Okay, so we’ve all seen JAWS; let’s just get that out of the way before we go any further.
We are not discussing Jaws here…
Still with us? Excellent.
Shark movies are a staple of many genres in film, from horror and thrillers to Sci-Fi and slasher fare.
The Great White is up there with the Xenomorph and a certain Mr Krueger as one of the best, most terrifying movie villains of all time (the irony being that most Sharks are actually pretty placid).
Whilst many like the aforementioned 1975 classic and more modern entries like Deep Blue Sea capture the Zeitgeist and live long in the memory, many Shark movies are quickly forgotten or hardly seen at all.
Some are simply terrible, with horrendous CGI which somehow still manages to be more believable than their acting.
Others, however, are actually pretty good, with the correct mix of tension and horror, but are sadly overshadowed by bigger, better movies and are lost to the annals of time accordingly.
Here then are ten of the best Shark movies you’ve probably never seen…..
10. MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS
The debut entry in what somehow became a franchise, MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS is a movie which definitely wears its heart on its sleeve (if Sharks wore T-Shirts, I suppose, or even had arms for that matter).
Neither trying to be a serious horror piece nor taking itself too seriously, MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS knows exactly what it is: mindless fun.
When an inherently unlikely series of cataclysmic events frees our titular antagonists from their Captain America-esque slumber inside an Alaskan Glacier… well, let’s just say they’re hungry.
Not content with simply eating hapless humans, the battling behemoths also seem to have acquired a taste for submarines, airliners, and battle ships,destroying all with equal abandon.
In order to defeat these nautical nasties, the American and Japanese forces must work together, and standard Kaiju tropes ensue.
The best way to defeat them is to let them kill each other… Inspiring stuff.
Whilst the plot is fairly generic and the CGI questionable at best, MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS is actually a pretty fun film which doesn’t put on airs and graces, with all involved under no illusions as to what they were actually making here.
9. GHOST SHARK
I mean, they’re trying something different, you’ve got to give them that.
For a SyFy channel original movie, GHOST SHARK is actually pretty well made. The acting isn’t terrible, and the basic premise is pretty cool.
After a Great White (what else, right?) is tortured and ultimately killed by asshole redneck fisherman, it’s remains just so happen to end up in a cave which was formerly used as an ancient burial ground (of course it was…).
Now transformed into a ghostly apparition, the GHOST SHARK is now hell bent on exacting its revenge on the town responsible for its death.
Able to appear anywhere water is present, this eerily glowing terror now enjoys much more freedom of movement in its ghostly form.
This presents the film makers with great opportunities to utilise this intriguing piece of lore, having the shark pop up everywhere from the bath, a kids’ Slip ‘N’ Slide, and even a good old bucket of water.
GHOST SHARK is another unashamed B-Movie which is not looking to win any Oscars.
Showcasing the requisite amount of blood, guts, bikinis and one-liners, you could actually do a lot worse than GHOST SHARK.
8. THE DEEP
Starring Robert Shaw, Jacqueline Bissett, and Nick Nolte, THE DEEP is based on the novel of the same name by Peter Benchley, the author of, well…. another Shark story you may have heard of (Clue: it rhymes with “Claws”).
Upon discovering some valuable treasures at the bottom of the ocean, a vacationing couple set off to have their discoveries appraised by an expert.
Upon learning that they have also stumbled across a cache of pure morphine, a dive is hastily arranged to recover more of this potentially lucrative commodity.
In what is ultimately a treasure hunting thriller, the audience is treated to scenes of intrigue, double-crosses, Voodoo and drug smuggling shenanigans, but not before we are introduced to the ocean dwelling villain of the piece…
Under the water we go, the tension ramps up, and our protagonists are attacked by…
A MASSIVE MORAY EEL.
Okay, so THE DEEP is not actually a Shark film after all…
Sorry about that.
7. SHARK NIGHT
When a group of oversexed, under-prepared, and predictably named (Blake, Maya, Beth…) University students take a trip to a holiday home on a private lake, fun and frolics abound.
With the usual combination of beers, bikinis, jocks and nerds, this seems, for all intents and purposes, like another teen comedy (without the teens)in the American Pie mould.
That it, of course, until things take a decidedly bitey turn.
With a creative team comprising Final Destination, Hostel, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre alumni, well, you can probably guess where the SHARK NIGHT storyline is going.
After one of the group is attacked and nearly killed by a shark which is inexplicably housed within the lake, it transpires that the shark(s) have been placed in the lake intentionally by ass-hat Shark Week enthusiasts (one of which is the ex-boyfriend of one of our group, obviously) who want to record footage of sharks eating college students.
With a decent cast, solid acting, modest production value, and some genuinely tense moments, SHARK NIGHT is definitely worth a watch if you fancy a bit of carnage and screaming.
6. SOUL SURFER
What is ultimately a heart-warming, tear-jerking, feel-good movie about determination, faith, and the ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, Soul Surfer also showcases what is arguably the most realistic, visceral, and downright horrific portrayal of a shark attack ever committed to cinema.
As this film is based on a true (and truly horrendous) story, jump scares and looming threat are not the order of the day, but realism and a desire to honour the actual people involved in this very human tale.
For this reason, the shark attack scene in Soul Surfer is truly difficult to watch, and the aftermath one of the most harrowing scenes you’ll see in years.
