One of the most hotly anticipated movies of 2018 for many a genre fan is the Jason Statham-starring The Meg. Adapted from Steve Alten’s iconic novel (and its plentiful follow-ups), the film will see The Stath heading up a crew tasked with battling a gnarly megalodon; a ginormous shark long thought extinct. With excitement high for Jon Turtletaub's picture, audiences are already clamouring to get their Meg tickets ahead of the film swimming to the big screen on August 9th.
As huge fans of shark movies – both good and bad – here at Moonbase Alpha, we thought now would be the perfect time to take a look at the very best shark pictures out there. And no, we’re not including the hands-down greatest of the lot, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. So, with that in mind, here’s our definitive look at The Top 12 Shark Movies… That Aren’t Jaws.
And for those of you who think this sounds familiar, yes we did indeed do something similar back in 2014 to celebrate Shark Week. For those of you asking, “why 12?”, well that’s because we lost count of what we were writing and ultimately ended up with eleven – which in turn was evened out with a twelfth entry.
12) 12 Days of Terror
This ‘based on true events’ tale is the telling of the very real New Jersey man-eater (no, not Nelly Furtado) attacks of 1916 which inspired Peter Benchley’s Jaws novel. As a result, this 2005 movie often comes off very much 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 at 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.
11) Jaws 3
Whilst Spielberg’s 1975 Jaws is exempt from this list, that doesn’t mean that the rest of the series aren’t fair game. And so, here we have Jaws 3 – a movie that certainly divides opinion – making a splash in our Top 12. Released in 1983 amidst the 1980s’ 3D “boom”, Joe Alves’ movie is often unwatchable yet surprisingly engaging.
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, then, that some terribly dated, horrible SFX work and a few true 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.
10) 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 to come along in a fair while.
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 that are designed purposely for entertainment purposes and to garner online hits. Talk about clickbait, right? Geddit? Geddit?! Bait?! *sigh*
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 style over substance more often than not. Still, in a time of mega sharks, sharks with multiple 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.
Now, if only the Love Island and Kardashians of this world embarked on a similarly themed show. Maybe that’d actually make us tune in to watch the dross that’s so often splashed across the TV landscape.
Tintorera is one of those rare shark films that came out in the aftermath of Jaws – it was released in 1977 – yet 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. Then, away from the shark element of the movie, there’s also some bizarre love-triangle going on with Straw Dogs’ Susan George as 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 a cheese-tastic yet often vicious (when not bordering on soft porn) movie, and 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.
As far as the slew of shark flicks that instantly followed in Jaws’ immediate aftermath, Tintorera really is a rare beast in being, y’know, actually decent.
8) 47 Meters Down
With straight-to-DVD and TV movies spewing up a cavalcade of crap for shark film fans these days, that’s not to say that there haven’t been some efforts that have made it to the big screen – even if, in the case of Johannes Roberts’ 47 Meters Down, it was only in a limited capacity.
Roberts has made quite the name for himself in the horror genre, with efforts such as F, The Other Side of the Door, and The Strangers: Prey at Night amongst those on the director’s resume. And with 47 Meters Down, he took a fairly simple concept and made it work rather well.
Mandy Moore and Claire Holt play a pair of sisters who decide to amp up their holidaying stint in Mexico by going cage diving. What could possibly go wrong, we hear you mutter with knowing certainty that this situation isn’t going to end well?
Before you can say “feeding time”, the cable on the cage snaps and the pair find themselves stranded with limited air supply and some hungry sharks. All of which, of course, is taking place… 47 meters down.
While it certainly had its issues – not least with its main two characters – 47 Meters Down is a taut affair that will have you glued to the screen.
This 2012 Australian effort initially sounded 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 films 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-helmed film are all as good as we’ve seen in many a year when it comes to the shark movie subgenre.
So, sharks in supermarkets? Sure, but it works. It really, really works.
6) Cage Dive
Released only last year, Gerald Rascionato’s Cage Dive may have flown under the radar of many – particularly as how Johannes Roberts’ 47 Meters Down was originally titled Cage Dive before getting rebranded – but it’s certainly a shark movie that’s worth hunting down.
A found-footage affair (but don’t let that put you off!), the picture centres on two brothers and of their girlfriends as they embark on a trip to Australia. As these adrenaline junkies chase their next fix, they decide to observe some of the Pacific Ocean’s famed great white sharks in an attempt to get themselves noticed for a gig on a reality TV series back home in the United States. Unfortunately, the tide is well and truly turned with the boat that their cage is attached to is overturned by a freak wave. With the trio joined in the water by the crew of said boat, the ocean’s apex predators see this as the ringing of the proverbial dinner bell. With survival the order of the day, tensions are only heightened when dark secrets prove to be just as dangerous as the sharks that lay in wait.
As we alluded to, Cage Dive may have passed you by, but writer/director Rascionato manages to capture both the hopeful youth of the film’s central threesome and the gloomy realisation of the unfurling situation we see our protagonists caught up in.
Oh, and don’t let the awful cover art or last minute Open Water add-on – Cage Dive was changed to Open Water: Cage Dive shortly before its release – put you off, either.
5) Jaws 2
In more recent decades, it seems as if the shark subgenre has made an unfortunate habit of churning out sequel after sequel that suffer from major diminishing returns where the quality is concerned. And when you’re talking about something like the Shark Attack or Sharknado franchises, the quality isn’t even that good to begin with!
As far as shark sequels go, though, Jeannot Szwarc’s 1978 Jaws 2 isn’t anywhere near as bad as the third and fourth instalments in the Jaws series. In fact, it’s a film often massively overlooked by many. Yes, of course it’s not as good as Jaws, but that’s one hell of a picture 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.”
4) 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 wits’ 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.
3) Deep Blue Sea
After what seemed like an eternity of us all waiting for a good shark movie to come along, up stepped Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea - complete with a *shock horror at the time* 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 on display.
Plot-wise, the film centres on a group of scientists stationed in an isolated research centre out at sea, with the team tasked with finding a cure for Alzheimer’s by carrying out tests on sharks. Unfortunately, this research work leads the sharks to experience increased intelligence – and let’s just say these toothy terrors decide to use this new ‘n’ improved smarts to terrorize the poor souls trapped in their increasingly-dilapidating underwater lab.
Logic is at times stretched – such as a shark turning on an oven! – but Deep Blue Sea is still one of the more enjoyable shark movies out there, managing to conjure up several moments of genuine terror for its ensemble cast as the tale plays out.
2) The Shallows
In a murky subgenre of misdemeanours, The Shallows manages to do what has proven to be an extreme rarity over the decades: be an actually great shark film.
Small in scale and with its focus on Blake Lively’s Nancy as she finds herself between a literal rock and a hard place, Jaume Collet-Serra’s picture is high in stakes and nail-biting tension as we see a classic survival tale of man vs. nature unravel once the stranded-on-a-rock-at-high-tide Nancy finds her path back to shore and safety patrolled by a rather irked Carcharodon Carcharias.
Further adding to the overall package, The Shallows makes sure to use its shark in a truly masterful way, largely keeping the great white under the surface and making its every move mean something. And even more impressive, the beautiful beast is an entirely digital creation that is jaw-dropping in its detail. The Shallows, much like its menacing predator, is a movie that has bite by the bucketloads.
1) The Reef
Coming in at the peak of this list looking at some of the best shark-driven 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 who has them on its lunch menu.
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 12 Shark Movies… That Aren’t Jaws.
And there we have it, our completed list. Agree? Disagree? Did we miss one? Let us know what you think. And in the meantime, here's the trailer for The Meg - in cinemas worldwide from August 9th.