Sharks have captured our imagination for decades, both terrifying and fascinating us. From the pounding music and unseen monster in Jaws to the outrageous tornado filled with sharks in Sharknado, these apex predators make for thrilling cinema. As we head into beach season, it’s time to dive in and revisit the greatest shark movies that have kept us from going back in the water.
In this article, we’ll swim through twenty of the best shark movies that range from over-the-top B-movies to thoughtful documentaries. Whether you’re looking for silly shark action, dramatic underwater survival tales, or insights into shark conservation, you’ll find captivating movies to entertain and educate. So get ready to sink your teeth into these fin-tastic films! From Sharknado to Open Water, we’ll guide you through the most compelling shark stories captured on screen.
In the vast realm of best shark movies, “Sharknado” stands out as an exceptional blend of delightful silliness and pure campy fun. Picture this: a swirling tornado teeming with diverse breeds of ferocious sharks wreaks havoc on the cityscape of Los Angeles. In the midst of this chaotic scenario, enter Fin, a local bar owner skillfully portrayed by Ian Ziering.
Determined and resourceful, Fin embarks on a thrilling journey to safeguard his family from this airborne aquatic menace. Along the way, he gets an indispensable ally in the form of his coworker, Nova. Together, they navigate through the perilous city, facing both sharks and the storm. While subsequent movies in this series tend to dial up the quotient of absurdity, many believe that the inaugural film is, indeed, the jewel in the “Sharknado” crown.
As viewers sail through the series, they’re treated to unexpected celebrity appearances and a delicious cocktail of sci-fi elements, which makes for some genuinely hilarious moments. If you’re on the hunt for a shark flick that beautifully balances campy humor with heart-pounding action and a straightforward storyline, “Sharknado” is your go-to!
Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)
Another gem in the lineup of best shark movies, “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” is an exhilarating roller-coaster ride, perfectly marinated in campiness and featuring larger-than-life aquatic behemoths. The plot unravels mysteriously, as bizarre incidents unfold in the deep blue. The responsibility to decipher these anomalies falls on the shoulders of marine biologist Emma MacNeil.
Her findings? Two gargantuan prehistoric titans, a mega shark and a giant octopus, have been inadvertently released from their icy prison, thanks to a fractured glacier. These ancient adversaries, with their unparalleled power, pose a colossal threat to mankind. The challenge ahead for Emma and her team is to devise a strategy for these mammoth creatures to confront each other, ensuring a final face-off.
A classic product of the SyFy channel, this movie might not boast of cutting-edge special effects. Still, the sheer thrill of witnessing a gigantic shark taking a monumental leap to confront an airplane is undeniably entertaining. Furthermore, this film serves as the launchpad for the “Mega Shark” series, which, in its own right, has managed to hold its ground against the highly acclaimed Sharknado series.
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Diving deep into the world of the best shark movies, “Jaws: The Revenge” from 1987 holds a peculiar place in the pantheon. Emerging as a perplexing installment of the famed Jaws franchise, this cinematic piece revolves around Ellen Brody, portrayed by Lorraine Grady. In the movie, she grapples with her role as the grieving widow of the legendary Roy Scheider’s police chief character.
Strangely, a menacing great white shark seems to have an odd vendetta against her family. It gruesomely claims the life of Ellen’s younger son, the one who stepped into his father’s shoes at Amity Island. And, if that wasn’t bizarre enough, the movie gives a nod to the idea that Ellen might share a mysterious psychic bond with this vengeful marine predator. This oceanic saga takes a wild turn when this relentless shark chases Ellen down to the sunny shores of the Bahamas.
Battling the jaws of this underwater terror, Ellen garners support from a charismatic pilot named Hoagie, played by the inimitable Michael Caine, and Mario Van Peebles, who dons a unique Bahaman accent. Yet, the climax of the movie leaves many scratching their heads. So perplexing was the ending that Universal Studios felt compelled to reshoot it for the European audience. Though their efforts for improvement were commendable, the revamped ending still added to the film’s unintended comedic charm.
