This article is part of our ongoing series, 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Ask someone to name the best shark attack movie and odds are they’re going to mention Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster prototype, Jaws (1975). There’s no denying the film’s supremacy, but what if you’ve already seen Jaws a hundred times and want to give something a bit less acclaimed a watch? That’s where we come in.
Our crack team of horror-lovin’ goofballs watched, rated, and ranked every shark attack movie that isn’t Jaws — a rule that left all three Jaws sequels in play with some surprising results — and then whittled it down into a top ten. “Best” has always been an arbitrary term, and when applied to killer shark movies that aren’t Jaws it becomes fairly useless, so for our purposes, we’re pairing “best” with “enjoyable” to highlight the ten most entertaining. All of them are worth watching, but only one of them is worth watching the most. So put on your floaties, grab some soggy popcorn, and join Chris Coffel, Valerie Ettenhofer, Kieran Fisher, Brad Gullickson, Meg Shields, Jacob Trussell, Anna Swanson, and myself for some fishy fun.
10. Shark Night (2011)
David R. Ellis has spent most of his Hollywood career as a Second Unit (ie action) Director on films as diverse as Kuffs (1992) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), and his directorial efforts have been equally eclectic. A common thread between the likes of Final Destination 2 (2003) and Snakes on a Plane (2006), though, is the sense that his primary goal at all times is fun. Logic be damned, Ellis enjoys a good time, and his killer shark flick delivers mightily on that goal. Shark Night drops a group of college friends on a secluded lake that’s also home to some ravenous sharks — Hammerheads, Bulls, Great Whites… you know, the usual lake sharks — but while that’s more than enough to chew on the film ups the ante “dramatically” with some terrifically ludicrous revelations regarding the how, why, and who behind the sharks’ presence. It’s glorious, and if you have the necessary setup, the movie is also available in 3-D. So yeah, you’ll want to seek this one out sooner rather than later. (Rob Hunter)
9. Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Folks really hate Jaws the Revenge. And not even love-hate. Just straight up hate-hate. And I legitimately don’t understand why. Look, The Revenge is not Jaws (1975), I’m no dummy, but you’re starting on the wrong foot if you think the two can be compared. It isn’t just another animal attack movie. It’s a supernatural animal attack movie – set during Christmas – that features a psychic connection between a shark and Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary), matriarch of the Brody brood who have bad fucking luck with Bruce and his carnivorous fam. From a shark roaring like a lion to the infamous banana boat sequence, The Revenge’s eccentric energy makes it feel less like a summer blockbuster and more like a Hollywood version of an Italian knock-off of a Hollywood film. And it’s with this weird big-swing ridiculousness that the film works more than Jaws’ other sequels that went for the tension of Spielberg’s original while forgetting how entertaining it was. So don’t think of Jaws the Revenge as the sequel to Jaws. Think of it more as a tropical vacation: free-spirited and fun with no concern about where it’s going or what it’s doing. Just sit back, chill out, and enjoy the ride. (Jacob Trussell)
8. Tintorera: Killer Shark (1977)
Based on the novel of the same name by oceanologist Ramon Bravo, Tintorera is essentially a sex movie with a 19-foot tiger shark thrown in for good measure. If you go into this one expecting purely a killer shark movie you’ll be sorely disappointed. However, if you can appreciate Mexploitation movies that pose as killer shark movies, but are really bizarre dramas about polyamorous relationships and swinging discos, you’ll enjoy Tintorera. When it does unleash shark attack sequences, it does enough to satiate that need for cinematic bloodshed. More than anything, though, the film is a confused, fascinating mess that doesn’t work as a creature yarn, but soars as an entertaining slice of shameless hucksterism. (Kieran Fisher)
7. Open Water (2003)
Open Water is a god damn nightmare of a movie. Sure, Jaws is a helluva beast and looks great on a poster, but when it comes to pure terror, nothing can compete with the vast void below a pair of stranded paddling feet. Forgotten by their scuba tour due to a heinous miscount, Susan and Daniel are forced to fend for themselves against circling schools of sharks and their crumbling marriage. As tiny mouths pick at their flesh, bigger ones become all the bolder. They quickly go from snack status to a dinner served. When the inevitable presents itself, Susan and Daniel must come to terms with the tragedy of their relationship… or not. Maybe a toothy grin or a quick drowning is as good as any marriage counseling can provide. (Brad Gullickson)
6. The Reef (2010)
While most of the films on this list can be legitimately described as fun, this Australian entry falls more in line with Open Water above in that it entertains through fear, terror, and drama. That said, it’s not nearly as dramatic as that two-hander thanks in part to a bigger cast of characters and their focus beyond merely floating in the water after their boat capsizes. There’s an island nearby, in theory, but not all of the four friends who begin the journey will end it. Writer/director Andrew Traucki does solid work setting up the premise and crafting suspenseful sequences designed to play with viewers’ nerves and whittle away at the survivors. It’s a shark attack movie designed to scare you and make you think twice about getting into the water, and it succeeds. (Rob Hunter)