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Ten Best Shark Attack Movies

The shark attack movie inhabits a very small but colorful sub-genre in Hollywood history. Jaws, Open Water, Deep Blue Sea, 12 Days of Terror, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Red Water and Dinoshark are the top films.

Jaws (1975) one sheet poster

Cinematic sharks have roamed movie theaters for decades now, wreaking havoc and scaring the living daylights out of film fans. Here are ten shark movies that no fan of this genre should ever miss. Some of the entries are so bad that they’re good, at least in terms of providing the proper shark action. Ah, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water!

Jaws (Universal, 1975)

The undisputed big kahuna of shark movies, the $12 million Jaws hit movie theaters like a thunderclap in June 1975. A giant great white shark sets up its own dining establishment off the waters of Amity Island, feeding on the locals who depend on the once-safe beaches for summer tourist dollars. Police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and shark hunter Sam Quint (Robert Shaw) set off in the latter’s boat the Orca, later coming face-to-face with the 25-foot, three-ton maneater in the open sea. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” Chief Brody informs Quint after spying the great white for the first time. And the chief isn’t kidding…

  • Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Film Editing (Verna Fields, won), Best Original Music Score (John Williams, won), Best Sound (Robert L. Hoyt, Roger Heman Jr., Earl Madery, John R. Carter, won).
  • United States box office: $129.549 million (#1, 1975)
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Great line: “Boys, oh boys…I think he’s coming back for his noon feeding.” – Richard Dreyfuss on the reappearance of the ravenous great white.

Jaws 2 (Universal, 1978)

The long-awaited $20 million sequel to the 1975 monster blockbuster came to American movie theaters on June 16, 1978. Both Roy Scheider and Lorraine Gary are back as husband and wife, with Murray Hamilton also returning as the weaselly mayor of Amity Island. The Amity gang once again have shark problems, with another rogue great white staking out the local waters as his personal feeding ground. Scheider as Chief Brody is on to the menace early, but the good townsfolk refuse to believe that the horror of several years ago has returned for an encore. Brody comes out firing in one scene, letting loose several rounds at a school of fish he mistakenly believes is a shark. But redemption comes later, when the chief gets the opportunity to send a couple hundred thousand volts through the rampaging monster.

  • United States box office: $50.432 million
  • Director: Jeannot Szwarc
  • Great line: “But I’m telling you, and I’m telling everybody at this table that that’s a shark! And I know what a shark looks like, because I’ve seen one up close. And you’d better do something about this one, because I don’t intend to go through that hell again!” – Roy Scheider at a town council meeting.

Jaws 2 (1978) theater lobby card

Open Water (Lions Gate, 2004)

Two American divers, Susan Watkins (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel Kintner (Daniel Travis), are mistakenly left behind in shark-infested waters in the Caribbean where they fight for survival. Their tour group boat had recorded all divers on board, a costly error that has left them at the mercy of the elements, the sea and the dangerous creatures who inhabit it. Based on a true story, the $500,000-budgeted Open Sea features live sharks, as opposed to the mechanical ones who traversed the various Jaws movies. Observant Jaws fans will note the last names of the two scuba divers in the picture – Kintner and Watkins. Both Alex Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees) and Chrissie Watkins (Susan Blacklinie) were gruesome shark attack victims in Jaws (1975).

  • United States box office: $30.610 million (#89, 2004)
  • Director: Chris Kentis
  • Great line: “We’re stuck in the middle of the ocean!” – Blanchard Ryan upon realizing that the dive boat has left without them.

Deep Blue Sea (Warner Bros., 1999)

On Aquatica, a floating research facility, a scientific group headed by Dr. Susan McCallister (Saffron Burrows) is searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Despite warnings from shark expert Carter Blake (Thomas Jane), the doc produces three genetically engineered mako sharks who eventually develop into large, aggressive killers. There’s plenty of underwater action in this $78 million sci-fi thriller with the rogue predators running wild, destroying a small yacht and literally attacking the hands that feed them. LL Cool J, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgard and Samuel L. Jackson are also present as shark bait.

  • United States box office: $73.648 million (#29, 1999)
  • Director: Renny Harlin
  • Great line: “No, what you’ve done is taken God’s oldest killing machine and given it will and desire. What you’ve done is knocked us all the way to the bottom of the goddamn food chain. It’s not a great leap forward in my book.” – Thomas Jane to Saffron Burrows on her genetically engineered sharks.

Deep Blue Sea (1999) one sheet poster

12 Days of Terror (Discovery Channel, 2004)

This made-for-TV movie dramatizes the infamous 1916 shark attacks in New Jersey in which four people died. The harrowing attacks later inspired Peter Benchley to write his novel Jaws, and also merit a brief mention by Roy Scheider in the subsequent 1975 Steven Spielberg movie. Colin Egglesfield, Mark Dexter, Jenna Harrison and John Rhys-Davies head the cast. Shark aficionados will love the special effects and period touches in this film, which effectively captures the terror from that long-ago summer when Woodrow Wilson occupied the White House.

  • Director: Jack Sholder
  • Great line: “They thought it was safe…to go in the water.” – Narrator for the film’s trailer.

