Best-Grossing Shark Movies of All Time
"Jaws" was released in the summer of 1975 and changed movies forever. It created the summer blockbuster. It established director Steven Spielberg as the most bankable director in Hollywood. It turned one of its leads, Richard Dreyfuss, into an A-List actor.
It also guaranteed that over the next five decades, no matter what, Hollywood would always return to this particular well. As long as that well was filled with bloodthirsty sharks.
We now have almost 50 years of shark movies to parse through, and we've put together the list of the 10 best-grossing shark movies of all time.
Note: There was just one rule. The battle between shark and human (or shark and fish in one case) had to be the main focus of the plot.
10. Jaws: The Revenge
Release date: July 17, 1987
Director: Joseph Sargent
Starring: Michael Caine, Lorraine Gary, Mario Van Peebles, Lance Guest, Karen Young
Budget: $23 million
Box office: $51.9 million
Bottom line: Get used to seeing the "Jaws" franchise on this list. There were diminishing returns on three sequels, finally bottoming out with "Jaws: The Revenge" in 1987, which proved to be the fourth and final film in the series and routinely makes its way onto the list of the worst movies of all time. It also gave us the infamous tagline: "This time, it's personal."
There's actually some decent talent in this movie for how bad it is. Lance Guest starred in one of the greatest sci-fi cult hits of all time with "The Last Starfighter," and this "Jaws" also features Mario Van Peebles, Lorraine Gary and two-time Academy Award winner Michael Caine, who wasn't able to receive his Best Supporting Actor award for "Hannah and Her Sisters" because he was filming "Jaws: The Revenge" in The Bahamas.
9. Open Water
Release date: Aug. 6, 2004
Director: Chris Kentis
Starring: Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein
Box office: $55.5 million
Bottom line: One of the great box-office success stories of the early 2000s, "Open Water" was made for around $250,000 and ended up grossing a whopping $55.5 million in theaters and spawned two sequels.
The truly terrifying thing about "Open Water" is it is based on the true story of American couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan. They were unintentionally left behind by their boat while scuba diving in Australia's Great Barrier Reef in 1998, and their bodies were never found.
8. 47 Meters Down
Release date: June 16, 2017
Director: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Mandy Moore, Matthew Modine, Claire Holt, Chris J. Johnson
Budget: $5.3 million
Box office: $62.6 million
Bottom line: A masterful B-movie, you don't get much better as far as low-budget horror hits than having a pair of recognizable stars in Mandy Moore and Matthew Modine in two of the lead roles.
While Moore has had many movies that turned into box-office hits over her lengthy career, this is the only one that wasn't a comedy or romantic comedy.
The 2019 sequel, "47 Meters Down: Uncaged" was also a box-office hit, bringing in almost $50 million on a budget of just $12 million and directed by Johannes Roberts as well.
7. Jaws 3-D
Release date: July 22, 1983
Director: Joe Alves
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale
Budget: $18 million
Box office: $88 million
Bottom line: It's safe to say that 3-D technology from the 1980s hasn't aged very well, and you can point to "Jaws 3-D" as the shining example of how bad things can actually go in that regard.
While this movie features none of the original cast from the first two "Jaws" movies, it does have an Academy Award winner with Louis Gossett Jr., a legit leading man with a young Dennis Quaid, and a bona fide 1980s teen star with Lea Thompson.
In a 2016 interview on "Watch What Happens Live," Quaid disclosed that his cocaine addiction was at its most extreme with "Jaws 3-D," and he was "high in every frame."
6. The Shallows
Release date: June 24, 2016
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen
Budget: $17 million
Box office: $119.1 million
Bottom line: This isn't the best movie Blake Lively has ever been in — that's "The Town" in 2010 — but this is the best movie in which she's had the lead role. It makes you wonder why she didn't do more films like this.
Lively's turn as a resilient surfer battling a great white shark just 200 yards from shore is pitch-perfect. Just like the movie's run time, as it clocks in at an efficient 86 minutes.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra has been one of Hollywood's most bankable directors over the last decade. Of the 10 studio movies he's directed, all of them have made money, and six of them have grossed over $100 million at the box office.
