TOP 10 SHARK HORROR FILMS
Since we’re in the middle of Summer and beach-going is in full swing (well, not entirely due to Covid-19, but you get the idea) and Shark Week is less than two weeks away, I thought it would be the perfect time to break out our TOP 10 SHARK HORROR FILMS list.
One of my favorite horror subgenres is the shark horror film! I’ve been fascinated and enthralled with sharks of all types but especially the great white shark. This fascination started without a doubt with the release of Jaws in 1975. Not only did that film scare me out of the water for life but it also started my fascination with sharks that continue to this very day. I’ve watched every episode of shark week since the start, I’ve watched every documentary about sharks I’ve come across. I’m the most knowledgeable person I know about sharks. This all stems from one film in the beginning and then many since. Anyways, all this meandering is why I’m listing my Top 10 Shark Horror Films. It’s a subgenre that has had a resurgence of sorts in the last decade or so. There have been quite a few shark films made, most of which are crap in my opinion. So join me as we sort through all the junk films out there and determine which are the Crème de la crème!
10. THE MEG (2018)
This film is the most recent one on the list. It’s based on the best-selling novel by Steve Alten. The film is a fun, summer film romp but not as good as the source material. Still, the film made this list because it’s one of the most enjoyable shark creature features of the last few years. Miscast is Jason Statham in the lead but alas, does the best with what he is given.
Five years ago, expert sea diver and Naval Captain Jonas Taylor encountered an unknown danger in the unexplored recesses of the Mariana Trench that forced him to abort his mission and abandon half his crew. Though the tragic incident earned him a dismissal from service, what ultimately cost him his career, his marriage and any semblance of honor was his unsupported and incredulous claims of what caused it – an attack on his vessel by a mammoth, 70-foot sea creature, believed to be extinct for more than a million years. But when a submersible lies sunk and disabled at the bottom of the ocean – carrying his ex-wife among the team onboard – he is the one who gets the call. Whether a shot at redemption or a suicide mission, Jonas must confront his fears and risk his own life and the lives of everyone trapped below on a single question: Could the Carcharodon Megalodon – the largest marine predator that ever existed – still be alive – and on the hunt? Written by Warner Brothers.
9. JAWS 2 (1978)
Jaws 2 was the inevitable sequel to Jaws. It was quickly turned around in about three years due to the incredible popularity and box office success of its predecessor. This film was a box office success too, which led to two more sequels but Jaws 2 is the best of the three sequels. The movie was not without its problems during filming. There were still huge problems with the animatronic shark working properly even though it had been rebuilt from scratch. Most of the original cast returned for the sequel but there were many disputes behind the scenes with some actors and the director, Jeannot Szwarc.
Still, it’s a really fun film with some great scenes of suspense from the shark, even though much of the plot is altogether absurd.
The plot concerns Chief Brody suspecting another great white shark is terrorizing the fictional seaside resort of Amity Island, following a series of incidents and disappearances, and his suspicions are eventually proven true.
8. 47 METERS DOWN (2017)
This is one of the newer films that did well at the box office, enough to warrant a pretty decent sequel. It stars Matthew Modine, Claire Holt, and Mandy Moore. It’s a fun movie and has a good premise about something I’ve always wondered about – what would happen to someone in a shark cage if the cable snapped and the cage went to the bottom of the ocean?
Two sisters who are invited to cage dive while on holiday in Mexico. When the winch system holding the cage breaks and the cage plummets to the ocean floor with the two girls trapped inside, they must find a way to escape, with their air supplies running low and great white sharks stalking nearby.
7. SHARK NIGHT 3D (2011)
This is one of two films on the list that was filmed in the 3D process. With that being said, I didn’t get to see the film in 3D, only the standard 2D. It used the normal 3D gags but missing those didn’t detract from the story. Also of note is this was the final film of director David R. Ellis (Snakes On A Plane, Final Destination) who died a couple of years after the film was shot.
The story revolves around seven college friends from Tulane University who spend a weekend at a lake house near Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain. Shortly after their arrival, the group experiences terrifying salt-water shark attacks.
6. BAIT 3D (2012)
This interesting Australian film is the second film on the list filmed in 3D. The film was co-written by acclaimed Australian filmmaker Russell Mulcahy and stars the wonderful Aussie actress Sharni Vinson. This film is also one of the few on this list that is rated R and has some decent gore.
