Shark Movies List - Best, Worst & Scariest Shark Movies

Shark Movies List - Best, Worst & Scariest Shark Movies

I love sharks. Nearly everyone that knows me will tell you that.

I’m a big supporter of organisations like Sea Shepherd, Stop Shark Finning, The Shark Trust, and other organisations that want to put an end to shark finning, over fishing and generally want to change the way the world looks at sharks.

Misconceptions about sharks need to be challenged and the film industry is partially to blame for their reputation.

However if, like me, you also enjoy a good shark horror film now and again here’s a list of acceptable films based on scientific accuracy, fear factor and special effects.

The key to enjoying all shark films is to treat them as the fantasy they are.

That being said, I can only take so much. You’ll only find half decent attempts at shark films in this list - no Sharknados or Mega Sharks here.


Directed by Spielberg, Jaws is probably one of the most famous shark films of all time. A giant Great White shark chooses a small island town as its feeding ground, and it's up to police Chief Brody to stop it.

Scientific Accuracy: **

2 stars

Jaws only gets two stars for accuracy I’m afraid. Let’s break down the main places it loses points.

The shark’s size: The biggest sharks to be reliably measured or photographed are in the 20-21 foot region. The shark in Jaws was claimed to be at least 25 feet.

The shark’s appetite: Sharks don’t need to feed that often, especially after a big meal. In fact they probably only have to eat something the size of a small seal every two or three days.

They also don’t hunt prey for vengeance or amusement - so it doesn’t make sense it would keep attacking people in a short space of time.

The shark continues to prey on and eat humans: When a Great White attacks a human it is a case of mistaken identity. In most cases the shark will let go and swim off.

Unfortunately for some victims,the first bite can be catastrophic, which is where fatalities can occur. Great Whites would much prefer to feed on fat-rich seals. For the shark to continually attack the people of amity, it must have been really stupid, however this is highly unlikely given its lived long enough to get to 25ft.

Quint’s USS Indianapolis speech: Whilst it is a great moment in the film, it’s not entirely true. Most of the sailors died from exposure or drinking sea water. However to be fair, some of the bodies were scavenged by Oceanic White Tip sharks, and it’s possible some sailors that were still alive got attacked. Quint also gets some of the key dates and numbers wrong.

Rogue Shark Theory: Hooper suggests that the shark is a ‘Rogue’, referring to a theory by Australian scientist Dr Victor Coppleson in the 1930s. Coppleson used the term in reference to the 1916 New Jersey shark attacks. To be fair to the film, in 1975 this was still a valid shark theory. However it has since been de-bunked.

Where it does get points though:

The location: Amity Island is a fictional place in New England. Great Whites do frequent the East Coast of the US, although attacks are extremely rare.

Brody mentions that we still have so much to learn about sharks and shark behaviour: Whilst we have made great strides in shark research since 1975 (the year Jaws came out), we still have a lot to learn.

Fear Factor: ****


John Williams score alone is enough to send shivers down your spine.

Spielberg expertly exploits our fear of what we can’t see. In a stroke of genius (and partly because the shark model didn’t work straight away), he doesn’t actually show the shark until late in the film. We just get glimpses and suggestions to build up the tension.

As mentioned above, the music adds to the drama. In a sneaky move by the director, just as you start associating the appearance of the shark with the iconic music, the shark bursts out of the water without it! Startling you out of your complacency.

Special Effects: **

Not too bad for its time, but its difficult to watch now without cringing. Jaws was filmed using a combination of model sharks and live footage. 

Jaws 2:

"Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water", another giant Great White comes along to terrorise the poor people of Amity.

Scientific Accuracy: *

Worse then Jaws itself, Jaws 2 does little to improve perceptions of sharks. 

In one particularly cringey moment, Brody suggests that the new shark might be acting out some kind of vengeance for the death of shark in the first film. And I don't even want to mention the helicopter scene :/ 

It does win one tiny point however by mentioning that sharks are attracted to noises resembling struggling fish.

Fear Factor: ***


Whilst not as scary as Jaws, there are some moments of suspense, especially when the main characters are adrift on their small sail boats. 

Special Effects: **

A similar model shark was used for the special effects, therefore it doesn't look particularly great. There's a really dodgy scene where the shark rams into the side of the boat and its jaws bend like rubber!

The Reef:

The Reef is about a group of friends who are enjoying a trip on the ocean. Things start to go wrong when their boat hits a reef and starts to sink. As if that's not bad enough, a shark starts to stalk them, picking them off one by one.

Scientific Accuracy: ***

The shark featured in The Reef is a Great White again (or White Pointer if you're Australian). Problem is, Great Whites don't live in the area of Australia the film is set. However kudos to the film for having a character point this out early on. 

The biggest area it loses points however, is the shark's behaviour. Like Jaws, it shows a single shark repeatedly predating on the cast.

It must have been one hungry shark. 

Fear Factor: ****

When the characters are on the surface of the water, desperately trying to figure out where the shark is, there are a lot of point of view shots which really immerse you in the scene.

There's just something really scary about treading water, knowing there could be something big lurking underneath you.

Like Jaws, it plays on you fear of things you can't see rather than things you can.

