People love sharks. Not so much in the, “We just want to cuddle you while you gnaw our legs off,” type of way, but more in the vein of, “We’re so obsessed with your coolness that we’re going to dedicate an entire week of TV to you every single year,” way. That’s right, Discovery’s Shark Week kicks off once again on July 23rd, hosted by Eli Roth and featuring Olympic swimming phenom Michael Phelps, who will literally race a real shark.
With show titles like “Shark Vortex,” “Devil Sharks” and “Great Hammerhead Invasion,” you’d think Shark Week was a B-movie marathon. But while the lineup sounds fictional, Discovery skews toward the documentary side of sharks on celluloid. If you’d rather celebrate the diversity of bull sharks and great white sharks in pulpy, over-the-top cinematic fashion, here are 11 shark films that took a chunk out of a box office before they swam to your Blu-ray player.
47 Meters Down (2017)
Worldwide Gross: $41.2 million
Kicking off the list proper, this year’s “47 Meters Down” embraces the fairly modern shark movie tradition of a simple and realistic, high-concept hook executed onscreen by a profit-friendly low budget — we’ll see a few more like this pop up later.
This Mandy Moore and Matthew Modine flick dives into the nightmarish story of two thrill-seeking sisters trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean, with their oxygen in short supply but hungry great white sharks available in abundance. Though its $41 million box office returns don’t seem huge at first glance, “47 Meters Down” only cost about $5 million to produce.
Shark Night 3D (2011)
Worldwide Gross: $40.1 million
We love sharks so much, we can’t help but feature them in glorious 3D. “Shark Night 3D” is the first 3D shark movie on this list, but it won’t be the last.
Produced for an estimated $25 million, “Shark Night” didn’t quite make its money back in the U.S. alone, but like many shark movies, the international market buoyed its returns. It might just owe its effective box office returns to its simplicity; “Shark Night” makes no bones about being a straight-up sharky slasher with a high body count and a simple plot: There are sharks afoot in the Louisiana bay, and they eat a lot of pretty people.
Fun fact: The same company that made the animatronic sharks for this movie also worked on “Deep Blue Sea.” We’ll get to that later, though.
Jaws IV: The Revenge (1987)
Worldwide Gross: $51.9 million
Today, you learned that there was a fourth Jaws movie. Yes, 12 years after the original, Mario Van Peebles, Lorraine Gary and Michael Caine went after a great white that was apparently smart enough to return to Amity and take revenge on Chief Brody’s son. Hence the title.
Of the film, Caine once said, “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” Still, the movie’s $50 million contribution to the franchise’s history — on a $23 million budget that would’ve lost money if it had played in America alone — helps make “Jaws” one of the highest-grossing horror series of all time.
Open Water (2003)
Worldwide Gross: $54.7 million
Remember that whole “simple and realistic, high-concept hook executed onscreen by a profit-friendly low budget” thing from a few movies ago? “Open Water” kind of started that.
Made for a relatively tiny $120,000 — far and away the smallest budget on the list — this indie breakout relies on a terrifying concept: Scuba divers stranded after a boating accident, surrounded by nothing but miles of shark-infested ocean. An intense and effective shark film, “Open Water” went on to make more than 455 times its budget at the global box office.
Jaws 3-D (1983)
Worldwide Gross: $88 million
It’s time for 3D shark movie No. 2: 1983’s “Jaws 3-D.” The hyphen is there because it’s also the third Jaws movie, this time a killer romp through a Sea World theme park in the midst of a great white shark attack.
The 3D gimmick was enough for this Dennis Quaid-led adventure to more than double its budget in the U.S. alone and more than quadruple it worldwide. Its screenplay, however, was a rare dud from legendary author Richard Matheson, known for classic books like “I Am Legend,” “What Dreams May Come” and “Stir of Echoes,” as well as monumental episodes of “Star Trek” and “The Twilight Zone.”
The Shallows (2016)
Worldwide Gross: $119.1 million
“The Shallows” takes the whole “high-concept, low-budget” shark movie idea to the extreme. Much of the film’s 86-minute runtime deals with the tense struggle of an injured surfer to get just 200 yards to the shore of a secluded beach. The ravenous — and huge — great white shark between her and that shore proves to be just a bit of a problem.
