In 1975 Steven Speilberg’s now-famous movie Jaws invented the blockbuster and has since spawned dozens of copycat films. Shark Week starts this Sunday, and even though we know sharks are magnificent creatures who (mostly) don’t deserve their man-eater reputation, it’s still fun to watch hapless divers pitted against killer sharks. Since Jaws, most shark vs. human movies have fallen into the so bad it’s good or just plain bad categories. Some have managed to create real thrills or at least some tongue-in-cheek horror-comedy. Here are the seven best shark movies (other than Jaws) to watch this Shark Week.
7. Bait (2012)
Your mileage may vary with this one. Some audiences and critics found it lackluster while others described it as, “a lot of fun,” and “surprisingly good”. We think it’s worth a watch for anyone who enjoys shark-related B movies. Bait begins with a tsunami hitting a seaside market turning it into an underwater playground for sharks. Of course it’s less fun for the people stranded there. Sharni Vinson and Xavier Samuel of You’re Next, and Loved Ones get starring roles. The unique setting gives the sharks new ways to surprise their prey and the audience. Imagine meeting sharks in a parking garage. Yikes! Oh, and spoiler alert, someone’s going to get used as bait.
6. Sharknado (2013)
This film has a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun with its ridiculous premise involving a tornado that brings sharks to a flooded Los Angeles. The best thing about this movie is that it’s not trying to be good or taking itself too seriously. That’s precisely why it became a surprise hit among fans of low-budget horror films. Watch this one if you’re looking for some fun absurdity. (If you love it there are five sequels you can watch next.)
5. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
A crew stranded in an underwater marine biology lab is forced to match wits with genetically engineered sharks smarter than their wild cousins. The giant predators are looking to escape, and they’ll go through anyone that stands in their way. Stellan Skarsgard and LL Cool J have some incredible encounters throughout the film with the brainy man-eaters, but Samuel L. Jackson’s scene takes the cake. According to many fans and critics, his one scene that lays out how much danger the cast is in makes the whole movie. At the time, Deep Blue Sea was called the best shark movie since Jaws. It still lives up to the hype if you’re looking for a shark movie with a blockbuster feel.
4. Open Water (2004)
Some shark-focused thrillers rely on CGI or other gimmicks to increase the fear factor, but open water takes the opposite approach. The terror here comes from the “this could happen to you” realism. The film was inspired by a real incident of an American couple in 1998 who went missing while diving around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. In the movie, a couple finds themselves left behind by their diving tour group. As time goes on, they realize that no one is coming for them, and sharks are circling. One camera, two actors, and a herd of real sharks were all it took to create a sleeper sensation when the film first aired. Don’t watch this one if you’re planning a diving trip anytime soon.
3. The Reef (2010)
If Open Water was too slow for you, The Reef might be more your thing. The characters are in a similar situation–trapped 12 miles from land in waters teeming with sharks. The Reef is also based on a true story and uses real shark footage for the effects. It has the same real-life feel as Open Water and was praised for it’s character development and well-timed suspense building. The tension begins mounting early on in the film but it makes you wait for a shark attack until the moment of the most pay-off. It’s well worth the wait.
2. The Shallows (2016)
Blake Lively stars as Nancy, a med student who has an unfortunate encounter with a great white shark. She’s left wounded on a rock just feet from shore, but the shark isn’t letting her get away. The story focuses on Nancy’s psyche as she tries to outwit the predator and get to safety. It’s a riveting tale of survival that will keep you on the edge of your seat as Nancy gets creative with her narrowing field of options. This shark story doesn’t bear much resemblance to Jaws and is great for those looking for a fresh take on the genre.
1. 47 meters down (2017)
For a real thrill ride, check out Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as they go head to head with sharks in the middle of the ocean. It all starts when sisters Lisa (Moore) and Kate (Holt) decide to go on a scuba diving excursion while vacationing in Mexico. Yes, the tour guides seem sketchy, and the sisters aren’t exactly experienced, but it’s fine, right? It is fine up until the chain to their diving cage breaks and sends them plummeting to the bottom. Now they have to contend with circling sharks, low oxygen supplies, and decompression sickness in a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare. The cage keeping the sharks out keeps them trapped at the bottom, and the circling sharks are preventing a rescue. Prepare to bite your nails as you watch the sisters try to figure out their next move.
Shark movies are the epitome of summer horror. If you’re looking for more thrills and chills this summer, check out the Chaos Escape Rooms, located in Midvale at Utah’s only underground haunted house. You’ll feel like the star of your own horror movie as you pit your wits against human and supernatural predators. Can you get out alive?