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PHOTOS: 8 Aquatic Horror Movies That Made Us Afraid to Get Back in the Water

Here are a few water-bound movies that'll make you shiver from fear (and maybe a little laughter).

There's something about the endless seas and murky lakes that makes them a never-ending source of horror movie ideas.

The sense of what huge, slimy beasts may be lurking in the depths is enough to make many of us never touch foot in the water altogether, let alone go out on a boat where land is just a blip on the horizon. It's why movies like Jaws still keep many people up on the sand instead of in the waves nearly a half-century after it hit theaters.

Here are a few movies that combine dread with the deep - some you may know and others maybe not, that are worth a look.


The granddaddy of all big-bad-fish movies, Jaws made us all afraid to go into the water in 1975. Even though Jaws the shark may have its cinematic flaws today, the Spielberg shocker still holds up. You'll need a bigger notebook to list all the reasons why, but it has a lot to do with the acting: Roy Scheider's cautious police chief, Richard Dreyfuss' dorky ichthyologist and Robert Shaw's salty captain Quint could make any director look good. And then there's the terrifying hydraulic-powered shark, nicknamed Bruce, which even today strikes a primal chord as his fin zips through the water with clear intent. Jaws became the first-ever summer blockbuster, and it's not hard to see why.

The Shallows

If you thought Blake Lively was just another pretty face, you haven't seen this solid 2016 thriller that features the actress holding her own in just about every scene. As a medical student grieving her mother's death, she travels to a secluded beach to surf and soak up the sun. Instead, she ends up trapped on a rock not far from shore with an enormous great white circling. Director Jaume Collet-Serra effectively amps up the tension by not showing too much of the shark, not overly relying on gore, and developing Lively's character into something way more than just a bikini-clad B-movie victim.

Open Water

Imagine embarking on a tropical vacation intending to get your scuba license, but upon coming up for air, your tour boat is gone? That's the premise of this low-budget 2003 indie, which starts off amusing (the stranded couple in question argues about their decision to go tropical over a ski trip) and intensifies into a straight-up nightmare as storms roll in, sharks start to circle, and they inevitably realize nobody is coming for them. Fun fact: The actors really did swim in the ocean with sharks - albeit small ones. Not-so-fun fact: The film is loosely based on a true story. Yikes.


A sort of B-movie Moby Dick, Orca stars Richard Harris as Captain Nolan, who has callously killed a pregnant female whale and her calf in front of the whale's mate. Well, that whale is pretty pissed off, and he tries to sink the ship, prompting a hunt-and-be-hunted plot that involves Bo Derek's leg being bitten off and an epic showdown resulting in death by iceberg. Jaws it is not, but it is tons of fun nonetheless.


Aquatic Horror Movies

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Director Joe Dante, of Gremlins fame, capitalized on Jaws' popularity with this 1978 rip-off about thousands of piranhas escaping into a river frequented by tourists, and it's a classic in its own right. As he did in Gremlins, Dante brings the horror and the giggles with sly satire and jump-scare gore. There's good reason why this film launched his career.

47 Meters Down

On the heels of The Shallows came this 2017 movie starring Mandy Moore as the cautious one of two sisters who head to Mexico and go cage-diving with great white sharks. This proves to be the first of many bad decisions, as the rusty old cage ends up at the bottom of the ocean floor circled by nasty sharks and red herrings galore. It's a schlocky, bloody, claustrophobic good time with an unexpectedly vicious twist at the end.

Deep Blue Sea

It's no Jaws (what aquatic horror movie could be?), but Deep Blue Sea is still pure B-movie fun and action as some scientific types decide to alter shark DNA to make them smarter as a possible cure for Alzheimer's (just go with it). Of course this goes all sorts of wrong and the sharks start attacking the researchers. Some moments are laugh-out-loud comical, the action is wound tight, and there's a kill scene so shockingly out-of-the-blue violent we can't possibly spoil it here. Best of all, it has a cast of favorites: Samuel L. Jackson, Thomas Jane, LL Cool J and Michael Rapaport, and it's directed by Cliffhanger's Renny Harlin.

The Abyss

Titanic is the first movie you think of linked to James Cameron, but don't sleep on this 1989 sci-fi adventure that was Disney fantasy, Cold War thriller, gobsmacking visuals and practical special effects all rolled into one overblown but highly effective project. Cameron notoriously drew criticism for having his actors perform underwater without stunt doubles, but the result is a labor of love that holds up better than many movies made a decade later.