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10 Jaws-itively Perfect Movies for Shark Week

Dive Into the Best Shark Films and Documentaries This Summer!


Shark Week is one of my favorite summertime traditions! I know other networks and organizations like National Geographic have started their own version, but Discovery's O.G. Shark Week will always be my favorite. Since 1988, Discovery has broadcast this week-long T.V. programming block all about sharks. Originally devoted to conservation efforts and correcting misconceptions about sharks—thanks, Jaws—Shark Week has become a phenomenon of its own. Broadcast in over 72 countries, Shark Week is the longest-running cable television programming event in history.


In honor of Shark Week, I've rounded up 10 must-watch movies celebrating these apex predators. Whether you're looking for stunning documentaries or campy B-grade gorefests, I've got you covered! Shark Week 2024 kicks off on Sunday, July 7th, and wraps up on Saturday, July 13th—prepare for a week of sharky goodness.


Are you a Shark Week fan? Let me know what programming you're excited about this year in the comments!


 

The Sharkfighters (1956)

Navy pilot Ben Staves arrives at a research facility on a small Caribbean island to help develop a shark repellent for use by sailors and downed airmen. Partnered with scientists Leonard Evans and Harold Duncan, Staves provides valuable information about his own time stranded in the ocean. But his impatient desire to finish the project quickly conflicts with the researchers' methodical precision, with potentially deadly results.


Director: Jerry Hopper

Screenwriters: Jonathan Robinson & Lawrence Roman

Starring: Victor Mature, Karen Steele, James Olson, Philip Coolidge, Claude Akins, Rafael Campos & George Neise

Where to Watch: Prime Video | Paramount +


Why Watch: Widely considered Hollywood's first true shark-centric film, The Sharkfighters is partially based on the tragic sinking of the USS Indianapolis during WWII and the U.S. Navy's subsequent work to develop shark repellant. While this film offers a sensationalized version of the worst shark attack in history and its fallout, director Jerry Hopper was the first major filmmaker to use actual underwater footage of sharks—in this case, tiger sharks—instead of the customary "rubber shark" footage used in Hollywood at the time.


Additional Viewing: Sharks and the Little Fish (1957) | Shark! (1969) | Sharks' Treasure (1975)


Did You Know? The film's narrator, Charles Collingwood, was a well-known CBS News correspondent from the early days of World War II until the 1970s. He had many important assignments, including following Edward R. Murrow as the host of Person to Person (1953), accompanying Jacqueline Kennedy on the first televised tour of the White House, and co-anchoring CBS's coverage after President Kennedy was assassinated. He received two Peabody Awards, was honored as a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honour, and was made an Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1975.




Jaws (1975)

When a shark kills a young woman while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island, police chief Martin Brody wants to close the beaches, but mayor Larry Vaughn overrules him, fearing that the loss of tourist revenue will cripple the town. Ichthyologist Matt Hooper and grizzled ship captain Quint offer to help Brody capture the killer beast, and the trio engages in an epic battle of man vs. nature.


Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenwriters: Peter Benchley & Carl Gottlieb

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary & Murray Hamilton

Where to Watch: Amazon 


Why Watch: Would a list of shark movies really be complete without Jaws? Credited with sparking the shark-themed creature feature subgenre, Jaws was undeniably groundbreaking. While its many disappointing sequels and spinoffs belong in a chum bucket, Spielberg's original Jaws is a thrilling creature feature and an absolute classic. In fact, it's one of the few films of this genre to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, earning three Academy Awards and a nomination for Best Picture. While Bruce the Shark may seem outdated to a 21st-century audience accustomed to CGI sharks in recent films like The Shallows (2016), 47 Meters Down (2017), and The Meg (2018), Jaws is a can't-miss movie on this list.


