Lakes. Rivers. Ponds. Oceans. Shallows. Seas. No matter the body of water, our cultural obsession with what lies beneath has spawned some of the most frightening cinematic scenarios. Jaws set the tone in 1975 for the water-based creature feature, and in subsequent decades, other filmmakers have sought to ruin any remaining sense of comfort for swimmers, surfers, boaters, and floaters.
The films on this list will make you think twice about taking that quick dip. Hold your breath and dive in, if you dare.
Open Water's simple yet groundbreaking concept is the stuff of nightmares: two divers in Australia are accidentally abandoned in shark-infested waters. Cue 80 minutes of watching the pair drift and float as their imminent doom closes in upon them. There are no paranormal menaces or government-made super fish needed to make this a horrific story.
This low-budget film ends exactly how you'd imagine, but it's the wait that fills viewers with the most dread. What's even worse is that it's based on a true story, which means it could happen to any of us.
Despite its critical status as a B horror movie, Deep Blue Sea manages to deliver plenty of scares. Imagine a group of scientistic and engineers navigating flooded underwater corridors while genetically engineered sharks stalk them. Imagine Samuel L. Jackson getting dragged into the water by a sharp-toothed mako in the middle of a dramatic monologue. Imagine L.L. Cool J and Thomas Jane fighting for their lives as they watch their fellow crew members get devoured.
Deep Blue Sea is remembered for its claustrophobic, action-packed take on what happens when people mess with nature. It even generated a sequel in 2018.
The next time you're at the beach and see a fin in the distance, you better hope it's not a lab-made shark that has gone rogue and turned into a slaying machine.
A salvage company in the Bering Sea stumbles upon a vessel lost 40 years prior under mysterious circumstances. After finding gold worth millions aboard the SS Antonia Graza, the convoy sets its sights on claiming the treasure. Their efforts are thwarted by a series of supernatural events. Staged like a classic ghost story set on the high seas, 2002's Ghost Ship uses slaying, seduction, and betrayal to advance its narrative.
Gabriel Byrne and Desmond Harrington bring their signature devilish charm to their roles as members of the salvage crew. Excess carnage and special effects make the visual elements of the movie the most memorable.
Nothing screams late-'90s mainstream action-horror like watching Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube get chased around by colossal water-bound snakes. Anaconda follows a documentary crew as they focus on Shirishama tribe life along the Amazon River. Instead, they find themselves the focus of a pair of dangerous snakes. Waterfalls, murky knee-high water, and deep jungle foliage set an exotic backdrop for a contemporary take on the human versus predator trope. Anaconda is a slithering, pulpy feeding frenzy.