Films like Jaws and other popular thriller and horror movies rely on fear of the unknown – namely, the unknown size and temperament of the shark attached to the fin that keeps cutting through impossibly deep, dark water any time the soundtrack transitions into a minor key.
These movies make up the majority of Rotten Tomatoes’ top ten shark movies. But, for those that love the horror and thrill, remember that sharks aren’t the monsters they are made out to be in these movies.
With a Rotten Tomato score of 72%, Open Water is a thriller centered around a couple who become stranded and terrorized by sharks. Though the movie relies on people’s fear of being near the animals, the actors worked with real sharks to film the movie, undercutting the supposed danger factor. Watch the trailer on Showtimes.
The infamous original Sharknado scored slightly higher with 74%. As the name implies, the main plot heavily hinges on the use of computer-generated (CG) sharks being lifted out of the ocean by tornadoes, and flung onto unsuspecting civilians. Not surprisingly, none of its sequels made it into the top ten. Watch the trailer on Showtimes.
In eighth place is our first non-horror movie of the top ten list. With a score of 75%, Sharks 3D follows the underwater exploration of an oceanographer who dives with three species of beautiful (and notably not CG or man-eating) sharks. Read the synopsis on Showtimes.
Increasing the Tomatometer score to 80% but backsliding into sharksploitation, the seventh movie is The Reef. Once again relying on moviegoers’ fear of what may be lurking in the dark by hardly showing the shark at all, this thriller follows a group of friends who capsize and are stalked by a shark as they swim to a nearby island. Read the synopsis on Showtimes.
Coming in at number six, Sharkwater: Extinction has the highest critic score of 100%. Critic Victor Stiff says it “has a globe-trotting secret agent vibe; James Bond reimagined as mellow Canadian. When it comes to documentary footage, real life rarely looks so thrilling.” Watch the trailer at Sharkwater.com.
In the dead center of the top ten comes The Shallows, the second-most popular thriller on the list, again featuring a character stranded and stalked by a huge shark. Watch the trailer on Showtimes.
Less a film about sharks and more a film with sharks, Kon-Tiki is an adventure film based on a true story that scores 81% and comes in third on the list. Watch the trailer on Showtimes.
In second place is our final documentary, also advocating against sensationalized shark characterization. Playing with Sharks centers on “pioneering scuba diver Valerie Taylor, who has dedicated her life to exposing the myth surrounding our fear of sharks.” Watch the trailer on Showtimes.
Predictably topping the list is Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, possibly the most famous and universally-recognized shark movie in the world. The quotable mystery thriller kick started the sharksploitation subgenre and became the very first blockbuster hit ever. Spielberg would later express his regret that the “portrayal of great white sharks in his 1975 film Jaws contributed to a sharp decline in the animals’ population.” Watch the trailer on Showtimes.
When it comes to sharks there are two polarizing sides of the media we can consume. One side is a fear-mongering attempt to create shock value in the shadowy depths with the always half-hidden, larger-than-life idea of a shark who randomly, or sometimes vengefully, attacks the most likeable character. On the other side of our fascination with these ancient apex predators are films and media that cast a bright light on our fear of the dark, bringing sharks out of the murky deep and into people’s hearts and open arms.
If you want to celebrate sharks and filmmaking, watch Rob’s three documentaries that expose the real nature of sharks (and humans) at sharkwater.com and help us bump them up the Tomatometer by rating them on Rotten Tomatoes! ~Selina Barker