Open Water



Intense relationship story isn't for kids.
  • Review Date: December 28, 2004
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 79 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The only main character of color is the inept captain that inadvertently leaves the couple behind. Also, the couple are downright nasty to each other at times during their ordeal.


Intense peril, shark and jellyfish attacks (some blood) and death.


Shots of a naked woman lying in bed; she and her husband talk about having sex but end up not doing it.


The couple use lots of profanity in frustration at their situation.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some people at the hotel are shown drinking, but if you blink you would miss it.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie isn't for kids. Although it has been called a modern day Jaws, it isn't a shark movie at all -- the sharks are merely background characters here. This low-budget, dialogue-heavy indie is really about the complex relationship between a married couple, and it will bore teens who are expecting a fast-moving horror movie with high-tech special effects and lots of gore. There are scenes of intense peril that may be too much for sensitive kids. There are shark attacks and we see blood, but the extreme danger the characters face is worse than any actual violence we see. There is a scene in which the couple talks about having sex (we see the woman naked), but they decide not to go through with it. There's a lot of strong language (which isn't too surprising given the couple's dire circumstances). The ending may shock and upset some viewers.

What's the story?

OPEN WATER is loosely based on the true story of a couple that was abandoned on a scuba trip in Australia. In this version, an overworked yuppie couple named Susan (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel (Daniel Travis) take a last-minute vacation to a Caribbean island when they realize they've started to drift apart and need to reconnect. They go on a scuba trip, and they have a great time exploring the eels and sharks beneath the surface. Unfortunately, the captain messes up the head count and the boat heads back to shore without Susan and Daniel. It takes a while for the couple to realize that they're stranded in the open sea, but it quickly sets in as they have to deal with stinging jellyfish, cold temperatures, nausea, leg cramps, dehydration, and deadly sharks. As time passes, more sharks begin to circle, and the chance that they're going to be rescued lessens, they fight, blame each other, and ultimately cling to each other, bound by hope and love.

Is it any good?


Open Water is definitely not for the Shark Tale crowd -- this is a very intense movie that is for adults only. Although the movie may appeal to teens who think it's a Jaws-like thriller, it's likely to disappoint them when they find out there are no fancy special effects or horror movie-like stylings.

It's ironic that it takes horrible circumstances to bring the couple back together, but the way they react reveals much about their marriage: Susan resents Daniel for not being ambitious, while Daniel resents Susan for always putting work first. Each blames the other for getting them in the predicament at hand, but they're really arguing about more than the current circumstances. As the situation becomes more dire and desperation sets in, they put the pettiness aside and lean on each other. The impending sense of doom is what makes this movie so disturbing -- the uncomfortable feeling one gets from watching these characters realize how bleak the situation has become is far worse than the sight of any blood or sharks floating around.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the various reactions the couple have as they begin to understand how serious the situation is. Is it natural to assign blame at a time like this? How do the underlying problems in their marriage manifest when they find themselves stranded?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 6, 2004
DVD release date:December 28, 2004
Cast:Blanchard Ryan, Daniel Travis, Saul Stein
Director:Chris Kentis
Run time:79 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and some nudity

This review of Open Water was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Powerful, tragic true story is too heavy for kids.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 10 years old June 1, 2013


an amazing shark movie, way better than Jaws. Really enjoyed this, thought it was brilliant, I saw it when I was 8, I thought it was really scary. The scariest thing about it is that it was based on a true story. In real life they went back and they found the man and the women's bones.
Teen, 15 years old Written byPart IV August 20, 2012
Teen, 14 years old Written bychallenger March 4, 2011
The point is that it is in fact based on a true story. So by clling the movie stupid, you are calling the real event stupid. There is some concern about the nudity, but the main concern isn't a concern, it's just that there is alot of gore and blood when the characters are killed by sharks and stung by jellyfish.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Great messages
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide