Top 15 Esther Williams Movies

Esther Williams began her career as a competitive swimmer and would have been an Olympian, except for the year she was to compete, 1940, the Olympics were canceled due to World War II. Despite this disappointment, she pivoted and joined Billy Rose's Aquacade, a dance, music, and swimming show.

While performing, she gained the attention of MGM scouts and was cast in minor roles.

Her full potential was realized in the 1940s and 1950s when they used her swimming ability to benefit the studio in films featuring diving, synchronized swimming, and water ballets. These films were very successful and would become her legacy. Let's take a look at the best performances of her career.

Take Me Out to The Ball Game (1949)

Esther Williams Take Me Out to the Ball Game 1949 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
IMDb: 6.7

While Esther Williams' swimming scene here is pretty short, she is still stunning in a yellow bathing suit, swimming and singing the title song. They added the scene for Williams to showcase her talent even though she wasn't the first choice for the role. Kathryn Grayson was the original choice and then June Allyson, but the part ended up going to Williams.

A Woman Baseball Team Owner

Esther Williams Take Me Out to the Ball Game 1949 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The story involves a baseball team that is taken over by new ownership when K.C. Higgins (Williams) inherits the team. They assume the new owner will be a man, but when Katherine arrives, they are all taken aback when she actively participates in the management and gives them tips on how to play.

Denny (Frank Sinatra) immediately takes a liking to her, and Eddie (Gene Kelly) starts fighting with her. They are soon involved in a love triangle that gets further complicated when Eddie takes on a performing role that keeps him up late and affects his playing. Williams plays the part well and presents a strong character who has chemistry with both Sinatra and Kelly.

Neptune's Daughter (1949)

Esther Williams Neptunes Daughter 1949 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDb:6.4

Famous for being the film that brought us the iconic but sometimes controversial tune, “Baby it's Cold Outside,” Neptune's Daughter is also an enjoyable film with some great swimming sequences for Esther Williams.

Impressive Ending Water Ballet

Esther Williams Neptunes Daughter 1949 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The film centers on Eve (Esther Williams), who owns a swimsuit business with her friend Joe (Keenan Wynn), who wishes they could be more than business partners. As part of a welcoming move, he suggests they honor the visiting South American polo team with an underwater spectacle.

Her sister goes hunting for a man and encounters one she believes is the captain of the team Jose when it is the masseur, Jack. When Eve meets Jose (Ricardo Montalban), things get complicated, and he pursues a romantic relationship while she believes he's dating her sister. The ending water ballet is impressive and showcases Williams' skills well.

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)

Esther Williams Million Dollar Mermaid 1952 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
IMDb: 6.5

Playing another famous swimmer, Esther Williams takes on the portrayal of Annette Kellerman, who was a pioneer of synchronized swimming. Williams met Kellerman before filming to get her blessing, and Kellerman gave her approval.

A Famous Swimmer & Film Star Despite Polio

Esther Williams Million Dollar Mermaid 1952 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The biographical film shows how Kellerman overcame polio and became a famous swimmer and film star. She was also controversial for her decision to wear a one-piece bathing suit in public before it was acceptable. The story makes it easy to show off Williams' talent instead of needing to come up with creative ways to get her in the water. Playing another swimmer was an ideal role for her.

Thrill of a Romance (1945)

Esther Williams Thrill of a Romance 1945 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 6.5

Thrill of a Romance is the second of five films Esther Williams starred in with Van Johnson. This one is a bit different from her other roles in that she is engaged in a love triangle of another sort. She is already married to the first when she meets the second man.

A Smash at The Box Office

Esther Williams Thrill of a Romance 1945 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Williams plays Cynthia, a swimming teacher who marries a wealthy businessman named Robert (Carleton G. Young). When they arrive at their honeymoon location, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Robert has to leave for business. While he's gone, Cynthia meets Thomas (Johnson), a serviceman on vacation, and likes him. This film is a must-see for Williams' fans and was a smash at the box office.

