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The best shark movies of all time

From Spielberg's Jaws to the Sharknado movies and even The Meg and The Shallows, we've put together a definitive list of the best shark movies of all time.

best shark movies: the cast of jaws

What are the best shark movies? The carnivorous, violent creatures of the deep have been a source of fascination in the film world for decades. Sure, we can swim alongside them and recognize that a fin sticking out of the water means danger, but it feels like they’re constantly just out of our reach and just that bit beyond our understanding. They’re both beautiful and terrifying.

We might think we know a lot about sharks from aquariums, books, and their redemption arc in Finding Nemo, but the truth is, given that they live beneath the surface, there’s a lot we don’t know about them.

Over the years, the world of cinema has tried its best to fill the gaps in our knowledge around these aquatic creatures through action movies and thriller movies, so if you want to make it Shark Week every week, check out our exploration of some of the best shark movies ever.

What are the best shark movies?

  • Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus
  • Deep Blue Sea
  • Shark Tale
  • The Shallows
  • Open Water
  • Blue Water, White Death
  • Jaws
  • Sharknado (all of them)

best shark movies: shark and octopus in Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)

Again, this film is far from a work of cinematic mastery, but it does what it says on the tin. Have you ever wanted to see a huge, fuck-off shark fight an even huger, fuck-off octopus? Then your prayers have been answered, my friend.

best shark movies: samuel l jackson in deep blue sea

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

One of Samuel L Jackson’s most iconic roles, some of the movie plot-twists in Deep Blue Sea might surprise you, but it nonetheless goes down in history as an interesting cautionary tail (get it?) about why you should never genetically engineer sharks to become more intelligent and sentient — just on the off-chance that was on your to-do list. 

best shark movies: will smith in shark tale

Shark Tale (2004)

Although it’s a relatively bog-standard Dreamworks animated movie that feels like a cheap attempt to rip-off Finding Nemo, there’s no blood and guts in this one, which is a plus.

best shark movies: blake lively in the shallows

The Shallows (2016)

Like Sharknado, it’s ridiculous, campy, and ended up a surprising hit — but it differs in the sense that it is completely unironic in a so-bad-it’s-good way. If you’re the type of person who enjoyed watching Archie survive a bear attack, a satanic ritual, and the epic highs and lows of high school football in Riverdale, then you’ll definitely love The Shallows. There’s no other film where you can watch Blake Lively use a G-Shock Baby-G wristwatch to try and fend off a bloodthirsty shark.

best shark movies: the cast of open water

Open Water (2003)

Shot entirely on videotape, this horror movie might be short, but is nonetheless excruciating as we’re forced to watch in closer-than-comfort detail how a couple slowly ends up attracting more and more undersea predators after being accidentally left behind by the rest of their diving group and stranded in the middle of the ocean. Not one to watch if you have a water phobia or any scuba lessons coming up.

best shark movies: the cast of blue water white death

Blue Water, White Death (1971)

Given how sensationalised the genre of shark movies tend to be, this documentary attempts to give a more nuanced approach to the magnificent beasts. The narrative might be more understated than some of the films on this list — it simply follows a team of filmmakers trying to get a glimpse of a white shark on footage for the first time ever — but the fact it’s rooted in reality makes it one of the most compelling. 

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Jaws (1975)

Arguably one of the best movies of all time, the idea of shark movies as a sub-genre simply wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for this Steven Spielberg movie. From its iconic score to Spielberg’s mastery of Hitchcockian suspense, don’t let the date of this movie put you off — some of its most scariest moments come not from the shark itself, but by anticipating the fact that it could be there.

best shark movies: the cast of sharknado

All the Sharknado movies (2013-2018)

Apparently, it’s frowned upon to make a list consisting entirely of the Sharknado cinematic universe, but if it wasn’t, that’s what I’d do. The sheer, campy ridiculousness of the Sharknado films is like the Fast and Furious movies for pescatarians. Nobody is pretending they’re Academy Award-worthy, but the thing about the Sharknado franchise is that it fully thrives off how ridiculous it is and is fully unapologetic when it comes to getting weird with it.

If you want to catch more films about battling deadly creatures, check out our guides to the best monster movies, best zombie movies, and best alien movies. Or, keep up to date with every major new movie in 2023.