12 Best Shark Movies of All Time, Ranked

Ever since Jaws set the standards for summer blockbusters back in 1975, shark movies have held a special place in the hearts of moviegoers, and for good reason: Whether they tell the story of rampaging...

Shark from The Reef: Stalked

Ever since Jaws set the standards for summer blockbusters back in 1975, shark movies have held a special place in the hearts of moviegoers, and for good reason: Whether they tell the story of rampaging killer sharks or document real-life explorers’ encounters, the movies are thrilling, suspenseful, and frequently utterly terrifying.

12. Jaws 2 (1978)

Man on a surfboard about to be eaten by a shark in Jaws 2

Tomatometer: 62%

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc, this 1978 classic continues the story of Jaws' Amity Island, where a new great white shark appears and terrorizes the beachgoers. The plot follows the town's police chief, Martin Brody, played by Roy Scheider, as he tries to protect his family and the community from the gruesome attacks.

While most shark movies have come and gone, Jaws 2 remains a staple in the genre, thanks to its thrilling plot, solid acting, and expert direction. It doesn't top everyone's list of the best shark movies, but it certainly deserves its place among the top contenders.

11. The Reef: Stalked (2022)

Three girls on a boat in The Reef: Stalked

Tomatometer: 67%

The Reef: Stalked (2022) is the most recent arrival on our list. Directed by Andrew Traucki, the follow-up to Traucki's 2010 film The Reef tells the story of five friends who set sail on a holiday trip, only to face a life-threatening situation when their motorboat capsizes. With no help in sight, they must swim to a nearby reef. Small problem: The waters are infested with great white sharks.

Stalked by relentless predators, the group must fight for their survival. The movie's visceral portrayal of the ocean's unforgiving nature coupled with exceptional performances by the actors and Traucki's directorial prowess make The Reef: Stalked a must-watch for any horror or shark movie enthusiast.

10. Open Water (2003)

Diver from Open Water

Tomatometer: 72%

Open Water (2003) takes place in the middle of the ocean where a couple is left behind during a diving excursion. As they begin to realize the gravity of the situation, they come face to face with the ultimate predator of the sea: sharks. Director Chris Kentis creates an immersive, terrifying experience by using real sharks and a handheld camera to showcase the panic one feels when stranded in the middle of the blue abyss.

The movie may not be the most action-packed shark movie, but it's a quality thriller that earns a spot on the list for its unique perspective on the genre. Actors Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis give authentic, spontaneous performances that highlight the fear and despair they feel throughout the movie.

9. Sharknado (2013)

Man with a severed leg in Sharknado

Tomatometer: 74%

Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, Sharknado follows a group of characters who find themselves up against a terrifying storm that brings a swarm of deadly airborne sharks. Chainsaws, bombs - you name it: The characters must use every tool at their disposal to fight off the vicious beasts.

With stars like Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, it's hard not to love the campy charm of Sharknado. It may not be taken seriously as a cinematic masterpiece, but it's hard to deny that it and its sequels are some of the most entertaining shark films of all time.

8. Sharks (2004)

Tomatometer: 75%

Director Jean-Jaques Mantello follows oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau on his underwater encounters with sharks and other underwater creatures. Created by people who are clearly passionate about their subject, Sharks reminds us that for all their fearsome reputation, not all sharks are enormous predators who are constantly on the hunt.

7. The Reef (2010)

People underwater in The Reef

Tomatometer: 80%

Director Andrew Traucki's 2010 film follows a group of friends who set sail for Indonesia but become stranded when their boat capsizes... an event which does not escape the attention of a great white shark. Stuck in the vast ocean with the shark circling, can the group survive a perilous swim to a nearby island?

Rather than employ special effects to depict the predator, Traucki uses actual footage of sharks - an effective technique that brings the simple plot to terrifying life. Add in tense performances from Damian Walshe-Howling and Zoe Naylor, and you have a must-watch thriller.

6. Sharkwater Extinction (2018)

Man swimming with sharks in Sharkwater Extinction

Tomatometer: 100%

A follow-up to 2006's Sharkwater (see below), Rob Stewart's Sharkwater Extinction is a documentary film that delves into the illegal shark fin industry. This movie exposes the harsh truth of Shark Finning, a cruel and destructive practice where sharks are hunted and killed for their valuable fins, leaving them to die in the oceans, which then creates an imbalance in the ecosystems.

The movie follows Rob Stewart around the world as he tries to illuminate this illegal multi-billion dollar industry and its devastating effects on our planet's ecosystems. By bringing awareness of the environmental impact of human greed, Stewart's final documentary makes waves.

