Shark movies have been a popular sub-genre of horror and thriller films for many years. There’s something about the terrifying nature of these apex predators that captures our imagination and keeps us on the edge of our seats.
From classics like “Jaws” to more recent entries like “The Shallows,” there are plenty of shark movies to choose from.
In this introduction, we’ll explore some of the factors that make a great shark movie, from the quality of the special effects to the strength of the storytelling. We’ll also take a look at some of the most popular and critically acclaimed shark movies of all time.
Best Shark Movies
Whether you’re a fan of thrilling action or suspenseful horror, there’s sure to be a shark movie that will leave you feeling both terrified and exhilarated.
1. Jaws (1975)
“Jaws” is a thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1975. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley and stars Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss.
The film takes place in the fictional town of Amity Island, where a giant great white shark begins to attack and kill swimmers.
Police chief Martin Brody (Scheider), oceanographer Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss), and shark hunter Quint (Shaw) team up to try to capture and kill the shark before it can claim more victims.
“Jaws” was a massive commercial and critical success, and it is widely regarded as a classic in the thriller genre.
The film was particularly praised for its suspenseful direction, innovative use of music, and groundbreaking use of special effects to create the shark.
The film’s iconic theme music, composed by John Williams, has become one of the most recognizable pieces of film music in history.
“Jaws” spawned three sequels, but none of them achieved the same level of critical or commercial success as the original film. Nevertheless, “Jaws” remains a beloved and influential movie, and it is often cited as a milestone in the history of cinema.
2. Jaws 2 (1978)
Jaws 2 is a thriller movie released in 1978, directed by Jeannot Szwarc. It is the sequel to the 1975 blockbuster hit Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg.
The movie takes place four years after the events of the first film and follows the story of Chief Brody (played by Roy Scheider) as he tries to protect the citizens of Amity Island from another great white shark that is terrorizing the waters.
Brody must convince the town officials and his fellow citizens that the shark is a threat and must be stopped before it’s too late.
While not as successful as its predecessor, Jaws 2 was still a box office hit and received generally positive reviews for its suspenseful storyline and impressive special effects. It also introduced new characters, such as Brody’s sons and a group of teenagers who become the shark’s targets.
The film spawned two more sequels, Jaws 3-D and Jaws: The Revenge, and cemented the original Jaws as a classic thriller movie that has had a lasting impact on the film industry.
3. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Deep Blue Sea is a science-fiction horror film released in 1999, directed by Renny Harlin. The movie follows a team of scientists who are conducting research on sharks in a top-secret underwater laboratory.
The sharks, which have been genetically engineered to be smarter and more aggressive, escape their enclosures and begin attacking the researchers.
The team is led by Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows), who is determined to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease using shark brain tissue.
She is aided by shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane), marine biologist Janice Higgins (Jacqueline McKenzie), and engineer Tom Scoggins (Michael Rapaport).
As the sharks continue to wreak havoc on the facility, the team must find a way to escape and survive.
However, the sharks prove to be more intelligent and resourceful than anyone could have predicted, and the team is soon fighting for their lives against the deadly predators.
Despite mixed reviews from critics, Deep Blue Sea was a commercial success, grossing over $160 million worldwide.
The film is remembered for its thrilling shark attack scenes and its use of practical and digital effects to bring the sharks to life. It has since become a cult classic among fans of horror and science-fiction films.
4. The Reef (2010)
The Reef is a 2010 Australian horror film directed by Andrew Traucki. The film follows four friends who go on a sailing trip to Indonesia, but their boat capsizes and they are forced to swim to a nearby island.
However, they soon discover that the island is surrounded by a reef inhabited by a great white shark, which begins to hunt them down.
The film stars Damian Walshe-Howling, Gyton Grantley, Adrienne Pickering, and Zoe Naylor, and was filmed on location in Queensland, Australia.
The film received generally positive reviews for its tension-filled atmosphere and realistic portrayal of shark attacks, and was praised for its use of practical effects rather than CGI.
The Reef is often compared to other shark-themed films such as Jaws and Open Water, and is considered one of the better entries in the genre.
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5. Open Water (2003)
Open Water is a 2003 American survival horror film written and directed by Chris Kentis. The film stars Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis as a couple who become stranded in the middle of the ocean after their scuba diving tour boat accidentally leaves them behind.
The film is based on the true story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, a couple who were left behind by their scuba diving tour boat in Australia in 1998 and were never found.
The film follows the couple as they struggle to survive in the open water, facing hunger, thirst, sunburn, and shark attacks.