Navigating through the vast ocean of best shark movies, one might stumble upon “Zombie” from 1979. Even though it doesn’t fit the traditional mold of shark films, its uniqueness deserves mention. Directed by the masterful Lucio Fulci, “Zombie” (also recognized as Zombi 2) might misleadingly hint at being a sequel to “Dawn of the Dead”, thanks to its alternate title.
The latter was released in Italy as “Zombi”. What sets this film apart in the shark universe? A mind-boggling scene where an undead zombie goes toe-to-toe (or should we say fin-to-fist?) with a shark. As the story goes, Fulci wasn’t keen on this underwater tussle, but his producer, inspired by “Tintorera… Tiger Shark”, envisioned a gripping scene where underwater ace Ramón Bravo, donning full zombie makeup, clashes with a shark.
This fierce encounter results in the shark tearing off the zombie’s arm, but the unfazed zombie seems to brush it off with eerie nonchalance. This unforgettable scene, dripping with suspense, later found fame on platforms like YouTube, and even garnered enough popularity to feature in a 2010 Windows 7 advertisement.
Shark Night (2011)
Diving deep into the realm of the best shark movies, one cannot miss the unique charm of “Shark Night” from 2011. Although the cinematic universe of shark-themed films often tilts towards the less impressive side, movies like “Shark Night” make a mark simply by standing out in their own quirky way. Imagine a group of holiday-goers looking forward to a serene vacation in the Louisiana gulf.
Now, add to this scene some wild fanatics with a deep-rooted Shark Week fixation, intent on ramping up the thrill by strapping cameras to menacing sharks. If you’re thinking this sounds over-the-top, you’re right. The film serves a visual treat where a Great White, defying all logic, leaps from the ocean only to behead an unsuspecting man on a WaveRunner.
The original “Shark Night 3D” tag encapsulates that quintessential early 2010s horror flair – aiming purely to entertain and not necessarily to make sense. And guess what? The film hits its mark perfectly. Kudos to the late David R. Ellis, the mastermind behind this project, who crafted a piece that is best enjoyed in a light-hearted mood, preferably with a drink in hand. It might not be the crown jewel of shark movies, but it sure adds a unique sparkle.
Great White (1981)
Venturing further into the world of the best shark movies, one encounters the audacious “Great White” from 1981. In the vast sea of films inspired by the iconic “Jaws”, “Great White” unabashedly stands out for its striking similarities. Directed by the talented Enzo G. Castellari, whose claim to fame includes the 1978 masterpiece “The Inglorious Bastards” (which, fun fact, inspired the title of Quentin Tarantino’s later work), “Great White” is more than just a homage to “Jaws”.
The film’s audacity caught the attention of Universal Pictures, leading them to pull it from U.S. theaters during its 1982 release. Yet, it’s the uncanny resemblances that make it a compelling watch: an exploding shark climax, the character Peter Benton (an obvious wink to Jaws’ author Peter Benchley), and even a hardened sea veteran reminiscent of Robert Shaw’s iconic Quint.
Vic Morrow’s portrayal of this character mirrors Shaw’s rendition so closely that one might wonder why such a seasoned actor would tread this path. Nonetheless, the film remains an intriguing watch, mostly to gauge the extent of Castellari’s inspirations. Despite its rocky history, including Universal’s attempt to prevent its 2008 screening in Los Angeles, the film found its way back into the limelight. It’s now accessible as “The Last Shark” on several streaming platforms and DVD, even earning a place in the RiffTrax lineup.
Meg 2: The Trench (2023)
In the arena of the best shark movies, “Meg 2: The Trench” makes a dramatic splash as a pulse-pounding continuation of the 2018 sensation, “The Meg.” Five eventful years post the adrenaline-fueled adventures of the original film, our intrepid hero Jonas Taylor steps into the limelight once again. Armed with an unwavering commitment to battling ecological misdeeds, Taylor pairs up with the brilliant scientist, Jiuming Zhang, to uncover the secrets of the daunting Mariana Trench.
