The Meg finally hits theaters Friday. To celebrate we’re going to countdown 13 essential water based horror movies, because who doesn’t love a great list?
Before we jump into the list I wanted to point out two honorable mentions:
The Host – I have heard nothing but wonderful things about this film. I’m leaving it off the list only because I haven’t seen it, which probably says more about me than it does the movie.
Jurassic Shark – I haven’t heard a single thing about this movie but with a name like that, it has to be mentioned.
On with the 13:
13. Ghost Ship
It’s no secret that this movie is terrible. That opening sequence though, oh that opening sequence. It’s everything that you want a haunted ship movie to be and then some. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t come close to holding up.
12. Friday The 13th Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan
In my opinion this is the worst of all of the Friday movies. If it didn’t belong on this list it would probably be a better movie. The hook to this film is the idea of watching Jason Voorhees run amok in New York City. That is a movie I would love to see. Instead, the vast majority of Jason Takes Manhattan occurs on a ship on it’s way to Manhattan. Right out in the water, which means it’s a fit for this list. Actually, it’s only a fit for this list because we don’t often get a slasher set at sea. Even if it is a sub-par slasher at best.
11. Cabin Fever
I’m only addressing the 2002 film on this list. I didn’t see the 2016 remake. I wasn’t sure what the point of remaking this was and then I heard that it was pretty much the same movie, so I skipped it. Yes, it’s true that this story takes place in a cabin on dry land. No I am not trying to pull a fast one here. The flesh eating virus is in the water and there is nothing scary than that to me. There were a few other options that fit that bill and I could have put any of them on this list. Cabin Fever gets the nod because it’s just so much fun.
Ohhhh…there’s no shortage of huge creature in the water movies. However, none of them are quite as crazy as Anaconda. The cast alone is enough to make your head spin. Jennifer Lopez, Jon Voight, Ice Cube, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Danny Trejo and a giant ass snake! That’s a dream come true. The insane story lives up to the insane cast and it all adds up to 89 minutes of pure fun.
9. 47 Meters Down
The first shark movie on our list, there will be more. This isn’t a perfect movie by any means. It is a good time though and it has one of the best jump scares ever. This film makes it to number 9 on that jump scare alone. Not to mention the absolute horror of being trapped on the ocean floor, running out of air, surrounded by sharks, with no communication.
8. The Fog
This entry applies only to John Carpenter’s The Fog from 1980. The 2005 remake is awful and I won’t let it soil the first ever edition of The 13. Carpenter’s film is a classic though. As the thick fog rolls into Antonio Bay, bringing God knows what with it. The film shows the people of the town trying to come together to survive and also dealing with their own terrible history. Plus, it has Tom Atkins and that’s always a good thing.
7. Open Water
Open Water was the first truly small budget water based horror film that I remember seeing. The story is absolutely terrifying and based on true events. The two characters go out on a diving tour and, due to a faulty head count, no one notices that they are not on the boat when the boat returns to land, leaving them stranded out in the open ocean. Is there anything more horrifying than the thought of that?
6. Donkey Punch
It was just fairly recently that I caught up with this 2008 thriller set on a yacht. The movie has a pretty simple setup. A group of 20-somethings meet at a nightclub and decide to continue the party on the yacht. Things go horribly awry, no one trusts anyone else and a lot of people end up dead. It’s a tense movie that leaves you feeling as trapped on that boat as the characters.
5. The Bay
Found footage movies became extremely popular and then became extremely annoying and then Barry Levinson made one that was amazing. Levinson had won an Oscar for Best Director for Rain Man, he made Sleepers, Wag The Dog, Good Morning, Vietnam, Bugsy, The Natural and, of course, Diner. When I heard he was making a small found footage horror movie, I had to check it out. The story is about an ecological disaster that hits a small town on the Chesapeake Bay, causing people to get violent ill, die or become almost zombie like. It’s a horrifying 84 minute thrill ride that will leave you shaken.
Science fiction meets horror meets the ocean. The second movie on this list directed by Barry Levinson. This one stars Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson as scientists sent to the bottom of the ocean to investigate a strange sphere that has been discovered. Of course, they have to enter the sphere and, of course, nothing good can come of that. The possibilities for the ground this film could have covered are endless. Legend has it that Dustin Hoffman didn’t think it covered enough and didn’t want it released in it’s current form. Studio deadlines being what they are though won out. It’s still an amazing movie and just imagining the places that it could have gone is frightening enough.
3. Deep Blue Sea
We had back to back Levinson and now we have back to back Samuel L. Jackson. This time directed by Renny Harlin. If you’re a researcher looking for a cure for Alzheimer’s the first thing you would do, of course, is go out to the middle of the ocean and make Sharks smarter. How could this possibly go bad? Against all odds, it does and it goes bad in the best ways possible. Plus, the movie features LL Cool J and his song “Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin)”. It takes a lot to top that.
2. The Shallows
The Shallows is only a couple of years old but it is already a classic in the water based horror sub-genre. It’s a small quiet movie about a shark trying to eat a girl. Often shark films focus on the panic of a group of people and relish in the sights and sounds of these people being devoured. The Shallows goes the complete opposite direction. We spend the bulk of the hour and 26 minute runtime watching Blake Lively just try to stay alive as a shark hunts her down in a secluded cove. That’s it. Just her and the shark. There is no one to help her and it’s possible that no one is coming along for a long time. It’s a closed in, understated masterpiece that doesn’t let up.
The real questions here are:
- Why did I even write this?
2. Why did you even read it?
Of course it’s Jaws! What else could it possibly be? Jaws is THE shark film and it’s highly unlikely that anything is ever going to surpass it as such. Books have been written about this movie. Documentaries have been made about it. There is a deep dive podcast series going on right now (the terrific Inside Jaws podcast by Mark Ramsey, check it out) about it. Jaws changed the way that we watch movies. Before Jaws there was no such thing as a summer blockbuster, now we get them every year. And none of what I just mentioned even touches on how great the film itself is. Steven Spielberg made a masterpiece. The thing that most other shark movies miss is the world that Jaws creates. Amity Island feels like a town you’ve been to yourself. The characters all have their own reasons for doing the things that they are doing, it’s not all about just killing the shark. All of this is happening as the shark is roaming the coast and claiming lives. And let’s not forget that score. John Williams’ theme for this movie is pure nightmare fuel for anyone at the beach. Of course it was Jaws. I knew it was going to be Jaws, you knew it was going to be Jaws, there was no way that it wasn’t going to be Jaws.
I’m sure I have left some of your favorites off this list. Feel free to mention them in the comments. State their case and then I can explain to you why you’re wrong.