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Piranhas are small predatory fish that have become a large part of popular culture due to their aggressive feeding behavior - which has been exaggerated in countless media to portray them as man-eating monsters.


Much like sharks, Piranhas in fiction are vicious, intelligent and extremely hungry - they also swarm their victims much as their real-world counterparts do: unlike the real-world Piranha however most fictional portrayals show them as actively hunting down humans.

The idea of piranhas as vicious man-eating monsters come from local myths that the fish can strip full-grown humans and cattle of meat in seconds and are exclusive carnivores (in reality they are omnivores) - however despite these myths being proven false there are accounts of piranhas occassionally seeking humans as prey, though much like sharks this is rarer than fiction depicts.

Piranhas appear as the main antagonists of at least four horror films of the same name.

Other Medias

Piranha (1978)

The movie begins with two teenagers come upon an apparently abandoned military installation. They take advantage of what appears to be a swimming pool to skinny dip. The teenagers are attacked by an unseen force and disappear under the water screaming. A light activates in the main building and a silhouetted figure investigates the screams, but is too late to help.

They discover bizarre specimens in jars and indications of an occupant. Maggie locates the drainage switch for the outside pool and decides to empty it to search the bottom, but the moment she activates it a haggard comes, begins to panic and attacks her frantically, attempting to stop the draining until he is subdued by Grogan. The two find a skeleton (what is left of one of two dead teens earlier) in the filtration trap of the empty pool, and learn it was filled with salt water. The man awakens and flees by stealing their jeep, but crashes it due to his disorientation, and is taken to Grogan's home where they spend the night. They take Grogan's raft down the river, where the man wakes up and tells them that the pool in the facility was filled with a school of piranhas, and that Maggie unleashed them. They are skeptical until they hear a dog barking and they come across the corpse of Grogan's friend Jack, who has bled to death from an attack on a fishing dock.

The man reveals himself to be doctor Robert Hoak, a lead scientist of a defunct Vietnam War project, Operation Razorteeth, tasked with genetically engineering ravenous and prodigious strains of piranhas that could endure the cold water of the North Vietnamese rivers and inhibit Viet Cong movement. The project was prematurely shut down when the war ended and specimen exterminated, but some of the mutant piranhas managed to survive, and Hoak tended to them to salvage his work. Grogan realizes that if the local dam is opened, the school of predatory fishes will have access to the Lost River Water Park, and the nearby summer camp where his daughter Suzie is in attendance. They encounter a capsized canoe with a boy whose father has been eaten by piranhas. Hoak rescues the boy but suffers fatal injuries when the school attacks him; he dies before he can reveal how to kill them. Blood pouring from Hoak's corpse attracts and causes piranhas to tear away the raft's lashings, and the remaining survivors barely reach shore. Grogan stops the dam attendant from opening the spillway and calls the military.

A military team led by Colonel Waxman and another former Razorteeth scientist named Dr. Mengers feed poison into the upstream section, ignoring the protests that the mutated fishes survived the first attempt. When Grogan discovers that a tributary bypasses the dam, Waxman and Mengers quarantine them to prevent the agitated pair from alerting the media. After they escape, Waxman alerts law enforcement to capture them. Piranhas, using tributary and bypassing the dam, enters into and attacks the summer camp during a swimming marathon, injuring and devouring many children and a supervisor. Suzie escapes due to her fear of water, and aids her camp mates in escaping.

Piranhas continue their journey downriver. Waxman and Mengers arrive at the water park to intercept Grogan and Maggie, but piranhas launch attack on the resort and devour many more vacationers and Waxman. Grogan and Maggie commandeer a speedboat and rush to the shuttered smelting plant at the narrowest point of the river. Remembering the empty facility pond, Grogan realizes the piranhas can survive in salt water; if the school passes the delta, they will reach the ocean and be free to spread over the world. He intends to open the smelting refuse tanks, hoping the industrial waste will kill the fishes. They arrive at the plant ahead of piranhas, but the elevated water level has submerged the control office, and Grogan must go underwater; he ties a rope around his waist and instructs Maggie to count to 100 before pulling him out. Grogan struggles to move the rusted valve wheel when the school of man-eating fishes arrives and attacks him. The assault hyperadrenalizes him, and he manages to open the valves just as Maggie pulls him to safety. Maggie takes Grogan back to the water park, where a massive MEDEVAC is tending to the victims; his injuries are severe and he is seen in a catatonic state.

