The surprisingly larger than expected revenue haul by The Meg at the box office this past weekend has gotten us wondering: Just how well DO shark movies typically do at the box office?

Ever since 1975’s classic Jaws, moviegoers have been fascinated by the fierce ocean predators, which, in addition to spawning Jaws 2, and the increasingly lame cash grabs Jaws 3D, and even more laughably bad Jaws the Revenge, has yielded a doozy of dorsal-filled dramas on the big screen over the past 40 years.  Some, like The Reef, The Shallows and Open Water are actually pretty good, while others, like Deep Blue Sea and The Meg, are, well, not so much. (All three Sharknado films are in their own category of awfulness.) Heck, shark fascination has even resulted in the famed annual Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

So which shark-themed movies have left the biggest bite at the box office? Here’s our list (with box office numbers from our friends at IMDb), ranked by box office revenues. No, the Sharknado movies don’t count – nor do the cute animated comedies like Shark Tale. But yes, ALL four of the Jaws films make the list, as well as some surprises.  Here is it, like a mighty Great White, in frighteningly ascending (see what we did there?!) order:

#10: The Reef (2010): $15 million

If you are looking for a truly terrifying and realistic shark thriller, then look no more. This little Australian gem (currently streaming on Amazon  – click below) is about a group of friends who capsize while sailing through a coral reef to Indonesia. When they start a daunting 12 mile swim to the nearest island, they soon find they are being terrorized by a Great White Shark. It isn’t pretty.

What makes this harrowing nail-biter so good is the use of actual shark footage, over special effects, solid acting by its cast and a never-ending sense of terror and dread, that continues up to the very last scene.


#9: Jaws the Revenge (1987): $20.7 million

This final (we hope!) 1987 sequel in the Jaws franchise has momma Ellen (Lorraine Gary) moving in with oldest son Mike and his family in the Bahamas after youngest son Sean, who’s followed in his late father’s footsteps as a policeman, is killed one night on the water near their hometown of Amity, New York by (yup, you guessed it!) a Great White Shark. Seriously, what IS it with sharks and the Brody family? 

The ridiculousness quotient reaches peak levels here as said shark FOLLOWS Ellen to her new life in the Bahamas, seeking new family members to gobble up. Seriously?! C’mon!

#8: Open Water (2003): $30.6 million

This gripping, realistic drama is the stuff of divers (and dive boat operators) nightmares, as a couple is stranded in the Caribbean when an absentminded dive boat captain miscounts the number of divers who’ve come back onboard after a day of diving and takes off. The super low budget film (shot for a just a few hundred thousand dollars) is based on a real life story that took place a few years before in Australia. Talk about bad luck.

The dread amps up over the course of the thriller as the increasingly-panicked twosome try to fend off increasingly-aggressive sharks amidst the chilling realization that no one is coming to rescue them. Subsequent straight-to-video sequels failed to generate the type of success of this harrowing original.

#7: 47 Meters Down (2017): $44.3 million

When a couple of sisters decide to go shark cage diving, one more enthusiastic about it (Claire Holt) than the other (Mandy Moore), we know we are in for one heck of a time. Faster than Moore can sing the chorus to “Candy” their cage becomes detached, plummeting 47 meters down to the ocean floor. Oh, and did we mention the waters are shark infested? 

The twist ending will either delight or infuriate you.

#6: Jaws 3-D (1983): $45.5 million

This super cheesy 1983 sequel in the Jaws saga has the Brody boys working at a special undersea creation by SeaWorld in Orlando that is fed directly from the ocean via a series of canals. (Anyone who’s been to landlocked Orlando knows it is NOWHERE near the ocean, but whatever.) Armed only with a preposterous premise and clumsy, fake-looking 3D effects, our shark-magnet Brody bros again find themselves and their colleagues in danger when a baby Great White and its big, mean mommy break into the park.


#5: The Shallows (2017): $55.1 million

The stunning Blake Lively battles a massive Great White Shark on a remote Mexican beach in this action-adventure hybrid of Jaws and the Tom Hanks stranded-in-the-wild drama Castaway. The sumptuous surf porn cinemagraphy is truly gorgeous, as is Lively, who carries the film nicely, despite a predictable plot that frequently tests the bounds of believability – seriously, can anything else awful happen to this poor character?!? Still, it has plenty of suspense and is one of the more genuinely entertaining and suspenseful films on this list.

#4: The Meg (2018): $56 million

Holy moly! This giant shark stinker is proving to be a Meg at the box office after all, already raking in $56 million with Jason Statham as the leader of a deep sea team trying to rescue fellow divers (including his ex-wife), trapped in a submersible in the Mariana Trench, where, years before, he had encountered the long-believed extinct, prehistoric Megalodon. When “The Meg” follows them back up from the trench, the body count rises.

The film starts off well enough, despite scares that are a bit too few and far between.  When the venue changes from the undersea station to the surface, and later, an overcrowded Chinese beach, The Meg unfortunately jumps the shark, giving us less Jaws and more Piranha 3D. 

#3: Deep Blue Sea (1999): $73.6 million

This 1999 thriller focuses on mako sharks that have – oops! – accidentally been bred into brainy, scheming killing machines as a byproduct of scientific research into a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. (Wrap your head around that.) When the herd of sharks get tired of being treated like lab rats, they bust out and seek revenge against their human captors, which include Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows  and LL Cool J. Just seeing Samuel L. Jackson’s snarky character get gobbled up is worth the nearly two hour run time.

#2: Jaws 2 (1979): $81.7 million

Set four years after Chief Brody (spoiler alert!) killed the Great White Shark in Jaws, a new series of boating accidents and disappearances has him concerned that another Great White is in their midst. And unfortunately for him (and fortunately for us moviegoers), he’s right. 

While the film features a lot of the same chills and thrills as the original, its familiar “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” storyline works pretty darn well, as evidenced by its strong standing on this list.

#1: Jaws (1975): $260 million

Fittingly, the movie that started moviegoers’ fascination with sharks is, after more than 40 years,  STILL the biggest box office winner of the shark tales. Roy Schneider’s portrait of the freaked out police chief, accompanied by Richard Dreyfus as the marine biologist and Robert Shaw as the crusty old boat captain is iconic and surprisingly, the story (and that score!) still hold up after all these years, still striking fear in the hearts of moviegoers everywhere. 

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