the jet-ski craft.
  • A scene that shows how Gregor managed to find Helen and the Mariner after their boat was burned down.
  • At least 10 minutes worth of new scenes that further detail life aboard the Deacon's ship, including how they obtain their cigarettes and other equipment.
  • A scene that reveals that the two skeletons found in the shack near the end of the movie are indeed the girl's parents, instead of just letting the audience guess it.
  • Scenes that show the Mariner building the new boat he uses to leave the island at the end of the movie.
  • The Mariner is also given a name by Helen.
  • We see Helen and Enola standing atop the cliff watching the Mariner depart before the film's end credits. As they are standing there, they uncover a plaque which tells us that they are at the peak of Mount Everest.

Cast and Crew Facts etc:

There's a rumor that the director Kevin Reynolds walked off the set early on, and Kevin Costner completed the filming. I don't know of anybody shooting this one down, and with the hundreds of people involved in the production its surprising that this rumor still exists if it isn't true.

Tina Majorino who played little Enola went on to star in Napoleon Dynamite.

Jack Black plays a pilot in the film.

The Universal logo at the beginning shouldn't be missed! (see the YouTube clip below).

A huge set was supposedly destroyed in a storm, possible changing the intended story greatly.


All from The Deacon -

"He's like a turd that won't flush!"

"Let's have an intelligent conversation here: I'll talk, and you listen."
"If you'll notice the arterial nature of the blood coming from the hole in my head, you can assume that we're all having a real lousy day."

Connections With Other PA's:

Kevin Costner famously went on to make The Postman which was trashed by the press even more than Waterworld.

Australian Dean Semler worked as Cinematographer on this, as well as Mad Max II and III.

James Newton Howard, who re-scored the movie (after Mark Isham's score was reportedly rejected for being 'too ethnic' by Costner) went on to do the music for The Postman too. A number of others went on to work on The Postman as well, including editor Peter Boyle.

Critic's reactions:

See IMDB for hundred of reviews and views. Originally it was quite badly recieved but slowly it has warned a little respect.

Regular Movie Goers Scores:

Good fun action movie that everybody should be able to enjoy.

For the PA Collector:

Although I have catagorised this as a B, it's still pretty important for the collection. It's also a good place for new collectors to start.

There's a video game that's pretty hard to find both for the PC and apparently for the VitualBoy (Nintendo's headache-inducing failure). Also a different version which looks awful was released for the SNES. A board game was produced that looks like fun and action figures were produced, although they look quite poor. You can find a few on eBay if you look hard and the prices are quite reasonable.

Links / External Reviews:


"This, along with The Postman, is the film cursed with dooming Kevin Costner’s name. It gave him the title of Overdramatic Weird Guy Who Makes Long Post-Apocalyptic Movies At Bargain Prices. It’s why he is constantly ridiculed via Simpsons and Family Guy. But hey, Lisa Simpson forgives him, why can’t we?"


"It [the script] also has unbelievable events.  How about an untrained person shooting, and hitting, an airplane with a harpoon?  I'd be interesting in hearing of any cases, ever, where an expert hit a plane with a harpoon.  There is also the interesting choice of having a plane attack by towing skiers over a jump.  If you have a plane, there are lots of ways you can attack with it (like dropping things on your opponents), but that isn't one of them."

The Washington Post

"Though Costner is too glum as a nomadic fish man, he showed the right instincts when he took over from director Kevin Reynolds and attempted to turn the mythic epic into an action film a kind of "Road Warrior Goes Snorkeling." Waterworld is a little bit of both. But for the most part, Costner had his way. Whether it's the rusting scrap-metal sets or the gas-guzzling bad guys, the movie takes its cues from George Miller's "Mad Max" movies. And like the Australian superhero, Costner is a nomadic loner with no love for people and no family to tie him down. Only he was born with webbed feet, gill slits and the personality of a giant fish stick."


"someone I once knew described his style as "living-room acting." (Which is why he sucks at larger-than-life roles like Robin Hood.) But the problem is, no matter what role he's playing, he's always playing Kevin Costner. And the Kevin Costner that we all know and (cough) love simply isn't believable as an antisocial loner. He's just too nice a guy. When it's revealed that he has a heart of gold, the only reaction the audience can have is, "Duh! Of COURSE he does -- he's Kevin Costner!""

Countries Released:


DVD Release Info:

Released worldwide on DVD, although its pretty basic. As far as I know there's no kind of special edition available. On a plus note, it had been released on HDDVD which I'm sure is the best possible way to see this movie at the moment.

Actual Budget/Guessed Budget:

Approx $175million. Ouch.

Our Score:

 7 out of 10



Box Cover(s):
UK Pal VHS (click to enlarge)



Standard Movie Poster

Advertisement Poster(s):


Press Cuttings etc:




Coming soon.

The first two minutes of the film, including the classic Universal title modification:

Small trailer (external website) This trailer is different from the UK DVD trailer. Quicktime required.

YouTube has plenty of clips from the Waterworld show at Universal Studio's. Here is a link to one.

Comments: Post your comments here - Waterworld

  Fact Sheet:







Highly debatable

Civilization Ended via:


Hero Name:

No name

Beefed up vehicles:


Crazy Gang:


Gang leader/villain name:

The Deacon

Other memorable names:


Shoulder pads:

Yes some

Scenes filmed in a quarry:

No (for sure)

Lasers or bullets:



Big knifes

Water Shortage:

Believe it or not, Yes

Petrol Shortage:


Food Shortage:


Bubble Domes:





Briefly from behind

Synth music:


Stupid/Ridiculous Ending:


Miraculous rain:


  Full fact sheet