Open Water received critical acclaim for its realistic portrayal of the couple’s predicament and its use of minimalistic storytelling and filmmaking techniques.
It was praised for its tension, suspense, and emotional impact, as well as its exploration of human vulnerability and the unpredictable dangers of nature.
The film was also notable for its low budget, with Kentis and his wife Laura Lau serving as the only crew members and shooting the film with consumer-grade digital cameras.
Despite its modest budget, the film was a box office success, grossing over $55 million worldwide. It has since become a cult classic in the survival horror genre.
6. Bait (III) (2012)
“Bait (III)” that was released in 2012. However, there is a movie called “Bait” that was released in 2012. “Bait” is a 2012 Australian-Singaporean 3D horror thriller film directed by Kimble Rendall and starring Xavier Samuel, Sharni Vinson, and Julian McMahon.
The plot follows a group of people who become trapped in a flooded supermarket after a tsunami hits a coastal town.
As they try to survive, they soon realize that they are not alone and that a group of deadly great white sharks are swimming in the water with them.
“Bait” received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its thrilling set pieces and use of 3D technology, while others criticized its thin characters and predictable plot.
The film was a moderate success at the box office, grossing over $32 million worldwide.
7. Dark Tide (2012)
“Dark Tide” is a 2012 thriller film directed by John Stockwell and starring Halle Berry as a shark expert who is forced to confront her fears when she is hired to lead a group of thrill-seekers on a dangerous diving expedition.
The film also features Olivier Martinez as Berry’s ex-husband and business partner.
Despite its star power, “Dark Tide” received mostly negative reviews from critics and audiences alike. Many criticized the film’s predictable plot, wooden dialogue, and lack of suspense, with some going so far as to call it one of the worst shark movies ever made.
The film also performed poorly at the box office, failing to recoup its $25 million budget.
Overall, while “Dark Tide” features some stunning underwater photography and tense shark sequences, it ultimately falls short in its storytelling and execution, making it a forgettable entry in the shark movie genre.
8. 12 Days of Terror (2004 TV Movie)
“12 Days of Terror” is a made-for-TV movie released in 2004. It is a dramatization of the real-life shark attacks that occurred along the New Jersey coast in 1916, which inspired the book “Jaws” by Peter Benchley.
The film follows a group of vacationers who are attacked by a shark while swimming in the ocean. As more attacks occur, panic spreads among the local community and the authorities struggle to find and kill the shark responsible.
The film was directed by Jack Sholder and starred Colin Egglesfield, Jenna Harrison, and Mark Dexter. It was produced for the Discovery Channel and was later released on DVD.
Although the film received mixed reviews, it was praised for its historical accuracy and for its depiction of the terror and chaos that ensued during the real-life shark attacks.
The film is also notable for being one of the few cinematic adaptations of the events that inspired the book “Jaws”.
9. Ocean of Fear (2007 TV Movie)
Ocean of Fear is a documentary-style TV movie that premiered on the Discovery Channel in 2007. It is part of the popular Shark Week programming and explores the dangers of shark attacks and the science behind them.
The film features interviews with experts and survivors of shark attacks, as well as dramatic reenactments of some of the most notorious attacks in history.
It also delves into the biology and behavior of sharks, their role in the ocean’s ecosystem, and the measures being taken to protect both humans and sharks.
Ocean of Fear was well-received by audiences and critics for its informative and suspenseful presentation of the topic. It helped to raise awareness about the importance of respecting sharks and the need for continued research and conservation efforts.
The success of the film and the continued popularity of Shark Week have helped to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding sharks and promote a greater understanding of these fascinating and powerful creatures.
10. Shark Night (2011)
Shark Night is a horror/thriller film released in 2011, directed by David R. Ellis. The movie follows a group of college friends who go on a weekend trip to a lake house in Louisiana.
However, their fun is interrupted when they discover that the lake is infested with various species of deadly sharks.
The group includes Sara (Sara Paxton), a college student who has a fear of sharks, her ex-boyfriend Dennis (Chris Carmack), and their friends, Beth (Katharine McPhee), Malik (Sinqua Walls), Nick (Dustin Milligan), and Maya (Alyssa Diaz).
As they attempt to find a way to escape the lake, they are hunted by the sharks, which seem to be getting more aggressive and intelligent with each attack.
As the friends struggle to survive, they begin to uncover the truth about why the sharks are in the lake and who is responsible for their presence.
The movie features suspenseful action sequences and intense shark attacks, as well as a twist ending that reveals the true nature of the danger facing the group.
While Shark Night received mixed reviews from critics, it was a moderate box office success, grossing over $40 million worldwide.
