15 Movies About Sharks You Need To Watch

Shark movies are so popular that it might surprise people to know that the subgenre, like global shark populations themselves, isn't quite as large as they might suspect. However, if you combine deadly dramas about monstrous attacks, schlocky creature features, documentaries, and a few animated dips into the ocean (looking at you, "Shark Tale"), the subgenre, while small, is exceptionally diverse. Humans simply have a perennial fascination with sharks, perhaps on account of their prehistoric looks or how mysterious and fearsome they are. 

Although the shark movie has been somewhat sullied by SyFy's seasonal iterations ("Santa Jaws," anyone?), there are still a number of aquatic action, horror, and suspense flicks that pack some serious bite. After all, sharks deserve our respect. In real life, these magnificent creatures are threatened by fin harvesting, overfishing, and habitat loss among sundry other threats, and these 15 flicks play tribute to these animals in all their fin-tastic glory. Let's dive in.

The Last Shark

"The Last Shark," also known as "Great White" in some regions, is an Italian redux of Steven Spielberg's "Jaws." In fact, after a successful show at the domestic box office, "The Last Shark" was pulled from theaters when Universal accused the filmmakers of plagiarism

Directed by Enzo G. Castellari, "The Last Shark" stars James Franciscus as horror novelist Peter Benton, the poor sap tasked with saving a coastal town after it's threatened by a great white shark. The "Jaws" similarities are clear, though "The Last Shark" is considerably gorier and hokier than Spielberg's classic. Bodies are bitten in half, legs are ripped off, and cheap dummies line the beaches to signify the shark's wrath. 

One of several international "Jaws" rip-offs, the likes of which also included "Cruel Jaws" and "Deep Blood," "The Last Shark" is arguably the best. It's a movie so bad and ill-informed that it transcends its limitations to become a hollering good time. For a delightful double-feature, pair it with "Jaws." You'll never go in the water again.

47 Meters Down

The release of "47 Meters Down" release is one of this century's strangest sagas. Distributor Dimension Films originally planned to release the movie on DVD in August of 2016, but in July of that year, Dimension sold the rights to Entertainment Studios, which shifted the movie to a theatrical release in the summer of 2017. Dimension, however, had already sent both screeners and copies to retailers under the original title, "In the Deep." Though recalled, copies of the film saturated the market, and "47 Meters Down" was widely available online a year before its official release.

Luckily, the impact of the early release was marginal, as "47 Meters Down" grossed over $60 million against a paltry $5 million budget. Remunerative and high-concept, it would get a sequel two years later (one that is arguably better than the original). Mandy Moore and Claire Holt star as sisters whose cage-diving excursion goes awry when the chain snaps and their cages plunge, you guessed it, 47 meters down. Trapped at the bottom of the ocean with limited oxygen, they must overcome their fear, limited resources, compromised communication with the surface, and several hungry sharks. "47 Meters Down" is a genuinely frightening movie, one that likely reinvigorated the killer shark subgenre. Simple in execution and form, it taps into primal fears and never lets up.

The Meg

"The Meg" was a curious experiment. An American and Chinese co-production, "The Meg" faced numerous problems during production, including clashing tones, shifts in its rating, and cut scenes that comprised some of the source material's most compelling stuff. Still, "The Meg" opened considerably larger than expected, making this Jason Statham megalodon movie became the little (or giant) shark that could. 

Jon Turteltaub directs this adaptation of Steve Alten's novel about the emergence of a giant megalodon from deep within the Mariana Trench. Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver who leads the charge to track down and kill the megalodon before it reaches the shore of Sanya Bay, China. 

Though wildly inconsistent — it's both a deadly-serious drama and a PG-13 B-movie — "The Meg" is unexpectedly triumphant. The chemistry between Jason Statham and Li Bingbing is delightful and the effects are consistently gorgeous. Plus, "The Meg" features sundry scenes of star Jason Statham diving into the water. A trained diver in real life, those scenes alone warrant the price of admission. With a sequel on the way from genre auteur Ben Wheatley, "The Meg" doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon.

Bait

The conceit of "Bait" alone is enough to give it a look. Released during the height of the 3D craze in the late '00s, "Bait" is sometimes titled "Bait 3D," although the 2D version is the way to go (presuming that anyone still even owns a 3D television). It follows a group of people trapped in a submerged grocery store after an inexplicably deadly tsunami strikes Australia. Even worse, a pack of vicious great white sharks have found their way inside, making it a race against time to escape before everyone is killed. 

Part disaster movie and part monster movie, "Bait" exploits the best (and worst) tropes of both. The effects are iffy, the deaths quick and efficient, and the performers capable at best and downright insufferable at worst. Bad decisions are made, all logic is seemingly swept away in the storm, and a bunch of chiseled Australians are systematically devoured by inconsistently rendered CG sharks. That isn't a bad thing –for audiences willing to go with the bloody flow, "Bait" is a riotously good time.

