JAWS is my favorite movie of all time and has instilled in me a lifelong affinity for sharks. It also spawned an entire sub genre of “shark movies.” Hollywood and both big- and small-budget filmmakers have been trying to replicate the success of Steven Spielberg’s classic ever since its debut in 1975. This summer is giving shark fans, and especially shark movie fans, a real treat. In late July, the Discovery Channel raked in the ratings with their annual Shark Week. This past Friday, giant shark movie, The Meg, opened in theaters everywhere, and later this month the Sharknado franchise comes to a close with The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time.
Since we’re talking about some upcoming shark movies, let’s take a look at some of the best shark films of all time, and of course I’m not counting JAWS because Spielberg’s classic is untouchable. I will also leave out the underrated JAWS 2 because of the familiar feel to its original. Without further ado, here are the Top 5 Shark Movies That Are NOT JAWS.
But first, here are some Honorable Mentions:
Sharknado, 2013 – Yeah, I’m including this one because the story was so ridiculous it became an overnight Twitter sensation and helped launch a new era of silly shark movies on SYFY. Also almost 20 years after American Pie, who’da thunk Tara Reid would be better known for a series of low budget shark-tornado movies?!?!
Mako: The Jaws of Death, 1976 – After seeing JAWS as a child, I wanted to see every movie with a shark that my local video store had and I remember renting this time and time again. Using some pretty cool real shark footage and a unique story, Mako was one of the first and best JAWS ripoffs.
Zombi, 1979 – One scene, but an epic one, as Lucio Fulci presents Zombie vs. Tiger Shark featuring a REAL Tiger Shark!
And now the Top 5…
5. Bait – 2012 – Kimble Rendall
Bait was a surprisingly good shark movie that would have benefitted from a bigger budget. A coastal Australian town is hit by a massive tsunami which floods the town and brings Great Whites into people’s backyards. A group of survivors are stuck inside a supermarket as a giant shark cruises the aisles. The tight spaces make for some good claustrophobic scares and You’re Next’s Shari Vinson is awesome as usual.
4. Deep Blue Sea – 1999 – Renny Harlin
This movie couldn’t be more late ’90s if it wanted to be. While extraordinarily dumb, Deep Blue Sea is super fun and consistently rewatchable. An underwater research team working on using super-smart-shark DNA to cure Alzheimer’s is beset upon by said sharks after a cavalcade of ridiculous events that you’ll ignore thanks to clever dialogue, some good performances, and THE greatest surprise death in movie history, that was SO GOOD, they stole it at the end of Jurassic World! And of course, stay for LL Cool J’s hilarious rap during the end credits.
3. The Shallows – 2016 – Jaume Collet-Serra
It’s Blake Lively vs a giant Great White for nearly 90 minutes. The Shallows had one of the best trailers and it lived up to it, as a young med student goes to a secluded Mexican beach to surf and is interrupted by a great white there munching on a dead whale. The tension is palpable, the stakes are fully recognized, and the cinematography is beautiful in what was one of the best films of 2016, rather than just a good shark movie.
2. Open Water – 2003 – Chris Kentis
Open Water is relentless in its ability to pull the audience right into the situation of the two leads. If Bait used claustrophobia to its advantage, its the opposite here. A married couple go out on a SCUBA diving boat and gets left behind miles out to sea in shark-infested waters. If you’ve heard Quint tell the story of the USS Indianapolis in JAWS, this must’ve been what they were going through. The constant fear and tension combined with the fact that real sharks were used in the water with the actors make Open Water one of craziest films ever made.
The Reef – 2010 – Andrew Traucki
The best shark movie since JAWS is basically, what if we combine Open Water’s stuck in the middle of the ocean scenario with JAWS‘s Great White Shark. Only let’s use real sharks and leave the camera at water level for half the movie to induce true terror in the audiences. I cannot recommend The Reef enough for building so much tension from a simple premise. The director also happened to make one of the best giant croc movies, Black Water, so he knows what he’s doing with large aquatic monsters.
So now, grab your bathing suit and head to the beach and enjoy the water! The Meg is in theaters starting Friday 8/10, and The Last Sharknado hits SYFY on Sunday 8/19. You can follow me on the free Stardust App @DrZaiusGoD to hear my 30-second reactions and reviews as well. Enjoy your summer and remember to bring a bigger boat.
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