Despite being a full-fledged comedy, the 1988 film "A Fish Called Wanda" has received Oscar nominations in the screenplay and director's category, and has won Kevin Kline his first and only Oscar for supporting actor.

That being said, I've decided to analyse this film, and to this day, I haven't figured out the symbolic significant of Ken's favorite pet, Wanda, who is indeed the title role.

So far my analysis includes the following:

  • Archie is frustrated by the redundant formality and restrictiveness of the British lifestyle.
  • Wanda (the girl) doesn't understand what true love is. She is practically a whore, cuddling with men that she doesn't love, and only caring about the loot, even planning to betray Otto for it. This represents the excessive vulgarity of the American lifestyle.
  • Otto is dominant in nearly every scene he is in. However, he is stupid, or as Archie calls him, "utterly deranged".
  • At the end, both Archie and Wanda find happiness. They integrate the redeeming elements in both of their lifestyles. The freedom associated with the American life. And the well-mannered nature of the British. On the plane, Wanda was alone, and she had all the loot, yet there was a frown on her face. She finally understands what love really is, and only a man like Archie can make her happy, not the money. Archie, on the other hand, finds happiness as he lost both his career and his marriage, finally freed from the constraints of the British life. He tells Wanda to be "well-behaved".
  • In two scenes, Otto's dominance was shown to be fought against. One where Ken runs him over, and finally curing his stutter. And one where Archie and Wanda make love, while Otto desperately watches the two outside the plane, before being blown off-screen.

Now, back to my original question, the Fish called Wanda, Ken's beloved pet, who gets eaten by Otto. I never figured out how to incorporate it into my analysis. Maybe it's symbolic of Wanda being bait. Maybe it's symbolic of vulnerability. Who knows? If anyone would like to help me out here, I'll be obliged.

2 Answers 2


The title is a play on words. There is the literal fish called Wanda that is the pet who gets eaten. That pet iirc is co-located with the keys for the diamonds for a while. So she's somewhat directly important, but...

In slang, the word Fish can also mean "woman" (in a derogatory sense) and it can also mean an easy victim for swindling, according to the Wiktionary definitions I found (https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/fish).

So title refers to both the animal and Jamie Lee Curtis's character and possibly John Cleese's character if you play with "called" such that he called the girl on the phone or called upon her.

  • This helps a lot. Since the title is referring to both Wandas, it can point towards the dichotomy of Wanda. The fish represents the vulnerable side of her, while the person represents the deceptive side of her. I guess the double-meaning of the word "fish" is indicative of her two sides. Thanks a lot mate. Over-analyzing movies is my thing! Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 15:01

Somewhat randomly, I've ended up watching 'Taxi' from the beginning.

In S01E15 'Friends' one of the narrative drivers involves a fish called Wanda (and also George). I can make no intellectual connection, other than Cleese possibly watched it and thought "that's a really funny name for a fish" - much in the same way that 'Simon' is weird name for a dog.

I hugely suspect this random association is irrelevant.

  • But which came first? It's entirely possible that the film came first and Taxi was referencing it, not the other way around.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 9:26
  • Taxi came first - it aired from 1978 to 1983, so it would be hard-pressed to reference a film from 1988.
    – RDFozz
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 23:28

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