5. The Shallows (2016)

Blake Lively surfing in The Shallows

Tomatometer: 78%

This survival thriller, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, follows stranded surfer Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) as she faces off against a circling great white shark. The film earns praise for its tense plot, breathtaking cinematography, and Lively's strong performance.

The Shallows' focus on one character's fight for survival against a seemingly unstoppable predator is a testament to the effectiveness of minimalist storytelling. With stunning visuals and a killer score, The Shallows is a must-watch for any fan of the genre.

4. Sharkwater (2006)


Tomatometer: 79%

Amongst a plethora of shark films, Sharkwater (2006) stands out as a true masterpiece. Directed by the late Rob Stewart, Sharkwater follows the journey of the filmmaker as he sets out to expose the brutal, ruthless shark fishing industry. Through stunning underwater cinematography, Sharkwater takes us on a harrowing, emotional journey into the heart of the ocean, showcasing the beauty and grace of these majestic creatures while also highlighting the devastating impact humans have on shark populations.

With passionate performances from Stewart and his team, Sharkwater serves as a reminder of the fragility of our ecosystem and as a call to action to do better by the creatures we share this planet with. It rightfully earns a spot on the list of the best shark films of all time for its message and its breathtaking artistry.

3. Kon-Tiki (2012)

People on a boat above a shark in Kon-Tiki

Tomatometer: 81%

Adventure drama Kon-Tiki depicts the incredible true story of explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his journey across the Pacific Ocean on a balsawood raft built from an ancient design. Sharks are supporting players in this one, but the unforgettable scene in which the raft is attacked by a group of sharks earns it a spot on this list.

Kon-Tiki, directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, features a talented cast that includes Pål Sverre Hagen as Heyerdahl, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, and Tobias Santelmann. The film's gripping story and stunning cinematography offer a captivating look at one man's determination and the power of the human spirit. A must-watch for adventure lovers everywhere.

2. Playing With Sharks (2021)

Woman getting bitten by a shark in Playing With Sharks

Tomatometer: 96%

Playing With Sharks is a thrilling documentary that explores the life of photographer, shark expert, and conservationist Valerie Taylor. Directed by Sally Aitken, the film tells the story of Taylor's journey from spearfishing champion to a fierce advocate for sharks. Taylor has a special interest in dispelling the myths about sharks perpetuated in so many horror movies. With stunning underwater footage and Taylor's own personal accounts, Playing With Sharks offers a new perspective on misunderstood creatures and makes an impassioned case for the necessity of preserving their habitats.

Playing With Sharks earns a spot on this list thanks to its heartfelt message and impressive production values. The film is both informative and entertaining, making it accessible to anyone looking to learn more.

1. Jaws (1975)

Roy Scheider in Jaws

Tomatometer: 97%

The legendary Jaws (1975) tops our shark movie rankings. Steven Spielberg's first blockbuster tells the story of a giant shark that terrorizes a small New England beach town. It's up to three men - police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and local fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) - to track down and kill the shark before it can claim any more lives.

Jaws set the bar for every shark movie that has followed. Spielberg keeps the tension high throughout with help from John Williams' haunting score. And, of course, the visuals are iconic. Jaws is simply a masterpiece, well worth a watch (or re-watch) for every shark movie aficionado.

Honorable Mentions

Characters from Shark Tale looking at a plate

The above movies are all classics, but we want to highlight a few entertaining titles that you might have overlooked.

  • Shark Tale (2004): Possibly the only animated shark comedy/mob movie mashup out there, it's wildly entertaining and a heck of a lot of fun for the whole family.

  • Ghost Shark (2013): What's scarier than a vengeful ghost? A vengeful ghost shark that can appear in any body of water.

  • 47 Meters Down (2017) and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019): Don't you hate it when your vacation plans go awry and you find yourself trapped underwater with lots of sharks and little oxygen? Yeah, us too.

  • The Meg (2018): Diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) attempts to save the crew of a deep-sea submersible from a giant prehistoric shark. Watch it right before you go see Meg 2 in theaters for a split-location double feature!

  • Deep Blue Sea (1999): Scientists in a remote research facility genetically engineer super-smart sharks. When the sharks decide to fight back, they drag the crew on a deep dive into the jaws of chaos. As it turns out, tampering with nature can have deadly consequences.

Final Thoughts

Woman about to get eaten by a shark in Shark Bait

Whether you’re a devoted cinephile or an avid shark fan, the movies listed here will provide you with your necessary dose of big-screen underwater action. Movies like Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, and Sharkwater Extinction show us the variety of ways in which these underwater predators can make for gripping stories. And don't forget about Sharknado and its sequels - they serve up plenty of entertainment too!

Enjoy your journey through shark movies! Before you dive in, make sure to get tickets to experience Meg 2: The Trench in theaters.