Mengers gives an on-site television interview, providing a much-sanitized version of events and downplaying the existence of bio-engineered piranhas. Her voice is heard carrying out over a radio on the shore of a West Coast beach. As she says "there's nothing left to fear", piranhas' characteristic trilling sound drowns out the waves on a beach.

Piranha II: The Spawning

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Shortly after the end of Piranha (1978), the piranhas from the military camp have indeed reached the ocean, and are somehow evolved into winged fishes, multiplying threats of already dangerous man-eaters. Off the coast of a Caribbean Island, The creatures claimed their first victims: a young couple who walked out a hotel went to swim into a sunken wreck which also happens to be piranhas' underwater lair. They are both eaten by the piranhas.

The next day, a group of tourists, among them is a man named Tyler Sherman, are taking the diving courses provided by Anne Kimbrough, who is an employee of Hotel Elysium. One of her divers swims into the wreck, an act which she has strictly forbidden to her divers. Leaving Tyler to take over and lead the others to the surface, she discovers almost immediately that her 'missing' student has swum into the wreck and was killed there when his badly chewed-up body is found.

Anne's estranged husband Steve, who is a police officer, refuses to listen to Anne about her wanting to have a look at the body, because she needs to know what happened to her dead student. The death does not seem to match the attack pattern by any of the marine animals in the area they reside, which Anne knows better than anyone. For her not to know what killed a diver is a dangerous sign.

As bodies kept on piling up, Anne takes Tyler with her to the morgue to get a look at the body. It is revealed there that she was once a marine biologist before she married Steve. She begins taking pictures, and there she finds that the bodies have been eaten in many parts. A nurse comes in and kicks them out, unaware that a single piranha was hiding inside the corpse and escaped. Armed with the power and wings to fly, it kills the nurse and escapes out the window.

Anne tries to tell the hotel manager Raoul that she is canceling the dives because it is not safe. He at first pretends to be concerned, but swiftly fires her, thinking she is crazy. Attempting to capture one of piranhas for further study, or at the very least take some pictures so she can prove she is trying to tell Steve and the manager the truth, she is intercepted by Tyler, who swiftly informs her that he is a biochemist and member of a team which was tasked with developing the ultimate bio-weapon: a specimen of genetically modified piranhas, with some other fish's genes intermixed, capable of flying. Earlier, and unfortunately, the team mistakenly deposited (or lost) a cylinder full of these fish in the water where the dead couple were found.

Gabby provides the proof Anne needs to Steve, calling him and showing him, not merely some flying piranhas he has recently caught, but also that they pose a serious danger, because they are turning on each other. This is a sign that they are running out of food and will soon attack whatever they come near, including humans. At a meeting, Anne tries her best to reason with the manager, to no avail. Steve surprises her, standing up for her and proving her case for her by throwing the body of a dead piranha onto the table. Steve tells her that she cannot trust Tyler, because the army tells her he is crazy. She argued that Tyler has just been using her to get the message of the piranha out for him, to protect both himself and the residents of the hotel.

Later on, a piranha attacks Gabby's son and kills him, leaving a grieving Gabby to vow vengeance by killing the fishes in the wreck in which they hide. Anne tries to dissuade him, but it is too late. Having ignored Anne's advice, the manager, hosts a nighttime fish party. Piranhas, at the same time, have come up to the beach to spawn at this time, making party guests easy preys. Anne gets a man named Aaron to patrol the beach but he is lured to the sea where piranhas eat him. During the fishing party promoted by the resort, the piranhas fly out of the water and attack guests on the beach and at the hotel's courtyard pool. Anne leads those who survived into hotel, where they shut the doors and windows. Gabby tries to attack the flying piranha, but they easily overwhelm and devour him, while all the guests could do was watch.