Additional Viewing: Killer Shark (1950) | Jaws 2 (1978) | Jaws: The Revenge (1987)


Did You Know? Decades after Jaws' release, Lee Fierro visited a seafood restaurant and saw an "Alex Kintner Sandwich" on the menu. She mentioned that she had played Alex's mother many years ago. The restaurant owner, Jeffrey Voorhees, came out to meet her. It turned out he had played her son, and they hadn't seen each other since the original movie shoot.




Deep Blue Sea (1999)

On an island research facility, Dr. Susan McAlester is harvesting the brain tissue of DNA-altered sharks as a possible cure for Alzheimer's disease. When the facility's backers send an executive to investigate the experiments, a routine procedure goes awry, and a shark starts attacking the researchers. Now, with sharks outnumbering their human captors, McAlester and her team must figure out how to stop them from escaping to the ocean and breeding.


Director: Renny Harlin

Screenwriters: Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers & Wayne Powers

Starring: Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, Samuel L. Jackson, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgård & LL Cool J

Where to Watch: Prime Video | Hulu | YouTube


Like Jaws, Deep Blue Sea sparked a renewed interest in shark-focused creature features. Unfortunately, it also sparked a spike in awful replicas and sequels. Still, the original Deep Blue Sea is a good attempt at updating the shark-seeks-revenge premise. While the idea of genetically mutated super sharks is utterly bonkers, it does up the ante regarding thrills and dangers, especially in comparison to Jaws' Bruce, who is seen more like a mindless killing machine. Also, similar to Bruce, the early CGI is pretty cheesy but reasonably decent for 1999. Like most movies on this list, Deep Blue Sea is excellent for jump scares, gore, and rows and rows of teeth.


Additional Viewing: The Reef (2010) | Shark Night (2011) | Deep Blue Sea 2 (2018) |


Did You Know? The Gen 2 Mako is described as 45 feet long and 8,000 pounds. That would make it more than three times the length, four times heavier than the largest Mako shark ever recorded, and twice the size of the largest known Great White Shark.




Finding Nemo (2003)

Marlin, a clown fish, is overly cautious with his son, Nemo, who has a foreshortened fin. When Nemo swims too close to the surface to prove himself, he is caught by a diver, and horrified Marlin must set out to find him. A blue reef fish named Dory—who has a really short memory—joins Marlin and complicates the encounters with sharks, jellyfish, and a host of ocean dangers. Meanwhile, Nemo plots his escape from a dentist's fish tank.


Director: Andrew Stanton

Screenwriters: Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson & David Reynolds

Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush & Bill Hunter

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video | Disney+ | YouTube 


Why Watch: Finding Nemo is a heartwarming animated film that follows the journey of a young clownfish named Nemo. The movie features a charming cast of aquatic characters, including Bruce, Anchor, and Chum – three sharks with an unexpected and surprising vegetarian streak. This timeless classic is filled with adventures and life lessons that can be enjoyed by guppies of all ages. Its engaging storyline and stunning animation make it a perfect choice for a relaxing summer movie marathon with family and friends.


Additional Viewing: Shark Tale (2004) | Finding Dory (2016) | Baby Shark's Big Movie! (2023)


Did You Know? The great white shark's name in the movie was Bruce. "Bruce" was the nickname given to the models used for the shark in the original Jaws (1975), named after Steven Spielberg's lawyer, Bruce M. Ramer.




The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Renowned oceanographer Steve Zissou has sworn vengeance upon the rare shark that devoured a member of his crew. In addition to his regular team, he is joined on his boat by Ned, a man who believes Zissou to be his father, and Jane, a journalist pregnant by a married man. They travel the sea, all too often running into pirates and, perhaps more traumatically, various figures from Zissou's past, including his estranged wife, Eleanor.


Director: Wes Anderson

Screenwriters: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach

Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Angelica Houston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon & Bud Cort

Where to Watch: Prime Video | Hulu | YouTube


Why Watch: Considering how messy Jacques Cousteau's personal life was, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a fitting parody and homage to the pioneering explorer and filmmaker. And, while The Life Aquatic is more about the film's Steve Zissou and its flanking ensemble cast than actual sharks, it is an entertaining look at underwater filmmaking. The underwater scenes are charming, and the finale with the jaguar shark is poignantly beautiful. While some may think this film choice is entirely out of left field—especially considering the other films and documentaries on this list—if you're a fan of Wes Anderson, The Life Aquatic is more than worth the watch (or rewatch).


