With the release of Sea Fever on the horizon, here are the best films to combine terror with the tides.

By Clark Collis
April 09, 2020 at 12:49 PM EDT
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In Sea Fever (out Friday) Hermione Corfield plays a marine biology student whose spell on a fishing trawler goes eye-poppingly awry after the crew encounters a huge ocean-dwelling creature in the Atlantic ocean. Director Neasa Hardiman's film — which costars Connie Nielsen and Dougray Scott — is the latest addition to the genre known as "aquatic horror." But which are the best films to combine terror and the tides? You can find our recommendations below.

Everett Collection

Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

A geology expedition exploring the Amazon are terrorized by the titular creature in director Jack Arnold's horror classic. For extra credit, read Mallory O'Meara's recent book The Lady From the Black Lagoon about the creature-designing Milicent Patrick.

Jaws (1975)

You're gonna need a bigger list to detail the many reasons why Steven Spielberg's blockbuster remains the definitive shark movie.

Piranha (1978)

Joe Dante's solo directorial debut is the most entertaining of the many Jaws rip-offs, in large part because he and screenwriter John Sayles don't try to hide its Spielberg-apeing nature. Bradford Dillman and Maggie McKeown are the leads while Kevin McCarthy is the government scientist who created a strain of deadly piranha. “The thing I tried to bring was a little bit of self-consciousness,” Sayles told EW in 2010. “Some of the fun is: ‘Okay, this is a dollar ninety-eight version of Jaws.’”

Leviathan (1989)

How happy were fans of aquatic horror in 1989? Pretty freakin' happy. January saw the release of Deepstar Six, in which the crew of an experimental underwater base — including characters played by Miguel Ferrer and My Two Dads star Greg Evigan — are stalked and killed, Alien-style, by a mysterious creature. (FYI: Deepstar Six was directed by Sean S. Cunningham whose Friday the 13th could also be described, technically at least, as an aquatic horror film.) Just a couple of months later this second tale of beneath-the-waves terror swam onto screens. An ace cast, led by Peter Weller, Richard Crenna, and Ernie Hudson, battle a Thing-like creature at the bottom of the ocean. Incredibly, James Cameron's horror-adjacent underwater movie The Abyss was also released in 1989 as was Lords of the Deep, which found Piranha star Bradford Dillman once again getting involved in H2O-related mayhem.

Deep Rising (1998)

Treat Williams plays sailor Captain John Finnegan who transports a group of mercenaries on a mission to sink a luxury liner for the insurance pay-off. The problem? They find the ship infested by a massive sea monster. Should have taken out massive sea monster insurance! Williams is a genuine treat in Stephen Sommers' hilarious, gruesome movie and receives ship-shape back-up from Famke Janssen, Wes Studi, and Kevin J. O'Connor among others.

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

You know what you don't want to do? Make sharks smarter! That's a lesson learned too late by Saffron Burrows's doctor in this Renny Harlin-directed chum-fest as a search to find a cure for Alzheimer's proves disastrous for the inhabitants an underwater research facility. Outside of Jaws, the movie features the greatest death in the aquatic horror genre, which, even after 21 years, we have zero intention of spoiling here.

Dagon (2001)

HP Lovecraft is the undisputed literary master of aquatic horror and the late director Stuart Gordon's movie goes a long way to capture the writer's tone of slimy, tentacled dread in this adaptation of his tale The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Ezra Godden and Raquel Meroño play a vacationing couple who discover there is something very fishy about the inhabitants of a Spanish coastal town.

The Shallows (2016)

Blake Lively's surfer goes mano a mano — or womano a sharko — with a great white in this nerve-shredder from director Jaume Collet-Serra.

The Shape of Water (2017)

Guillermo del Toro elevated the aquatic-horror genre to a position of Oscar-winning respectability with The Shape of Water, even if the real horror emanates from Michael Shannon's increasingly unhinged general rather than Doug Jones's creature.

Underwater (2020)

Box office-wise, this pretty much sank without trace (aha!) but the Kristen Stewart-starring Underwater is more fun than a barrel of sea-monkeys and has an ending of which HP Lovecraft would surely have approved.

Sea Fever is released via on demand and digital on Friday.

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