5. Deep Blue Sea
Release date: July 28, 1999
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skargard, Aida Turtorro
Budget: $60 million
Box office: $164.6 million
Bottom line: Forget "Deep Blue Sea" being called a guilty pleasure. This is a damn good action movie and features one of the greatest surprise movie deaths of all time, which I won't spoil here even though the movie has been out for over 20 years.
Why is "Deep Blue Sea" so good and so rewatchable? It's got peak movie star Thomas Jane and LL Cool J, plus great supporting roles from Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Rapaport, along with a pretty complex villain from Saffron Burrows.
The cherry on top is director Renny Harlin, who knew a thing or two about directing action movies after "Die Hard 2" and "Cliffhanger" — both all-time action movie classics.
This is another movie on this list that probably should have gotten a direct sequel and not the unwatchable, direct-to-video "Deep Blue Sea 2" in 2018 and the somewhat-watchable "Deep Blue Sea 3" in 2020.
4. Jaws 2
Release date: June 16, 1978
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Starring: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Budget: $20 million
Box office: $208 million
Bottom line: The sequel to the legendary 1975 "Jaws" film got a lot of key components and was a massive box-office hit in the summer of 1978. And like the first film, it was a nightmare during production and filming.
The first director of "Jaws 2," Richard Hancock, was fired midway through production and replaced with Jeannot Szwarc. "Jaws" star Roy Scheider initially refused to be in the sequel, but after he was fired as the lead in the classic film "The Deer Hunter" — the role went to Robert De Niro — he still owed Universal one more film on a three-picture contract and was lured back with a massive financial package.
Scheider and Szwarc clashed immediately. Things came to a head when producers brought the two in for a meeting to hash out their disagreements, and it ended with a fistfight between the two-time Academy Award-nominated actor and Szwarc, who would go on to direct "Somewhere in Time" in 1980.
3. Shark Tale
Release date: Oct. 1, 2004
Director: Vicky Jenson, Bibo Bergeron and Rob Letterman
Starring (voices): Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellwegger, Martin Scorsese, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Katie Couric
Budget: $75 million
Box office: $374.6 million
Bottom line: Remember when people used to love Will Smith? Those were the days.
"Shark Tale" was another testament to Smith's power in his 20-plus year reign on Hollywood's A-List, pairing him alongside fellow Oscar winners Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellwegger and Martin Scorsese.
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, it's a mystery how "Shark Tale" never got a sequel as it made almost $400 million at the box office on a fairly reasonable $75 million budget.
This was the second massive hit for one of the film's directors, Vicky Jenson, after "Shrek" in 2001. Another of the film's directors, Rob Letterman, went on to direct box-office hits "Monsters and Aliens" in 2009 and "Detective Pikachu" in 2019.
Release date: June 20, 1975
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Budget: $9 million
Box office: $476.5 million
Bottom line: Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" was the movie that created the summer movie season and changed how we watch movies to this day.
Based on Peter Benchley's 1974 novel (Benchley also co-wrote the screenplay), it's amazing almost 50 years later that "Jaws" is still perfectly rewatchable and terrifying all at once. Credit this to the trio of leads, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw, who are absolutely electric on the screen together.
In a testament to the staying power of "Jaws," the mythos around the making of the movie is the source of perhaps the best "behind the scenes" movie documentary of all time.
It's also worth noting the $476.5 million "Jaws" made at the box office in 1975 translates to approximately $2.5 billion in 2023 and was the highest-grossing movie of all time until "Star Wars" was released in 1977.
1. The Meg
Release date: Aug. 10, 2018
Director: Jon Turtletaub
Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose, Rainn Wilson, Winston Chao, Jessica McNamee, Robert Taylor, Sophia Cai
Budget: $150 million
Box office: $530.2 million
Bottom line: Based on Steve Alten's 1997 novel "Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror," this project languished in development hell for two decades until it became one of the surprise box-office hits of 2018. Thank the continued staying power of action star Jason Stathan and a unique co-financing deal between American and Chinese film companies.
The pairing of action stars Jason Statham and Li Bingbing works great, but the supporting cast really makes the movie pop with comedic relief from Rainn Wilson and a great kid-actor performance by Sophia Cai.
The highly anticipated sequel, "Meg 2: The Trench," is set for release on Aug. 4, 2023 with a new director, Ben Wheatley ("In the Earth"), who replaces veteran Jon Turtletaub ("National Treasure"). Grab your popcorn.