A wise man once said, “Live every week like it’s Shark Week,” and we’ve adhered to that rule religiously for 51 weeks. Now, we’re lucky enough to live like it’s Shark Week during Shark Week. In fact, we’re so crazy for the Discovery Channel feature that we’re DVRing most of it in order to watch its programming throughout the year. And to throw a massive shark-themed party.
That’s a massive party with a shark theme, not a party with a theme of massive sharks.
Actually, I guess it could go either way.
Since we are celebrating this week in a big way, we’ve decided to throw together a list of movies that you might want to check out when you’re not watching wall-to-wall shark footage on television. Because you know what goes great with sharks? More sharks.
The Pitch: This is by no means a good movie. It’s not even close to being a good movie. But Shark! does have a few things going for it. First of all, Burt Reynolds is involved and delivers the sort of 1970s machismo you’d expect (groundbreaking for a film made in the 1960s), and the story revolving around Reynolds’s gun-running, shark-diving character isn’t half bad. Plus, the film has a special place in film history. Not only did a stunt man die during filming, Samuel Fuller (who gave us Pickup on South Street) quit the production because the man’s death was being used as a promotional tool. Without Fuller, the film suffered greatly during the editing process and became the beautiful mess that it is today.
Open Water (2003)
The Pitch: This movie seemed to come out of nowhere a few years ago – lobbing its minimalist thrills onto unsuspecting fans. It’s a great example of indie filmmaking as well as what can be done with $130,000 and one or two crew-members. Open Water speaks to the core fear of being stranded without help, and it becomes even more frightening to realize that it’s based of the real life story of two divers who were lost in open ocean and never found again. Even better, the sharks aren’t CGI (since there is none in the movie), and that stark realism makes for an even more cringe-worthy experience.
Blue Water, White Death (1971)
The Pitch: It’s been said that this documentary by Peter Gimbel and James Lipscomb was the inspiration for Jaws, but that remains unclear. What is clear is that the documentary features some incredible footage of great white sharks in their natural habitat. Sure, a few of the scenes look like Gimbel and Lipscomb are trying for more drama than the real world was offering, but for the most part it’s a really cool documentary about what’s considered the most dangerous predator of the ocean. While playing into that perception, Blue Water, White Death also gives a more well-rounded look at how the animal fits into the oceanic world – a sentiment that would be utterly destroyed by Steven Spielberg’s take a few years later.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
The Pitch: There’s really no reason to see Deep Blue Sea unless you’re desperate to see some sharks, watch Samuel L. Jackson get hilariously eaten, or to sing “Deepest! Bluest! My hat is like a shark’s fin!” along with Ladies Love Cool James. And really, who isn’t?
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
The Pitch: So the film is more about the strange inter-personal relations of a terrible human being, and the daddy issues that Wes Anderson needs to work through, but they are on a mission to find a mythical shark. Plus, in a departure from the realism of some of the other films on this list, the display of the cartoony CGI jaguar shark at the climax of the film is a truly fantastic moment. Strangely enough, it seems like Blue Water, White Death might have inspired a few things in the film. The documentary attempting some fictional scenes may or may not have had something to do with the decision to make Zissou stage a lot of his segments, but the inclusion in White Death of a camera man who is constantly shown playing acoustic guitar seems to be a direct inspiration for Seu Jorge’s character in Life Aquatic jamming to David Bowie songs the entire trip.
The Pitch: As if we could leave this one off the list. This film more than any other is stuck in the mind’s of film fans and anyone thinking about taking a swim at the shore during the summer. It’s not exactly a celebration of sharks – since it displays them as ruthless killers with dead eyes – but it’s the most fun you can have watching a shark film. Fortunately for everyone, the animatronic shark “Bruce” that was built for Jaws hardly ever worked, forcing Steven Spielberg to turn the camera into a POV for the shark, creating some of those iconic underwater moments and adding intensely to the feeling of dread just before an attack. Unfortunately for everyone, as iconic as the film is, it also inspired the spawning of a ton of crappy shark films. But, if you need something to follow it up with, feel free to check out The Making of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’ – a great movie in its own right.
Extra Bait: Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus for the sheer ridiculousness of it all and West Side Story because you also get Jets as a bonus.