When I started doing research for this article I thought that it’s going to be a fairly easy and straightforward thing. However, as it so often happens, I decided to go as deep as I can into the subject and ended up with three different articles. First of all, I wanted to make a list of all the best shark movies but soon realized that there are actually only a couple of great shark movies, so I had to change the title to Good Shark Movies. Secondly, the history of shark movies and all the things that have happened over the span of 45 years are so interesting that I had to make a spin-off article: The history of shark movies. And finally, one of the things that prompted me to do this was Slavoj Zizek’s take on one of the movies on this list in his documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. I wanted to expand on it and bring it closer to you and this spawned the third and final article.
The whole shark thing started in 1975, almost 50 years ago, with the release of now already a cult movie Jaws. Since then a lot of things happened. Jaws 2, 3 and 4 were released, with the last one being widely accepted as one of the worst movies ever released. Italian film-makers copied the formula and released their versions of shark movies. And finally, in the last fifteen years, a new term emerged from the depths. Sharksploitation movies feature low production values, bad acting and special effects, crazy titles and even crazier stories prepped for social media exploits. I am sure you have heard of Sharknado, one of the most notable examples in the genre, but there are so many more out there… I personally, love the early ones the most, once the formula has been discovered the wow or the entertainment factor has been steadily decreasing.
We, however, will be focusing on good old shark movies that are worth watching. As you’re about to find out, most of the movies featuring sharks are somewhat on the entertaining side, with only a couple of serious entries. All of them have either great or decent production values and are pretty good movies with interesting and engaging stories. Some of them are eye-candies intended to be discarded after watching and some of them will make you think twice before jumping into open water. So, without further ado, let’s jump in the sea of shark movies!
These are the shark movies that for one reason or the other didn’t make it. This is at the same time an incredibly strict and incredibly loose list, so do not get alarmed if you’re favorite shark movie didn’t make it.
Open Water 
Hailed as one the ones that will reinvigorate the genre, Open Water was a sensation, especially when you consider the budget ($120.000) and the commitment of the two novice film-makers that went into it. Loosely based on a true story of the Disappearance of Tom and Eileen Lonergan, it was created by the husband and wife team of Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. It looks exactly how you would expect it and the looks aren’t its only problem. Character development was wobbly and I had trouble finishing it because the camera was shaking so much that I actually got dizzy. This is one of the reasons why this movie didn’t make it on the list but got left behind in the Honorable Mentions section.
After being picked up by Lions Gate Entertainment and a screening at the Sundance Film Festival, the movie ultimately made impossible $55.5 million, making it one of the most profitable of all time. Released four years after the also shaky Blair Witch Project that provided proof of concept, this is one of those movies I would recommend watching only if you don’t suffer from motion sickness and are a huge shark movie fan. It spawned two sequels featuring a similar storyline with “home-made” and shaky footage that are much more watchable than the original, purely from a technical standpoint.
Into The Blue  and Kon-Tiki 
I grouped together these two flicks because the sharks are not featured so heavily in them. Actually, their screen time is so small that I even considered leaving them out, but since the selection of “real” shark movies is relatively small, we will have to use these fillers. Another funny thing about these movies are their stark differences: one is an entertaining adventure with a strong sexual vibe and the second one is based on a true story and features one of the best shark encounters that I have ever seen. The studio that did the work on Kon-Tiki actually went on to work on many of the shark movies featured here just because of it.
