How to find the best shark movies since Jaws: Part 1

Kaitlin McNabb
7 min readNov 8, 2019
The Shark-o-Matrix: Now with scary lettering.

From the shockingly unwatchable to ridiculously good, the Sharkometer series dissects every shark movie according to the GOAT Jaws.

Check out the Sharkometer roundup part deux!

Hey, look at us! I started out just a wide-eyed kid loving Jaws, wanting to talk about shark movies and you all just wanted to read and/or promote your own shark movies, and together we have blossomed into grizzled adult-acne riddled recluses obsessed with finding metaphors and DIY hunky rubber shark suits. It’s been a wild ride, which means *whispers* it’s roundup time.

The best shark movies since Jaws are…I dunno. What I’m doing here is taking the best parts of Jaws and seeing how other movies stack up, originally dubbing it the Sharkometer. The sharkometer turned into the shark-o-matrix after a revelation during The Reefwhich, spoiler alert, I didn’t like (for a lot of reasons!), but that a lot of people really did like (for a lot of reasons!) — movies can have value even if I don’t personally like them. The Reef will never be my jam because I’m more of a rubber-shark-suit-LL-Cool-J-in-pleather-overalls kind of girl than a real-life-horror-oh-gawd-make-it-stop movie watcher. But, gasp!, it doesn’t mean some movies are bad, just perhaps not to our taste. Thus, the shark-o-matrix was born (or appropriated from Emily Nussbaum, thanks girl) to steer your watching or inspire it because no shark movie is gonna best the GOAT. Below is a recap of the seven (SEVEN!) movies dissected thus far in reverse order of how I watched them and what makes them special or terrible or both and also the much-alluded to shark-o-matrix below in all its ranking glory. But we’re just gonna get calling this series the Sharkometer for ease. Let’s do this!

The current Shark-o-Matrix: note: it’s hard to place photos on a grid

Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy

Sigh. This will always be the beefy rubber-suited shark man movie that got away. It could have been so good! But it wasn’t. I don’t recommend watching this one unless you like disappointment or want to be a shark movie completionist, both of which, I don’t recommend.

Best shark movie tangent: How to make a great SyFy movie

The Reef

This was fucking scary and also really exploitative. It’s very different from the much-compared Open Water whose only similarity is using real sharks. However, Open Water uses them more incidentally and directly with the actors, while The Reef uses real footage spliced in to look like the shark is directly interacting with the actors, which is not unlike other shark movies (Jaws, Sharknado) except it is the main focus, not additional footage, and executed very well. I recommend watching this movie if you like creepy found-footage style things and scaring the bejesus out of yourself, but remember, the (douchy-seeming) director is profiting off the painful event of real people and doesn’t seem to care or want to stop doing it.

Best shark movie tangent: The ethics of exploitation

47 Meters Down

The surprise gem of the shark season! Okay, so this one is the most “it’s not a shark movie!” of the It’s Not a Shark movie genre and more about the crippling fear and isolation of loneliness and running out of oxygen — but it’s still a shark movie. And it’s primarily shot underwater with two very dynamic performances from Mandy Moore and Claire Holt and has one of the most stunning CGI scenes I have ever seen in my life and yes it pains me a lot to say that. I 100% recommend watching this movie. It’s fun, scary, sad, frustrating, and exciting and worth it.

Best shark movie tangent: Final Girls vs. Dead Girls

The Shallows

A highly recommended pick from my gang of shark-loving ladies that stood up to the recommendation and broke the canon open in terms of serious, interesting shark movies for me. When I watched this movie, it stayed with me. It made me think of rape culture, death and loneliness, the power of silence, and the evolution of the Final Girl. It’s a movie rich in meaning and beautifully filmed and has pretty stellar performances by both Blake Lively and a CGI shark. I would definitely recommend watching this movie, preferably as a two-part movie marathon with 47 Meters Down dubbed “Bitches be Swimmin’.”

Best shark movie tangent: The evolution of the Final Girl and the power of silence

The Meg

If disappointment could be embodied in a movie, it would be The Meg. The hopes I had (they were high!) all came crashing down when this hodgepodge of a movie half-assed its way on-screen. It’s the classic case of trying to do everything and instead doing nothing and forgetting to reread the screenplay. This movie is boring and lackluster, which is a difficult look to pull off in a movie with Jason Statham and a giant fucking shark, but alas. Would I recommend watching this? Actually yeah. This movie made $1 billion and is already greenlit for a million sequels and you should watch it so you know how truly bad it and soulless capitalism are. May we all become community-minded socialists because of The Meg and stop franchising bad movies from horrible existing IP in the process.

Best shark movie tangent: The long-complicated production of The Meg.


First off, I don’t like this movie. Yes, it’s sort of better than Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, but not by much. It still doesn’t abide by all the principles of a Great SyFY Movie as outlined by SyFy and people still falsely claim it as a hilariously great campy B movie, to which it is none of those things. But, I did come to love it for its meaningful impact within the twitter community and as a catalyst for exploring the canon of campiness and kitsch. Should you watch it? I mean, sure. If it’s a rainy day, and you’ve got nothing to do, and you’re not opposed to failing asleep through sections of it, and you’re okay with horrible CGI and weird ocean footage of sharks, and don’t mind overly forced Jaws homages, and are just curious, then sure. Tweet about it tho.

Best shark movie tangent: The limits of misogyny and camp

Deep Blue Sea

If you’re new here, perhaps you haven’t heard that this movie is the shit. It has been maligned as a guilty pleasure and wrongfully accused as a fun romp, but know that it is a serious shark movie thriller conceived by the great Renny “Action Movie” Harlin that truly embodies pure camp. It has one of the most iconic death scenes in film history. The scariest fucking shark animatronics ever built. And a goddam plot line and rap song for the ages. If you don’t watch this movie immediately and fall in love with everything (except Saffron Burrows’ character because, well, ya know) then all this has been for naught.

Best shark movie tangent: Who is Jesus in this movie?


I mean, this wasn’t really a part of it — everyone should watch Jaws. But it was the entry point and shows my work in deriving the standards for a shark movie and why Jaws is so beloved and has endured. Take a read because it took me a long time to write and research and it has handmade drawings that are important for scientific reasons.

For a complete list of Shark-o-meter movies, swim here.

What’s to come: The future of the Sharkometer

More shark movies of course! There are a lot of shark movies and I’m not stopping anytime soon because someone on the internet said you don’t have to be great at your hobbies to do them, you just have to enjoy them. And I enjoy writing weirdly confessional blog posts about shark movies based on a rubric I created because I was tired of reading articles titled “[Shark movie] is better than Jaws”. Nothing is better than Jaws, and art really shouldn’t be compared, but it’s fun to watch and write about especially when people take a big swing and just hit it out of the park in weird and wonderful ways.

Also I’ll make better graphics. I’ve noticed my graphic design skills have really dipped since Sharknado. I’ll get on that.

So please, stay with me on this weird and wonderful journey all you lovely folks reading along in the shadows. (Guys it’s creepy. I know you exist. I see the numbers.) Tell me what you love about each movie, what you want to read about it, and anything else. And remember, sharks are never the villains in the movie, it’s always the people. ALWAYS.

Get at me on twitter @kaitlinmcnabb and apparently in the comments below. What long-forgotten shark movie gem do you recommend?

Next up: The distorted reality of ‘Bait 3D’

For a complete list of Sharkometer movies, swim here.