The summer months are well underway, and everyone is enjoying their peaceful, serene swims at the beach. It's hard to believe anything could possibly come in the way of that. But alas, Shark Week is upon us, striking fear into the hearts of home viewers one episode at a time. It doesn't have to hold you back though, you can embrace the horror and excitement of Shark Week by watching some of the best shark movies of all time.
The 18 Best Shark Movies to Watch During "Shark Week"
The shark movie to end all shark movies. What is there to be said about Jaws that hasn't already been said? A monumental feat of suspense and practical effects. A movie that changed the film industry as we know it by essentially creating a blockbuster culture for better or for worse. Characterized by an iconic score, an endlessly quotable script, and unforgettable moments, Jaws is remembered as a classic, and for good reason.
2. The Shallows
In a subgenre without a ton of variety, The Shallows served as a breath of fresh air upon release. Anchored by a phenomenal performance from Blake Lively and featuring what was undoubtedly the best practical effects since Jaws, this film beautifully mixes them and CGI to create a chilling experience. Jaume Collet-Serra is a filmmaker well known for his action spectacles, but what I find phenomenal about his films is the tension building. Whether the shark is present or not, every moment is a threat. He succeeds at making the environment just as scary as the predator.
3. Open Water
Just like The Shallows that came after it, Open Water is a short and sweet isolated thriller with a minimal cast. This film is very strange aesthetically, looking like a found footage film quality-wise due to the film being partially based on true events, but it doesn't lean into that style much. Regardless, Open Water is a great feat of tension building with minimal resources. Clocking in at only 78 minutes it is a prime choice for a time-killing shark flick.
4. Deep Blue Sea
Deliciously dumb and thoroughly enjoyable, Renny Harlin's Deep Blue Sea is an absurdist take on the shark thriller. Following a group of researchers on the undersea Lab Aquatica who must fight for their lives against smarter, faster, and more dangerous genetically modified sharks. It can be described as Jaws on steroids, but it's really much more. Deep Blue Sea is a film that demands to be seen and is sure to provide viewers with a ridiculously good time.
5. The Meg
Following the same basic formula of insanity that Deep Blue Sea outlined before it. The Meg is a big-budget popcorn movie that is way more fun than it has any right to be. Filled with delightful jump scares and jokes that will make you realize that the film is self-aware of its own absurdity. The Meg is a grand action/horror spectacle that will certainly have you jumping out of your seat. Also worth noting that the sequel, Meg 2: The Trench is scheduled for release in August 2023, just in time for next year's Shark Week.
6. Jaws 2
Haven't had enough Jaws? Well, we can't really help you, because Jaws 2 does not live up to its predecessor. Some have even deemed it one of the most negatively impactful films ever, due to it causing the Hollywood trend of beating a dead horse when it comes to franchises. Despite this negative connotation, Jaws 2 is a beyond-solid movie, that might deserve a little more credit than it gets. This film is really where the world's premier shark franchise "jumped the shark". It ups the ante in terms of ridiculousness and slims down on the tension, but still produces a good time, and is definitely worthy of being labeled one of the best shark movies of all time.
7. 47 Meters Down
Been a while since we've seen a shark movie take itself seriously, and 47 Meters Down isn't going to change that. Absurd, and it knows it, but formally pretty well done. 47 Meters Down is a film that oozes creativity, it manages to keep the same isolated horror concept fresh for the entire runtime whether you find it cheesy or not, and in a subgenre known for its lack of diversity, it is worth noting when something feels fresh.
8. The Reef
Stranded, capsized, whatever, it's another one of these. The Reef is noteworthy for its realism for impeccable suspense building. While not groundbreaking or wholly unique in any way shape or form, this film is up there among the best shark flicks thanks to its lightning-fast pace and somewhat inventive/creative usage of underwater footage. Another one that is based on real events, so if knowing that there is real terror behind those screams helps you get immersed, The Reef is made for you.
