"Killer" Shark Movies to Check Out This Summer

I’ve always been a big fan of sharks; I love learning about them, watching horror movies about them, and even dropping $70 on Jaws-themed Sperry’s (a move which I absolutely do not regret). Since Shark Week, arguably the best week of the summer, kicked off yesterday evening, here is a list of shark-themed horror movies you can turn to when you just can’t sit through anymore of “Sharks After Dark” (which sorta sounds like scandalous TV, but is actually hosted by horror's own Eli Roth and narrated by GoT badass, Lena Headey). Also, as an extra tidbit of info, were you aware there’s a Global Shark Attack File? Enjoy!

Discovery Channel's Shark Week premiered on June 26th and airs through July 3rd.

1. Jaws, 1975

When Jaws was released in theaters on June 20, 1975, it gave America, nay, the world, exactly what it never knew it always wanted: the “summer blockbuster.” It terrified thousands and forever made movie-goers everywhere a little more reluctant to go for a dip in the ocean. This movie has everything going for it - a perfect cast, fantastic score and sound design (people who haven’t even seen Jaws are familiar with the theme music), and a simple yet terrifying story about a killer great white. In my humble opinion, Jaws is as close to cinematic perfection as a movie can get. This is one of the few instances where I will admit to preferring the movie to the book.

2. Jaws II, Jaws III, Jaws: The Revenge, Jaws 3D

With its success in creating the concept of the “summer blockbuster”, it only stands to reason that Jaws would also be, in part, responsible for the subsequent concept of “franchise sequels.” Regardless of how much a person loves sharks and shark movies, even putting Jaws II, III, The Revenge, and 3D anywhere near a list of “top killer shark flicks” should be sacrilege. However, since whatever success these sequels managed to enjoy was a direct result of being related to the original (like almost any other sequel), they should be included to, at the very least, illustrate how Jaws paved the way for future terrible “killer shark” movies. BTW Michael Caine is in Jaws: The Revenge. Seriously.

3. Deep Blue Sea, 1999

There hadn’t been many successful “killer shark” movies released before Deep Blue Sea came to theaters in the summer of 1999. Casual movie-goers and horror-lovers alike were clearly overdue for a solid summer shark movie - Deep Blue Sea had a budget of $60 million and grossed $164.6 million at the boxoffice. That’s pretty huge for a movie that is nowhere near as good or well-done as Jaws. That being said, I’m not ashamed to admit that I rather enjoy Deep Blue Sea. You’re introduced to some pretty off-the-wall science right away so suspending your disbelief for the rest of the movie isn’t much of a problem. Did I mention that not only is Sam Jackson in DBS but so is one Mr. LL Cool J. Ladies Love Cool James, amiright?

4. The Reef, 2010

This 2010 Australian film about a group of friends whose sailing trip to Indonesia goes awry - thanks to a capsized boat and a killer great white - was not as successful at the box office as some of the others on this list. Regardless, I thought The Reef was solidly tense and well-done. The film used an interesting marketing strategy in an effort to build interest; the production crew streamed the film live on the film’s website, while it was in production. The movie was loosely based on the story of Ray Boundy, who was the only survivor in a very similar incident, though the film tried not to advertise that info as they feared it would hurt the Australian tourist industry (as if there aren’t a thousand other animals that can kill you in that country). Perhaps my favorite feature of this movie is the use of actual shark footage. Sharks are awesome and amazing creatures and showing actual footage can be more effective than CGI - just ask the folks who run Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.

5. Sharknado, 2013

Anyone with any familiarity with the SyFy Channel knows they love to show B-movies about ridiculous, non-existent animals in a battle to the death (a la Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf - yeah...that's an actual movie). Well it seems SyFy also loves just showing movies that are barely trying to be believable. Sharknado is one of those inexplicable cult favorites that blew up in popularity almost solely from its complete and utter ridiculousness. Shark tornados?! Seriously?! It sounds batshit crazy but it obviously worked, and now, three inevitable sequels later, I think the Sharknado franchise has finally run its course. But who would’ve thought a movie starring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, about killer sharks traveling in huge waterspouts, would’ve become such a hit??

