Imitators follow in the footsteps of nearly every successful film, but few have inspired as many as Jaws. That’s what happens when you’re one of the most successful movies of all time, as well as the first blockbuster. Man-versus-killer-animal pictures such as Tentacles (octopus), Piranha (fish), Grizzly bear, Alligator, and Orca followed Jaws to the top of the box office in 1975. (killer killer whale). Others were even more brazen in their attempts to mimic Jaws’ antics, opting for a vicious shark as their guise. Why couldn’t it work again after it worked the first time?
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The shark film subgenre gets its start with Steven Spielberg’s classic Jaws, however there have been other films about sharks before it. There have been highs and lows in the popularity of the shark movie since then. In addition, it has experienced a number of strange transformations. It has, at its best, discovered ways to step away from its origin, and this century has produced some truly engaging, thrilling twists on the form. “
It’s true, though, that cheesy shark movies, even those that are just Jaws rip-offs, are enjoyable. The 47 Meters Down: Uncaged release this weekend prompted us to take a look at the genre. There are some terrifying encounters to be had with flawless engines, eating machines, and the miracles of evolution that swim and eat and make little sharks in the following list (to paraphrase a movie not on this list that still looms large over every entry). Another ground rule: A film must be released theatrically, even if it’s just for one screening. This loophole allowed for the inclusion of this decade’s most influential shark movie. Let’s get started now. It’s a good thing you’re not reading this on your phone while relaxing at the beach.
12. Great White (1981)
Great White, an Italian film directed by Enzo G. Castellari, is one of the most blatant Jaws rip-offs ever made. Now best known for his 1978 World War II film The Inglorious Bastards, which provided only the title to a later Quentin Tarantino film, Castellari borrowed so liberally from Jaws that Universal Pictures was able to successfully have it pulled from theaters midway through its 1982 release in the United States. It was successfully removed from theaters. Peter Benton, the bestselling author and expert on sharks, is a nod to Jaws author Peter Benchley, played by James Franciscus in Great White’s last scene. Vic Morrow, who plays a crusty old salt modeled after Robert Shaw’s Quint in the film, also appears in the film (a great actor who theoretically ought to have known better). Although it’s entertaining to see how far Castellari goes with his plagiarism, it’s also enjoyable to see. Until recently, Universal seemed to have a different opinion, denying Los Angeles’ New Beverly Theater permission to show the film as part of a Castellari double bill in 2008. However, the film has since been available on streaming services and DVD, and has been used as the basis for an episode of RiffTrax. On Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free
11. Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
The official franchise has one of the oddest Jaws-inspired films. Following Ellen Brody (Lorraine Grady), the widow of Roy Scheider’s police chief, as she encounters a great white evidently intent to wreak revenge on her family, Jaws: The Revenge was released to confused audiences in 1987. Ellen’s vengeful shark chases her through the Bahamas after killing her youngest son, who had taken over his father’s old position on Amity Island. Is there a connection between the shark and her in the form of a psychic link? Yes, it’s a bit of a shocker. Among Ellen’s supporters in her battle against the shark are Michael Caine as a pilot named Hoagie, and Mario Van Peebles as a Bahamian-accented Mario. Universal reshot the film’s ending before distributing it in Europe because it was so confused and anti-climactic. To put it another way, the revised version does little to lessen the film’s inadvertent humor. On HBO Max, you can watch it
10. Tintorera… Tiger Shark (1977)
If it’s not about sharks, then it’s not a shark movie. As for Tintorera… Occasionally remembering it’s supposed to be ripping off Jaws in between scenes of moonlit skinny-dipping and languorous lovemaking, Mexico’s Tiger Shark borders on soft porn. In the end, René Cardona Jr.’s picture is around Gabriella (Straw Dogs’ Susan George) and a pair of males who decide to share their feelings for her. While relaxing by the seaside, they engage in squabbles and sex acts. There’s plenty of male and female nudity, as well as shark-fighting, in Cardona. At least once a year. It’s a ridiculous film, yet it has some stunning underwater footage that is only tainted by images of shark massacre. On Amazon, you can get the DVD version of the film.
9. Sharknado (2013)
Fortunately, no sharks were harmed in the creation of Sharknado, which is a good thing. While The Asylum, usually renowned for “mockbusters” like Transmorphers and Triassic World, produced the show, it became a surprise hit after airing on Syfy in 2013 and garnering critical acclaim (leading to a one-night theatrical release). It answers the question: What if a freak cyclone dropped hundreds of sharks on a flooded Los Angeles? With actors like Ian Ziering and Tara Reid and dashed-off CGI sharks, it answers the issue no one had been asking. The subsequent mayhem delivers a lot of tongue-in-cheek fun that has (so far) generated three follow-ups (starting with the brilliantly titled Sharknado 2: The Second One). Asylum had been experimenting with shark movies for some time, with films like 2-Headed Shark Attack (which spawned successive sequels up to 6-Headed Shark Attack), but the success of Sharknado sparked an explosion of low-budget shark movies, from Asylum as well as its competitors, with titles like Ice Sharks, Sharkenstein, and Planet of the Sharks all attempting to up the ante in the shark movie genre. However, none of them go out of their way to be excellent in any traditional sense, but they do endeavor to live up to the ridiculous titles they bear On Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free
8. Zombie (1979)
Lucio Fulci’s Italian flick Zombie, albeit not a shark movie, is a must-see (a.k.a. Zombi 2, to suggest incorrectly it was a sequel to Dawn of the Dead, which had been released in Italy under the name Zombi). Why? This is because of the shark-vs-zombie fight sequence in the movie But Fulci had no interest in working with Tintorera… In a scene in which underwater photographer Ramón Bravo, dressed as a zombie, fights a shark that tears his arm off (which doesn’t appear to affect the zombie much that much), Tiger Shark was used. The sequence has become a YouTube sensation, and even appeared in a Windows 7 commercial in 2010. Hulu’s streaming service has a copy.