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (Nu Image Films, 2002)

Carcharodon Megalodon, a prehistoric shark that could grow to 75 feet, surfaces in the 21st century where it once again becomes the terror of the seas in this direct-to-video sci-fi thriller. John Barrowman, Jenny McShane and Ryan Cutrona play the prehistoric shark hunters. The giant “Meg” in this movie makes the Jaws monster look like a goldfish as it consumes entire boats. “The Terror Has Surfaced,” warns the movie’s tagline. Heed those words…

  • Director: David Worth
  • Great line: “Mark 44 torpedo…it’ll blow a hole clear through the hull of a battleship.” – Ryan Cutrona as Chuck Rampart on his plan to destroy the giant predator.

Jaws 3-D (Universal, 1983)

More trouble for the Brody family as the chief’s two grown sons, Mike (Dennis Quaid) and Sean (John Putch), once again encounter a mean mother great white, this time at Florida’s Seaworld. The new shark is much larger than the old one from their nightmare childhood on Amity Island as it feeds on staff and recreational bathers. Simon MacCorkindale, Louis Gossett Jr. and Lea Thompson also garner front row seats for the dinner bell in this third Jaws entry made for an estimated $20.5 million.

  • United States box office: $45.517 million (#15, 1983)
  • Director: Joe Alves
  • Great line: “You mean we talkin’ about some damn shark’s mutha?” – Louis Gossett Jr. on the killer great white.

Red Water (Sony Pictures Television, 2003)

A rampaging fresh water bull shark swims up the Mississippi River where it starts devouring people. Throw in the peculiarities of the Louisiana bayou people and a hunt for a submerged cache of stolen loot and Red Water provides the requisite thrills for Hollywood shark fans. Lou Diamond Phillips, Kristy Swanson, Coolio, Rob Boltin and Jaimz Woolvett head the cast. There’s a Jaws connection in this made-for-TV flick, as the Louisiana license plate on a submerged car matches the same one pulled by Richard Dreyfuss from the belly of a bull shark during his famous 1975 autopsy: 007 981. Red Water hit pay dirt for Turner Broadcasting, becoming one of TBS’s highest-rated movies ever.

  • Director: Charles Robert Carner
  • Great line: “God… It’s like a scene from Deliverance.” – Gideon Emery as Gene Bradley while watching a folk dance performed by Louisiana Cajuns.

Red Water (2003) DVD

Spring Break Shark Attack (CBS, 2005)

The perils of too much booze and unsafe sex pale in comparison to the preeminent danger facing these spring breakers. Marauding sharks spoil the fun in sunny Florida as they began feeding on the college kids. A group of no-name performers head the cast in the persons of Shannon Lucio, Riley Smith, Justin Baldoni, Bianca Lishansky, Genevieve Howard and Warren McAslan. Where the Boys Are this made-for-TV programmer ain’t, but it does have the sharks – both in and out of the water.  

  • Director: Paul Shapiro
  • Great line: “Crab Claws!” – Warren McAslan when a curvaceous girl asks his name.

Dinoshark (Syfy, 2010)

As the title implies, a monster prehistoric shark is on the loose, kicking ass and taking names as it wreaks havoc at a posh Mexican resort. This armored shark is no piker, as it traverses the ocean at breakneck speed, leaps from the water like a trapeze artist, attacks helicopters and devours an entire Mexican Coast Guard boat with crew. Budgeted at $2 million, the made-for-cable TV Dinoshark features Eric Balfour, Iva Hasperger, Aaron Diaz, Humberto Busto and Richard Miller. Producer Roger Corman, the legendary B-movie director, appears in a cameo role as a marine biologist. And yes, the musical score is highly reminiscent of the original Jaws.

  • Director: Kevin O’Neill
  • Great line: “You’re gonna need a bigger chopper.” - Eric Balfour as Trace after witnessing the dinoshark take down a helicopter in midair.

Ten Other Shark Attack Movie Favorites

  • Shark! (1969)
  • Shark Attack (1999)
  • Megalodon (2002)
  • Great White (1981)
  • Tiger Shark (1932)
  • Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
  • Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy (2005)
  • Shark Hunter (2001)
  • Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis (1991)
  • Blue Water, White Death (1971)

Blue Water, White Death (1971) documentary insert movie poster

Last one in the water is a rotten egg! 

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  1. Posted March 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Jaws…hehehe…a great white shark terrorizes the townspeople of Amity Island…a police chief…a shark hunter and an oceanographer on a search and destroy mission…loved it Will :-) . Director Steven Spielberg created a wonderful adaptation of the Peter Benchley novel…and who can forget that ominous musical score…legendary! ~ an excellent review William :-)

  2. Posted March 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I loved this entry. I am fascinated by sharks. But of course I only enjoy watching movies. Jaws 1 and 2 are great ones.

  3. bob
    Posted March 18, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Wow sexy Sunshine

  4. bob
    Posted March 18, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    lik it a litle harder

  5. Posted March 18, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I didn’t like Open Water but all the rest are great.

  6. Brendan
    Posted September 13, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Open Water was based upon a true story that happened in Australia not the caribbean

  7. Posted September 14, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    @Brendan. Correct, Open Water was based on a true story that took place off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The movie version, however, shifted the locale to the Caribbean. Open Water was filmed in the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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