In films, animals are usually featured as pet side characters, portrayed as cute and lovable. But in the horror and thriller genres, they come across as the opposite: predators who are out to get the main characters.
While murderers may have evil motives that drive them to perform wicked acts covered in shadows, wild beasts are different—they have no higher intelligence, and they merely act on natural instincts.
Such animals can be “real” animals that were provoked, or they could be genetically enhanced organisms that are unnatural, but the end is always the same: they find themselves preying on humans. And in some ways, these movies can be even scarier than ghosts and murderers.
From land to sea, here are some of the best movies about man against animals and what they must do to survive.
10. Lake Placid (1999)
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Lake Placid is a 1999 film written by David Kelly and directed by Steve Miner. The movie is about a group of people hunting for a 30-foot-long saltwater crocodile that’s terrorizing the fictional Black Lake.
Lake Placid was produced by Fox 2000 Pictures with Stan Winston Studios, a well-known special effects creator who worked on predators.
The jumpscare elements are perfect to the animal’s behavior, as crocodiles normally hunt using surprise attacks. If you’re not observant enough, you might never know that a predator is right next to you.
9. Jaws (1975)
Jaws is a 1975 film directed by Steven Spielberg. The film follows the story of a police chief together with a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter, who are all trying to hunt down a man-eating Great White Shark that’s attacking swimmers at a summer resort town.
Jaws was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean, and it’s still regarded as the best film ever made about sharks. It was even selected in 2001 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
This film popularized the survival horror genre with sharks in open waters, and it inspired other shark films with different approaches and twists.
8. The Breed (2006)
The Breed is a 2006 horror film directed by Nicholas Mastandrea, featuring a group of friends who visit an island that two of them inherited from their uncle. The island, however, is an experimental training ground for genetically enhanced dogs.
Dogs are known to be man’s best friend, but in this movie, they’re vicious to the point of being one’s worst nightmare. Without any other means of survival except to get off the island, the group needs to find their way out before the killer dogs waiting outside get them.
7. Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Snakes? On a plane? Doesn’t sound like much of a threat if they just stay in their cages and chill in the cargo bay. But, of course, things don’t always run smoothly in the world of make-believe.
Snakes on a Plane is a 2006 American film directed by David Ellis that centers on an assassination mission that aims to kill someone by bringing down an entire plane. In a cramped space with no way out, surrounded by snakes, how will the passengers survive?
The movie garnered mixed reviews on release and it only brought in $25 million at the box office, but it later became an internet sensation that spawned all kinds of parodies and fan-made videos.
6. Crawl (2019)
Crawl is a 2019 film written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, directed by Alexandre Aja, and produced by Sam Raimi.
The film revolves around the challenges of a daughter and father together with their dog, who are trapped in their home during a Category 5 hurricane. The deadly hurricane isn’t the worst news—there’s also a monster lurking under the water: an alligator.
The movie got positive reviews for its cinematography, including the CGI-based antagonist, which is undeniably visually appealing.
5. The Shallows (2016)
The Shallows is a 2016 survival film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and written by Anthony Jaswinski. This intense movie is about a woman surfer who’s stranded 180 meters away from shore, while trying to survive a Great White Shark that roams underwater.
This movie is one of the better shark movies because of its action-packed and dramatic storyline that doesn’t compromise on either horror or plot. Unlike other shark movies, The Shallows has minimal screams, which actually heightens the thrills and suspense.
4. The Meg (2018)
The Meg is a 2018 film directed by Jon Turteltaub and starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, and Cliff Curtis. It’s based on Steve Alten’s book, Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror.
The film revolves around the findings of a group of scientists, who discover the 75-foot-long megalodon shark—the largest species of shark to ever exist, which they thought was already extinct.
If you thought a man-eating Great White Shark was already deadly, just imagine how much scarier it would be to encounter this gigantic sea monster that can swallow more than one person in a single gulp.
3. Anaconda: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid (2004)
The Anaconda film series features giant anacondas that exceed what’s been recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Anaconda: The Hunt for Blood Orchid is the second installment of the series, but it’s a stand-alone film that’s worth watching even if you haven’t seen any of the other Anaconda films.
It features a group of scientists who go out on a journey to Borneo for the mythical Blood Orchid, which is known to give humans long life. But there’s a larger-than-life anaconda that won’t make it easy for them.
2. The Swarm (2020)
The Swarm is a French horror-drama film about a widow who raises locusts to sell. She accidentally finds out that blood and flesh cause her locusts to become over-active and rapidly reproduce, which she greedily exploits to increase how many locusts she can sell.
These locusts, which are now bloodthirsty, can’t kill people and animals on their own—but when they swarm, there’s no escaping them.
1. In the Heart of the Sea (2015)
In the Heart of the Sea is an adventure-drama film directed by Ron Howard that’s based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Nathaniel Philbrick. It features the sinking of a whaling ship named Essex in 1820 and the story of its survivors.
After their first action-packed-yet-successful catch of a sperm whale, they travel to farther seas in hopes of catching more. Unfortunately, a large sperm whale—whom some sailors called the “White Devil”—appears and destroys the Essex and kills most of its crew.
The focus of the story is about the remaining crew’s survival in the open sea, with limited supplies and no land in sight.