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Open Water is a 2003 American survival horror thriller film. The story concerns an American couple who go scuba diving while on vacation in Australia, only to find themselves stranded miles from shore in shark-infested waters when the crew of their boat accidentally leaves them behind.

Open Water
Open Water movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byChris Kentis
Produced byLaura Lau
Estelle Lau
Written byChris Kentis
StarringBlanchard Ryan
Daniel Travis
Music byGraeme Revell
CinematographyChris Kentis
Laura Lau
Edited byChris Kentis
Lions Gate Films
Plunge Pictures
Eastgate Pictures
Distributed byLions Gate Films
Release date
  • October 26, 2003 (2003-10-26) (HIFF)
  • August 6, 2004 (2004-08-06)
Running time
79 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$55.5 million

The film is claimed to be loosely based on the true story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who in 1998 went out with a scuba diving group, Outer Edge Dive Company, on the Great Barrier Reef, and were accidentally left behind because the dive-boat crew failed to take an accurate headcount.[1][2]

The film was financed by the husband and wife team of writer/director Chris Kentis and producer Laura Lau, both avid scuba divers.[3] It cost $120,000 to make and was bought by Lions Gate Entertainment for $2.5 million after its screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Lions Gate spent a further $8 million on distribution and marketing.[4] The film ultimately grossed $55 million worldwide (including $30 million from the North American box office alone).[5]

Before filming began, the Lonergans' experience was re-created for an episode of ABC's 20/20, and the segment was repeated after the release of Open Water. Clips from the film were also featured on NBC in "Troubled Waters", a Dateline episode (July 7, 2008) with Matt Lauer interviewing two professional divers, Richard Neely and Ally Dalton, who were left adrift at the Great Barrier Reef by a dive boat on May 21, 2008.[6]



Daniel Kintner and Susan Watkins are frustrated that their hard-working lives do not allow them to spend much time together. They decide to go on a scuba-diving vacation to help improve their relationship. On their second day, they join a group scuba dive. A head count is taken, and the passenger total is recorded as 20. Daniel and Susan decide to separate briefly from the group while underwater. Half an hour later, the group returns to the boat. Two members of the group are inadvertently counted twice, so the dive master thinks that everyone is back on board, and the boat leaves the site. However, Daniel and Susan are still underwater, unaware that the others have returned. When they resurface, the boat has gone. They believe that the group will soon return to recover them.

Stranded at sea, it slowly dawns on Daniel and Susan that their boat is not coming back for them. They bicker, battle bouts of hunger and mental exhaustion, and realize that they have probably drifted far from the dive site. They also realize that sharks have been circling them below the surface. Soon, jellyfish appear, stinging them both, while sharks come in close. Susan receives a small shark bite on the leg, but does not immediately realize it. Daniel goes under and discovers a small fish feeding on the exposed flesh of her bite wound. He does not tell Susan. Later, a shark bites Daniel, and the wound begins to bleed profusely. Susan removes her weight belt and uses it to apply pressure to Daniel's wound. He appears to go into shock. The tight-fitting neoprene wet suits are apparently keeping them from fully realizing that they have been sustaining small bites. After night falls, sharks return and attack Daniel during a storm, killing him. The next morning, Daniel and Susan's belongings are finally noticed on the boat by a crew member, and he realizes that they must have been left at the dive site. A search for the couple begins.

Susan realizes that Daniel is dead and releases him into the water, where sharks attack and pull him down in a feeding frenzy. After putting on her mask, she looks beneath the surface and sees several large sharks now circling her. Susan looks around one last time for any sign of coming rescue. Seeing none, she removes her scuba gear and goes underwater to drown before the sharks can attack. Elsewhere, a fishing crew cut open a newly-caught shark's stomach, finding a diving camera, apparently that of Daniel and Susan. One of the fishermen asks offhandedly to another, "Wonder if it works?"


  • Blanchard Ryan as Susan Watkins
  • Daniel Travis as Daniel Kintner
  • Saul Stein as Seth
  • Michael E. Williamson as Davis
  • Cristina Zenato as Linda
  • John Charles as Junior
  • Estelle Lau as Affected-Ear Diver


The filmmakers used live sharks, as opposed to the mechanical ones used in Jaws decades ago or the computer-generated fish in Deep Blue Sea. The film strives for authentic shark behavior, shunning the stereotypical exaggerated shark behavior typical of many films. The movie was shot on digital video. As noted above, the real-life events that inspired this story took place in the southern Pacific Ocean, and this film moves the location to the Atlantic Ocean, being filmed in the Bahamas, the United States Virgin Islands, the Grenadines, and Mexico.[7][8]


Open Water received mostly positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 72% based on 192 reviews with an average rating of 6.6/10. The consensus reads: "A low budget thriller with some intense moments."[9] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 63 out of 100, based on reviews from 38 critics' reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

Most critics praised the film for intensity and expertly minimalist filmmaking, while it was not well received by the audience. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert praised the film highly: "Rarely, but sometimes, a movie can have an actual physical effect on you. It gets under your defenses and sidesteps the 'it's only a movie' reflex and creates a visceral feeling that might as well be real".[11] In a much less favorable review, A. O. Scott in The New York Times lamented that it "succeeds in mobilizing the audience's dread, but it fails to make us care as much as we should about the fate of its heroes".[12]

Box officeEdit

Open Water was made for a budget recorded by Box Office Mojo as $120,000, grossed $1 million in 47 theaters on its opening weekend and made a lifetime gross of $55 million.[13]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Award Category Subject Result
31st Saturn Awards Best Horror or Thriller Film
Best Actress Blanchard Ryan Won
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards Best Actress Nominated
Best Wide-Release Film N/A Nominated
Worst Film Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards Best Thriller[14] Won
Best Independent[15] Nominated


  • In 2006, a film marketed as a sequel titled Open Water 2: Adrift was released in that year, which however has a plot completely unrelated to Open Water, and is actually an independent film without any sharks in the story.
  • A third film in the series titled, Open Water 3: Cage Dive was released in 2017, following the first film's plot of being a survival shark film.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Brady, Tara (13 September 2004). "Open Water". Retrieved October 1, 2012.
  2. ^ "Hollywood's 'Open Water' film earns rave reviews". Archived from the original on October 12, 2008.
  3. ^ Bonin, Liane (2004-08-07). "Open Water: The new Jaws?". EW. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  4. ^ "Open Water - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  5. ^ "Open Water (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  6. ^ "Transcript of ''Troubled Waters''". MSNBC. 2008-07-07. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  7. ^ "Open Water (2003)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  8. ^ Sontag, Deborah (2004-08-01). "A Couple Go For a Morning Dive..." The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  9. ^ "Open Water". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  10. ^ "Open Water". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  11. ^ Roger Ebert (2004-08-06). "Open Water, ''Chicago Sun-Times'', August 6, 2004". Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  12. ^ Scott, A. O. (2004-08-06). "Hanging With Sharks, at Their Dinner Hour". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-28.
  13. ^ Open Water statistics at Box Office Mojo
  14. ^ GTA6 Best Thriller". Golden Trailer Awards. Retrieved 19 December 2016
  15. ^ "GTA6 Best Independent". Golden Trailer Awards. Retrieved 19 December 2016

External linksEdit