Hollywood is nothing if not a sucker for trends, and one of the industry’s latest has to do with sharks. During each of the past few summers, we’ve been blessed with a shark flick: The Shallows in 2016, 47 Meters Down in 2017, and The Meg in 2018. The tradition will continue on Friday with 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, a sequel to the 2017 film that replaces two women trapped in a disconnected shark cage at the bottom of the ocean with four high school girls trapped in a series of underwater caves with a bunch of huge (and blind, and pale) great white sharks. It looks completely absurd, which is to say that you damn well know I’ve already bought my ticket for opening night.
To celebrate Uncaged’s release, The Ringer’s two biggest shark enthusiasts—myself and Megan “the Meg” Schuster—have decided to rank the top 25 sharks in pop culture and the real world. A couple of quick notes before we get started: Because this is a ranking of pop culture sharks and not shark species, not all of the sharks appearing on this list are actual sharks. And to put together our list, we each composed rankings and then determined the final order via average scores, in order to accurately reflect our opinions. (It ultimately didn’t matter for certain entries, like “Baby Shark,” which is one we would both jettison to the surface of the sun.)
With that settled, let’s get to the rankings—though you already have a good idea which shark lands dead last on our list. —Miles Surrey
25. Baby Shark
Megan Schuster: FUUUUUUUCK THIS NOISE.
24. Loan Sharks
Surrey: As far as these things go on the danger-to-your-daily-health spectrum, predatory lending > the predators of our oceans. It’s a testament to the profound awfulness of “Baby Shark” that loan sharks didn’t capture the last spot, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t universally despised, too. The absolute worst is when loan sharks have super-catchy commercial jingles: If you’re ever stumbled across an ad for J.G. Wentworth, “8-7-7 CASH NOW!” is probably ringing in your head as we speak. (Apologies, unless you have a structured settlement and you need cash now, but also, you really shouldn’t trust a loan shark.)
Schuster: For about 15 seconds I considered relitigating the last spot of these rankings, because c’mon, loan sharks are terrible! Then I clicked on the “Baby Shark” YouTube clip again and I’ve never been more sure of our moral fortitude.
Surrey: Before he was a shapeshifting werewolf who “imprinted” on the child daughter of the woman he once loved (that’s fucking weird!!) in the Twilight movies, Taylor Lautner was a Sharkboy. I recall thinking The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl was distinctly terrible in 2005—and after perusing a few YouTube clips, it might be even worse than I remembered. At one point, with the magic of hokey early-2000s CGI, Sharkboy fed sushi to great whites. (Ah, yes, a tiny piece of sashimi will satisfy the appetite of an apex predator that HUNTS SEALS, YOU WEIRD OCEAN KID!)
While I am sympathetic toward the young Lautner for being saddled with two roles that are giant signal flares for internet mockery, it doesn’t take away from the fact Sharkboy is so fundamentally trash.
22. Pool Sharks
Surrey: Your local YMCA is no longer safe! Kidding, this obviously shouldn’t be read literally: If you aren’t familiar with the term, a pool shark cons someone in a game of pool by pretending to suck at the game until money is wagered, then they’re suddenly really good and you’re out $50. So even though they’re not actual sharks, encountering a pool shark is likely an unpleasant experience—one that I have avoided by virtue of being so bad at billiards that nobody could feign to lose to me.
21. The Sharks From West Side Story
Surrey: Do you ever just run into your crosstown rivals and engage in an elaborately choreographed street fight? No? With respect to one of the great musicals of the 20th century, it’s hard to take a street gang called the Sharks seriously when they’re spinning in the air like dolphins at SeaWorld.
20. The San Jose Sharks
Schuster: The Sharks are a perennially solid hockey team: They’ve made the playoffs in 21 out of their 27 seasons in San Jose, a remarkable feat! They’ve never been able to seal the deal, though, and lacking that killer instinct makes me feel like they should be forced to rebrand. But at least they gave us possibly the greatest cover photo in the history of ESPN the Magazine’s “Body Issue.”
Surrey: Jason Momoa, step aside: These are the real Aquamen.
19. The Shark Fonzie Jumps in Happy Days
Schuster: The TV moment that sparked a phrase that sparked a thousand subsequent references to flailing media entities.
Not a great moment for the actual shark involved, as it gets absolutely owned by the Fonz. It’s also a pretty weird moment all around because Fonzie appears to be [checks notes] waterskiing in a leather jacket? Regardless, this was a cultural moment of the highest order and it will live in infamy for as long as pop culture—or, ya know, Earth—exists.
