Before anyone says anything—no, you cannot yet stream Tommy Wiseau’s Big Shark. Still a theatre-only situation with that one. But there are plenty of other movies out there featuring ridiculously large sea creatures, with hapless humans scrambling to survive them.
Let’s be real: you probably don’t need to have seen The Meg to follow The Meg 2, but it’s well worth watching if you’re in the mood for some monster-movie-at-sea hijinks. Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) directed this 2018 crowd-pleaser that pits a world-weary rescue diver (Jason Statham) against a gigantic megalodon shark—suddenly back from extinction after breaking free of its murky home below the Mariana Trench—and the even more gigantic second megalodon that sneaks out behind it.
Deep Blue Sea
What’s scarier than sharks? How about sharks that have had their intelligence super-duper-triple-whammy enhanced? Everything you expect will go wrong absolutely does in Renny Harlin’s fast-paced 1999 thriller set at a scientific research facility in the middle of the lonely ocean. Making things even more entertaining is its surprisingly good cast, including Thomas Jane, LL Cool J, Stellan Skarsgård, and Michael Rapaport—plus Samuel L. Jackson, whose role may be small, but encompasses one of the greatest “gotcha!” death scenes of all time.
William Eubank (The Signal) directed this 2020 near-future horror film about a drilling facility located within the Mariana Trench; its inhabitants (including Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, and Mamoudou Athie) survive an apparent earthquake only to realise there are humanoid creatures living thousands of feet below sea level who don’t take kindly to visitors.
In 1998, just prior to making The Mummy, Stephen Sommers directed this delightfully gory action tale set aboard a fancy cruise ship that has a whole mess of problems—marauding mercenaries, a sinister insurance scheme, Famke Janssen as a pickpocket named “Trillian St. James”—even before it’s attacked by vicious sea monsters wielding alarmingly spiky tentacles.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Richard Fleischer’s 1954 Disney classic adapts Jules Verne with James Mason (as Captain Nemo), Kirk Douglas, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre, and a sassy sea lion named Esmeralda along for the ride. Though the characters face a lot of peril and adventures, there’s a reason everyone always remembers the giant squid attack first when they think of 20,000 Leagues.
George P. Cosmatos—who directorial credits also include Rambo: First Blood Part II, Cobra, and Tombstone—took a macho break for this sci-fi horror film about a deep-sea mining team that learns, like so many other characters on this list, that the ocean floor is not nearly as lonely as one might assume. Special-effects great Stan Winston is on sea-mutant duty, with star Peter Weller bringing his trademark offbeat charisma to his reluctant-hero role.
It Came From Beneath the Sea
Stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen provides the giant-octopus magic in this 1955 creature-feature classic, which imagines the tentacled monster—roused from its cozy deep-sea lair by nuclear testing—sets a course straight for the San Francisco Bay, inspiring generations of future filmmakers to destroy the Golden Gate Bridge in the name of picturesque mayhem.
Over a decade before he piled up the Oscars for Parasite, Bong Joon-ho made this monster movie-slash-family drama-slash black comedy. Parasite’s Song Kang-ho stars as a ne’er-do-well dad who has to remake himself into a hero when his young daughter is kidnapped by… a giant aquatic creature (accidentally spawned by the U.S. military) that emerges from Seoul’s Han River.
The Sea Beast
This hugely popular 2022 Netflix animated film—it got an Oscar nomination, and is soon to be getting a sequel—earned praise for both its lush animation and its tale of a spunky stowaway who adds herself to the crew of sea-beast hunters, only to realise throughout her journey that the “beasts” are not the enemies they seem to be. Twist!
The year 1977 was prime time for Jaws rip-offs, and this Italian import assembles some aging Hollywood legends (John Huston, Shelley Winters, Henry Fonda, Claude Akins) to jazz up its tale of a killer octopus that targets a Florida seaside town popular with tourists. The plot involves shady building techniques being used in the construction of an underwater tunnel, a spectacularly ill-timed boat race, and trained killer whales. It owes a lot to Jaws, but also has some of its own campy charms, like uneven dubbing and rubbery special FX.