For as long as humans have ventured out into the ocean, they have had a fear of what lurks underneath. With summer fast approaching, more and more people will be venturing to beaches and, subsequently, swimming in the ocean. This combination will result in even more people teasing one another about getting attacked by a shark, fueling lifelong phobias surrounding the fish.
There's no arguing that sharks can be massive creatures with sharp teeth who are far more at home in the ocean than humans are, resulting in obvious trepidation. It's also a fact that people have been killed by sharks, often in gruesome ways.
Films about sharks have had far more of an impact on the public's perception of the majestic creatures than cold, hard facts, with Peter Benchley's novel Jaws being one of the biggest sources of fear. The author so passionately regretted how his story impacted the public's perception of the animal so deeply, he's spent the rest of his career supporting shark conservation in hopes of making up for the damage he did to the animals.
In reality, humans are far more of a threat to sharks than sharks are to humans, as sharks are responsible for roughly ten human deaths a year, as opposed to humans killing nearly 100 million sharks a year.
Despite the harm caused by how many forms of popular media portray sharks, there are still some quality films out there that treat the animals with respect and manage to tell an engaging story.
Scroll down to see our picks for the best horror movies featuring sharks!
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
Starring Sara Paxton and Donal Logue, Shark Night follows the adventures of coeds seeking some fun during a spring break type of vacation. Things turn deadly when the coeds discover the lake they're visiting is full of sharks, followed by a series of deaths that are relatively predictable.
The film has plenty of flaws, but contrary to many other shark movies, there are actual facts that the pepper into the story throughout its running time. For example, it mentions there are roughly 350 different types of sharks in the world, which is accurate. The characters are also surprised that sharks could survive in a lake, as they're normally found in salt water, until one character points out that bull sharks can survive in both salt and fresh water, as their feeding habits often lead them into estuaries and up rivers to find food.
Shark Night is far from great and still has plenty of flaws, but considering the competition, its factual accuracies makes it stand out from other, more exploitative shark-based horror films.
[H/T YouTube, Movieclips]
Following in the footsteps of Shark Night's factual accuracies, Deep Blue Sea goes the other direction, telling the tale of genetically modified sharks who can pursue the film's protagonists throughout a massive underwater complex.
It might sound like a strange juxtaposition to laud one film for its facts but consider a wildly inaccurate film to be "better," but the cheat of making these creatures genetically modified allows much more room for exaggeration than trying to pass off this film's killer sharks as anything that would ever occur in nature.
With the sci-fi aspects addressed, the film is highly entertaining. Thomas Jane makes a solid hero who's willing to take charge when everyone else panics while LL Cool J and Michael Rapaport have some pretty entertaining exchanges. It should also be noted that Deep Blue Sea features what is possibly the greatest "Hero gives a motivational speech to rally his friends" scenes in all of movie history that takes a shocking turn for Samuel L. Jackson that no one in the audience could have expected.
Horror films are often dismissed when they receive a PG-13 rating, as devoted horror fans know the film won't feature much nudity or gore, typically staples of the genre. The Shallows might not feature gruesome carnage or frequent cursing, but it still gave audiences one of the more exciting horror films of last year.
In the film, Blake Lively stars as a surfer seeking a peaceful beach that her mom used to visit, but when a wave slams her surfboard hard, she finds herself stranded on a rock a few hundred feet from the shore. Unfortunately, returning to shore is compromised due to a massive shark hanging out in the shallow water, with her character not wanting to risk the altercation.
Considering how much of the film focuses merely on Lively's character trying to figure out how she could possibly find rescue, her performance makes the film highly entertaining. The audience might not have experienced a similar scenario, but we could all wonder how he'd handle the situation were events to ever unfold in the way the film shows.
The last act, when Lively attempts to find safety, goes into some Deep Blue Sea-esque moments of silly CGI, but considering those sequences are in the minority of the film's running time, it's still a fun watch.
Long before The Shallows showed audiences how something so simple could result in a dire situation, Open Water made audiences second guess their SCUBA plans.
When a couple goes on vacation and decides to pursue their passion of exploring underwater worlds, a simple miscalculation puts them in a terrifying scenario. When a boat's captain miscounts how many divers returned to his boat, he takes off, leaving the couple behind. Forced to tread water, the couple merely tries not to panic or give up hope while stuck in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by sharks.
Open Water claimed to be based on a true story, but based on the direction the film goes, it's tough to verify what the truth of the situation really was.
Regardless of how much truth the film contains, it captures the feeling of helplessness in a virtually alien world in which you are defenseless against strange creatures who have no problem taking a quick nibble to see if they want to finish the whole meal.
There's a reason why Jaws is considered the all-time best shark film, in addition to being one of the best films ever, of any genre. Spielberg's adaptation of Benchley's book made the director a household name, as this was the first of many blockbuster hits, and John Williams' score is intrinsically tied to the animals.
After the remains of a swimmer washes up on shore, Brody (Roy Schedier) contacts a shark specialist to investigate and attempts to close the beach. With the town's summer finances relying on the vacation spending, Brody allows the beaches to remain open, until another shark attack occurs. Brody joins shark specialist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) on the Orca, a boat piloted by Quint (Robert Shaw), with the trio aiming to end the shark threat once and for all.
Jaws' production is notorious for being disastrous, lasting almost six months instead of two. One of the biggest problems was the robotic shark not working, which leads to the behemoth barely earning any screentime. Luckily, the broken shark was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed Speilberg to focus on the real drama of the film, which is the relationships between the three men on the Orca.
Quint is a man of faith, in that he's spent his life hunting sharks and know there are elements of the animals' behavior that can't be documented in a textbook. Hooper, on the other hand, is a man of science, using facts to determine the best course of action in any given situation. Brody represents a man torn between faith and science, not knowing which decision to make.
Jaws might have inspired countless rip-offs, but there's only one movie like it, which is why it continues to be the best shark film of all time.
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