Top 20 Shark Movies

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Top 20 Shark Movies

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Timothy MacAusland
Scary Shark, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo! For this list, we'll be looking at the best fictional films involving sharks, whether the movies are genuinely thrilling or just dumb fun. Our countdown includes "Jaws", "Open Water", “Shark Tale”, "The Deep", “The Meg”, and more!
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Top 20 Shark Movies


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Shark Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the best fictional films involving sharks, whether the movies are genuinely thrilling or just dumb fun. There is a spoiler alert in effect. Scary Shark, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo!

Which of these movies kept you out of the water? Let us know in the comments.

#20: “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” (2009)


Yeah, we’re starting with just plain dumb for our first entry. The first in a series that would later see the eponymous shark go up against a Crocosaurus and a Mecha Shark, “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus” knows it ain’t high art. Rather, it seems content to give audiences the kind of trashy, ridiculous matchup promised in its title, complete with unremarkable CGI, bad acting, and a story that makes Michael Bay movies look tame by comparison. In all honesty, mediocrity is actually above average when it comes to shark movies, so expect us to stay in so-bad-it’s-good territory for a little bit.




#19: “Jersey Shore Shark Attack” (2012)


The reality show “Jersey Shore” was everywhere at the turn of the 2010s, becoming one of MTV’s biggest programs of all time. Naturally, parodies ensued, and the SyFy channel got in on the fun by pairing the familiar fun-loving, partying antics with sharks. Seems like a natural fit! As amazing as it would’ve been to get the cast of the actual show to play themselves, we get funny enough caricatures with characters like “Nooki” and “The Complication.” However, we do get one notable face showing up as himself in the form of NSYNC’s Joey Fatone, who, you guessed it, gets eaten by a shark.



#18: “Red Water” (2003)


This made-for-TV movie is predictably bad, but managed to be quite the hit back in 2003. The plot involves a team of oil drillers working in a Louisiana river when gangsters looking for buried treasure complicate matters. Oh, and a bull shark that may or may not be the spirit of vengeance. It’s honestly not as silly as it sounds, and is the first movie on our list with some notable actors leading the way, from Lou Diamond Phillips to Kristy Swanson and even Coolio! Thankfully, it does get one decent set piece befitting a movie about oil drillers and sharks.



#17: “12 Days of Terror” (2004)


This one is based on a Jersey Shore shark attack that really happened. Set in 1916, the film recounts the twelve-day period wherein a shark killed four people and injured another. Though experts differ on whether the real shark in question was a bull or a great white, the film depicts it as the latter, the more iconic of the two. It originally premiered on Animal Planet, so you’ve gotta know it’s not going to sensationalize the viciousness of sharks like most entries on this list. That said, we don’t know if it’s the definitive telling of the historic tragedy, as that may not have been made yet. However, it does have John Rhys-Davies as an old-timey sea captain, so, kudos.



#16: “Shark Tale” (2004)


Okay, so this definitely isn’t a shark movie in the traditional sense, but it is a movie centered around sharks, so we’re fin-na to include it. “Shark Tale” is far from DreamWorks Animation’s best movie, and came out at a time when the studio was still perfecting its CG animation. However, it does get a comedic boost from the voice stylings of Will Smith and Jack Black in the lead roles, as their characters find themselves telling a great white lie (see what we did there?) to upend the power dynamic between fish and the shark mafia. That’s right, the sharks in this movie are like gangsters in Scorsese movies... but sharks.



#15: “Sharknado 2: The Second One” (2014)


An on-the-nose movie needs an on-the-nose title, and “Sharknado 2: The Second One” does not disappoint in that regard. While the first “Sharknado” was something of a perfect storm when it comes to so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasure movies, “The Second One” conjures up a perfect storm of its own by letting the titular weather event take a bite out of the Big Apple… and some people, of course. Unfamiliar with the term “subtlety,” the movie makes sure to go appropriately over-the-top in the most gleefully self-aware way possible. While the Sharknado craze didn’t stay as fervent for much longer, we still have some fond memories of the time sharks took Manhattan.