With a stellar, dramatic performance in the lead role by AnnaSophia Robb, Soul Surfer also features the always excellent Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid in supporting roles.
This is the story of a young girl destined to one day be a champion surfer, who must recover from the most horrific of injuries with the help and support of those closest to her; it may not ultimately be a horror movie but is, rather ironically, all the more terrifying for it.
5. BAIT 3D
This Australian & Singaporean film is sure to get us back on track following our brief emotional interlude.
When a grocery store is submerged underwater following a freak Tsunami (see? We’re back, baby…), its ragtag collection of unfortunate occupants must work together to overcome – or at least survive – the pack of hungry, snarling (can sharks snarl? Answers on a postcard) Great Whites circling all around.
With your usual assortment of characters, including the nervous, frightened every-man, the quiet, thoughtful ones, the resident knobhead, and the obligatory cadre of sexy females.
Filmed with 3D in mind, many of the shots – especially the death scenes – are framed in such a way that the abundant and well-realised severed heads, guts, gore and viscera is angled toward the camera/ viewer most of the time, which in this instance just adds to the “Ewww” factor already here in spades.
It may look like another throwaway, low-budget, infinitely skippable shark-fest, but BAIT 3D is actually a solid, entertaining, gory, and funny in all the right places blast of a movie.
4. HAMMERHEAD: SHARK FRENZY
Also known as just “Hammerhead” or the unintentionally hilarious “Sharkman” in various territories, HAMMERHEAD: SHARK FRENZY is an absolute delight for all the wrong reasons.
All of them.
This 2005 SyFy film sees Dr Preston King – played by Jeffrey Combs of Re-Animator fame – attempt to save the life of his son Paul, who is dying from Kidney cancer.
In order to do so, he genetically splices his son’s DNA with that of a Hammerhead shark.
Do you know how long Hammerhead sharks live? Well, since “no-one does” (actual line of dialogue) the Doctor is convinced of the righteousness of his actions, despite turning his son into a massive shark-monster.
But he doesn’t stop there, oh no… Seeing the potential in his monstrous creation, the good Doctor arranges to have the creature brought onto a populated island in order for him to mate – not even kidding – and create further ridiculous shark monsters.
Baby sharks, if you will…
Terrible acting abounds here, with “Oh god, these shoes are ruined” being a stand-out line.
The effects are genuinely terrible, with the titular Shark/Man barely given any screen time at all, but somehow, despite its many and varied flaws, HAMMERHEAD: SHARK FRENZY manages to be an absolute riot.
3. MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH
William Grefe’s 1976 movie MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH attempts to flip the tried and tested formula on its head and, to a certain degree, succeeds.
Painting mankind as the villains of the story and casting sharks in the hero role, this is a more environmentally-conscious film.
But one with absolutely tons of blood and gore.
This time, however, it is not our toothy underwater friends who are doing the killing, but our lead human, Sonny (played by American actor Richard Jaeckel).
Fed up with the reputation sharks have been given by mankind, and discovering he shares a telepathic and empathic link with sharks (because obviously he does), Sonny sets about righting the many wrongs done by his species to shark-kind.
This is not achieved via educational, ecological, or conservational (real word?) methods, but through straight up, good old fashioned murder.
Using footage of actual sharks for the most part, rather than relying on animatronics or rudimentary CG effects, MAKO: THE JAWS OF DEATH at least looks the part, and its unique and thought provoking premise more than justify its place on this list.
2. THE REEF
When the tag-line is “Pray that you drown first”, you know you’re onto a winner.
Another Australian production (they do have the best beaches and clearest waters after all), THE REEF is a harrowing, terrifying, tension-filled thrill-ride.
When their yacht capsizes en route to a customer, a group of friends find themselves stranded in the Ocean with no immediate signs of salvation.
Postulating that there is in fact a small island not far from their current position, the group grudgingly agrees to try to swim for it, with results which do not need to be spelled out here.
The cast is great and their respective performances do an impressive job of portraying the fear and utter desperation of the situation they have been unceremoniously thrust into.
Real sharks are used here to exceptional effect to incite the necessary panic, and the scenery and cinematography are of particularly high quality.
The stress, suspense, and tangible sense of despair is palpable in THE REEF, and you will find yourself inexplicably holding your breath on more than one occasion throughout.
Scary, desperate, visceral, beautifully shot, THE REEF is a great example of a shark movie you’ve probably never seen.
1. OPEN WATER
Based loosely on real life events, and shot mainly using hand-held cameras for almost certainly Blair Witch-related reasons, OPEN WATER tells the story of a couple stranded in the Atlantic Ocean after they are accidentally forgotten during a scuba diving expedition.
Literal years in the making, OPEN WATER was met with mainly positive reviews, but did not get the kind of traction it arguably deserved.
Using actual, real life sharks to add further layers of authenticity to an already harrowing film, some of the visuals in this movie are truly disturbing.
Unlike many on this list, the acting here is also top notch, with Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis putting in truly believable performances in the lead roles.
Where the movie really shines, though, is in the tension and suspense.
Watching this couple go through the horrific realisation of their predicament, the desperation, hunger, exhaustion, and the terror the night time brings, is absolutely gripping from start to finish.
And what a finish… That ending…
No spoilers here; just do yourself a favour and go watch OPEN WATER.
Article written by Chris Joyce