However, their expedition takes a dark turn when they stumble upon a sinister mining scheme helmed by the revenge-hungry Montes. The consequential rupture in the trench’s depths ensnares Taylor, Zhang, and their team, setting the stage for a perilous journey through a seabed teeming with formidable megalodons. But that’s not all! The monstrous Meg finds her way to the ocean’s surface, ushering in chaos. As she goes on a rampage, Taylor and his squad rush against time, trying to safeguard a sun-kissed island resort brimming with unsuspecting vacationers.
An epic confrontation on the sandy shores sees Taylor valiantly defeating the colossal alpha Meg. Yet, the suspense doesn’t end here. With hints of other lurking Megs and a potentially pregnant Megalodon, the narrative keeps audiences on tenterhooks. “Meg 2” serves up a riveting cocktail of high-octane underwater sequences, gigantic sharks, and a renewed quest to shield humanity from the sheer terror of the Megalodon.
Tintorera… Tiger Shark (1977)
Exploring the domain of the best shark movies, one might raise an eyebrow at “Tintorera… Tiger Shark,” a unique gem from Mexico that fuses sensuousness with sporadic shark encounters. The film’s distinction lies in its blend of romance and danger, occasionally offering a nod to its inspiration, “Jaws.” Helmed by the talented René Cardona Jr., the narrative primarily revolves around the sultry Gabriella, brought to life by Susan George of “Straw Dogs” fame.
She becomes the epicenter of a passionate triangle, drawing the affections of two smitten men. Amidst the azure waters and scenic vistas, their love story unfolds with dramatic tension, sensual rendezvous, and moments of unabashed intimacy. But Cardona ensures the tale isn’t just about romance. Every so often, sharks punctuate the narrative, reminding viewers of the lurking dangers beneath the waves.
While the film offers breathtaking underwater visuals, it does tread controversial waters with genuine shark hunting sequences. It’s an eclectic mix of romance, peril, and stunning aquatic shots, making “Tintorera… Tiger Shark” a roller-coaster of emotions and thrills in the world of shark cinema.
Within the vast realm of the best shark movies, “Sharkwater” emerges, not as an adrenaline-pumping thriller, but as an insightful documentary delving deep into the world of sharks. Crafted by the passionate conservationist Rob Stewart, this film serves as an eye-opener, dispelling numerous myths and misconceptions surrounding these magnificent creatures.
Taking viewers on a profound journey, it explores the grim reality of the shark-hunting industry, particularly in countries where the demand for shark fins has led to the rapid decline of these marine species. The driving force? A growing appetite for shark fin soup. But Stewart’s narrative doesn’t just linger on the grim; it also paints a picture of sharks as the majestic and misunderstood beings they truly are, far removed from the villainous portrayals in mainstream cinema.
Among numerous shark documentaries, “Sharkwater” stands out, not merely for its compelling content, but for the genuine passion Stewart exudes. Its impact on the audience was profound, paving the way for the birth of numerous shark conservation initiatives. For those eager to unravel the mysteries of sharks and better understand the intricacies of the shark-hunting industry, this documentary stands as an enlightening starting point.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Ah, the 90s – an era marked by its flamboyant flair! And speaking of the best shark movies from that decade, “Deep Blue Sea” swims right to the top. How can one forget the catchy LL Cool J track, “Deepest, bluest, my hat is like a shark’s fin”? This tune perfectly captures the movie’s essence – a wild rollercoaster of thrills and spills!
We’re thrown into a world where Mako sharks undergo genetic modifications, resulting in a catastrophic blend of pharmaceutical greed and aquatic terror. Boasting a star-studded cast, the characters are left to grapple with the monstrous outcomes of their own making. Even the indomitable Samuel L. Jackson isn’t spared from the jaws of these menacing creatures.
True, some of the animations might feel a tad outdated given its 90s release. Yet, the tangible terror of sharks gliding through waterlogged corridors or lurking in submerged kitchens keeps the suspense alive. “Deep Blue Sea” gloriously celebrates the creature-feature genre, reveling in over-the-top theatrics, all while reminding viewers of nature’s inevitable comeuppance through its fierce, finned avengers.
