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Sharks in the movies: Best, worst, cagiest, most determined and more

From "Jaws" to "The Shallows," a look at some of the most (or least) memorable.

A scene from Steven Spielberg's 1975 movie "Jaws."

A scene from Steven Spielberg's 1975 movie "Jaws." Photo Credit: Everett Collection

A confirmed shark attack, and another similar attack, at Fire Island have all the makings of a movie, with frightened vacationers and beaches being closed by authorities.There’s also the mystery of what could have caused the attacks in the first place.

It hasn’t been any fun for the victims — two kids, 12 and 13, who survived. In case all this excitement has given you a taste for watching a shark movie, though, here’s a breakdown of the genre, and how their toothsome villains stack up:

Best Overall: It’s gotta be "Jaws” (1975), Steven Spielberg’s action-adventure-epic starring Roy Scheider as an Amity Island police chief battling a terrifying great white (played by an animatronic rig the crew called "Bruce"). If you’re afraid to go into the water, chances are this movie is to blame.

Worst overall/least Convincing: A top contender for worst film of all time, "Jaws 3-D" contains some astoundongly awful special effects. The famous window-shattering scene in the 1983 film, featuring a shark that looks about as realistic as a “South Park” character, is the stuff of legend.

Most Determined: The shark that figures in 2015’s "The Shallows" gets this award for spending 90 minutes eyeballing an injured surfer (Blake Lively) stranded on a rock.

Most Cagey: In "47 Meters Down," a chiller from 2017, Mandy Moore and Claire Holt play sisters who take a cage-dive trip but— thanks to a broken chain— end up surrounded by great whites.

Most Metaphorical: The 2003 indie “Open Water" was inspired by the true story of a vacationing couple left behind by their tour boat. In this version, they spend the desperate hours arguing and complaining about each other. Then come the sharks. 

Best Sense of Humor: Though not a theatrical release, the Syfy channel’s "Sharknado" (2013) belongs on this list for its wonderfully ridiculous premise: a waterspout that sucks sharks out of the ocean and flings them all over Los Angeles. The film’s stars, Tara Reid and Ian Ziering, provide added camp value.

Best in Age Group (Senior Divison): "The Meg," starring Jason Statham as diver Jonas Taylor, features what may be the oldest shark ever: a prehistoric, 70-foot behemoth called Megalodon. The film comes out Aug. 10.

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