Deep Blue Sea

Like "Hollow Man" and "Sleepy Hollow," "Deep Blue Sea" is a relic of a bygone era when high-concept horror blockbusters could command budgets upward of $60 million. "Deep Blue Sea" is the kind of big-budget, low-logic creature feature that we simply don't get enough of today. Sure, there are still killer animal movies ("Crawl" comes to mind as one of the best), but they rarely command the same sense of fun (and budget) that the creature features of yore did. 

"Deep Blue Sea" stars Saffron Burrows as Dr. Susan McCallister, one of the chief researchers at a remote underwater facility where shortfin mako sharks are experimented on. The plan is to grow the sharks' brains and harvest proteins to use in dormant human brain cells, thereby reducing or eliminating the effects of Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, before the tissue can be harvested, one of the sharks wakes up, bites Stellan Skarsgård's arm off, and escapes. 

Soon, the facility floods, and the remaining survivors must make their way to the surface. Unbeknownst to them, however, the sharks have entered the facility, and they're smarter than ever. Violent, deeply silly, and full of some ludicrous twists, "Deep Blue Sea" is still a sensationally good time. It's fun, funny, and indicative of the kind of "everything but the kitchen sink" approach the genre used to take. Shark action doesn't get bigger or bolder than this.

Jaws 2

When compared to "Jaws," "Jaws 2" is not a good movie. In fact, it looks downright abhorrent when paired with its predecessor. With some distance and perspective, though — namely, severing it from the original's legacy — "Jaws 2" is a lot of fun, as long as you keep your expectations in check. Roy Scheider and Lorraine Gary return as Chief Martin Brody and Ellen Brody, respectively, and are once again tasked with taking down an enormous great white shark that has targeted their resort community of Amity Island. 

Granted, it's a bit unlikely that another giant shark would target this coastal hamlet, though director Jeannot Szwarc wisely eschews Spielberg's sensibilities, offering instead to lean fully into the mayhem of it all. The deaths are bloodier and more chaotic than before, with Szwarc assembling a number of noteworthy set pieces, including a boat crash and gloriously tense attack on a fleet of sailboats. "Jaws 2" isn't "Jaws." In this particular case, that's more than okay.

Soul Surfer

"Soul Surfer" both is and isn't a shark movie. The true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton, it stars a sensational Anna Sophia Robb as Bethany, a young girl living in Kauai, Hawaii with her parents, aptly played by Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid. While out surfing one day, Bethany's arm is bitten by a shark. She is rushed to a hospital, having lost 60% of her blood. The doctors call her survival a miracle. 

The remainder of the story is a saccharine but inspiring account of Bethany's journey as she overcomes her fear of the ocean — it's no spoiler to reveal that, at the end of "Soul Surfer," Hamilton is back on the board. However, it's difficult to conceptualize, because while "Soul Surfer" is principally the story of Hamilton's courage and resilience, it is often reduced to a story about a surfer and a shark. The true story dominated the press, and the mystique and terror of a shark attack played a huge role in making it popular. There is considerably more to Hamilton's tale, though, and "Soul Surfer" remains one of the best surfing-based biopics to come out in recent years.

Sharkwater: Extinction

Sharks are the perfect horror movie villains. They're mysterious, large, unpredictable, and the ocean's most dangerous predators. There's something, too, about encountering one while out at sea. At that point, you're in the shark's domain, with nothing to save you other than hope and luck. 

It's all too easy, then, to perceive sharks as monsters, large behemoths that lurk beneath the placid ocean surface. Documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart, who died before the release of "Sharkwater: Extinction," sought to dissuade viewers of that notion, both here and in his first documentary, "Sharkwater." A gorgeously rendered expose of the illegal shark trade, Stewart offers a poignant and worthwhile perspective along with some breathtaking underwater photography. 

Sharks are being targeted, and their extinction threatens entire oceanic ecosystems. It's a theme that other documentary filmmakers have also covered, although the message rarely feels as profoundly urgent as it does here. Well-received upon release, "Sharkwater: Extinction" is one of the greatest documentaries about sharks and ocean life ever made.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged

"47 Meters Down: Uncaged" is much, much better than the original film. The film's anything-goes attitude towards underwater shark mayhem is considerably more engaging, and frightening, than the slow-burn approach of the first.  Director Johannes Roberts returns to direct this sequel, filling it to the brim with ideas likely discarded the first time around. There are more sharks (and this time, they're albino), more deaths, more poor decisions, and most famously, a fish that literally screams underwater. 

Roberts homages "Deep Blue Sea" with this tale of four teen girls who (unwisely) go cave diving in a submerged Mayan city. It's a ludicrous setup, although Roberts has no interest in maintaining fidelity with the real world. Communication is never compromised underwater, oxygen levels vacillate as the plot demands, and the antagonistic sharks navigate with spectral precision. It's also an enormous amount of fun. "Uncaged" is filled with terrific jump scares, gnarly deaths, and a climax that is so absurd that it has to be seen to be believed. In this case, more is truly more.

Sharks 3D

Like "Bait," "Sharks 3D" was a victim of its time — specifically, a time when 3D reigned supreme, slithering its way into everything from nature documentaries to "Final Destination" sequels. When seen in the proper format, such as at an IMAX theater, 3D can work miracles, transporting audiences to other worlds with such precision and visceral fluidity that it's altogether enchanting. 