Additional Viewing: The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau: Sharks (1968) | Becoming Cousteau (2021)


Did You Know? The filmmaker recruited Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, to design the imaginative sea creatures, like the jaguar shark, using stop-motion animation. While it's common now for these film elements to be included later using visual effects, it was uncharted territory for Anderson and his team at the time.




Sharknado (2013)

Nature's deadliest killer takes to the skies in the ultimate gill-ty pleasure as a group of friends try to save the Santa Monica coast from shark-infested tornadoes.


Director: Anthony C. Ferrante

Screenwriter: Thunder Levin

Starring: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, John Heard, Cassie Scerbo, Jaason Simmons, Aubrey Peeples & Chuck Hittinger

Where to Watch: Prime Video | YouTube


Why Watch: Sharknado simply defies logic. It defies the laws of physics. It's so bad it's good. If you're looking for a cheesy movie to zone out to (or laugh your tailfin off), Sharknado is for you. And, with six films in the franchise, there's plenty of cheesy gore to go around; you'd be surprised by how far they go to top each installment. But be forewarned: With every viewing, you may lose a few brain cells.


Additional Viewing: Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus (2010) | 3-Headed Shark Attack (2015) | The Last Sharknado: It's About Time (2018)


Did You Know? At around 21 minutes into the film, the shark having its head blown off by having an oxygen tank shoved in its mouth and the tank exploding is a reference to Jaws (1975).




Shark Girl (2014)

For 19-year-old Madison Stewart, nothing feels safer or more natural than diving straight into waters teeming with sharks. Since childhood, growing up by the Great Barrier Reef, she's treated these predators as family. But they're disappearing fast, and because of their bad reputation, few people seem to care. Follow Madison on her mission to protect sharks, a battle that began when she put her studies on hold, grabbed a camera, and set out to save these incredible, misunderstood creatures.


Director & Screenwriter: Gisela Kaufmann

Featuring: Madison Stewart

Where to Watch: Prime Video


Why Watch: While Madison Stewart has continued to work in activism, shark conservation, and filmmaking—including a few Shark Week specials—Shark Girl was my first introduction to Stewart and her work. At 14 years old, Stewart dropped out of school in favor of homeschooling to devote her time to shark conservation and advocacy through filmmaking. This documentary footage shot in Australia, Mexico, Palau, and the Bahamas features Stewart free diving with tiger sharks, Caribbean reef sharks, and silky sharks. Shark Girl also does a great job explaining how sharks are a keystone species in our oceans. Protecting these apex predators ensures the overall health of our oceans, and finding alternatives to commercial shark fishing protects our ecosystems and communities. Shark Girl strikes the perfect balance between ecological documentary and human-interest story.


Additional Viewing: This Is Your Ocean: Sharks (2012) | Sharks: Monster Of The Media (2019) | Playing with Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story (2021)


Did You Know? Shark Girl recieved several awards and honors, including a Best of Festival - Finalist distinction at the 37th International Wildlife Film Festival, the longest-running film festival of its kind.




Of Shark and Man (2015)

A thirty-two-year-old man, trapped in a dead-end job in England's industrial north, with his life seemingly going nowhere, gambles everything to tell an inspiring untold story, a story which finds him in the middle of a feeding frenzy with sixty of the world's most dangerous sharks.