18. The Shark From The Shallows
Surrey: This supremely territorial jerk ruined Blake Lively’s surfing trip/grieving process over the death of her mother by chomping on her leg and then preventing her from swimming back to shore. (Meanwhile, obligatory Dumb Characters take turns getting devoured while she’s hanging onto a protruding rock.) In terms of on-screen badassery and sheer perseverance, few have been as formidable as this great white, who’s like the Novak Djokovic of sharks. We did, however, have to consider the embarrassing way my dude was killed, since he inadvertently impaled himself in an all-time great self-own.
I know Blake Lively is quite the (literal, in this case) snack, but she’s not worth this much trouble!
Surrey: With the way sea levels keep rising, the dystopian future presented in the ’70s animated series Jabberjaw might soon resemble our own. It’s 2076, when humanity apparently lives underwater, and an anthropomorphic great white named Jabberjaw is the drummer for a band called the Neptunes. Reading the plot synopsis for each episode is a real trip—i.e., “Jabberjaw and the Neptunes accidentally go through the Bermuda Triangle and are taken prisoner by Sorceress Madame Sargasso”—but as far as Hanna-Barbera productions go, I was more of a Scooby-Doo kid. (I can practically hear Jabberjaw crying: “I don’t get no respect!”)
16. Shark Bites Fruit Snacks
Schuster: Ahh, the good old days.
Surrey: They’re no Fruit Gushers, but respect to Shark Bites all the same.
15. Card Sharks
Schuster: Every time I come back from Vegas, I decide to become a card shark. The vision lasts a few hours—me, glammed up, sitting at tables with the rich and famous and cleaning house. Then I remember that I have neither the money nor the knowledge necessary to devote my life to scamming others. But it’s fun to imagine! Which is why card sharks top the card shark–pool shark–loan shark trio in these rankings.
14. King Shark
Schuster: I’m gonna be honest, I don’t read comic books or watch much in the way of comic-related movies or TV shows. But in doing my research for these rankings (I am a journalist, after all), I read that King Shark is the son of Shark God—that’s right, in this fictional DC Comics universe, there is a shark god—and so, in order to not piss off my new underwater overlord, I’ll give King Shark a spot in the middle of the list.
13. Lenny From Shark Tale
Schuster: When Miles and I put together our Shark Movie Matrix last year ahead of the release of The Meg, Lenny was one of only three movie sharks we put in the “friendly” category—and he is unquestionably the friendliest of that group. He’s a complete disappointment to his Godfather-esque family: He goes vegetarian midway through the movie, and he spray paints himself to look like a dolphin so he doesn’t scare other fish. When people talk about souls that are too pure for their respective worlds, they’re talking about Lenny.
12. Shark Tank Sharks
Surrey: Shark Tank is basically the Billions of reality television. If you have ever read this website, that’s obviously a good thing. Wait, Megan, how come Shark Tank didn’t crack the top 10?!
Schuster: Honestly I was wondering that too. But I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of a list that has weird-looking weaponized sharks (more on that in a bit) as high as it does.
11. Sharknado Sharks
Surrey: “What’s scarier than a ton of sharks?” a producer must’ve said to a room of executives sometime in 2013. “A ton of sharks—get this—in a tornado.” The Sharknado franchise is, somehow, six movies deep—there is also a very real spinoff called Lavalantula about, you guessed it, lava-breathing tarantulas—but while its gonzo charms started to become redundant during the Obama administration, we’ll always have Ian Ziering jumping into the mouth of a great white and tearing it apart from the inside with a chainsaw.
10. Greg “the Shark” Norman
Schuster: Greg Norman is an excellent golfer: The Australian won two Open Championships, in 1986 and 1993, and had 30 top-10 major finishes. But it turns out, Norman is an even better brander! The nickname “Great White Shark” (now mostly shortened to “the Shark”) was given to him by a newspaper writer during the 1981 Masters, and he’s run with it ever since, creating his personal website at shark.com and putting the word “shark” in the name of pretty much every business he has a stake in. Norman has taken the “always be on brand” life advice and truly elevated it to another level.
9. Landshark From Saturday Night Live
Schuster: An excellent throwback SNL sketch in which the cast somehow manages to mock Jaws, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and basically all of marine biological science within the same four minutes. A truly impressive feat.
8. Friggin’ Sharks With Friggin’ Laser Beams Attached to Their Heads in Austin Powers
Surrey: Dr. Evil endured the indignity of ill-tempered sea bass in the first Austin Powers, having been denied his dream of having “friggin’ sharks with friggin’ laser beams attached to their heads” because the animals were on the endangered species list. I wouldn’t know the first thing about leading an evil organization with aspirations of world domination, but having a lair fitted with modified sharks seems like the ultimate flex. Thankfully, the franchise’s third (and final?) entry, Goldmember, didn’t just provide an unreal lowlight to Beyoncé’s acting career, but also finally realized Dr. Evil’s lifelong dream.