Bathing Beauty (1944)

Esther Williams Bathing Beauty 1944 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 6.4

This film marks the first of Esther Williams' famous aqua-musicals. It was her first headlining role, and while many others have songs, they didn't have her singing yet here, just swimming. It was also her first role where she starred with Red Skelton.

First of Esther Williams' Famous Aquatic Musicals

Esther Williams Bathing Beauty 1944 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Caroline (Williams) and Steve (Skelton) are about to get married, but the wedding is broken up by his agent, who hires a woman to play Steve's wife. Caroline storms off without listening to an explanation and returns to her job at all all-girls colleges. Through a loophole, Steve enrolls in an attempt to get her back. The two leads are fun to watch together, and Skelton is his usual goofy self, which includes dressing as a ballerina.

Duchess of Idaho (1950)

Esther Williams Duchess of Idaho 1950 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 6.3

In another pairing of Esther Williams and Van Johnson, Duchess of Idaho features the additional talents of Lena Horne and Eleanor Powell in her last film. Always an impressive dancer, Powell's appearance here is bittersweet.

A Roommate in Love With Her Boss

Esther Williams Duchess of Idaho 1950 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The plot revolves around Christine (Williams) and her roommate Ellen (Paula Raymond). The latter is in love with her boss, who uses her to pass off as his fiancèe to discourage clingy women. Christine gets the idea to follow him, attempt to flirt overzealously, and get him to call on Ellen. The plan backfires when he likes Christine, but she falls in love with a band leader (Van Johnson).

Easy To Love (1953)

Esther Williams Easy to Love 1953 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 6.2

Allegedly, Esther Williams' favorite of her films, Easy to Love, is another collaboration between Williams and Van Johnson. His character, Ray, who is also her boss, takes his time to notice her in this film that features many love interests for Williams' character Julie.

Many Love Interests for William's Character

Esther Williams Easy to Love 1953 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Julie stars in a show at the Cypress Gardens Resort in Florida, which gives Williams plenty of time in the water. She soon becomes frustrated with her boss and the guy she's in love with, Ray, when he gives her menial work and demands that she work late.

Due to her frustration, Julie announces she is engaged to her partner, Hank (John Bromfield). Ray has her come with him to New York, where she meets another beau (Tony Martin), who further complicates things.

Dangerous When Wet (1953)

Esther Williams Dangerous When Wet 1953 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 6.2

One of the most impressive scenes in this film happens when Esther Williams takes a swim with cartoon characters Tom and Jerry. This scene was not the first time Jerry starred in an MGM musical. In 1945, he danced with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh.

Encouraged To Swim The English Channel

Esther Williams Dangerous When Wet 1953 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The plot revolves around Katie (Williams), who is encouraged by a traveling salesman named Windy (Jack Carson) to swim the English Channel. She begins training and soon finds a second suitor in Andrea (Williams' future husband, Fernando Lamas).

Easy To Wed (1946)

Esther Williams Easy to Wed 1946 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 6.1

As a remake of Libeled Lady from 1936 with Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, William Powell, and Spencer Tracy, Easy to Wed has Esther Williams, Lucille Ball, Van Johnson, and Keenan Wynn in the leading roles. The added music makes this version a bit different but still enjoyable as the story is turned into a musical.

A Scandalous Newspaper Story

Esther Williams Easy to Wed 1946 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The plot revolves around a newspaper that publishes a scandalous story about Connie (Williams), and her father threatens Warren (Wynn), with a lawsuit. To avoid this, he tries to prove the story was right by bringing in his fiancèe (Ball) and a reporter named Bill (Johnson) to mess with Connie. Bill falls for her instead.

On an Island With You (1948)

Esther Williams On an Island with You 1948 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 5.9

Despite being filmed in Florida, On an Island with You and its success inspired vacationers to travel to Hawaii, where the film takes place. The film also played a crucial role in both the careers of Esther Williams, who plays Rosalind, and Peter Lawford, who plays Lt. Lawrence Kingslee. It was positive for Williams' career, but because Lawford resented being forced into this role instead of being grateful, it rubbed Louis B. Mayer the wrong way and he kept Lawford from reaching his star potential.

