Jaws, Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster thriller about a New England fish, turns 40 years old on June 1. It sparked a Hollywood love affair not just with big popcorn movies but with villains of a toothy, cartilaginous nature. What made Jaws tick, however, wasn’t simply a shark — there was the suspenseful build, the masterful use of sound. But that didn’t stop a school of less-than-stellar films from swimming across our screens, all obsessed with one thing: Shhhhaaaaarks!
1977: Two years after Jaws premiered, Happy Days vaulted over a shark and into the annals of crappy plot history. Whether or not the Fonz waterskiing over a shark actually marked the point where the show started falling apart — one of the show’s writers doth protest to the contrary — a great shark moment onscreen this was not.
1978: The most cultural significance Jaws 2 has to offer are its tagline (“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water …”), and that Roy Scheider had to reprise his role solely out of contractual obligation. The sequels fared even worse: Jaws 3-D had “3-D” in the title, which in 1983 meant red and blue glasses, and Jaws: The Revenge was churned out in nine months to an aggregate score of 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
1999: Deep Blue Sea managed to take the shark part of Jaws with the third most interesting bit of science fiction in Jurassic Park (genetic engineering, after oversized velociraptors and Jeff Goldblum’s laugh) and shred that mix into CGI cheese. Although you have to hand it to a movie that has a marine biologist use herself as bait and LL Cool J shouting about sushi.
1999 to 2012: Anything with shark in the title is trash: Shark Attack!, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (not to be confused with Megalodon, also not good), Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, Dinoshark, Sharktopus, Raging Sharks, Ghost Shark, and 2-Headed Shark Attack.
2013: Implausible, violent, and incoherent as only a movie about a shark tornado could be, Syfy's made-for-TV Sharknado is the illogical conclusion of following Jaws' B-movie undertow to the bottom — but also to Twitter glory.