2. The Shallows (2016)
Blake Lively stars in this tense thriller about a woman just trying to get away from it all. Nancy is surfing off the stunning Mexican coast when she crosses a feeding ground and is bitten by a shark. So far, so grounded in reality. Her blood scents the water and she’s trapped with only her wits and an injured sea bird to keep her company.
There are moments of genuine terror and the jump scares are real. The landscape is beautiful, offering a harsh juxtaposition to the nightmare happening just below the surface.
Besides the strange Disney-esque decision to include an animal sidekick – maybe they couldn’t find a dog to shoehorn into proceedings? – and the absurd ending, The Shallows is a good shark film. A quiet burn of a horror, bordering on a good film full stop.
1. Jaws (1975)
Unsurprisingly, the top spot is reserved for Jaws (1975). It is the only film on this list that is known as a film rather than simply a shark film. And that’s fair, the credits alone are better than 90% of other shark movies.
Captain Brody (Roy Scheider) is the land-loving chief of police in charge of finding the maneater that is patrolling Amity Island during peak summer season. Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), renowned ichthyologist, and Quint (Robert Shaw), a traumatised local fisherman, are both on hand to help him on his mission.
Jaws has aged well and remains the yard stick against which all other sharksploitation films will be measured. As Sharksploitation (2023) suggests, it isn’t actually sharks that are being exploited in shark films, it is Jaws itself.
John Williams’ jaunty score is world-famous, and Spielberg’s stylistic choices have left ripples throughout the filmmaking world. It is a film about friendship, hubris and controlling the uncontrollable, and it’s absolutely timeless.
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With decades of films about sharks and films about Jaws out there in the world, would you choose something different in your top spot? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Facebook and Twitter for more insightful movie lists.