Turns out, friggin’ sharks + friggin’ laser beams attached to their heads = a friggin’ safety hazard.
7. Misunderstood Shark Meme
I’m a blast at parties.
6. Bruce From Finding Nemo
Surrey: Along with his pals Anchor and Chum, this reformed great white wants to embrace a fish-free diet. He has a cute little mantra: Fish are friends, not food. How commendable! Unfortunately, the scent of blood makes Bruce absolutely ravenous for fresh meat.
Bruce attacking Marlin and Dory in Finding Nemo is low-key terrifying (and also the umpteenth instance of a Pixar movie referencing The Shining). But there’s something endearing about Bruce trying—emphasis on trying!—to go vegetarian.
Now, I’m a little worried the next shark on this list ranked so high because of some [clears throat] unchecked bias on behalf of The Ringer’s Shark Expert panel of two. I wonder why!
5. The Meg
Schuster: This may not be a popular opinion out in the real world, but in this ranking, size matters. The Meg cracks the top 10 not because the movie was particularly revolutionary (though watching Jason Statham fight [spoiler alert] multiple massive sharks was great—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), but because megalodons ruled the deep in their day, and despite the movie’s shoddy science, I will never get in the ocean again without being at least 2 percent concerned that one of these 60-foot-long monsters is lurking nearby.
4. Left Shark From Super Bowl XLIX
Schuster: A modern-day statue to human perseverance … and making the most out of your five minutes of fame. What could—and honestly probably should—have been written off as a weird Super Bowl halftime stunt became a GIF, and then a meme, and then led to interviews in which Bryan Gaw, who played the left shark in Katy Perry’s 2015 performance, “breaks his silence” and “comes clean.” This was all ridiculous, but the phrase “some days you’re the right shark, some days you’re the left” did briefly supplant “keep calm and carry on” in the annoying motivational quotes hierarchy, so at least that’s something.
3. The Intelligent Mako Sharks From Deep Blue Sea
Surrey: We don’t get a lot of mako representation in pop culture, which is a bummer since they’re the fastest-swimming shark in the world—and that’s pretty cool! Thankfully, the galaxy-brain premise of Deep Blue Sea did them justice: What if the fastest shark species in the world also got super swole and super intelligent on account of [checks notes] Alzheimer’s research? The paper-thin conceit—and most characters just shrug and are like, “Yeah, annoyingly there’s this side effect where the genetically modified sharks have become really smart, but don’t worry we’re close to a cure”—speaks to the movie’s priorities. You are here to see sharks do some wild shit, like using Stellan Skarsgard’s gurney to break through laboratory glass, or interrupting Samuel L. Jackson mid-monologue in one of the best jump-scare deaths … ever?
Deep Blue Sea is a rich, gloriously stupid text. And its scares are deeply satisfying because the film’s trio of sharks seem particularly vindictive toward the humans, which, in the context of the plot, seems to be because they were experimented on without their consent. Nowadays, major Hollywood studios are way more hesitant to green-light blockbusters based on original (and laudably idiotic) conceits, but at least the ’90s blessed us with supersharks before superheroes took center stage.
2. Deep Blue
Schuster: If you’re not a shark nerd like us and this name doesn’t immediately smack you over the head with a sense of awe, here’s some backstory: Deep Blue is a 20-foot-long female great white shark that ACTUALLY EXISTS! She is believed to be one of the biggest sharks ever caught on film, and one of the biggest the species has ever produced (most female great whites get to about 15 feet). She’s vibing and thriving, alternating, it seems, between the waters off Guadalupe Island in Mexico and Hawaii (she was spotted there—pregnant!—earlier this year). Shouts to Deep Blue for being the only real shark to make this list. I hope wherever she is, she’s having a hot girl summer.
1. The Shark From Jaws
Surrey: Who else could it be? Jaws and the merciless predator stalking Amity Island’s shores has been written about and discussed ad nauseam: You’ve already read dozens of times how the mechanical shark Steven Spielberg used in the film was notoriously dysfunctional, which led to the shark having so little screen time, which in turn elevated the suspense. The unforgettable opening scene is bone-chilling because all the terror is captured from a view of its flailing victim, and the fact nobody’s around to hear her screams.
Jaws is an all-time great movie, and the best shark flick ever made. Just because this is the consensus doesn’t make it any less true! And for the rare moments in the film when we do see this huge fella emerge from the water, he sure makes it count. Just ask poor Quint:
There might be sharks on this list who are proficient at golf, genetically modified to cure Alzheimer’s, prehistorically huge, and who have laser beams attached to their heads, but the Jaws shark reigns supreme. As he likely will for decades to come.