Into the Blue is an interesting adventure movie starring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba. With beautiful cinematography and great pacing, it’s one of those eye-candy movies that you can watch several times without getting bored. It reminded me of The Deep , a movie based on a novel written by Peter Benchley, the same guy who wrote the novel that the Jaws was based on. What I really liked about this movie was the fact that it never pretended to be anything else than a fun and entertaining ride with a lot of hot bodies in swimsuits. If you want to know more I recommend you read our Rabbit-Reviews full review of the movie here: Into The Blue 
Kon-Tiki, being based on true events, you would expect would be a much more serious film but I found it to be just incredibly heart-warming and engaging. Continuing with the comparisons with Into the Blue, you also wouldn’t expect it to be sexual, but with a band of six handsome and half-naked Norwegians, it could hardly be not sexual. In all seriousness now, this is one hell of a movie, well-written and with amazing camera-work. It gives you that feeling that life is worth living and that there are still things you can do in this world. Read the full review here: Kon-Tiki
Shark Attack 3: Megalodon 
Before there was Sharknado and all that SyFy and The Asylum malarkey, there was Shark Attack! The first movie was released in 2002 and it was one of the pioneers of the sharksploitation genre, however, we will not be reviewing it because it’s pretty much flat although still entertaining if you like that sort of stuff. And what sort of stuff are we talking about here, well, about movies so bad that they are good, so make sure you check our Rabbit-Reviews section about them. Anywhoo, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon garnered world fame with its atrociously bad special effects and hilarious one-liners. YouTube clips featuring poorly animated shark attacks and cringe-worthy dialogue have over a hundred million views so better check out this movie. Of course, if you want to know more about it, check out it our here.
Rabbit-Reviews Good Shark Movies
With over 85 movies featuring sharks, it was strange to select just nine that are good enough. I imposed strict rules and this ruled out most of them because, let’s face it, most of them were released after the huge success of Sharknado and I don’t want to bore you with endless SyFy low-budget movies like 2-Headed Shark Attack, Ice Sharks or Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf. If you want to know more about them I recommend you read this article.
9. Dark Tide 
Directed by John Stockwell, who was also behind another movie on this list, Into the Blue, Dark Tide is a shark movie with a lot of contrasts. First of all, it has one hell of a shark footage and presentation and unlike a lot of movies here, it tried to show how sharks really behave and this deserves at least some credit. Secondly, for a movie boasting a starring duo like Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez (they actually hooked up on the set), it was pretty boring and without tension, at least in this department. You can clearly see that Stockwell tried to use the same formula, but for some reason, the whole thing collapsed and left us with the pretty dull first part of the movie that was saved by Berry and her antics.
However, once things get going, Dark Tide starts showing us its true face. The second part of the movie is immensely better than the first with every aspect of it, especially character development and tension, increasing exponentially. Real shark movie fans will appreciate almost unreal footage of great white sharks in False Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. Kate, played by Berry, is a shark expert who, after an unfortunate incident, decides not to dive with sharks anymore. However, her on/off husband Jeff offers her a lucrative dive she reluctantly says yes. You can read the full review here: Dark Tide.
8. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged 
In case you’re wondering do you need to watch the first part of this movie, plain old 47 Meters Down, no, you don’t. Directed and written by the same crew that brought us the original, Uncaged features a very authentic premise, something that is very rare in this genre. With a rather small budget of just $12 million, movie really exceeded my expectations, especially when it comes to pacing. It’s about a group of students who decide to go exploring a sunken Mayan city only to end up being hunted by a group of great white sharks. I think it’s needless to say that all the students were females with Sistine Stallone, Sylvesters’ daughter making her debut as Nicole. The whole movie plays like an eighties slasher horror, only with sharks and underwater.
It was so refreshing to see a movie set in a sunken city, with narrow corridors and huge chambers filled with statues, that I wish that the third part of this amusing trilogy repeats this exotic setting. Not only do you get claustrophobic and have to be careful with your oxygen reserves, but you’re also chased by fucking sharks. CGI was good but sparse, possibly due to the budget restrictions. This also means that the shark footage is pretty scarce, but as I already mentioned, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged has other elements making up for it. In the end, this is a fun and entertaining shark movie that’s not going to win any awards, especially for acting or dialogue, but is interesting enough to be recommended.
