I love shark movies! Why? Shark movies are tales of survival set in a very scary atmosphere. Getting trapped underwater is scary. Being hunted is scary. And sharks are impressive predators with rows of razor-sharp teeth. At the same time, I love shark movies because they can be ridiculous to the extreme. In some shark movies, the bystanders are so willfully stupid that you don’t mind when they get eaten.
Eat that idiot, Mister Shark! She looks delicious in her bikini.
In my opinion, good shark movies come in two varieties. Serious shark movies are horror movies that emphasize survival skills and a battle of wits. The tone of these movies is dark, and the events are somewhat believable. On the other extreme we have cheesy shark movies. Their plots and action are ridiculous and over-the-top. These are horror-comedies, typically. While I personally enjoy both types of shark movies, your tastes might go to one extreme or the other.
Lastly, shark movies use a wide variety of visual storytelling methods. Do they go with dramatic CGI sharks? Or do they make use of creeping dread, perhaps by showing a bloody surfboard floating gently at the shore after an attack? As computer technology has gotten better, even a cheesy shark movie can be visually appealing. If you’re curious about shark movies, here are a few recommendations to get you started:
Serious Shark Movies Worth Watching
Jaws – Jaws is a classic, and it’s worth watching once. While I feel it’s been surpassed by other films, the use of music and slow-building suspense are unforgettable. In a way, every shark movie that has followed Jaws is an homage to it. So I recommend you watch Jaws, the ancestor to all good shark movies.
The Shallows – This is my all time favorite. Despite it’s very simple premise (one woman trapped on a rock while a deadly shark circles her) the movie is incredibly engrossing and beautifully shot. The story becomes a battle of wits between predator and prey, both of whom are intelligent and desperate to win. Blake Lively is excellent in the starring role. This may be the perfect shark movie.
Crawl – Okay, I’m fudging a bit here, because this movie is about crocodiles and not sharks. But it’s very much a movie of the shark genre. Crawl had me on the edge of my seat the whole 90 minutes, and the emotional stakes were unusually high as the main character and her father try to protect one another from harm. This movie is pure tension, but there’s a small (and effective) dose of humor to stop you from having a stroke. Like The Shallows, Crawl is a tight 90 minutes long.
Cheesy Shark Movies Worth Watching
Sharknado 1 & 2 – There are six Sharknado movies, and I can recommend only the first two. While many “cheesy shark movies” are a variant of the old slasher-films of the nineties, with clueless teens torn apart by great white sharks while they exchange stilted dialog, Sharknado is far more interesting. The movies are patently ridiculous. Sharks fly out of tornadoes, and the heroes valiantly fight them with improvised weapons. That’s entertaining, but it’s the amusing cameos, puns, familiar settings, and above-average special effects that make Sharknado fun to watch. Just be aware that the series gets worse and worse as it goes.
Six-Headed Shark Attack – This one surprised me! The dialog is bad, but it’s funny-bad, and the overall premise is a perfect cheesefest. Some very annoying couples go to a remote island for a couples’ retreat. And while they work on their terrible marriages, they’re hunted by a mutated shark with six heads. And this shark… well, I don’t want to give it away, but late in the movie he’s got some very special moves. Don’t read spoilers. Just let this movie wash over you like a the scent of a stinky-yet-appealing cheese. I was horrified and delighted by this movie. So terrible! And so entertaining! According to some reviews, two-headed shark attack is a better movie. But once you’ve seen a six-headed shark in action, can you really go back to just two heads? I don' t think so. Apparently this movie is part of a series, and in every film they add an extra head.
The Meg – Years ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I wanted to see Jason Statham punch a shark in a movie. A friend replied that The Meg was in the works, a shark movie with a big budget and, you guessed it, action star Jason Statham. I was excited, but as soon as I saw the trailer I had a hunch it wouldn’t be any good. Unfortunately, my initial impression was correct.
Remember when I said that shark movies tend to be either serious or cheesy? This movie tried to be both and it didn’t work. Also, it came with big-flashy-Hollywood-blockbuster expectations, and I think the screenplay was written by committee. The end result was an extremely bland shark movie with good special effects. I literally fell asleep while watching it.
Anyway, I hope this post inspires you to enjoy a shark movie. Even better, allow yourself to explore both sides of the spectrum! Watch a serious shark movie and let it terrify you. Then watch a cheesy shark movie and laugh your ass off at how ridiculous it is. Then maybe go here to learn about shark conservation, because real-life sharks could use our help.
PS: Do you have a shark movie recommendation? I’d love to add it to my list.