The film centers around a group of people who try to escape a submerged grocery store as a result of a freak tsunami while being hunted by bloodthirsty great white sharks.
5. DEEP BLUE SEA (1999)
Every film on this list is my pick for the best of the sub-genre but this film I have always had a particular appreciation for. The movie has great direction by Renny Harlin of Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger fame. It also features an incredibly good cast such as Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, and Samuel L. Jackson. This is also one of the only films on the list that doesn’t have a Great White shark as the antagonist. It features Mako sharks this time. These sharks are genetically enhanced sharks, which makes them even more aggressive than normal. A wonderfully fun film to watch.
Set in an isolated underwater facility, the film follows a team of scientists and their research on mako sharks to help fight Alzheimer’s disease. The situation plunges into chaos when multiple genetically engineered sharks go on a rampage and flood the facility.
4. THE SHALLOWS (2016)
The Shallows is a great little shark film with a simple story yet very effective. It’s a small film in scope with a small cast, basically one location, and turned out well. Blake Lively stars as a surfer who gets stranded 200 yards from shore on an outcropping of rocks, and must use her wits and determination to survive a great white shark attack.
3. THE REEF (2010)
The Reef is a film that caught me by surprise. It’s an Australian film that had a very limited release in that country. In all other territories, it went straight to DVD, which is where I found it. There is so much dreck these days in the shark horror film sub-genre, that I usually have low expectations for these types of films even though I have to sort through them all, looking for that elusive gem, and a gem this one is.
This film is about a group of friends who capsize while sailing to Indonesia. The group decides that their best bet for survival is to swim to a nearby island but they find themselves stalked by a great white shark.
This is another one of those supposed “based on a true story”. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, it’s a frighteningly entertaining movie. The characters are all believable and the acting is great. Plus, there’s no hoaky shark effects or crappy CGI. The filmmakers used real shark footage to great effect. The tension and dread in this film are palpable with some great scenes of peril. I can’t recommend this movie enough.
2. OPEN WATER (2003)
For me, Open Water is the darkest and most personal of the films on this list. This film is about one of my deepest, darkest fears…being abandoned in the ocean with sharks on the prowl. There’s something primal about this film that scared me down to my soul.
In the film, an American couple who go scuba diving while on vacation, only to find themselves stranded miles from shore in shark-infested waters when the crew of their boat accidentally leaves them behind.
This film is similar to the 1999 Blair Witch Project in that they were both filmed for very little money and ended up making a huge profit after great word of mouth about the film. Open Water cost about $120,000 to make and ended up grossing more than 54 million dollars worldwide. It’s also interesting to note this film was based on a true story.
1. JAWS (1975)
What can be said about Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece of terror, Jaws that hasn’t already been said? Let me try. As most people know, Jaws is the one that started it all. The film ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster that we all know today. Before Jaws, there was no such thing as a summer tentpole movie.
In the film, a man-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers at a summer resort town, prompting police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) to hunt it with the help of a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw).
The film was a huge success for Universal. For a brief time, it was the highest-grossing film of all-time until it was unseated in 1977 by Star Wars. The movie was based on the blockbuster novel by Peter Benchley. Jaws spawned three sequels of lesser quality. The film was such a success in scaring people, it had negative effects.
People were so frightened by the film that it caused fishermen to hunt the “man-eating” fish almost to extinction because sharks were not understood or studied as much as they are today. People assumed because of Jaws that sharks were just mindless, killing machines. Today, we know better. It was utterly amazing the effect a film had on the public consciousness about sharks.
For me, Jaws frightened me so badly and struck such a nerve in me that I won’t step foot in the ocean for fear of sharks. I even hate to swim in a lake because I’m scared to death of what I can’t see beneath me. This sentiment holds for a great many people as well.
Jaws makes the top spot on this list because simply put, it’s one of the greatest films of all-time!
And there you have it. Our TOP 10 SHARK HORROR FILMS list. Maybe because of the Covid-19 pandemic you can’t get to the nearest beach because it’s closed but now you can pick a film or two from this list if you haven’t seen them all and watch a great shark-themed horror film instead. You can’t go wrong with staying out of the water, can you?