"Sharks 3D" was directed by oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau, and unlike the other documentaries listed here, is both under an hour long and principally concerned with the majesty of sharks in their ocean kingdom, not their slaughter. Cousteau gets up close and personal with several species of shark, including great whites, hammerheads, and whale sharks. The direction is tender, and the underwater photography is stellar. There's a reason why shows like "Planet Earth" and "The Blue Planet" continue to captivate audiences years after release — for viewers looking for something in that vein focused on sharks, there's little better than the cerulean wonders of "Sharks 3D."

Fin

"Fin" director Eli Roth is best known for his exploitative, extremely gory horror ventures (and the occasional kid flick). He's an odd choice, then, to helm a documentary about sharks and the commercial fishing trade that threatens their survival. But, then, as he says, Roth really, really loves sharks. 

The practices outlined in "Fin" are doing clear harm to ocean life, and Roth never shies away from the brutality of it all, at one point trying shark fin soup and drawing links between it and his own film, the cannibal thriller "The Green Inferno." His frat-boy swagger is muted here, too, and while Roth does occasionally dip into stereotypes, getting dangerously close to painting an entire group of people as savages, he wisely reins himself in, keeping the focus on the sharks and the devastation being wrought to the creatures and their habitat.

Roth has described "Fin" as the scariest movie he ever made, and for those with a penchant for loving ocean life, his words ring true. Like "Sharkwater: Extinction" before it, "Fin" is an artful yet urgent call for change.

Open Water

"Open Water" has a complicated history. Like its forbears, "Open Water" is allegedly based a true story, much like "The Blair Witch Project," although it's not a found-footage film. Upon release, it was said to be one of the scariest movies ever made. It follows Daniel Kintner and Susan Watkins (Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan respectively), a couple left behind after their scuba diving excursion leaves before they're on board. Consequently, Daniel and Susan are stranded at sea. 

"Open Water" is rife with possibilities, though as a micro-budget indie (the budget is suspected to be anywhere between $120,000 and $500,000), those possibilities are most often suggested, not seen. For patient viewers, the results are magnificently tense. Every splash inspires chills, as does the sheer horror of the situation itself — it's clear that no one is coming back from this. 

During the climax, a storm hits and a school of sharks descend on the couple, lit only by intermittent lightning. "Open Water" may not be the classic that early reviews indicated, but "Open Water" remains one of most frightening and inventive horror films of the century.

The Reef

Director Andrew Traucki has never gotten the credit he deserves. His filmography isn't particularly diverse, but among the subgenre he knows best, he's nearly unmatched. Principally, Traucki directs low-budget animal attack features, though he notably films animals in their actual habitat, adding a veneer of authenticity that CG-centric creature features just can't match. 

"The Reef," Traucki's second feature film, tracks a group of friends whose boat capsizes while sailing to Indonesia. As they swim to a nearby island, they discover that they're being stalked by a great white shark. 

Much like "Open Water" before it, Traucki films real sharks, and when possible, places his thespians in proximity to the creatures. It's a gambit that works, adding genuine terror to the frequent thrills and chills. Was that a splash in the distance? When peering under the surface, did our lead see the figure that we did? Audiences are liable to grip their armrests until their knuckles bleed — "The Reef" is that scary.

The Shallows

The shark subgenre had been drowning since the release of "Jaws," the movie that started it all. Though there were occasional drops of blood in the water, nothing really came close to matching the pure, unbridled terror of the first modern summer blockbuster. 

Then came Jaume Collet-Serra's "The Shallows," an imperfect exercise in tropical terror that's still best killer shark movie since Spielberg's attempt A furiously good Blake Lively stars as medical student Nancy Adams who, grieving the loss of her mother, travels to a remote beach in Mexico for some surfing and healing. Not far from shore, she is attacked by a leviathan-sized great white. Nancy makes her way to an isolated rock, and for the remainder of the movie, must outwit and outsmart her pursuer if she hopes to stay alive. 

Deliciously tense with several standout set pieces (including an absolutely heart-racing climax atop a distant buoy), "The Shallows" is highly stylized shark horror at its best.

Jaws

"Jaws" is a masterpiece. No other shark movie has had such a profound influence on the cinematic landscape writ large. Steven Spielberg's first foray into blockbuster territory (he had previously directed several television episodes and movies for Universal) remains his most noteworthy. The simple tale of a resort town plagued by a man-eating great white shark, "Jaws" has endured for decades, inspiring several sequels as well as every single movie on this list. The killer shark subgenre simply didn't exist before "Jaws," and decades later, it's still sending ripples through the water. 

"Jaws" is so inimitably terrifying that Spielberg has routinely turned down the prospect of a remake, wisely recognizing that "Jaws," like the deadly shark at its center, remains unmatched. Nothing since has matched it in terms of pure terror, and its introductory scene, with a lone swimmer killed by an unseen monster beneath the surface, remains one of the genre's scariest vignettes. With a classic score, stellar effects, and a legacy with real bite, "Jaws" isn't simply the greatest shark movie of all time — it's one of the greatest movies ever made.