If we’ve learned anything over this last BASTARD PUPS OF JAWS week, it’s that there are plenty of other fish (and bears and alligators and devilfish and piranha and barracuda) in the sea. These are the ten best ones that we’ve found and as you’ve read above, a movie doesn’t have to have a shark in it to be a Jaws ripoff. Note: Anything made post-Sharknado isn’t going to make this list. It seems like all of those movies are trying to hard to be silly and/or clever and failing spectacularly. Nope — we’re looking for genuinely oddball and earnestly made shark chum here, chum. Have a problem? MAKE YOUR OWN LIST.
1. The Last Shark: No matter what you call it — Great White, The Last Jaws, Jaws Returns and L’ultimo Squalo — Enzo G. Castellari’s 1981 shark movie earned the ire of Universal Pictures before it played one screen here in the U.S. A month into the film’s release, a federal judge finally wised up and realized that this movie is basically Italian Jaws and got it pulled from theaters.
2. Alligator: Not only does this one ripoff the ending of Jaws — they all do, spoiler warning, the offending creature always gets blown up real good — it even had a board game that was incredibly similar to the Jaws game. Don’t believe me?
I also love that this ad promises “a sense of FUN” when Alligator is a movie that features a scene where numerous dead dogs float down a sewer. Now that’s fun!
3. Piranha: This Joe Dante-directed bloodfest truly defies its source material and was the only ripoff that Spielberg spoke well of. Well guess what, Steven? Your movie didn’t have Barbara Steele in it. So there.
4. Killer Fish: If you can’t just ripoff Jaws, why not do the same with Piranha? And hey — can we have two James Franciscus movies on the same list?
5. Blood Beach: John Saxon and Mariana Hill have to do more than battle a shark in this one. They have to fight the entire beach. Yes, an entire land mass. It happened. The film exists.
6. Deep Blood: You have to give it to Joe D’Amato. Instead of just Jaws, here he reimagines that mos if Stephen King had written it, with four teenage boys growing up and coming back to battle a Native American demon turned apex predator of the deep.
7. Orca: Richard Harris’ entire crew gets devoured by a cousin of Shamu after its wife and unborn child are killed as graphically as a PG movie allows. Being that this was made in 1977, it’s pretty unsettling. Also — Bo Derek gets her leg bit clean off. If SeaWorld near you is closed, let me recommend this. The kids will love it!
8. Cruel Jaws: The only thing bigger than the shark in this movie is the size of director Bruno Mattei’s balls. Anyone that can have a fake Hulk Hogan as one of his heroes while stealing the actual shark attack footage from The Last Shark and the first three Jaws films, not to mention the music from Star Wars, must have a beanbag that can be seen from orbit.
9. Grizzly: Just the act of thinking about this movie makes me want to watch it all over again. It’s literally Jaws in a national park, complete with POV killings of park rangers and unfortunate female campers. Also, you guessed it: the bear gets blown up real good.
10. The Car: Some Jaws ripoffs don’t even have aquatic — or even animal — bad guys. Nope. This one features a demonically possessed 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III mowing down people before James Brolin, well, blows it up real good.
Honorable mention goes these little swimmers: the killer fish in Orca, the medallion controlled sharks that will only obey Richard Jaeckel in Mako: Jaws of Death, Cornell Wilde’s passion project Sharks’ Treasure, Sergio Martino’s The Great Alligator, Franco Nero kung fu fighting, loving and battling sharks in The Shark Hunter, Lamberto Bava’s octopus meets prehistoric shark opus Devilfish, the sharks that battle gangsters in Tonino Ricci’s Night of the Sharks, the Barracuda who disappear halfway through their own film before it turns into a conspiracy movie, Tintorera…Tiger Shark which shows the sexy side of shark movies and Up from the Depths, a movie that is more Jaws than Creature from the Black Lagoon, no matter what the poster looks like. One of the newer entries is Mark L. Lester’s Sand Sharks and the always welcomed Mark Polina with Shark Encounters of the Third Kind. Mark also gave us Noah’s Shark.
Did we miss any? What are your favorites? Let us know!
Update July 2021: Never say die: We rolled out a “Shark Weak” of reviews on the modern takes on the genre. GULP!