Long before the exhilarating scenarios of Crawl, where a family finds themselves trapped with ravenous alligators amidst a ferocious hurricane, we were introduced to Bait. This Australian gem is undeniably one of the best shark movies of recent times. Picture this: unsuspecting shoppers and staff find themselves cornered inside a supermarket, not by a common criminal, but by ferocious Great White sharks, all thanks to an unexpected tsunami.
The narrative ingeniously combines human grit and survival instincts as individuals, including those trapped in cars within submerged parking spaces, improvise diving equipment from ordinary shopping carts. But the stakes get even higher as a robbery unfolds, forcing victims and villains to join forces against their underwater predators.
It’s an adrenaline-fueled roller coaster ride, with the right mix of special effects that enhances the aquatic chills. Bait not only occupies but stands out in the quirky niche of “Animals on a Rampage in Confined Spaces Amidst Bizarre Weather Events,” making it a must-watch alongside movies like Crawl.
Jaws 2 (1978)
The shadowy depths bring forth another fearsome great white shark in the sequel to one of the best shark movies ever made, Jaws. As eerie incidents hint at a lurking predator, Police Chief Brody once again finds himself in the role of the town’s savior, attempting to sound the alarm to a dismissive mayor. As if having another massive shark wasn’t daunting enough, Brody’s personal stakes skyrocket when he learns his own sons are out at sea, right in the danger zone.
Crafting a sequel to a film as iconic as Jaws is no small feat. The pressure of matching or surpassing the original’s acclaim is daunting. However, Jaws 2 emerges not as a mere extension but as a commendable movie in its own right. While it might not eclipse the grandeur of its predecessor, it delivers a gripping narrative, punctuated by commendable performances. Among the cascade of sequels that the original Jaws inspired, Jaws 2 firmly holds its ground, shining as the finest of them all.
The Reef (2010)
The Reef skillfully tiptoes between the realms of horror and thriller, and has earned its place as one of the best shark movies for enthusiasts who value realism. Picture this: a close-knit group of friends embarks on a journey, aiming to deliver a yacht to the pristine waters of Indonesia. But in a cruel twist of fate, they collide with a treacherous coral reef, causing their yacht to keel over. With an island shimmering at a distance of 12 miles, hope still flickers.
Yet, the yacht’s captain, convinced of the lurking dangers in the waters around them, is adamant about staying put. The rest of the group, driven by survival instincts, decides to venture forth, only to find themselves in the crosshairs of a menacing great white shark. What sets The Reef apart is its minimalist approach. It doesn’t bank on extravagant gore or dramatic attacks to engage viewers. Instead, it uses genuine shark footage, sidestepping the often-maligned CGI, making every encounter heart-poundingly authentic.
Open Water (2004)
Earning the cheeky moniker “The Blair Shark Project” upon its 2004 release, Open Water is a masterclass in delivering nail-biting suspense on a shoestring budget. Through the lens of a video camera, we’re introduced to an adventurous couple, played by Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis.
Their thrill-seeking scuba excursion quickly spirals into a nightmarish ordeal when a miscommunication results in them being inadvertently left behind in the vast expanse of the ocean. As if the crushing weight of isolation and despair isn’t enough, they soon find themselves circled by curious sharks. What makes Open Water truly gripping is its raw and unpolished depiction of an unthinkable scenario.
Every subtle hint of danger, from a minor injury attracting unwanted attention, to the looming shadows beneath, dials up the tension. There’s no room for frills or theatrics in this harrowing tale. It’s the unadulterated essence of primal fear, captured in chillingly intimate detail, solidifying its position in the pantheon of the best shark movies.
The Meg (2018)
Emerging as a prominent example from the world of Chinese-American cinematic collaborations, “The Meg,” directed by the talented Jon Turteltaub, renowned for his work on “National Treasure,” has showcased the marvel of crafting a movie with the intent to resonate with audiences across the globe. With a star-studded cast, “The Meg” boasts of international talent, including British heartthrob and action star, Jason Statham, the versatile Chinese talent, Li Bingbing, and the comedic genius from America, Rainn Wilson.