A Deserted Island in Hawaii

Esther Williams On an Island with You 1948 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The story centers around movie star Rosalind as she is filming on location in Hawaii with her co-star and boyfriend Ricardo (Ricardo Montalban). The movie's technical advisor, Lt. Kingslee, complicates things with his near obsession with Rosalind. He decides to take her to a deserted island to attempt to win her affections, where he reveals he saw her in a show.

Fiesta (1947)

Esther Williams Fiesta 1947 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 5.9

As the first film collaboration between Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban (as well as his first credited American film), Montalban had a lot at stake. This one is a bit different because they are twins instead of being love interests.

A Unique Film in Her Repertoire

Esther Williams Fiesta 1947 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 3
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Twins Mario and Maria are the children of a famous bullfighter named Antonio (Fortunio Bonanova). Antonio hopes Mario will follow in his footsteps, but Mario has other aspirations, mainly to become a composer. Maria is the one who wants to enter the ring, so she disguises herself as Mario. While it may be hard to believe Williams can pass as Montalban, this is a unique film in her repertoire.

Pagan Love Song (1950)

Esther Williams Pagan Love Song 1950 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 5.8

Paired with the great Howard Keel for the first time, Esther Williams starred in Pagan Love Song. Although pregnant during filming, the water ballet Williams' completes is one of the most elaborate of her career. The underwater piece used seven separate rooms to maintain the illusion that she didn't come up for air.

A Mistaken Identity

Esther Williams Pagan Love Song 1950 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The story revolves around Mimi (Williams), who lives in Tahiti with her aunt, but wants to go to America. When Hazard (Keel) arrives, he mistakes her for a native and hires her as a servant. For fun, she takes the job and pretends she barely understands English. A romance soon begins to bloom between them.

Jupiter's Darling (1955)

Esther Williams Jupiters Darling 1955 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 5.7

In their last of three films together, Howard Keel and Esther Williams reunited here for the film Jupiter's Darling. This one was Williams' final film for MGM, and her underwater scenes were few because she had a punctured eardrum.

Captured in Rome

Esther Williams Jupiters Darling 1955 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The story is full of historical characters, including Hannibal (Keel), Fabius Maximus (George Sanders), and Amytis (Williams), who is Fabius' fiancèe. Spurred by curiosity, she ventures to the edge of Hannibal's camp only to be captured. She asks him to spare Rome, which he is planning to attack. He soon becomes more interested in her than in Rome.

Skirts Ahoy (1952)

Esther Williams Skirts Ahoy 1952 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 5.7

According to Esther Williams' autobiography, she designed the swimsuits for the film. She was disappointed in the Navy's swimsuits for women and made something better. The director of the Navy made her new swimsuit the official one for the U.S. Navy. Williams also worked with the writer to add more swimming sequences.

Roomates at Boot Camp

Esther Williams Skirts Ahoy 1952 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The film follows three women who enlist in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) to change their lives. They become roommates at boot camp, and their friendship grows as they navigate their problems with men. Williams performs a charming aquatic number with children in this film.

Texas Carnival (1951)

Esther Williams Texas Carnival 1951 Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

IMDb: 5.6

Although lacking in the elaborate aquatic numbers Esther Williams is known for, Texas Carnival is still an enjoyable film that features some of her great co-stars in Howard Keel, Red Skelton, and Keenan Wynn. It was the last time she teamed up with Skelton.

Dunk Tank at a Texas Carnival

Esther Williams Texas Carnival 1951 Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Skelton is the real headliner here as Cornie, and much of the film rests on his comedic talent. Cornie and Debbie (Williams) operate a dunk tank at a Texas carnival. They are mistaken for a wealthy cattleman and his sister but end up playing into it. Debbie soon meets Slim (Keel), who knows she's an imposter.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Kristen Winiarski has worked as a professional writer for 15 years, studying classic TV shows and films to further her expertise and understanding about how they have evolved. This passion led her to start her own classic movie blog before branching out into the professional entertainment writing world.