Top 10: SHARK MOVIES... THAT AREN'T JAWS

PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Pollard

As this week has seen the Discovery Channel’s SHARK WEEK get under way once more, we here at Starburst are fonder than most of the films and features that highlight one of the planet’s apex predators. And so with that, we’ve taken a moment to look at the best shark movies out there. Well, we say the best movies out there but there is a twist, for this is Starburst’s look at THE TOP 10 SHARK MOVIES… THAT AREN’T JAWS.

There is no doubt that Steven Spielberg’s JAWS is hands down the best shark movie of all time - hell, it often goes down as one of the best movies of all time, period – so we thought we’d take away the obvious choice and give some time in the spotlight to the other shark flicks out there. Whilst we’re fully aware of some of the truly awful shark movies out there - most of which seem to involve Brooke Hogan, brother - we’re doing our best to look at this always-interesting subgenre with our light-hearted glasses on, as we delve into the murky depths of, in some cases, straight-to-video hell in order to bring to you THE TOP 10 SHARK MOVIES… THAT AREN’T JAWS.

10) JAWS: THE REVENGE

Whilst Spielberg’s 1975 JAWS is exempt from this list, that doesn’t mean that the rest of the series isn’t fair game. This 1987 effort from director Joseph Sargent was the final nail in the already-sinking coffin of the JAWS franchise, with the action moving to more tropical climates than just Amity Island.

Plot-wise, we pick up with the now-widowed Ellen Brody (the returning Lorraine Gary) and sons Michael (Lance Guest) and Sean (Mitchell Anderson). When Sean is killed by a great white, Ellen is convinced to go and stay with Michael in The Bahamas. Once in the sun-drenched land, it becomes apparent that a shark with a grudge is hunting down the Brody clan, forcing Ellen to face the monster once and for all. Dun, dun, dun, dun!

Hokey, ridiculous, illogical, this fourth JAWS movie just about scrapes into the list for the fact of it being a massive guilty pleasure of certain of us here at Starburst HQ. Ellen Brody quoting and flashing back to her husband’s fight with the shark of the first movie? The shark growling and devouring an airplane? Michael Caine falling in the ocean yet still managing to have a pristine, immaculately-dry suit? Mario Van Peebles' awful accent? Yes, despite all of these problems, if we happen upon JAWS: THE REVENGE on TV late one night, we can’t help but give it one more chance.

9) 12 DAYS OF TERROR

This ‘based on true events’ tale is the telling of the very real New Jersey man-eater attacks of 1916 which inspired Peter Benchley’s JAWS novel. As a result, this 2005 movie often comes off as JAWS-lite in the way that a lot of the story, even a lot of the characters, come across as extremely familiar. Hell, there’s even John Rhys Davies doing his best Quint impression.

Whilst many often just accuse 12 DAYS OF TERROR as simply being a JAWS rip-off, in the defence of the Jack Sholder-directed feature, it is itself actually based on factual events and it upholds the true elements of the story impressively well. A minimalistic, atmospheric tale that is a refreshing change in a time when every shark feature seems to be an over-the-top atrocity that is trying to outdo its competitors in how bad it can be, 12 DAYS OF TERROR is one of the better less-known shark movies out there.

8) JAWS 3

Another entry for the JAWS series, this is a film that certainly divides opinion. Released in 1983 amidst the 1980s 3D “boom”, Joe Alves’ movie is often unwatchable yet surprisingly engaging – it’s a unique beast.

Featuring Louis Gossett Jr. as the head of the Sea World theme park, the film’s central premise of a huge shark terrorising the park is an intriguing plot device. Throw in Dennis Quaid’s brilliantly-coiffed Michael Brody and some truly memorable moments, such as a group of water-skiers getting stalked by the shark, and there’s a lot of potential in the film. It’s just a shame that some terribly-dated, horrible SFX work and a few stinkers of performances, most notably from P.H. Moriarty, take away a lot of the good work that JAWS 3 tries to do. It’s also a massive shame that the notion of keeping the shark out of sight for large parts of the film was starting to become left behind by this stage in the franchise; something that would only get worse with JAWS: THE REVENGE several years later.

