Sharks in Movies and on TV

We're in the midst of the Discovery Channel's enormously successful Shark Week.  What is it about those creatures of the deep that captivates our collective imagination? The obvious answer is that some of them are frighteningly monstrous. The root of their grip on pop culture lies in the Steven Spielberg film Jaws, which redefined what blockbuster movies could be and invented the summer movie as we know it today.

Sharks were depicted in entertainment before the 1975 hit that starred Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss.  The documentary about great white sharks Blue Water, White Death was released in 1971.  In 1969, Burt Reynolds starred in a movie that had various names -- Caine, then Man-Eater, then just Shark! When Jaws hit the screens, however, it changed everything.  It had a decent sequel in Jaws 2 and two terrible follow-ups: Jaws 3D and Jaws: The Revenge.  Most importantly, it spawned a number of rip-offs and launched a genre of water terror.

Movies that tried to cash in on the shark frenzy were Mako: The Jaws of Death in 1976 and Tintorera: Killer Shark in 1977.  Later movies have included the cult classic Deep Blue Sea and the realistically chilling Open Water.

Some of the rip-offs have substituted other fish or animals for the shark, but the Jaws inspiration is obvious: Piranha, Barracuda, Alligator, the killer-whale in Orca, and many others.

Most of the shark features are usually low-budget: Dark Waters starring Lorenzo Lamas, Red Waters with Lou Diamond Phillips, and Dark Tide with Halle Berry.

Some of the more outrageous productions have been Megalodon, Sharktopus, and the Shark Attack trilogy. Plus don't forget Syfy's wacky Sharknado.

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the cinema or to turn on your television...