But, what truly makes “The Meg” stand out is its universal appeal – a colossal shark. But, it’s no ordinary shark. The story thrillingly revolves around an ancient megalodon, a prehistoric aquatic beast believed to be a tale from the past. However, lurking in the profound depths of the ocean, this monster has remained hidden from human eyes. That is until an exploration goes a tad too deep, releasing this mammoth creature in search of new hunting grounds.
While “The Meg” is relatively mild with its on-screen violence, earning it a PG-13 badge, it’s the enchanting presence of Jason Statham and the impressive CGI portraying the gigantic shark that truly captivates the audience. Scenes that position this mammoth creature beside average-sized sharks are a cinematic treat, effortlessly highlighting its sheer magnitude. After all, in the face of such a titan, the fear of a great white seems minuscule, doesn’t it?
47 Meters Down (2017)
Imagine the thrill and excitement of embarking on a scuba diving adventure during a vacation in sunny Mexico. This is precisely the allure that captures sisters, Lisa, portrayed by the charming Mandy Moore, and Kate, brought to life by Claire Holt. Despite Lisa’s novice diving skills and the adventurous premise of being confined in an underwater cage, the sisters are ready for the thrill.
But as they say, the best-laid plans often go awry. Their expectation of a harmless adventure takes a dark turn when, in an unforeseen twist, the chain of their diving cage snaps, plummeting them 47 meters deep into the ocean’s abyss. Johannes Roberts masterfully crafts a tale that’s a true nightmare for anyone with claustrophobic tendencies.
Beyond the obvious threats of circling sharks, the sisters grapple with dwindling oxygen, a treacherous cage turning into their prison, and the looming danger of decompression sickness. Yet, it’s the unrelenting and unpredictable presence of the sharks, eerily grounded in reality, that escalates the terror. There’s no need for mythical megalodons or artificially intelligent sharks when the sheer terror of nature’s creation can evoke such palpable fear.
The Shallows (2016)
From the visionary mind of Director Jaume Collet-Serra comes “The Shallows,” a gripping story infused with dramatic flair and sheer simplicity. Headlined by the talented Blake Lively, we’re introduced to Nancy, an ambitious medical student. But a leisurely surf session quickly takes a perilous turn as she inadvertently crosses paths with a menacing great white shark.
This twist of fate leaves her injured, marooned on a small rock formation tantalizingly close to the safety of the shore. The catch? The relentless shark, with its predatory instincts, isn’t letting her go without a fight. Ensuring those few feet to freedom feel like a vast, treacherous expanse. Serra, with his artistic direction, along with Lively’s riveting performance, zeroes in on Nancy’s mental resilience.
As her safe options dwindle, Nancy’s indomitable spirit and quick thinking come to the fore, showcasing her fight for survival. While many shark movies draw inspiration from the legendary “Jaws,” “The Shallows” breaks the mold. It crafts a fresh narrative, reminding us that even within a well-explored subgenre, there’s still room for innovation and captivating surprises. If you’re hunting for the best shark movies, this one’s sure to keep you on the edge!
A cinematic masterpiece, “Jaws,” directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg, set the gold standard for shark-infested films and redefined the very essence of summer blockbusters. Despite behind-the-scenes challenges, like a rather temperamental animatronic Great White, Spielberg’s dedication bore fruit to the tune of a whopping $476.5 million in box office earnings. The movie’s genius lies in Spielberg’s restraint, holding back his proverbial ace – the fearsome Bruce – until the suspense reaches its crescendo.
Set against the idyllic backdrop of a New England coastal town, “Jaws” unveils the chilling narrative of a town’s leadership prioritizing tourist dollars over the safety of its residents during the bustling 4th of July celebrations. As the haunting memory of the young Alex Kintner’s fate lingers, “Jaws” serves as a terrifying reminder of the lurking dangers beneath the waves. Decades have rolled by, yet the debate stands settled – “Jaws” undisputedly holds its crown as the finest shark movie ever crafted.