7. 47 Meters Down 
What is it with shark and sexy girls? I mean most of the movies on this list and in general feature a pretty much same story with sharks chasing girls who find themselves in awkward positions for various reasons. In 47 Meters Down, two sisters decide to go cage diving with a couple of guys they just met and on a pretty shabby vessel whose captain is none other than Matthew Modine. You can guess what’s going to happen next. The special effects were great and sharks looked awesome. The acting along with the dialogue was pretty wobbly and I think that the sequel, Uncaged, was a bit better when it comes to these elements, but that’s just my take on it. The things that I really liked about this movie were the shark attacks that looked pretty brutal and very effective. Too bad there wasn’t more meat.
Again, this is one of those movies that you can watch with most of your brain turned off and that will unfold in a relatively predictable way. This might be something that would ruin other movies, but in this specific genre, it might be a plus. Like obsessively watching Law and Order: SVU, fully knowing what’s going to happen in advance. I guess the same goes for the whole shark genre. With so many elements that can generate tension (sharks, cage, oxygen…), it’s surprising that 47 Meters Down felt a bit flat. Maybe this is because I really didn’t care about the characters and actually rooted for the shark the whole time or because I simply watched too many shark movies if there is such a thing. You can read the full review here.
6. Bait 
Before Sharknado and all these other crazy shark movies, there was Bait or Bait 3D as it is also known. This Australian shark movie features a rather interesting premise of a tsunami that hits a coastal town bringing with it a lot of quite adaptable sharks who don’t care whether they are hunting in the open water or a fucking supermarket. With a tagline like this, who wouldn’t watch this movie. Fully aware of its ludicrous story, Bait is unabashedly entertaining and it actually succeeds in generating a very vibrant and engaging atmosphere. They have done this by taking the whole thing quite seriously, like it’s a matter of life and death and this provided amazing results. Like in all movies that so bad that they are good, the most important ingredient is the seriousness and effort (or lack thereof) that went into the making of the movie.
For me, Bait had this old-school vibe, especially when compared to the rest of the movies on this list. The attacks and twists are much more believable than in the rest of the movies of this genre and with a pretty decent budget of $20 million and a lot of effort, Bait is a movie that’s really easy to watch. A combination of CGI and practical effects was a nice change and when you add to this the unusual setting that’s again banking on both the claustrophobia and shark threat, you get one hell of a ride. So it’s no wonder that a sequel was in the works but it was unfortunately suspended in March 2014 due to “uncomfortable similarities” to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There’s a piece of trivia for you. You can read the full review here.
5. The Shallows 
We already talked about the simple premise that is often used in shark movies but The Shallows decided to stretch this concept to its limits. Can you make a movie based simply on stunning visuals, one hot and half-naked girl and one hungry shark? Ancient Shark experts say the answer is a resounding yes and point to the box office success of $120 million as further proof of this. Starring Blake Lively and one hell of CGI shark, The Shallows is one sleek-looking shark movie. Granted, the opening sequence with pretty lame character development was cringe-worthy, but once the movie gets going, it doesn’t stop. It has a very engaging atmosphere and sweet shark footage done by the professionals in Important Looking Pirates who also worked on Shark Week, Kon-Tiki and 47 Meters Down.
The movie has a PG-13 rating, so don’t expect explicit nudity or some bloody scenes, this is more of an all-around commercial milker that can be played everywhere, maximizing earning potential. The Shallows cast consists of basically one person and that person is Blake Lively who did an amazing job here with here strong and on-point performance. You will also have to check out your brain when you play it because a lot of things will simply not make sense, but what did you expect with a setup like this. Out of all the movies on this list, this is perhaps the best looking one along with the next one. Cinematography, colors and basically everything that you can see was very well crafted and imagined. Read the full review here.
4. The Meg 
If you were wondering where we’re at with the latest technological and CGI developments when it comes to shark movies, I recommend you check out this movie. Based on a novel and starring Jason Statham, The Meg is the most expensive shark movie ever made with a budget that ranged between $130–178 million. The movie was a huge success and made $530.2 million which could mean only one thing: there will be a sequel. Shamelessly counting on the humongous Chinese market, the movie was significantly altered from its original version to better suit this new market. Again we will be watching a PG-13 shark movie without much gore or nudity. Too bad they didn’t let Eli Roth finish it.
