The story of man-vs-monster is an old one that has been told over and over. Audiences have shown they love seeing the power struggle between nature's finest beings and humans fighting for survival. Many films have brought us the concept of a literal, killer nature in new and exciting ways by using the vast ocean and the beings hiding below. Through the decades, filmmakers have used different styles of special effects and story-telling to bring extraordinary creatures to life. In this list we will take a look at the best water-dwelling creatures in films.
8 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)
47 Meters Down: Uncaged from 2019, follows four teenage girls as they explore an underwater maze of Mayan ruins. They discover that the ruins are the hunting grounds for deadly monster sharks. The girls must race their depleting air supply to get out of the ruins while avoiding the sharks hunting for their next meal. The group must use teamwork under immense pressure if they are to make it out of the labyrinth alive.
This sequel to the 2017 film, 47 Meters Downdid much better than its predecessor. Seeing the race to survive paired with the powerful hunters that dwelled beyond every shadow, was a thrilling experience. The visual style helped the audience connect with the claustrophobic setting, and the high contrast lighting pattern solidified the suspense of what's hiding in the shadows. While 47 Meters Down: Uncaged was not a cinematic masterpiece, the film was a good survival story with the added bonus of an ancient man-eating shark.
7 Open Water (2004)
Open Water is a horror film from 2004, that showed audiences the desperation humans feel when coming up against the open ocean and its residents. A husband and wife on vacation go on a scuba-diving excursion. When they are left behind by the dive group, they do their best to survive against the open ocean and the sharks circling below.
What made Open Water a good horror film was the realism that was used. This was not a monster shark; it was just the deadly creatures in their natural habitat. The characters being stranded without help gave the audience a sense of hopelessness. It showed some people's worst fear: being stranded with no chance of survival. This was a very tense form of story-telling that was very minimalist, but still served its purpose well. Because of this, Open Water is a great ocean-themed horror film.
6 Orca (1977)
The 1977 cult classic, Orcawas a different take on the man-vs-nature story. When profit-driven fisherman, Captain Nolan, played by Richard Harris, targets an Orca for his next pay check, he unleashes the creature's rage by mistakenly killing its mate and offspring. The orca seeking revenge, targets the local village to instigate a war on Nolan and his associates. This leads Nolan and the Orca to a fight to the death.
This film was a reverse take on the man-fighting-nature trope. Rather than the Orca being a monster, hunting down helpless humans, the fisherman was the monster. When Nolan killed the female Orca, he broke apart the Orca's family and destroyed its life. The Orca was no different from a vigilante out for revenge for the death of his wife. While some critics label Orca a cliché mash-up of Moby Dickthe film was very original in humanizing the creature when most films showed humans as the heroes triumphing over the monster. This film was a brutal look into human greed and its consequences.
5 Underwater (2020)
Underwaterthe 2020 deep water, sci-fi film, follows the crew of a drilling station located six miles beneath the water's surface. When an earthquake erupts, water crashes through a section of the stations walls leaving the surviving members cut off from the surface without communication or escape pods. The crew must find a means of escape from the wreckage while avoiding the ancient creatures awoken by the earthquake that creep closer to them with every breath.
This film was an interesting take on an ocean-based movie. The whole movie could have been set in space with an alien race attacking, but making it a drilling station in the Mariana's Trench was a new take on the average sci-fi story. It also gives the audience a sense of dread, knowing that the terrifying creatures lurk just beyond our reach. The survival story of the crew was well done, with realistic reactions to a life-or-death situation; added to the creatures hiding at the dark, ocean floor; the film is a must-watch.
4 Lake Placid (1999)
The horror classic, Lake Placid from 1999, is a favorite among B-movie enthusiasts. A local game warden, played by Bill Pullman, looks into a bizarre case of a man killed by a mysterious creature. When the Sheriff, played by Brendan Gleeson, and a paleontologist, played by Bridget Fonda, tracks down the creature to discover a crocodile the size of a dinosaur hell-bent on devouring anything in its path.
The killer crocodile film was a deviation from the typical shark movies that followed Jaws. It used a fresh water system which allowed the monster to hide in plain sight. While the effects were not the best, the story and performances kept the audience engaged. It was also a fan favorite for Betty White's performance as an overly sweet, scheming woman.
3 Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Another cult classic from 1999 is Deep Blue Sea. On a secluded research facility studying DNA-altered shark brains for a cure for Alzheimer's, a routine procedure goes wrong. With mutated sharks on the loose, the ragtag group of researchers must stop the sharks from escaping into the wild and taking over the ecosystem.
The performances from a great cast were what drove this film. LL Cool J portrayed a fun, parrot-loving chef and Samuel L. Jackson played a corporate executive with a leader personality that takes over. Most of the characters have over-the-top personalities that would clash under normal circumstances, but worked together when face-to-face with death. Woven into a neat storyline with mutant sharks, the film was a great watch.
2 Jaws (1975)
The blockbuster from 1975 from Steven Spielberg, Jawsis always on someone's mind when they think of creatures from the ocean. Following the story of a killer shark terrorizing tourists at the beach. When a stubborn mayor refuses to close down the beach, the local sheriff, an ichthyologist, and a boat captain venture out to capture the creature. The trio quickly realize that nature is a stronger beast than anticipated.
When Jaws premiered, it scared an entire generation from going into the ocean. One of the original aquatic horror films, not only dealt with the man-eater, but also the consequences of choices. The film was successful due largely to the editing style that refrained from showing the problematic puppet. This worked in the films favor by leaving the gruesome details to the audience's imagination.
1 The Shape of Water (2017)
In 2017, Guillermo Del Toro created the masterpiece The Shape of Water. The Academy Award-winning film, follows a mute woman that works as a cleaner for a government laboratory. One day she meets a subject held captive in the facility, an aquatic creature from South America. As she forms a bond with the mysterious being, she finds that its survival relies on her helping it escape the clutches of a hostile government agent.
This film followed the role-reversed story style that is typical of Del Toro. The monster is not the creature that is different from us, but the human that loses their sense of humanity. With the story surrounding an amphibian being, the creature was designed to be whimsical and beautiful. It could still look threatening when in danger, but when at peace, it was delicate and vulnerable.
All the films listed have different story-telling styles and effect designs. They have their own special take on creatures that come from the water, yet they share the same story of man-vs-monster. They bring to life the epic battles that keep audiences coming back for more.