One of the most primal fears is the idea of being stalked and hunted by a wild animal. This concept becomes even more horrifying when the animal clearly has the advantage due to its ferocity, speed or natural habitat. It’s not very surprising then that when Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” came out on June 1975, countless people became too afraid to enter the water.
Shark movies like the ones inspired by the “Jaws” craze of the mid-70s have become a staple of horror movies. Unlike the sterile isolation of space horror movies, shark movies represent a more visceral type of fear: the fear of being eaten.
Of course, all of these movies, from the supposedly more grounded to the ludicrous Syfy shark movies like “Sharknado” present a very exaggerated picture. Sharks cause an astronomically small number of fatalities each year, only causing 10 deaths in 2020. But the reputation of sharks as remorseless killers still persist and provides regular entertainment.
If you want to feel the fear of the water and the thrill of becoming hunted, below are some of the best and scariest shark movies you can binge watch.
Curl up with some of these movies and be very glad you’re not in the water.
The Shallows (2016)
“The Shallows” follows the story of Nancy, an aspiring doctor and surfer played by the stunning Blake Lively. Nancy is struggling to deal with her mother’s recent death. While surfing by herself in an isolated beach in Mexico, Nancy is trapped away from shore by an enormous great white shark. Nancy is forced to use the shark’s natural environment against it in a desperate bid to return to shore and escape from its furious jaws.
Why See It:
One of the most terrifying aspects of shark movies is just how much regular people are at a disadvantage against them. They’re faster, stronger and infinitely more dangerous in the water than you can ever be. “The Shallows” takes this premise and turns it into a battle of wits as Nancy has to use every advantage she possesses to try to overcome her fishy adversary.
From using local wildlife to clambering up structures for safety, Nancy’s cleverness and determination make this one of the best shark movies on Netflix.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
In a remote subaquatic research station, a medical research company is attempting to cure Alzheimer’s by harvesting the brain enzymes of sharks. Unfortunately, lead scientist Dr. McCallister, played by Saffron Burrows, has been illegally tampering with the sharks, making them bigger, fiercer and smarter.
The premise seems more in line with a Syfy shark movie than a big studio flick, but it delivers. When an emergency damages the facility and begins sinking it, the survivors must now contend with both the dangers of the sea and the freakishly intelligent sharks they’ve created. The movie features stellar performances from Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J and Thomas Jane.
Why See It:
Although this movie is not hard science fiction, its premise is extremely unnerving. The one advantage people have over sharks in even the worst times in shark movies is that they are animals. But what happens when they’re not? What happens when the sharks are coordinated, logical and out for revenge?
“Deep Blue Sea” packages this intriguing premise and presents it with enough shocking plot twists and genuinely terrifying moments, all without trying to take itself too seriously. It is about smart sharks, after all.
The Reef (2010)
Continuing a pattern he established with “Black Water,” Australian director Andrew Traucki’s “The Reef” follows a group of five friends who decide to tag along with one of them as he delivers a yacht from Australia to Indonesia. Things go disastrously wrong when the yacht strikes a submerged reef, overturning it and shredding the keel. The group of friends must know risk swimming through the open sea to get to an island. Along the way, they discover that they are now being stalked and hunted by a great white shark.
Why See It:
Many new shark movies tend to focus on how helpless people are in the water and “The Reef” headed off this trend by a mile. The protagonists are utterly helpless in the face of their fishy stalker, with no way of knowing when the creature is going to strike next and with nothing to fight it off. Unlike in other movies, the despair is thick in this movie as the group has no recourse but to try to reach the safety of land before they all become shark chow.
47 Meters Down (2017)
To get over a recent break up, sisters played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt go on a shark diving tour in Mexico. The girls climb into an enormous shark cage to view the deadly predators up close. Disaster strikes when the metal cable connecting the cage to the boat snaps and drops the sisters 47 meters down. The girls are now trapped at the bottom of the sea with dwindling air and surrounded by ferocious great white sharks attracted to the area by the tour.
Why See It:
What could be worse than floating on the sea with a shark? Why, getting trapped in the bottom of the sea with several sharks! Despite the seemingly simplistic premise, “47 Meters Down” is actually one of the best shark movies on Netflix.
The film firmly delivers the thrills and keeps the tension high throughout its entire runtime. The two sisters have to endanger themselves to try to survive, all while desperately trying to anticipate where the next shark attack will come from.
Bait 3D (2012)
Most shark movies occur out in the open ocean, where the sharks have the advantage. But what happens when the sharks invade human spaces?
In this movie, a supermarket shop boy played by Xavier Samuels, has to face natural disaster and the threat of being devoured when a tsunami trashes his coastal community. The massive wave not only floods the supermarket he works in, but it also washes in two very angry and very hungry sharks. Now the survivors of the disaster have to carefully maneuver their way around the flooded store and avoid the deadly marine predators lurking between the aisles.
Why See It:
Bait 3D did for sharks what the 2019 movie “Crawl” did for alligators. It heightens the wrongness and fear of a shark movie by putting these deadly creatures even closer to human habitation. This is like imagining a tiger stalking you inside your own house.
The tense situation inside the flooded supermarket is also ratcheted up even more by the inclusion of two would-be robbers, adding a human threat to the proceedings. If you want a slightly claustrophobic shark movie that has tinges of disaster horror, this movie is for you.
Shark Night (2011)
What’s worse than having to deal with one shark? Dealing with dozens of different species! And what’s worse than that? Dealing with serial killers who are using said sharks as murder weapon. “Shark Night” not have the finesse of new shark movies, but it does have plenty of gore and a unique premise.
A gang of college students are hanging out in a brackish lake when serial killers, obsessed with recreating the popularity of “Shark Week,” start feeding them to a coterie of sharks just to be recorded. With such a B-movie premise to work with, the film doesn’t let up with the violence or the thrills as multiple college students end up becoming food for an increasingly bizarre number of sharks.
Why See It:
Sometimes you don’t want the nuanced characters of “Jaws” or the tense thrill of movies like “47 Meters Down”. Sometimes you just want to put on the goriest and most simplistic shark movie you can find and enjoy the show. “Shark Night” is just that sort of movie.
Shark movies are great for entertainment, but whenever you watch them, you have to understand that they are far from the truth. People have done irreparable damage to the shark population, some of which was fueled from fear and hatred caused by such films. So the next time you’re browsing for a shark movie on Netflix, remember to think critically even as you enjoy the show.