Featuring truly stunning special effects and underwater shots of not just huge Megalodon Shark but also all kinds of strange creatures, this is one of those big movies that you probably already seen. The story was solid but it ultimately gave way to commercial editing that rendered it pretty lame and impotent. Statham’s charisma along with funny Rainn Wilsons and convincing Cliff Curtis saved the characters from being totally dull and boring. This is a visual candy that has some really engaging and never-seen-before shark footage with Meg attacking swimmers on a nearby beach and causing havoc everywhere it shows up. Read the full review here.
3. Deep Blue Sea 
Ahhh the nineties, how I miss you. Or, I guess, to be more precise, I miss being young. I remember first watching this movie and being blown away by it. The special effects were great, characters very likable and the atmosphere was intense and engaging. Deep Blue Sea is the second most expensive shark movie with a budget of $82 million. Shot without much CGI, the crew used mechanical sharks, making this movie one of the last to employ them in production. RIP mechanical sharks. The special effects are relatively hit and miss, with some of them still looking impressive after twenty years and some looking like they belong in one of those sharksploitation movies.
What makes Deep Blue Sea much different from other movies on this list is the cast. To see young Thomas Jane in his prime alongside Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J and Stellan Skarsgård is truly a treat. Even the plot is pretty good with scientists searching for a cure for cancer by experimenting on sharks that suddenly become smart and start hunting them. Directed by Renny Harlin, this is a definition of a pop-corn movie done right. Even if you think it’s a bit dated, you will still have fun with it. Actually, that gave the movie this weathered and gritty outlook, with stunts and action sequences straight out of James Bond or something similar. To keep it short, Deep Blue Sea has a soul.
2. The Reef 
After seven movies about sharks that were, at least in my opinion, not very serious we have finally reached a point where we can finally watch something that has a real impact and plays more like a horror than an entertaining shark attack movie. I seriously considered ranking it number one, because it was so scary and intense experience that I don’t remember having with any other movies. Granted, when I first saw Jaws, it had a similar effect on me. Based on actual events that raise the stakes, The Reef was not an expensive movie with a budget of just $3.8 million. However, it looks really great and the shark footage was great and very frightening especially since the crew didn’t use any CGI or props but actual fucking sharks.
With phenomenal character development and engaging pacing, The Reef is one of those movies that will stay with you. The slower tempo builds this dreadful atmosphere that soon envelops you and before you know it you are transported into the screen along with our heroes, constantly looking for sharks. Unlike most of the movies on this list, I can honestly recommend The Reef to everyone, not just shark movie lovers. When you consider the fact that almost the entire movie is set far away from the shore, it becomes evident just how good it is. Comparisons to Open Water can only be made to show just how much this was a better movie than it, albeit it’s missing that one gratuitous nudity shot. The sheer terror that is induced with excellent camera-work is something that kept me on the edge of the seat. Here we have another film-maker, not unlike Spielberg, who had a vision and obstacles in front of him and he managed to get through them with intelligence and power. You can read the full review here.
Of course, there can be only one! Jaws is a movie that unintentionally started this whole sub-genre of killer shark movies and its rating is unquestionable. Peter Benchley wrote the novel a year prior to its adaptation for the big screen and had no idea that it would make such an impact. It’s not only a great all-around movie, a very potent mix of horror and thriller genres but it also prompts you to think why is that?
First of all, if you want to know more, you should read our Rabbit-Reviews deep dive into the movie and if you’re still not satisfied, there’s a really cool documentary that you can check out. It’s a part of a Blu-Ray version of the movie and it’s called “The shark is still working” because the shark kept breaking down and the words “shark is not working” were something that you would hear almost every day of the shooting.