#14: “Sharktopus” (2010)


You thought a Mega Shark fighting a Giant Octopus was wild? We give you… Sharktopus! You know that, uh, famous line from “Jurassic Park,” right? “Scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could create Sharktopus that they didn’t stop to think if they should create Sharktopus.” Or something like that? Well, anyway, it all came true in this glorious creature mashup. In all seriousness though, the movie isn’t as bad as you’d think, as its self-aware attitude allows us the kind of campy fun we’d expect. More importantly, though, the sequels “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda” and “Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf” prove that this series’s portmanteau game is on point.





#13: “Shark Night” (2011)


Released when 3D horror was having something of a resurgence, “Shark Night” took advantage by stranding seven college kids at a Louisiana lake house teeming with deadly sharks. Whereas most shark movies default to simple great whites, this one offers an assortment to fear. From cookiecutter sharks to hammerhead sharks to sand tiger sharks, this movie’s got it all. That said, it does suffer from restrictive PG-13 rating, meaning when it comes time for the college kids to bite it - or, rather, get bitten themselves - the results aren’t quite as gleeful as one might hope.



#12: “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” (2019)


Look, we’re gonna be honest with you: cave exploration movies are stressful enough, what with all the close quarters and lack of oxygen, but adding a slew of subterranean sharks to the mix? That’s a big ‘ol pile of nope! In any case, whereas the first film was mostly beholden to a single location, “Uncaged” does give its characters a more dynamic setting to work within and a new set of survival rules, as these sharks are blind but otherwise extrasensory. As far as storytelling goes, you could take it or leave it, but the sequel does make its predecessor proud, in the sense that there are some seriously nail-biting thrills to be had.



#11: “Bait 3D” (2012)


Similar to “Uncaged,” “Bait 3D” has its survivors grapple with the looming shark threat in a wholly original location, as a tsunami traps them in a supermarket, of all places, with the predatory beasts swimming through the aisles. Campy premise? Absolutely, but “Bait” plays it surprisingly seriously, managing to make the thrills as grounded as they can be. If we’re being honest, it probably could have done more with its creative setup, but we as shark aficionados are happy any time a movie with some semblance of budget is able to consistently generate thrills for an hour and a half.





#10: “Sharknado” (2013)


You knew this was coming. The SyFy channel’s crowning achievement, the first “Sharknado” became a sensation when it aired in 2013, becoming the new bad movie for cultists to get excited about. Forget Sharkzilla or BearShark or whatever else there is; we want a swirling vortex to fling people-eating sharks at an unsuspecting public like some kind of twisted carnival ride! The first “Sharknado” plays it more seriously than its predecessors would, but that doesn’t stop us from cheering and/or laughing when the protagonist dives chainsaw-first into the mouth of a great white. More than any other movie on our list, this one exemplifies the marriage of camp and quality.



#9: “The Deep” (1977)


When “Jaws” came out to much acclaim — and box office — in 1975, there were plenty of studios chomping at the bit to cut into that market. While many would be ripoffs, none would be so tied to the film as “The Deep.” The movie was adapted by Peter Benchley from his novel, who’d done much the same previously with “Jaws” itself. But the similarities don’t end there, as the films share a major star in Robert Shaw. As long as we’re comparing, “The Deep” doesn’t have quite as many shark scenes, but the ones we do get are through a different lens, as various characters have to contend with looming danger while scuba diving.



#8: “47 Meters Down” (2017)


Nowadays, you almost have to have some sort of gimmick to get your shark movie noticed, and even though the first “47 Meters Down” fits that description, it doesn’t mean it’s not effective. The bulk of the action takes place - you guessed it - forty-seven meters below the surface, as two sisters find themselves trapped at the sea floor when the cable on their diving cage snaps. From there it’s a fight for survival as they look for a way to resurface and get back on the boat without being eaten by great whites. Honestly, you could do a lot worse, as “47 Meters Down” has a fair number of decent jolts in what is a forgettable, but fun, ride.