You were waiting for it and you got it. Which Sharknado you may ask, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th? Well, I'm happy to make this a joint entry, because god knows they are all worthy of a slot here. Sharknado has become infamous for its "so bad it's good" charm, and I think that's respectable. A Syfy/The Asylum original that has become synonymous with those brands. The Sharknado franchise is full of short, enjoyable laughing stock movies that need to be seen to be understood.
10. Shark Tale
We've had enough horror for today. A short break into the realm of children's animation. Shark Tale is an iconic outing from Dreamworks that has been made into memes for years. Featuring beautiful animation, great comedy for all ages, and stellar voice performances from the most unexpected sources. Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, and Ziggy Marley round out the cast. Worth watching if you want something fit for the whole family, but still want to satisfy that shark movie craving.
11. Finding Nemo
Maybe we're getting ridiculous, but isn't Finding Nemo a shark movie? And if it is, it's certainly one of the best shark movies. Although the protagonists aren't apex predators of the ocean, the finned menaces we know and love are still featured, and in a humorous yet nerve-wracking way. The famous scene with Bruce and his pals has been quoted to death by those who grew up with the film, while also striking fear into the hearts of child viewers who want to see their heroes come out on top.
12. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged
Even more ridiculous than the previous entry in the franchise, but that might be for the best. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is a film that strangely has experienced a slight reappraisal, many hailing it for its ridiculousness and fun tension building. A slasher film that is bursting with stylish directorial choices from Johannes Roberts, it's no Jaws, but it certainly gives the first 47 Meters Down a run for it's money.
A disasterpiece of epic proportions. Bait is a whole different beast, and a good one. This is a film that is guaranteed to get your heart pumping and lead to you having a good time. Entirely unique when compared to the other films on this list, Bait uses its supermarket setting to completely distance itself from the other entries in its subgenre. Realistic-looking sharks and creative tense moments with the unique terrain make this a nail-biting experience from end to end.
Maybe not the best film for Shark Week. If you want films that will expand the shark mythos with horrifying tension and violent kills this is not the film for you. Sharkwater is Rob Stewart's passion project in defense of these creatures, he hoped to debunk myths and stereotypes associated with the ocean's apex predator and many who have seen the film would agree. Perfect for someone trying to gain more appreciation for nature, or for someone trying to get over their fear. Clocking in at 89 minutes long, Sharkwater is an upsetting watch, but worth your time for sure.
A relatively forgotten film of the late '60s. Shark is an underseen Samuel Fuller outing that has been described as "proto-jaws". I may be biased given that Samuel Fuller is one of my favorite filmmakers, but what doesn't scream exciting about a Burt Reynolds sunken secluded shark thriller? Right from the thrilling, seat-strapping opening scene you will be hooked and will likely never let go. Though not quite as good, if you are trying to recapture the magic of Jaws, this may as well be your best bet.
16. Deep Blue Sea 2
Low budget, low quality, and low expectations for the viewer. Deep Blue Sea 2 doubles down on the insanity of the first, but with a lesser budget. Keeps the mystique of the first film active and operates with quite a bit of ingenuity to keep such a low-effort thing fresh. You may think to yourself, how bad can something be before it transcends "so bad it's good" and just becomes bad. Well, in the shark subgenre, the limit does not exist.
A James Cameron-produced underwater thriller is all you need to know Sanctum is worth watching. Unnatural acting is the downfall of this one, but the claustrophobia of the film is second to none. Properly full of suspense, thrills, and chills. Although it doesn't fully feel like a James Cameron film (he didn't direct it after all), it's still one to mark down due to its brisk pacing and intense anxiety-inducing adventure sequences that will get your heart pounding.
18. Of Shark and Man
Rounding out the list with a stunningly beautiful and daring documentary. A passion project, and a love letter to one of nature's greatest threats, or so we think. A film that talks about successful and unsuccessful conservation efforts and chronicles one man's journey to get as close to the world's biggest bull sharks as possible. With a short runtime and endless passion, Of Shark and Man is a must-watch, but maybe after you enjoy the Shark Week festivities.