Looking for a good scare this spooky season? Hold your breath and dive into one of these aqueous atrocities!
13. The Meg (2018)
A crew of marine biologists discovers a megalodon, thought to be extinct for over 2 million years. It’s a big shark. No, a REALLY big shark. And it’s very hungry. For people. You can see where this is going.
12. Piranha 3DD (2010)
No one ever said it has to be “good” to be “scary.” More humor than horror, Piranha 3DD inexplicably pits a school of carnivorous piranhas in “the world’s wildest water park.” How did they get there? Why is David Hasselhoff pretending to be a lifeguard that’s not actually a lifeguard? None of it matters, as long as you can enjoy this aquatic shredfest. The scariest part might not be the piranhas in this movie, but how much cleaning the wave pool needs by the end of it.
11. The Perfect Storm (2000)
You don’t need any scary underwater monsters or super-sharks to make a frightening film. Sometimes all you need is a fishing trip, massive waves, and a story based on true events. The Perfect Storm is more a thriller than a horror movie. But if the movie poster doesn’t give you the smallest shred of anxiety, then you must be an incredibly strong swimmer; overly confident; or both.
10. The Abyss (1989)
James Cameron made us scream in space with Aliens and promised our hearts would go on in Titanic. Somewhere in that middle period, The Abyss made space less scary and the ocean depths even darker. A Navy SEAL team investigates a sunken nuclear submarine in the Caribbean. They learn that you don’t have to travel lightyears to find extraterrestrial claustrophobia, and it’s just as scary underwater.
9. Crawl (2019)
Basements are a perfect backdrop for bogeymen, so why not … oh, I don’t know, flood the basement with packs of hungry hungry alligators? Crawl is one part race-against-time, one part the-floor-is-lava, and 10 parts Sam Raimi-produced excess that reminds even the best swimmers that they can’t outswim hulking predatory reptiles.
8. 12 Feet Deep: Trapped Sisters (2017)
Rating: Not Rated
Much like how children check under their beds and in their closets for monsters, 12 Feet Deep will send your heart pounding the next time you perform a pool closing! Sometimes a good scary movie doesn’t need monsters — well, at least not nonhuman ones. Maybe it just needs an indoor pool with a retractable cover.
7. Underwater (2020)
You will go outside and kiss the green grass upon which you stand after you watch Underwater for the first time. Starring Kristen Stewart, a crew of deep sea drillers are sent seven miles below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface, and nothing bad happens … right?!
6. The Shallows (2016)
Even paradise must pay its dues, and Blake Lively finds that out the hard way during a surfing trip on a secluded Mexican beach. The Shallows does to surfing what Jaws does to quaint beach vacations. Contrary to most acting jobs in B-rate horror films, Lively also offers a pretty good performance here.
5. Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
To be clear, this is not the Freddy Krueger deep-sea vendetta we’ve all been waiting for. It’s not even a water movie at all. But Robert Englund refuses to read my fan-fiction screenplay adaptation, so we’re left with only the best pool-party-gone-wrong massacre that ’80s teen slasher cinema had to offer us.
4. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Rating: G (yes, G!)
They call them the classics for a reason! Imagine that thing grabbing your ankle beneath the water. It’s not seaweed! It’s just a massive, amphibious Gill-man! Even worse, he’s got built-in water wings!
3. Open Water (2003)
Here’s a good idea: Take the success of shoestring budget horror a la The Blair Witch Project, then throw it overboard. Open Water stands out and stands the test of time because it doesn’t need supersized sharks (for the most part) or creatures from the deep to make you uncomfortable. It does just fine unnerving audiences by reminding them that sometimes, no one’s coming to save you.
2. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Because Samuel L. Jackson deserves to be on every list twice (see Sphere). But also because Deep Blue Sea probably has the best sharkbite scene in any water horror movie. You know what’s worse than big, man-eating sharks? Big, man-eating sharks that are smart. It’s all completely tasteless camp, and you’ll squirm the whole time. Maybe scientists thought twice about splicing shark DNA after this one.
1. Jaws (1975)
You can’t do a scary-water-movie list and not include the one that started it all! Anyone who’s ever been nervous to dip their toe into the ocean has Jaws to thank, along with John Williams’ classic score (Dunnnnn-dun! Dunnnn-dun!)