#7: “The Meg” (2018)


Move over Mega Shark; there’s a new sheriff in town. There’s something to be said about a shark movie that can get as ridiculous as possible and still somehow make us feel like there are high stakes. That movie is “The Meg,” which sees the reappearance of megalodons, prehistoric sharks that soon begin wreaking havoc on the surface. For shark movie enthusiasts with bloodier inclinations, “The Meg” is predictably PG-13, with any human getting eaten by one of these things just going straight in, but that doesn’t mean the movie isn’t creative with its setpieces, and a whole lot of fun to boot.



#6: “Jaws 2” (1978)


“Jaws” sequels get a really, really bad rap, and mostly it’s deserved. But though “Jaws 2” had zero chance of matching the original, it doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with its successors, operating in a nice middle ground all of its own. Much in the bloody vein of the burgeoning slasher subgenre of its era, the bulk of the action concerns teenagers, as boatfuls of ‘em are stalked by a great white and subsequently stranded out in open water. Chief Brody, ever the valiant shark slayer, once again looks to save the day. The absence of Steven Spielberg behind the camera is greatly felt, but for what it is, “Jaws 2” does just fine.




#5: “The Reef” (2010)


Okay, now we’re finally getting into the legitimately good shark movies. Based on a true story, “The Reef” sees five friends stranded out in open water when their yacht capsizes upon striking a coral reef. Certain that the boat won’t stay afloat much longer, four of them opt to swim to the nearest island, hoping the current will guide them. However, they soon find themselves at the mercy of — you guessed it — a great white shark, which begins to pick them off one by one. “The Reef” is a thoroughly effective exercise in paranoia and helplessness, as the realistic shark attacks only further our reluctance to ever get tempted by the ocean.



#4: “Deep Blue Sea” (1999)


Is it just us, or does this movie only get more enjoyable with age? The last of our entries that revel in silly concepts, “Deep Blue Sea” warns of the fallacy of human meddling, as scientific experiments on mako sharks lead them to becoming as intelligent as they are deadly. A group of survivors then have to not only escape an oceanic facility, but also prevent these super-sharks from doing the same. Is the movie as smart as these sharks? Not really, but it is having the most fun possible, boasting one of the best shark-related deaths in movie history.



#3: “Open Water” (2003)


Much in the same way as “The Reef,” “Open Water” gets the most out of the scenario of being stranded at sea with the growing fear of what lurks beneath the surface. Also loosely based on a true story, the film follows a couple accidentally left behind by their crew during a scuba excursion. Though audiences didn’t take to its dour tone, many critics praised it for being a shark movie that didn’t exploit the true nature of its predatory antagonists. Instead, much of the dread stems from the fact that a simple mistake can turn an otherwise neat experience into a deadly one.



#2: “The Shallows” (2016)


It’s not often these days that a grounded, gritty shark movie comes along and actually manages to be good. Yet, “The Shallows” is just such a shark film, anchored by one hell of a lead performance. Blake Lively stars as a surfer who finds herself trapped on a rock tantalizingly close to shore, as a great white shark circles the water beneath and goes after anyone who dares test it. Not only does it have a slew of hair-raising moments, but “The Shallows” is something of a profound psychological survival story, as Nancy is so close, yet so far from safety. Pulse-pounding, tense, and eminently rewatchable, this is a shark movie for the ages.


#1: “Jaws” (1975)


No real surprise here. “Jaws” was, and still is, one of the best summer blockbusters of all time, let alone the best shark movie. The tale of a coastal town plagued by the ultimate people-eating machine, the movie does what a lot of other shark movies don’t or can’t: it presents a wholly dynamic narrative, with the shark slowly unraveling the sanity of the town’s citizens, to the point where the story isn’t really about the shark at all. Still, you can expect some of the most thrilling sequences in film, boosted by one of the greatest scores in movie history. In short, “Jaws” is plain awesome filmmaking.
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Shark Tale and Jaws are the best