The 10 Greatest Shark Films of All Time

From nurse to tiger, gentle giants to ferocious flesh eaters, here are our choices for the top examples of that often misunderstood creature, the cinematic shark.

Before the '70s, before such expose oriented shows as The Crocodile Hunter and channels like Animal Planet, natural evil had to settle for something a bit less...sensational. Efforts like Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and individuals such as Jacques Cousteau loved the wild, both above and below the surface of the sea, and treated their potentially scary subjects with dignity and grace. All of that changed when a young upstart from the Universal talent pool was handed the bestselling novel by Peter Benchley entitled Jaws. Hoping to make a name for himself, Steven Spielberg struggled mightily against many odds to turn this potboiler page-turner into a true fright flick. The results became a genre classic, and one of the first examples of the soon to be bragged over 'blockbusters.'

Since then, sharks have gotten the short end of the cinematic stick. Usually reserved for slapdash schlock or SyFy mash-up originals, the finned fiend of the briny deep doesn't get a lot of respect. So hot on the heels of the home video release for another, somewhat novel take on the razor-toothed reaper (Bait-3D is now available on demand and on Blu-ray and DVD) we offer this overview of the 10 Best Shark Films ever. That being said, there are a few critical caveats. First off, we are dealing with a subject that's been featured in dozens of offerings. We couldn't see every one, so these are our best selections among the movies we know. Second, we'll argue that even a bad shark movie is "good" (if only in ways that will torment your personal taste). Finally, as we always say, this is not definitive. Instead, it's an overview, a way of celebrating the maneater in all his gore glutton glory. Let's begin with something we just mentioned a moment ago:

10. Bait

This movie boasts a terrific premise -- a group of shoppers in an Australian market are trapped by a freak tsunami, resulting in a waterlogged establishment nand a killer shark on the prowl -- and some decent special effects. It also asks us to suspend so much of our already taxed disbelief that the result feels a tad forced? Still, any film which features a group of groaning victims fodder balancing precariously on produce shelves to avoid a mad man-eater can't be all bad, right? Luckily, Bait braves its faults to find a nice balance between scary and stupid.

9. Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

Speaking of scary vs. stupid, this is one of the greatest guilty pleasures of all time. As usual, science screws things up when an experiment on whales goes awry, resulting in a cracked glacier and the release of the title titans. As they battle it out to see whose mean will reign supreme, the aforementioned scholars strut around, looking perplexed. With some unbelievably daft F/X and a cast which includes former '80s chanteuse Debbie Gibson and ex-heartthrob Lorenzo Lamas, this is an unadulterated cheese factory masquerading as a sci-fi thriller. The result is gloriously goofy.

8. The Last Shark

Bet you didn't know that there's a version of Jaws out there starring James Franciscus and Vic Morrow. That's exactly what this near shot for shot remake of the Spielberg classic by Italian rip-off artists is. The coastal town of Port Harbor is suddenly the scene of numerous shark attacks, but the tourism oriented major wants little done about it. Enter our aforementioned "stars", the former playing an aquatic expert, the other an old sea salt who has a vendetta against Great Whites. Even the final act features an exploding maneater. Too funny and familiar.

7. Tintorera

Sometimes, like in the case of The Last Shark, the homage are so obvious as to warrant a case of copyright infringement. In other instances, the subterfuge is more subtle. Take this Rene Cardona Jr. epic, which seems far more concerned about softcore sexcapades than anything having to do with marine life. Yes, we get standard "don't go in the water" warnings, but a caution against catching indirect STDs would be far franker. In fact, is seems like Cardona was more interested in bed hopping than shark hunting, considering how naked the cast is most of the time.

6. Cyclone

Cardona again, and one year after watching his actors drop blouses, trousers, and all sense of decorum with Tintorera. Here, a plane crashes with a ragtag group of irritants onboard. They seek refuge on a tiny boat, where cannibalism becomes the only means of survival (which makes sense, since Cardona is perhaps most infamous for his take on the true life horrors of the famed non-fiction book, Alive). Eventually, a rescue comes and so do the sea creatures. Hammy, hilarious, and hindered by the typical issues involved in any indirect rip-off.

Next Page




The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.