Director & Screenwriter: David Diley

Featuring: David Diley, Rusiate Balenagasau, Manasa Bulivou, Alfie Christofferson & Nanise Ledua

Where to Watch: Prime Video | YouTube


Why Watch: Of Shark and Man is as much of a human-interest feature as it is a shark documentary. Following David Diley's journey from England to Fiji's Shark Reef, the film focuses on returning bull sharks to the area, one of the greatest marine conservation successes in history, and Diley's quest to dive as close as possible to them. Now a National Marine Park in Fiji, the return of sharks to the reef has led to widespread marine preservation and economic success, with the local economy shifting away from overfishing to ecological tourism. Like Shark Girl, Of Shark and Man doesn't aim to shock viewers but does have a healthy respect for these massive and notoriously aggressive bull sharks.


Additional Viewing: Blue Water, White Death (1971) | Lost Sharks of Easter Island (2011) | Shark Men (2011)


Did You Know? When David Diley left his job and started development of the project, he didn't even own a camera and self taught himself the entire film-making process by watching films, reading articles and learning from online tutorials.




The Shallows (2016)

Still reeling from the loss of her mother, medical student Nancy Adams travels to a secluded beach for some much-needed solace. Despite the danger of surfing alone, Nancy decides to soak up the sun and hit the waves. Suddenly, a great white shark attacks, forcing her to swim to a giant rock for safety. Left injured and stranded 200 yards from shore, the frightened young woman must fight for her life as the deadly predator circles her in its feeding ground.


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Screenwriter: Anthony Jaswinski

Starring: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada & Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo

Where to Watch: Prime Video | Tubi | YouTube


Why Watch: Unlike other shark-themed films, The Shallows is a more psychologically suspenseful drama than your typical jump-scare gorefest. Injured, stranded, and growing increasingly desperate against the elements, Blake Lively's Nancy struggles to survive against a great white protecting its food source: A humpback whale carcass. Like most shark movies, the premise is highly improbable. Still, Lively's performance alone is worth a watch. Its excellent visual effects also make The Shallows one of the better shark movies in recent years.


Additional Viewing: Open Water (2003) | 47 Meters Down (2017) | 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)


Did You Know? Director Jaume Collet-Serra teamed up with the art department for the design of the shark. "I came to the conclusion that the shark had to be female. Females are slightly bigger and have great scars from mating. Visually they're scarier, as they are more protective." Creating the shark generally took thousands of hours of research, so the film crew watched every Shark Week episode to get the idea of creating the shark. Collet-Serra further added, "she's a female shark, we know exactly how much she weighs. Every scar that she has has a story behind it. It's really an incredible job of artistry and research."




The Meg (2018)

Previously thought to be extinct, a massive creature attacks a deep-sea submersible, leaving it disabled and trapping the crew at the bottom of the Pacific. With time running out, a visionary oceanographer recruits rescue diver Jonas Taylor to save the crew and the sea itself from an unimaginable threat—a 75-foot-long prehistoric shark known as the Megalodon.


Director: Jon Turteltaub

Screenwriters: Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber

Starring: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao & Cliff Curtis

Where to Watch: Prime Video | Hulu | YouTube


Why Watch: The Meg, one of the latest entry in the shark-crazed creature-feature frenzy, gives audiences what they've been looking for: An even bigger predator. Despite the Megalodon's extinction, that won't stop Warner Brothers from reviving this terrifying threat to Summer Breakers everywhere. Based on Steven Alten's book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror (1997), The Meg is the ultimate guilty pleasure: Jason Statham (in his action-packed element), improbable pseudoscience, an egotistical multimillionaire, and extra-hungry mammoth sharks. If you can't get enough of The Meg, don't worry, a potential third entry may be in development.


Additional Viewing: Megalodon (2018) | Great White (2021) | Meg 2: The Trench (2023)


Did You Know? In Steve Alten's novel, the megalodons are pure white, almost luminescent, from living in an environment with virtually no light. This coloring proved too difficult to render in CGI while still looking realistic, so the megalodons were given the same coloring as great white sharks - grey backs with pale bellies - even though this coloration would only make sense in an environment with light.



 

I hope you've enjoyed this list! If you have, share it with your friends and fellow shark enthusiasts. And don't forget to comment below with your favorite shark movie or documentary!

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