7. Jaws 2 (1978)
To say that Jaws 2 is the best of the Jaws sequels is a bit of an understatement. Jeannot Szwarc, the director of the sequel, does an adequate job of updating the original Jaws, while still revealing how much Steven Spielberg contributed. As a beleaguered police chief on Amity Island, Scheider returns to work with Murray Hamilton’s craven mayor, who somehow managed to keep the beaches open during the last shark attack, despite the fact that the mayor’s office had been closed. A great white shark attacks a helicopter in a memorable new development that adds a lot of gravitas to the film. On HBO Max, you can watch it
6. The Reef (2010)
Cheap CGI effects aren’t necessary in every low-budget shark movie. An Australian filmmaker named Andrew Traucki dumps a party of tourists on board a yacht en route to Indonesia, where they discuss whether to wait for an implausible rescue in the middle of the ocean or try to swim to a nearby island a dozen miles away. Adding to the complication: This is a dangerous situation, and the fact that one character stated that “you’re more likely to die from a bee sting than from a shark attack” doesn’t help. His actors’ panic helps sell the illusion as Traucki masterfully blends his actors with real shark video, even if the seams can’t help but show. It’s a fast-paced, no-frills thriller that works in part because it captures the horror of being alone at sea (much like another film a little higher on the list). On Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free
5. The Meg (2018)
Jon Turteltaub’s The Meg, a Chinese-American co-production directed by National Treasure’s Turteltaub, may be the best example of a movie carefully tailored for a worldwide audience. Although there are many worldwide stars in the cast, the most essential one is the huge shark, which can speak any language and is a universally recognized symbol of danger. And The Meg isn’t simply about a massive shark. They fight an extinct megalodon that has been resurrected in the deepest reaches of the ocean, a prehistoric creature that was previously thought to have died out. That changes, however, when a probe goes too far and sends the megalodon surface in search of new prey. The Meg, despite its PG-13 rating, is a rather bloodless film, but Statham makes it entertaining and the shark effects go a long way. In some of the most iconic photos, the megalodon is shown with smaller sharks, making the smaller ones appear insignificant. When a shark the size of a truck is making the rounds, why worry about a great white? To rent on Amazon, click here.
4. Deep Blue Sea(1999)
Do you think one scene can make a film great? In Renny Harlin’s 1999 thriller in which a motley group are forced to face off against sharks genetically modified to be smarter than the usual man-eater, if any movie illustrates that it’s Harlin’s Harlin’s wet all-star cast includes Stellan Skarsgard and LL Cool J, but it’s Samuel L. Jackson’s huge scene laying out just how much danger they’re in and the formidability of their finned opponents that makes it so unforgettable. If you’ve seen it, you’ll understand why it works. Make the effort to watch the film if you haven’t already. Almost no movie ever reaches such a high moment. Hulu’s streaming service has a copy.
3. 47 Meters Down (2017)
What could possibly go wrong when sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) decide to go scuba diving on their Mexican vacation? However, despite the fact that Lisa is a complete novice, the dive entails being submerged in a cage, and the dubious tour leaders (who include Matthew Modine) chum the waters to attract sharks to make the experience more exciting. But aren’t they going to be safe? Not at all, especially when the cage’s chain breaks, plunging the sisters (you guessed it) 47 meters down into the ocean depths of the ocean floor. A claustrophobic film by Johannes Roberts is not for those who are afraid to face their deepest fears. Decompression sickness and a dwindling supply of oxygen are still issues for Lisa and Kate even when the sharks aren’t there. Their attempts to survive in shark-infested waters are made even more terrifying by the presence of a threatening adversary that is both unpredictable and unyielding. Forget megalodons and super-intelligent sharks, the garden type can be just as scary. To rent on Amazon, click here.
2. Open Water (2004)
Some dubbed it “The Blair Shark Project” when it premiered in 2004 because of its low budget. Scuba divers Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis are stranded in the middle of the ocean after being left behind by a group of other divers. They are surrounded by sharks, making it even more difficult to stay alive in the middle of the ocean. This is a brief but horrifying picture that doubles as an exercise in growing horror as a little wound attracts larger prey and it becomes increasingly evident that it will take a miracle for them to return to land There’s no unnecessary flash here, simply a horrific, up-close depiction of a terrible scenario. On HBO Max, you can watch it
1. The Shallows (2016)
The Shallows, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, tells the story of Nancy, a med student who gets into a fight with a great white shark and ends herself trapped on a rock just a few feet from the beach despite her injuries. Why is this happening? As a result of the shark’s decision to stay, Nancy’s few feet from dry land are as dangerous as a minefield. For her survival, she must outsmart her hungry adversary. It is Serra’s directing and Lively’s performance that keep the picture focused on Nancy’s mind and the dwindling alternatives that drive her to get inventive in order to survive. In addition to being an engrossing tale of survival, it’s famous for its lack of resemblance to Jaws. If anything, it shows that the shark movie genre hasn’t lost its ability to surprise by telling an entirely new type of shark story, one that does it brilliantly.