When the film premiered in 1975, it not only encouraged a fear of sharks, it also created the idea of “summer blockbuster.” Now, thanks to Steven Spielberg’s film, movie studios believe they need a monster hit to take a bite out of the season’s box office.
Without “Jaws,” we probably wouldn’t have today’s string of superhero films – or even something as fun as “Jurassic Park,” another Spielberg creation.
The “Jaws” phenomenon, however, continues on more than four decades later. Dozens of films (more than 70 by recent count) have dealt with sharks attacking humans.
According to “Sharks Under Attack,” an upcoming Nat Geo Wild special, you’re more likely to die taking selfies than from a shark attack. The documentary says sharks are not looking to kill humans. “They’re mindless eating machines – the garbage cans of the ocean.”
And, yes, they do serve a purpose. They’re essential to maintaining the ocean’s balance. Films like “Jaws,” however, have prompted a “storm the oceans” mentality that could make them targets. In “Shark vs. Predator,” filmmakers say there are plenty of undersea creatures willing to take them on.
So what films do you need to see to get your chill on? We’ve made a list.
1. “Jaws” – You must see the granddaddy of them all, even though it’s slow compared to later releases. A resort town’s officials hide the fact they’re being threatened by sharks, prompting experts to go after the great white. One of the best lines in film history -- “We’re going to need a bigger boat” --comes from this film.
2. “Open Water” – Based on a true story, a couple goes deep-sea diving in the Caribbean. They’re left in the middle of the ocean and struggle to survive. There’s a real “Blair Witch Project” tone to this film. Utterly believable…and sad. Perhaps the most chilling of all shark films.
3. “Deep Blue Sea” – Scientists toy with the DNA of sharks and wind up battling big killers. It fosters the idea that sharks are just waiting to eat humans. Samuel L. Jackson is among those on the menu.
4. “The Shallows” – While you could pick apart its logic, this look at a woman vs. shark gives Blake Lively plenty to do. It’s filled with so many “oh no” moments, you’ll be grabbing for the popcorn before day turns to night. But, really, who goes swimming without anyone nearby to yell to if something goes wrong?
5. “Sharknado!” – This TV movie spoofed the genre so nicely it snuck up on television viewers and provided a great diversion from, well, all the shark movies. Even though subsequent editions weren’t all that good (there’s another one coming), the original managed to entertain in ways we didn’t think possible.
6. “Great White” – No, this isn’t a look at the rock band, but a glimpse at another coastal town threatened by a shark. The film had so many similarities to “Jaws,” Universal Pictures sued and a federal judge ruled in Universal’s favor. It was pulled from theaters. Now, you MAY be able to find it for sale online. Star James Franciscus should have known better. (In some places, it’s also called “The Last Shark.”)
7. “Shark Tale” -- If you combined animation with a Scorsese-like plot, you’d get this, a harmless look at fish and other creatures learning to get along. Will Smith stars as Oscar, a bluestreak cleaner wrasse; Robert De Niro provides the voice of the head great white. Oddly, there was never a second tale.
8. “47 Meters Down” – The latest shark film to hit theaters shows what happens when two women are trapped in a cage, surrounded by sharks. Claire Holt and Mandy Moore star. “This is Us”? Nope, we wouldn’t get in the cage in the first place.
9. “The Reef” – A group of friends find themselves swimming for their lives after a yacht they’re on capsizes. Sure enough, a shark is stalking them. A 2010 Australian film, “Reef” is best known for real shark footage but it didn’t get too far from the straight-to-DVD market.
10. “Blue Water, White Death” – A documentary, released in 1971, could have gotten the juices flowing for a sharksplosion. It featured a team of photographers looking to find and film a great white.