In the morning, the flying piranhas withdraw back into the ocean, and Anne discovers that they are not fond of daylight. Tyler and Anne decide to undertake Gabby's plan and blow up the wreck to destroy the predators. Meanwhile, the situation gets even tenser, for not only can the piranha fly, but Anne and Steve's son Chris has been hired, against their wishes, by a local ship 'Captain' Dumont and his daughter Allison. They sail away dangerously, leaving them vulnerable to possible piranha attacks that fortunately never happens.

When Chris and Allison are stranded in a raft above the shipwreck, Anne and Tyler arrive in a motorboat and don scuba gear to dive down to the wreck to plant the time bomb that Gabby left behind. With only 10 minutes to get out of the wreck before the bomb explodes, Anne and Tyler are trapped in one of the sunken ships rooms by the ravenous piranhas who all return to their lair. On the surface, Steve, piloting a police helicopter, ditches the chopper and swims to Anne and Tyler's motorboat where Chris and Allison are. With minutes left to spare before the bomb explodes, Steve powers up the boat and takes off. Down in the wreck, while swimming through the vents, Tyler becomes stuck and is eaten by creations he helped to make. Anne escapes out of a porthole, then ties a survival rope around her waist, allowing herself to be pulled away by the motorboat on the surface. At the last second, Anne gets clear and the bomb detonates, destroying the sunken ship and all piranhas in it. With all the piranhas (presumably) dead, Anne swims to the surface and is picked up by Steve, Chris and Allison in their boat.

Piranha 3D

The piranhas are first seen in the start of the film, where a destructive tremor broke into Lake Victoria, splitting the lake floor, causing a whirlpool. The fisherman named Matthew Boyd was fishing in the lake and saw this and ends up getting caught in the whirlpool and is eaten by the piranhas. After their escape, they start to devouring anything that crosses their path. After seeing Boyd's mutilated body, Sheriff Julie Forester takes a team of seismologist divers Novak, Sam and Paula to the fissure. Novak speculates that the rift leads to a buried underground lake. Paula and Sam dive scuba into the bottom and discover a large cavern filled with large piranha egg stocks. Both are killed by being eaten by the piranhas before they can warn them. Julie and Novak found Paula's corpse and caught a lone piranha and brought it to Mr. Carl Goodman, a marine biologist who is working as a pet shop owner. After seeing the specimen, he recognises it to be a prehistoric piranha and explains that they have been trapped underground for 2,000,000 years where they have become super-aggressive.

The piranhas later found a feeding frenzy within the 2,000 partying college students who were having a vacation in Lake Victoria. Julie and Novak (along with Deputies Fallon and Roberts) tried to warn the students, but they ignored them until the piranhas attacked them. Novak boards a jet-ski with a shotgun to help while Fallon drags people to the shore and Julie and Roberts try to get the swimmers into the police boat. A floating stage capsizes from the panicking guests, pulling an electric wire which mutilates a few tourists. Almost everyone in the lake is either wounded or killed by the piranhas or by panicking guests who were recklessly driving their speed boats and accidentally caused the deaths of others.

Meanwhile, Jake, Julie's son, spots his younger siblings Laura and Zane stranded into an island and forces Derrick to rescue them. Derrick accidentally crashes his boat, the Barracuda, into some rocks, flooding the rooms below decks. Kelly is trapped in the kitchen while Derrick, Crystal and Drew fall overboard from the impact of the collision. The piranhas attack them and devours both Crystal and Derrick. Danni manages to get Derrick's partially eaten body back into the board. 

Deputy Fallon makes his last stand by taking a boat motor and used its propeller to shred and kill many piranhas, who in turn, ate his legs. Julie receives a call from Jake pleading for help. Julie and Novak stole a speedboat and heads off towards the kids. Julie and Novak reach Jake and attach a rope into his boat. Julie, Danni, Laura and Zane started crossing the rope but the piranhas got Danni by the hair and fell off devouring her, while the others make it to safety but the rope came loose. Jake goes back to save Kelly by using Derrick's corpse as a distraction and ties a rope to himself. He ties Kelly with him and lights a flare after releasing the gas in a pair of stored propane tanks. Novak starts the boat and speeds away just as the piranhas surround Kelly and Jake. They are dragged to safety and the propane tank explode, destroying the boat and killing most of the piranhas.

