We’re living in a momentous time. Not only has Shark Week on TV become a celebrated annual occurrence (with even Guy Fieri participating this year), but Jason Statham — who punches lots of things in a lot of movies — is about to unleash his fury in The Meg, so named for the megalodon shark who stalks the film’s characters. Now, Statham may or may not actually punch the shark who threatens humanity, and some people will be awfully disappointed if he doesn’t, but regardless, it’s safe to say that the film should be entertaining enough to give the “best” shark films a run for their cult-favorite money.
That is to say, as charismatic as the lead actor may be, The Meg isn’t (as is the case with nearly 100% of shark movies) a prestige film. Yet much in the way that folks lined up to watch The Rock fight a crocodile, people will do the same for Statham antagonizing “the largest shark that ever lived.” And The Meg shall now compete against a dubious cinematic tradition spanning decades, at least all the way back to 1969’s Shark!. In this spirit, we present a very serious ranking of the most enjoyable shark attack films in existence.
10. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
To warm up this list, here’s a straight-up shark-eats-people movie that aimed straight for a mix of science-fiction and horror. The film wasn’t lauded by critics and only achieved moderate financial success. However, Deep Blue Sea contained one truly amazing scene that featured Michael Rapaport freaking out about how to escape an underwater facility where genetically engineered sharks are rampaging. Sam Jackson’s character, naturally, then delivers a furious lecture, a battle cry of sorts against the sharks. Unfortunately for him, however, and before Jackson can take this movie higher up the list by saying his favorite word, a shark rudely interrupts his speech.
Yes, that one scene pretty much landed this movie on this list.
9. Soul Surfer (2011)
On a much more serious note, Soul Surfer does provide a necessary dose of inspiration for this list. Although this film doesn’t contain the usual shark movie tropes — not even close — the film follows the story real-life teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), who survives a horrific attack that costs her one arm. The film, which is entirely earnest in its execution, could melt the hardest of hearts and show that few dealings of adversity are worth losing one’s hope. Yes, it’s a preachy film and, at times, difficult to witness, but Bethany’s refusal to give up on her dreams (and talent) do make for a valuable watch.
8. Jaws 2 (1978)
Steven Spielberg wasn’t on board for this sequel to the 1975 box-office juggernaut that made everyone afraid to go into the water. However, holdover (and link to the past) Roy Scheider returns as police Chief Brody, who must protect his community after another enormous shark descends upon the beaches of Amity. While there was no way to match the original’s allure, director Jeannot Szwarc delivered a follow-up that, although very redundant, delivered a solid night at the movies for audiences who were chomping at the bit for more.
7. The Reef (2010)
This truly terrifying horror-survival flick from down under takes viewers to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, where everything goes wrong for a group of friends who must brave shark-infested waters when their ship strikes an obstacle and can’t stay afloat. Shot beautifully, this armseat-gripper of a final product keeps up a relentless pace while one wonders whether it truly would have been preferable to drown rather than deal with a menacing great white shark. Incredibly, several lengthy chase scenes are contained within a film that runs less than 90 minutes, so audiences get what they came for, and The Reef promises no more or less than the terrifying ride it delivers.