Quint-issential Shark Films

With the release of The Meg, we look at the most important shark films to have graced our screens.

They may not be miracles of cinematic evolution - save one - but all these sharks do is swim, eat and help create other baby shark films.

And that’s what’s key to this list, the mark they have made - not with their teeth - and not necessarily the quality.

Thunderball (1965)

Jaws gets a lot of flak for giving sharks a bad name, but if they go round swimming for megalomaniacs hell bent on world domination then there is bound to be some guilt be association. We’ve all hung around with the wrong crowd.

To date sharks have featured in five Bond films - as luck would have it we wrote about them here - so for many their first cinematic experience of a shark was probably via a James Bond film.

Sean Connery evading a Tiger shark (a whaaaaa?) in Thunderball, 1965

Sean Connery evading a Tiger shark (a whaaaaa?) in Thunderball, 1965

Blue Water, White Death (1971)

A documentary feature released in 1971 that featured the quest to find and film the great white shark.

Notably it featured great white shark attack survivor Rodney Fox and the diving and filing talents of Ron and Valerie Taylor, who would of course go into film the live action footage seen in Jaws as a direct result of this project that was seen on the big screen and then become a firm favourite on TV in the 70s and 80s.

Why is it on this list? A still powerful documentary that helped influence Jaws.


Jaws (1975)

What can we say, still the apex predator when it comes to shark movies. Always has been, always will be. Bruce remains top of the shark cinematic food chain. Simple as.

Why is it on this list? The film by which all shark films are measured.


Jaws 2 (1978)

Jaws never really needed a sequel but box office returns demanded it. It has a stellar score, once again by John Williams, which expands and grows on the work in the the first film, but that’s not why Jaws 2 is here. Jaws 2 is here for having perhaps the finest movie tagline to ever be featured on a poster.

Why is it on this list? Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water...

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Are we saying that there was no significant shark film outside of the Jaws films until Deep Blue Sea? And that there wasn’t anything of note for 11 long years? Yes, yes, we are.

Despite some questionable CGI in THAT scene the pace and direction of Jaws was great, and unlike all shark films post Jaws The Revenge it has a decent budget. With great action scenes, some memorable imagery and a sense of fun this was the nearest we’d got to Jaws in terms of a tent pole release all those years ago. And it has some damn fine mechanical sharks to boot.

Why is it on this list? Showed sharks still had bite at the box office.


Open Water (2003)

The Blair Witch Project but with sharks, and this time not only is it based on actual true story but the sharks that appear in it are all very real.

Helped create its very own sub shark genre with its own sequels and great shark films such as The Reef, also based on a true story.


Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus (2009)

There’d been zero budget tongue in cheek shark films before, but this was a new dawn of mediocre effects and dumb story done knowingly. All very post modern, I’m sure but no matter how large the shark is, how many heads they have or even if they are ghost sharks, they are all a shower of shit. All of ‘em. The stock of the serious shark film was never any lower. Oh, and it featured former teen singer, Debbie Gibson. If only they’d gone the whole hog and got her to sing ‘shark your love’.

The highlight - if you can call it that - is when the giant shark leaps through the air and chomps a passenger plane out of the sky.

Why is it on this list? Helped set the sub-standard for crappy CGI shark movies with little plot and even less acting ability.


Sharknado (2013)

If Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus shook the shark tree, then Sharknado ripped the tree from its very roots - yes, probably with a shark bloodied chainsaw.

However popular they appear to be, Sharknado and its sequels are just a step too farce for me. With their impact showing no sign of waning - we can look forward to Sharknado 6 later this month - they have more than earnt their place on this list.

Why is it on this list? Love it or loathe it it is the Jaws of its ilk.


The Shallows (2016)

The Shallows helped bring back the legitimate shark movie, sure it was fantastical in places but it showcased that with a credible story and decent effects a lean, mean, effective shark film could still not just be made but be a success at the box office.

That helped pave the way to the likes of 47 Metres Down and...


The Meg (2018)

Hang on, it’s only just been released! True, but the amount of traction and excitement this has raised has been nothing short of phenomenal.

With echoes of Jaws, it too is based on a best-selling novel. It may be a movie about the world’s biggest shark - Megalodon - but this also has a big budget. The question is will it have big box office to follow it? If it’s opening weekend is anything to go by then it has.

Why is it on the list? Expect to see more big budget - and more low rent - shark movies if it is a success. The success of Jaws spawned not just three further sequels - there are numerous Meg novel sequels already by Steve Alten - but also lots of imitations.

Looks like we may have to brace for a few more Sharknado warnings.

And of course, expect to have that well trodden discussion about rebooting Jaws. You have been warned.

By Dean Newman 

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