Mr. Goodman calles Julie on the radio and Julie tells him that they have killed the majority of the piranhas. Terrified, Mr. Goodman tells them that the piranha specimen they give to him is fully immature, which means that the fish they were fighting were only babies. As Novak wanders were the parents are, a bigger piranha leaps out of the water and eats him.

Piranha 3DD

The piranhas returned in the sequel Piranha 3DD as the main antagonists once again. They still appear as babies instead of full human-sized adults.

A year after the attack on Lake Victoria, an eradication campaign has left the lake uninhabitable for life, and the town itself has been largely abandoned as a result of drying up the lake. Due to the loss of habitat and food source, the piranhas move out to Cross Lake via underground tunnels and sewage pipes, where they manage to find food. In the start of the movie, two farmers are seen looking for their prized cow, only to find it dead. Piranha eggs have been laid into the cow's corpse, and the farmers are killed by the swarm, which even includes the piranha fry.

Shelby and her boyfriend Josh go skinny dipping into the lake, wherein small piranha fry bites her and some secretly swam right into her vagina, wherein she mistakes Josh for doing a painful molestation, which later make her sick on the next day. Ashley and her boyfriend Travis make love inside their van but accidentally trip the handbrake, causing the van to roll into the lake, where they are devoured.

The next day, Maddy, the movie's main protagonist, is consoling a sick Shelby about their missing friends. While sitting on a jetty, they are both attack by a swarm of piranhas and manage to escape them. They kill one and easily recognize it to be the one from the Lake Victoria incident. Along with Kyle and Barry, they pay a visit to Mr. Goodman, who later told them that the piranhas must have found a way through the pipes and underground tunnels. The trio returned to the lake, where they established that the piranhas cannot make their way into the outflow pipes connecting to the lake and waterpark. Unknown to Maddy, her stepfather and co-owner Chet, is secretly pumping water from an underground river into the waterpark.

While Shelby and Josh starts to have sex, a grown piranha crawl's out of Shelby's vagina and bites Josh's penis, forcing him to cut the organ with a knife. Later, when Maddy and Barry visited her, another grown piranha bites its way out of Shelby's stomach. She and Josh are both hospitalized.

Maddy soon discovers Chet's plan and attempts to stop it but was stopped by her stepfather and Kyle, who was secretly working for him. The piranhas make their way into the waterpark, where they start attacking and killing all the lifeguards and waterpark-goers. Deputy Fallon and Drew Cunningham, two survivors of the Lake Victoria incident, who went to the park to overcome their fear of water, witness this and Fallon shows his prosthetic leg, a shotgun, and starts helping the visitors and shooting the piranhas. David Hasselhoff, the park's celebrity lifeguard, saves a kid named David (who was one of the people attacked by a small swarm of piranha fry before the massacre), and becomes pleased that he has become a real lifeguard.

Barry begins to drain the pools to drag the piranhas back; however Maddy, who is rescuing people from the water, gets caught into the suction and dragged down into the bottom of the pool. After Kyle refuses to save her (which later made him insane), Barry, despite being unable to swim, leaps down and brings her to the surface where they kiss.

Big Dave, a employee of the waterpark who was one of the people attacked by the piranhas by biting his butt, pours gasoline into their draining pipes, and throws a lighter into the pipes, thus killing all of the piranhas. The celebration is cut short, when Maddy receives a call from a horrified Mr. Goodman, who informs her that his theory of the piranhas evolving to walk on land, is true while his specimen is seen to have escape its aquarium. The film ends when David videotapes a piranha, which sequentially decapitated him, while some survivors took videos of it and David Hasselhoff comments "Little ginger moron".



  • The piranhas used in the movie appear to be loosely based from Megapiranha paranensis, a real life prehistoric piranha.
  • The piranhas have a huge oppsition to their 1978 counterparts aside from being natural. While their 1978 counterparts are known for devouring a nude couple in the start of the movie, the piranhas in the start of their movie devour a random civilian such as fishermen and farmers.
  •  The piranha specimen that Mr. Goodman has in Piranha 3DD is none other than the same specimen from the previous movie.
  • The species that Mr. Goodman said was Pygocentrus Nattereri but there name for them is Red Bellied Piranha which is not Extinct.