6. Sharktopus, 2010

If there’s anything people know the US Navy is up to it’s genetically engineering a half-shark half-octopus hybrid to use as a war machine. This is something important that the American government has been working on for ages. Or, at least, that’s what Sharktopus wants its viewers to believe. When this hybrid sea monster eventually escapes from its “handlers”, is it any surprise when it begins attacking innocent beach-goers?? No, it is not. This movie sounds ridiculous and is, in fact, ridiculous. That, however, doesn’t take away from its entertainment factor - I laughed many a time whilst watching. It is important to note that the “success” and “demand” for Sharktopus has resulted in a couple spin-offs: Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf and Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda (one of Heart's lesser-known hits).

7. Open Water, 2003

Another film loosely based on actual events (Tom and Eileen Lonergan), Open Water tells the story of two scuba divers who are separated from their dive group and become stranded at sea. This makers of this film were striving toward shark authenticity so live sharks and shark footage were used during filming. The public seems to be pretty divided on this movie, with some thinking it was a solid piece of minimalist filmmaking and others thinking it was “too slow” and delivered very little action. Regardless of which group you side with, Open Water is a tense reminder to never become separated from your scuba diving group.

8. 12 Days of Terror, 2004

Over 12 days during July 1916, a shark terrorized beach-goers along the Jersey Coast, killing four people and injuring one. This is another true story about a rogue shark with a taste for humans. What made this particular shark different from others was not only its taste for humans, but also the fact that it ventured into the freshwaters of the Matawan Creek to hunt and kill. Believed at the time to be a great white shark, it is now widely debated that it was, in fact, a bull shark (they have been known to venture into freshwaters to hunt and are notoriously aggressive). This story has been told and shown in many different ways during Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week celebration and, like many shark attack stories, is a tragic one. 12 Days of Terror first premiered on Animal Plant, then was aired again on the Discovery Channel. There’s always a good chance they’ll air it again during Shark Week so if you haven’t seen it, be sure to be on the lookout for it this summer!

9. Jersey Shore Shark Attack, 2012

One would think this movie would be very similar to the previous entry, 12 Days of Terror; however, one would be incorrect in thinking so. Maybe this movie likes to claim that it is based on the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, but its connection is feeble at best. In fact, this is more similar to MTV show, Jersey Shore, than to 12 Days of Terror. In terms of quality and overall substance, JSSA is right there with Sharknado. It is just a cheesy, so-bad-it’s-good B-movie (despite not even the best out of that bunch).

10. Megalodon, 2013

What could possibly be scarier than a huge great white shark? Why a mega-huge megalodon, of course! For those who may be unfamiliar with this Early Miocene, Late Pliocene behemoth, the megalodon was a 59-foot relative of the shark and stalked the earth’s oceans about 2.5 million years ago. The idea of a 59-foot great white swimming under your boat is nothing short of horrifying. Sadly, I can’t really say Megalodon was a good film - it didn’t even have an endearing cheese-factor to it. However, it does serve as a sort of segway for me to mention the faux documentary, Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, which aired on the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week in 2013. This fake doc caused quite a stir and had fans of Shark Week furious at its creators. Apparently folks needed more than the small disclaimer at the beginning of the show to let them know that the megalodon is not a currently-existing creature. Shark Week can only provide so much new shark info each year; I, for one, was pleasantly surprised they attempted to include a little humor with the lineup. I like to think it also just served to highlight the fools who either get easily upset over dumb things or who need to read a little more about natural history and the awesome animals that roamed this planet.

Sharks are a favorite subject among many makers of creature feature B-movies, and when it comes to the scale in quality for these films, Jaws is like the filet and Sharknado is one of those whole-chicken-in-a-can things. There are many terrible, cheesy creature features out there to choose from, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. Here’s a list of even more killer shark movies (plus a few non-shark flicks) for your perusal:

Please note I haven't watched all of these, therefore cannot endorse them all. If you choose to watch one, you do so at your own risk!

Shark Night 3D
2-Headed Shark Attack
Attack of the Jurassic Shark
Sand Sharks
Avalanche Sharks
Super Shark
The Last Shark
Red Water
Shark Swarm
Snow Shark: Ancient Snow Beast
Ghost Shark
Bait 3D
Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre
Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus
Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark
Mega Python vs. Gatoroid
Dinocroc vs. Supergator

~ @jamiestamp