In 2014, Anthony Jaswinski’s script — then titled “In The Deep” — made the Hollywood “blacklist,” a yearly collection of the most-liked scripts in the industry that have yet to be produced. When it was finally made starring Blake Lively, “The Shallows” went on to pull down $119.1 million worldwide — including a more than respectable $55.1 million in the U.S. — on a budget of just $17 million.
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Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Worldwide Gross: $164.6 million
Some of the best shark movies are perfect cult film fodder, most often due to their combination of giddy violence and platters of cinematic cheese. “Deep Blue Sea” has both in spades.
Viewed as a mostly middle-of-the-road release in 1999 — both in terms of critical and box office reception — Renny Harlin’s bloody sci-fi action movie pits Tom Jane, LL Cool J and Samuel L. Jackson against genetically modified super sharks in a deep-sea research facility. Now that it’s blossomed into a bonafide cult classic, you’ve probably seen the meme-friendly moment where Sam Jackson is swallowed by a CGI great white right in the middle of a rousing monologue. And that just about sums up “Deep Blue Sea” — a ridiculous, shark-infused roller coaster chock full of satisfying, unexpected and cartoonishly violent mayhem.
Jaws 2 (1978)
Worldwide Gross: $187.9 million
“Jaws 2” might be the most respectable of the “Jaws“ sequels — it even sees Roy Scheider reprise his role as Brody — but it started a series trend of consecutive decline in the categories of both quality and box office receipts.
Nonetheless, the movie’s, “Oh no, there’s another great white in Amity and Brody has to kill it again because nobody believes him again, even though he was totally right last time,” narrative did more than OK in the financial department. Though the budget more than doubled from the first film, clocking in at $20 million, “Jaws 2″ made five times its money back in the U.S. alone.
Shark Tale (2004)
Worldwide Gross: $367.3 million
Remember that movie with Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Angelina Jolie and Martin Scorsese? No, it wasn’t the “Goodfellas” reboot from your fever dreams, it was 2004’s “Shark Tale.” You know, that other computer-animated fish movie.
If we’re being honest, “Shark Tale” is kind of tonally weird. As a kids’ movie, it deals with a bottom-feeding shark (Smith) taking credit for killing the son of a mobster shark (De Niro, obviously). Also, there’s a vegetarian shark and apparently a lesson in there somewhere. CGI isn’t cheap and neither are Jolie or Jack Black, which is why at $75 million, “Shark Tale” is the highest budgeted movie on this list. The movie’s combination of star power — and maybe a little “Finding Nemo” fever — still managed to drum up a fairly huge $367.3 million worldwide.
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Worldwide Gross: $460.7 million
You knew it was coming, but you probably didn’t expect it be quite so big. Which is a sentence that could’ve also been the tagline for Steven Spielberg’s all-time classic and prototype summer blockbuster “Jaws.”
Famously, “Jaws” was great on accident. Like Brody, Quint and Hooper, the then-27-year-old director was in way over his head on an $8 million budget. Among drunken actors, an unfinished script and a massively delayed production schedule, a robotic shark that just plain wouldn’t work changed the direction of “Jaws” from an undersea gore-fest to a character-based, Hitchcockian thriller with limited — but extremely effective — screen time for its titular great white.
Spielberg’s clutch play worked, and it worked to the tune of $260 million in America, plus another $210 million globally — and that’s not even adjusted for inflation. Those figures make “Jaws” far and away the highest-grossing shark movie of all time.
Unless you consider “Finding Nemo“ a shark movie, which we absolutely do not.
Worth Mentioning: Sharknado (2013)
We can’t really call “Sharknado” an honorable mention because it’s a movie about a tornado full of sharks. But in addition to being a legitimate pop-cultural sensation and helping to shepherd a modern B-movie renaissance, “Sharknado” turned a very healthy profit for its producers at The Asylum.
In 2010, the Burbank-based studio’s low-budget fare turned an annual profit of roughly $5 million dollars. After “Sharknado” hit in 2013, that profit skyrocketed up to $19 million. On an estimated budget of just $1 million, the unashamedly cheesy Tara Reid vehicle earned at least $2.2 million in home video sales alone, to say nothing of its distribution via the SyFy channel and streaming video platforms. Nowadays, The Asylum’s empire includes five more “Sharknado” movies, presumably fueled by the tears of the thousands of screenwriters with actually good scripts that will never see the light of day.
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All box office figures are according to Box Office Mojo, a box office reporting website owned and operated by IMDB. Box office figures are accurate as of July 17, 2017.