7) SHARK NIGHT

Now a lot of the more recent shark features have had some insane plots and stories at their core, but 2011’s SHARK NIGHT had one of the more interesting premises out there. In a world where reality TV and social media seems to be the be-all and end-all, David R. Ellis’ film focussed on shark attacks designed purposely for entertainment purposes and to garner online hits.

With a wide variety of sharks on offer, SHARK NIGHT has a lot going for it. Sadly, the film suffers at times, particularly coming across as more style than substance more often than not. Still, in a time of mega sharks, sharks with two-heads, sand-dwelling sharks and the like, this is one of the more appealing films around, particularly in this world where big brother is always watching you. Plus it’s got Donal Logue. That’s always a good thing. That said, clichés and illogicality are loitered throughout the film.

6) TINTORERA

TINTORERA is one of those rare shark films that came out in the aftermath of JAWS – it was released in 1977 – that wasn’t a direct rip-off of Spielberg’s classic. Based on Ramon Bravo’s novel of the same name, the titular killer is a tiger shark this time out. Away from the shark element of the movie, there’s also some bizarre love-triangle going on with STRAW DOGS’ Susan George the sausage in the middle of this particular hotdog.

A movie that oozes enough ‘70s machismo to make Ron Burgundy’s moustache green with envy, TINTORERA is cheese-tastic yet often vicious (when not bordering on soft porn) movie. If you take away the far-too-frequent unnecessary shots of pale white arses, this is quite the decent film when viewed through 1970s’ eyes.

5) BAIT

This 2012 Australian effort initially sounds like yet another ridiculous premise - sharks in a supermarket – but it actually turned out to be one of the better shark movies in recent memory.

Tied together by THE LOVED ONES’ Xander Samuel, the main story here sees a tsunami strike a coastal town, flooding the local supermarket with plenty of water and a rather hungry great white shark. Whereas other film’s with potentially-ludicrous plots play to the audience and poke fun at themselves, BAIT plays it straight and is all the more better for doing so. There are still some elements of humour with certain characters, but the tone, pacing, atmosphere and charm of this Kimble Rendall film are all as good as we’ve seen in many a year when it comes to the shark movie subgenre.

4) JAWS 2

As far as sequels go, Jeannot Szwarc’s 1978 JAWS 2 isn’t actually anywhere near as bad as the third and fourth instalments in the JAWS series. In fact, it’s often massively overlooked by many. Yes, it’s not as good as JAWS, but that’s a hell of a lot to live up to.

Picking up with Roy Scheider’s returning Martin Brody and his family, Amity Island is again in the midst of a shark frenzy. This time including Chief Brody’s sons in more prominent roles, you can’t help but feel that if the exact same film was made by Spielberg then it would’ve gotten a lot more praise. As it stands, the relatively-unknown Szwarc ended up with the directing gig for this sequel. And in fairness to him, he does a decent job of having Brody revisiting the water to face his fears once more. If for nothing else, JAWS 2 gets props for another great turn from Scheider, another memorable climax, and for having one of the greatest taglines of all time: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”

3) OPEN WATER

In terms of grim, depressing atmosphere, OPEN WATER is unrivalled in the shark movie world. Based on the true events of two divers left stranded in the middle of the ocean, waiting for the elements and what lurks beneath the murky depths to engulf them, this is a film that lacks any ray of sunshine or any happy ending.

Starring Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan, this is a film that threw its lead pair in actual shark-infested water throughout the shooting process. This alone drew massive attention and hype to Chris Kentis’ movie, although the film ultimately failed to hit the highs that it had promised. Viewers were still treated to a bleak, relentless story of a couple isolated, at their wit’s end, in and out of consciousness, and waiting for their inevitable fate to gulp them down. In terms of happy endings, OPEN WATER is THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of shark movies.

