The 15 Best Shark Movies Of All Time

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best shark movies

Since Steven Spielberg’s Jaws hit theaters and became a summer blockbuster in 1975, sharks have been among cinema’s favorite villains. You’re statistically more likely to die from a lightning strike than from a shark attack, so why are we so fascinated by shark movies?

Sharks have sharp teeth and can swim to the shallow parts of the ocean where people like to play. And we’ve heard of real-life shark attacks — even though rare, they still do happen. So, to celebrate our fascination with sharks and the deep blue sea, here are the 15 best shark movies to give yourself a real fright.


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1. Jaws

Jaws remains not only the best shark movie ever made, but one of the truly great and lasting classics of American cinema. Jaws quickly became the highest-grossing picture made up to that time, and today has made almost $500 million worldwide.

Jaws inspired hundreds of summer thrillers and special effects films. For director Steven Spielberg, the movie was the launching pad for the most extraordinary directorial career in modern movie history.

2. Jaws 2

Roy Scheider returns as Chief Martin Brody, and once again the Mayor doesn’t believe him when he realizes a great white shark is terrorizing Amity Island. This time, Brody’s battle with the shark is much more personal — it’s his family that winds up in peril. This successful sequel ups the ante.

3. Deep Blue Sea

Scientists conduct research on sharks, hoping for a cure for Alzheimer's disease. But the tests go wrong, and the sharks are now deadlier than ever. Set in an underwater research facility out in the deep blue, these mako sharks are tired of being research subjects and want to break free.

Deep Blue Sea is a 1999 science fiction horror film starring Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, LL Cool J, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgård, and Samuel L. Jackson. Director Renny Harlin’s big-budget action horror film provided some intense moments and ridiculous predictability, but was still fun overall.

4. Soul Surfer

Soul Surfer is based on the inspiring true story of Bethany Hamilton, a champion surfer who, in her early teens, was attacked by a shark and lost almost all of her left arm. She courageously overcame all odds and was back on a surfboard one month later, winning several championships.

5. Open Water

Open Water is loosely based on the true story of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who, in 1998, went out with a scuba diving group Outer Edge Dive Company on the Great Barrier Reef, and were accidentally left behind because the dive-boat crew failed to take an accurate headcount.

Open Water uses real sharks in the film, which means the shark attacks are less flashy than other shark movies. But if you’re afraid of the open water, this film will make you feel really uncomfortable as we wonder what lingers just below the surface.

6. 47 Meters Down

As if hungry sharks aren’t enough to freak you out, sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) end up trapped 47 meters down deep in shark-infested waters. On a spontaneous dive trip post-breakup, the sisters face danger as the cable to their dive cage snaps.

With little oxygen left in their scuba tanks, they end up trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean while great whites circle nearby.

7. Bait

When a monstrous freak tsunami hits a sleepy beach community, a group of survivors are trapped inside a submerged grocery store. Soon they discover there are great white sharks lurking among the water. This Singaporean-Australian co-production offers some cool shark sequences and nail-biting scenes.

8. The Reef

This Australian horror film follows a group of people who decide to make a lengthy swim to a nearby island when their boat capsizes in a coral reef. But the island is 12 miles away, and the waters are also infested with sharks. Based on a true story, the film uses actual shark footage over special effects.

9. The Shallows

After being bitten by a great white shark, a young surfer (Blake Lively) is stranded on a rock close to shore and must outwit the predator that stalks nearby. The story is simple, but the scares make this shark film worth watching under the covers.


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10. The Meg

After escaping an attack by what he claims was a 70-foot shark, Naval Captain Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible. The killer creature that Statham leads away from his crew is the Megalodon, a ginormous prehistoric shark thought to be extinct.

As it turns out, the creature still exists. Watching Statham is reason enough to watch this movie.

11. Sharknado

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When a hurricane swamps Los Angeles, thousands of sharks are swept up in tornadoes and deposited all over the city, where they terrorize residents. “So bad, it’s good” is the best way to describe this intentionally bad shark B-horror movie.

12. Sharkwater

For filmmaker Rob Stewart, exploring sharks began as an underwater adventure. What it turned into was a beautiful and dangerous life journey into the balance of life on earth.

Stewart teams up with renegade conservationist Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in an effort to protect sharks from shark poachers in Guatemala. This documentary follows them as they then flee for their lives after escaping gunboat chases, mafia espionage, corrupt court systems, and attempted murder charges.

13. Sharkwater Extinction

Sharkwater Extinction is a follow-up to Sharkwater, but sadly, award-winning filmmaker Rob Stewart passed away during filming off the Florida Keys. Shot around the world in 6K, this film looks into the political corruption and the pirate fishing trade surrounding illegal shark finning, which the film says is leading to the extinction of sharks.

14. Sharks 3D

Sharks 3D is a 3D IMAX film about the “lions and tigers of the ocean.” Jean-Michael Cousteau presents close encounters with a multitude of shark species, including the Great White, Hammerhead, and Whale Shark. Watch ocean explorers on a round-the-globe expedition documenting the life of the ultimate predator.

15. Shark Tale

Okay, this isn't a frightening shark film, but it's still worth watching! The computer-animated film stars Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black, and Martin Scorsese.

Oscar is a fast-talking little fish whose big dreams have a habit of landing him in hot water. And when a son of a gangster shark boss is accidentally killed while on the hunt, his would-be prey and his vegetarian brother decide to use the incident to their own advantage. 


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Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year: Because Moms Need a Little TLC, Too!” available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble and publisher of amotherworld.com, a lifestyle blog for women.

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