The film is remembered for its thrilling and sometimes gruesome shark attack scenes, as well as its use of 3D technology to enhance the viewing experience.
11. The Shallows (2016)
The Shallows is a 2016 American survival horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. The movie stars Blake Lively as a surfer named Nancy who is attacked by a great white shark while surfing alone on a secluded beach in Mexico.
Stranded on a small rock formation only 200 yards from shore, she must use her wits and determination to survive and outsmart the shark.
The film received positive reviews for its tense and thrilling plot, as well as Lively’s strong performance. It was also noted for its impressive cinematography, showcasing the beauty of the ocean and the danger it can pose.
The Shallows was a commercial success, grossing over $119 million worldwide against a budget of $17 million. It is often cited as one of the best shark movies of recent years and has gained a cult following among horror fans.
12. 47 Meters Down (2017)
47 Meters Down is a 2017 survival horror film directed by Johannes Roberts and starring Mandy Moore and Claire Holt.
The film follows two sisters who go cage diving with great white sharks off the coast of Mexico, but their adventure takes a dangerous turn when their cage breaks and they plummet to the ocean floor, 47 meters below the surface.
With limited oxygen and no way to communicate with the boat above, the sisters must fend off the sharks and find a way to the surface before their air runs out.
The film builds tension through its claustrophobic setting, the looming threat of the sharks, and the sisters’ deteriorating physical and mental states.
Despite mixed reviews, 47 Meters Down was a box office success, grossing over $62 million worldwide. It spawned a sequel, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, in 2019, which followed a group of friends exploring an underwater city and encountering deadly predators.
The film was praised for its suspenseful plot and effective use of underwater cinematography, as well as the performances of Moore and Holt. It was also noted for its depiction of the dangers of shark diving and the importance of respecting the ocean and its inhabitants.
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13. Open Water 3: Cage Dive (2017)
“Open Water 3: Cage Dive” is a 2017 Australian found footage horror film directed by Gerald Rascionato.
The film follows three friends who travel to Australia to film a reality show about cage diving with great white sharks. After their boat capsizes, they become stranded in shark-infested waters and must fight for their survival.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its tension and suspense, while others criticized its unoriginal premise and lack of character development.
The found footage style of the film was also criticized by some, with reviewers stating that it added nothing to the story and was often shaky and nauseating.
Overall, “Open Water 3: Cage Dive” was not as well-received as its predecessor, “Open Water” (2003), which was praised for its minimalist approach to storytelling and its realistic portrayal of a couple stranded in shark-infested waters.
Despite mixed reviews, “Open Water 3: Cage Dive” performed modestly at the box office, grossing around $4 million worldwide.
3 Characteristics of Shark Movies
Suspense and Thrills: One of the defining characteristics of shark movies is the suspense and thrills they generate.
These movies often rely on tension-building techniques, such as ominous music, sudden attacks, and underwater chase scenes, to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
Sharks as Antagonists: Another key characteristic of shark movies is the portrayal of sharks as the primary antagonist. These films often present sharks as deadly predators that are both terrifying and awe-inspiring, highlighting their power and strength as apex predators.
Oceanic Settings: Most shark movies take place in oceanic settings, often in isolated or remote locations like beaches, islands, or deep-sea research stations.
These settings not only provide a sense of danger and isolation but also serve as a reminder of the vast and mysterious nature of the ocean, which is still largely unexplored and unknown.
3 Reasons To Watch Shark Movies
Thrilling Entertainment: Shark movies often provide thrilling entertainment and suspenseful action, as they depict humans trying to survive against these fearsome creatures. The unpredictability and danger of the sharks make for compelling viewing, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats.
Learn About Sharks: Shark movies can also provide educational value by teaching viewers about the behavior and biology of these fascinating creatures.
While some shark movies may take liberties with the facts, others may be based on real-life events or incorporate accurate scientific information.
Cultural Significance: Shark movies have become a significant part of popular culture, with many classic and iconic films in the genre.
They can also inspire a sense of environmental awareness and conservation, as many shark populations are threatened by overfishing and other human activities.
By watching shark movies, viewers can appreciate the cultural significance of these films and become more informed about the issues surrounding sharks and their habitats.
Best Shark Movies – Wrap Up
Shark movies have been a popular sub-genre of thriller and horror movies for decades. From the classic Jaws to modern films like The Meg and 47 Meters Down, shark movies have captivated audiences with their mix of suspense, action, and terror.
These are just a few examples of the many great shark movies out there. Whether you’re a fan of suspense, action, or horror, there is a shark movie for you.