Special Effects: ****

There's not many noticeable or jarring special effects in The Reef, which gives it a high rating. 

It was shot using a combination of real shark footage and CGI. 

Shark Attack:

No where near as bad as it's sequels, cult classics 'Shark Attack 2' and 'Shark Attack 3', Shark Attack is actually a half decent shark film for its time. The plot centres around some over ambitious scientists who are trying to find a cure for cancer. They are experimenting on sharks because sharks supposedly don't get cancer. Naturally the sharks end up being hyper aggressive and attacking the local population.

Scientific Accuracy: ****

Whilst the scientists are a bit cheesy, and well.. mad, the plot is generally quite believable. There are a lot of politics and moral dilemmas going on besides the threat of the sharks. One of the most refreshing thing is that that there are multiple sharks instead of one crazy rogue shark that kills again and again. This creates a more believable scenario.

It is worth mentioning that sharks can indeed get cancer, although I'm not sure that was widely known when the film was released (1999).

Fear Factor: ***

Shark Attack is actually more of a thriller than a horror but there are some scary moments in it. The threat of multiple sharks is always present, especially when the main character goes swimming around in the dark. 

Special Effects: ***

Deep Blue Sea:

Deep Blue Sea is probably one of most well known modern shark films. It had a similar plot to Shark Attack (above), except the mad scientists were trying to cure Alzheimer's, not cancer - and they were conducting their research in the middle of the ocean. Interestingly they were both released in the same year, although Deep Blue Sea had a much larger budget and cinematic release. 

Scientific Accuracy: *

Oh dear, where do I start?

I suppose one of my biggest problems with the plot is that by enlarging the sharks' brains, the scientists somehow give them the ability to swim backwards!? Sharks don't avoid swimming backwards because they are stupid - they physically can't because of the way their fins and gills work.

Sharks just turn around when they need to go the other way - Not sure why the film makers thought that giving these 'super sharks' the ability to swim backwards would somehow make them more scary?

At one point one of the characters strokes the top of the shark as if it had smooth skin. Sharks have very rough skin and can often cause scrapes and bleeding.

Additional to the shark related factual errors, there are some other crazy things that happen such as the sharks being able to break through metal, but not a glass oven door, and Dr McAlester standing on her wet wet suit to avoid electrocution. 

Fear Factor: ***

If you are able to look past the gaping plot holes and questionable special effects, you might find yourself being scared. 

Special Effects: **

The sharks in this film are either CGI or models. The CGI doesn't hold up though, mostly because the the motions of the sharks aren't natural. The Samuel L Jackson scene still makes me laugh with it's badness. 

The Shallows:

The Shallows promised to be 'Jaws for a new generation'. The film centres around a woman who gets attacked whilst she surfs on a deserted beach. 

Scientific Accuracy: **

I had high hopes for The Shallows because its a modern shark film that takes itself seriously. You'd have thought after forty years we'd have made a more scientifically accurate shark film. Apparently not. 

Again, The Shallows shows one 'rogue' shark continually take out, or try to take out, anything that's in the water with them. What makes it even more laughable, in this film at least, is that the film makers make a point of showing a dead whale is responsible for drawing the shark to the area.

That's fair enough, but why then does the shark not just fill up on the whale? Why waste precious time and energy stalking a skinny human woman when there's a glorious, easy meal a few feet away?

There's some other weird scientific errors in there too. For example Blake Lively's character uses a swarm of jellyfish to avoid the shark. It's highly unlikely that sharks would be bothered by jellyfish - especially considering their tough skin I mentioned earlier.

Fear Factor: ***

The film is less scary and more like 'Cast Away' because you watch a character trying to survive on their own throughout the film. Whilst there are some tense moments, you never really feel the character is in that much danger. 

She's a bit of a Mary Sue, by which I mean she has all sorts of crazy skills to help her survive. For example as she's a medical student, she stitches up her own leg, Macgyver style. 

Dark Tide:

Dark Tide is about a dive instructor who runs a shark cage diving experience in South Africa. After a fatal accident, her business starts to fail and she resorts to letting a wealthy thrill seeker pay for the opportunity to swim with Great Whites outside of the cage. Obviously it all goes horribly wrong.

Scientific Accuracy: ****

Dark Tide is definitely one of the most scientifically accurate shark movies. Instead of one crazy shark on a killing spree, or a load of mutant sharks that have been altered by mad scientists, Dark Tide deals with sharks as realistically as possible.

The film makes a point of showing that on the whole, Great Whites can be quite harmless, you can even swim outside the cage with them - as long as you recognise the signs of aggression and respect their boundaries. 

The danger comes when the lead character doesn't respect those boundaries and gets a bit reckless in the attempt to save her business. 

Fear Factor: **

It's a thriller, but its more of a character driven drama than a horror. I think that's why it wasn't well received because people thought it would be something else.

That being said, there's a moment where the boat capsizes in a storm just as they've chummed the water to get a load of big sharks closer to the boat... that's pretty dramatic!

Special Effects: *****

Dark Tide uses real shark footage or the most part, which is fantastic. When CGI is used it is hardly noticeable and doesn't distract from the action.

So there's my list. Do you agree? Disagree?

Leave a comment below. 

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