2) DEEP BLUE SEA

After what seemed like an eternity waiting for a good shark film to come along, up stepped Renny Harlin’s DEEP BLUE SEA, complete with a cinema release. With an impressive cast that included the likes of Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgard, Aida Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson and, err, LL Cool J, Harlin’s movie had a nice mixture of practical animatronics and CGI.

Plot-wise, the film centres on a group of scientists stationed in an isolated research centre out at sea whilst they try to find a cure for Alzheimer’s by carrying out tests on sharks. Unfortunately, this research work leads the sharks to experience increased intelligence and to team up to attack the humans. Logic is at times stretched, such as a shark turning on an oven, but DEEP BLUE SEA is one of the more enjoyable shark movies and it does still conjure up several moments of terror, putting it right near the top of this list.

1) THE REEF

Coming in at the peak of this list looking at some of the best shark-based films of all-time is the 2010 Australian movie, THE REEF. Another ‘based on true events’ shark tale, the crew of a ship capsized in the Great Barrier Reef decide that their best bet is to make a swim for it whilst they still have the strength to do so. Attempting to make it to an island safe haven, it soon becomes apparent that the group are being stalked by a menacing shark.

Andrew Traucki’s film showcases its central killer as a true calculating predator and the result is a deeply-atmospheric, gripping, traumatic story of humans as the hunted prey that are completely out of their element. Played straight and with some great performances at its core, THE REEF is a hugely refreshing film in the often murky ‘bad is better’ subgenre of the shark movie, placing it as the king of the ocean that is our TOP 10 SHARK MOVIES… THAT AREN’T JAWS.

And there we have it, our completed list. Agree? Disagree? Did we miss one? Chime in with your thoughts below.

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Comments  

 
0 #4 Tony 2015-07-11 21:13
Jaws 2 is the best for being pure fiction, and I would have ranked it well above God awful Deep Blue Sea, which I loathed. The Cinnaburst gum sharks "gonna snag a surfer" looked more realistic!!

Jaws 2 is #1 on my list, but an argument for Open Water can be made due to it's based on true events and it's dark mood. I never saw the Reef, but will now give it a shot.
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0 #3 Andrew Marshall 2014-09-05 12:45
I found 12 Days of Terror on YouTube and loved it! If it's in any way true to reality, then the inspiration for Jaws is clear. And never mind Quint, I thought John Rhys-Davies was doing an impression of Brian Blessed. "THAT! IS THE DUMBEST IDEA! I'VE EVER HEARD! IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!"
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+1 #2 Andrew Pollard 2014-08-12 15:01
I did actually quite enjoy Sharks in Venice. As for the Brooke Hogan stuff... the less said about that the better. Some moments of the Shark Attack series are actually okay. Megalodon just got on my nerves for the constant reuse of one token SFX shot. In fairness, Barrowman's brilliant line does gain the film some brownie points in my book.

If you're a fan of shark flicks (which you seem to be), 12 Days of Terror is worth tracking down.
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0 #1 Andrew Marshall 2014-08-12 13:09
Shark Night and The Reef are brilliant, and Bait has Sharni Vinson in it, which is enough to recommend almost anything. Not actually seen 12 Days of Terror, so that's one to track down.

Some of my personal favourites:

First, Sharktopus, because Sharktopus, and Sharknado, for which I refuse to apologise. Jersey Shore Shark Attack, because the prospect of thinly-veiled expies of vacuous, thermonuclear-tanned oxygen thieves being menaced by sharks is rather entertaining. Also, Joey Fatone gets eaten right before he's about to start singing. Shark in Venice, for starring lesser-renowned Baldwin and Johansson siblings, and that the presence of Nu Image in a film's production credits is a guarantee of the finest quality trash. Brooke Hogan's efforts, Sand Sharks and 2-Headed Shark Attack, are just as endearingly stupid as they sound. Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, if for nothing other than John Barrowman's infamous improvised line.
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