The Best Sharks In Pop-Culture

Find out our favourites from our favourite pointy-toothed friends…

Here at UDS, we owe a lot to sharks.

Not only do they make up a third of our name, but they gave us one of the best interview questions for us to pitch to the interesting folk we’ve been lucky enough to chat to.

From the likes of Frank Turner and Nirvanna the Band the Show, to up and coming creators making awesome stuff in an ever darkening world, we’ve put the same conundrum before them:

“What’s your favourite shark?”

With both fictional and real-life contenders in the running, it’s led to some outlandish, deranged and sometimes thought-provoking choices. And honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

But what we’ve neglected to do after all these years is turn the question back on ourselves. What are our favourite sharks from the world of pop-culture?

We rectify this frankly unacceptable oversight today. Read on as the UDS office spills the beans on our favourite finned friends…

Street Sharks (Tom)

Street Sharks (intro) 1994

Without a doubt the buffest sharks to grace our screens, the Street Sharks are about as 90s as you can get without playing Pogs in a Tasmanian Devil denim jacket.

Starring in the cartoon of the same name, the Street Sharks consist of Ripster, Jab, Streex and Big Slammu. Originally four human brothers, they’re transformed into anthropomorphic sharks by their scientist father’s evil partner –  Dr. Luther Paradigm (who is himself transformed into a piranha monster). 

After a trip through the ‘gene slammer’, the now scaly boys have to use their new powers to save their dad from Dr Paradigm, as well as his army of mutant animals sent to destroy our heroes.

It’s hilarious Saturday morning schlock, and will give you a phantom taste of Sunny-D just by watching it. Besides, who wouldn’t want to look like a muscle-bound shark? A clear winner in my books.

Tiny – Arkham Series (Dobbie)

Batman: Arkham City Boss # 6: Tiny

There are many contenders for the greatest shark in all of pop-culture – some of them are no doubt included in this very article! But the mere fact of the matter is that there’s only one shark that should come to EVERYONE’S mind when asked what the greatest shark in pop-culture is. It’s blatantly obvious. Whether you fear him or find his sheer love for the taste of human limbs hilarious, there’s no denying that the world was forever changed by a single shark at a single point in the history of all of film, TV and video games. But frankly, I think Jaws is fucking boring and has given all other sharks a really bad reputation, so I’m not gonna pick him purely on principle. 

You wanna know why I don’t find movies all that scary? It’s because I’m watching someone else live through the plot. Sure, maybe I could see myself in their situation, but that doesn’t mean I’m living it in the same way they are. Jaws isn’t scary. Maybe it was way back then, but nowadays it ain’t gonna cut it. For my money, the entertainment medium that I do find is able to scare me is video games. You’re right, maybe in real life I’m not really Arthur Morgan getting progressively more fed up with Dutch’s constant assertions that he “has a plan”, but when I’ve been playing as him for more than 20 hours and making his choices – both good and bad – then you better believe I’m gonna start feeling like the things he’s doing are actually my own choices; my own mini life that I’m living vicariously through this video game cowboy.

I’m not Batman (or am I…?), but when I play the Arkham games, I’m allowed to feel like I am. I can grapple and glide around beating up thugs to my every whim, or infiltrate a base belonging to one of Batman’s extensive rogues gallery – for instance, The Penguin. When going after The Penguin in Arkham City, you’ll find yourself coming face to face with one of his beloved pets – Tiny. Tiny is basically just a giant great white shark who now lives in a water-filled tank in a museum that Oswald Cobblepot has repurposed as his base. Now dubbing this room the ‘Torture Chamber’, anyone who comes to blows with Penguin is sent to walk across the ice that covers the top of the tank and hope their tip-toeing doesn’t garner Tiny’s attention. Even Shark-Repellent Batspray won’t protect the Dark Knight from one false move in Tiny’s radius.

…Ok, no, I don’t think Tiny is the greatest shark in Pop-Culture. Even in DC’s pantheon, King Shark is obviously better. I just don’t like Jaws very much.

The Sharks – West Side Story (Ryan)

West Side Story (2021) La Borinqueña Sharks Version

Tom didn’t like my first draft of this article, where I sang lyrical about my favourite loan shark, Jackie Treehorn (I believe his exact words were ‘what the fuck is this? Paste that in the doc so I never have to see it again’), so here’s some other sharks that I like – The Sharks from West Side Story

I am picking the Sharks from the Spielberg version, as it’s the one I’ve seen the most recently, and therefore the most fresh in my mind. For the uninitiated, West Side Story is a musical from the 50s, about two rival gangs in New York – the Italian-American Jets, headed up by Tony and Riff, and the Puerto Rican Sharks, headed up by Bernardo. Things get complicated when Tony falls for Bernardo’s sister, Maria. It’s Romeo and Juliet, but with an American tinge.

The Sharks and the Jets fight it out over a small patch of land, which is likely to be gentrified anyway. The Sharks are the new boys in town, but even their way of life is being threatened by the New York middle classes. Fighting over the land is the only thing that makes them feel like they have a little bit of control over their situation.

The best performances from the film come from Rachel Zegler’s Maria, and Ariana DeBose’s Anita, both affiliated with The Sharks. 

Notable shoutouts: Sharkboy, Sharknado, the casting of Stallone as King Shark in The Suicide Squad even though the film was as disappointing as the rest of James Gunn’s repertoire.

Sharkboy – The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (Drew)

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl | 'Lullaby' (HD) | MIRAMAX

Taylor Lautner, like all of the main stars of the Twilight films, got way more shit than he ever deserved. They’re doing alright now of course: Lautner did a great job on Cuckoo and Scream Queens; Kristen Stewart has enjoyed a nice big screen resurgence; and Robert Pattinson is vengeance now, but it doesn’t erase the years of vitriol thrown their way for nigh-on a decade.

It’s with that in mind that I want to look back to the simpler, sweeter time before all of this, where Lautner had his breakout movie role as Sharkboy in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (this was back during that first phase when people thought we were ready for 3D).

For a half-shark, Sharkboy’s origin story definitely wins the award for most mentions of the word shark in the shortest amount of time. I especially love the line, “His father studied great white sharks, and called his son Sharkboy because of how much he loved to care for the sharks.” This movie’s story was conceived by Robert Rodriguez’ adolescent son, and it really, really shows.

But that’s why I love the guy. The whole film is so unabashedly by children, for children, with no hint of pretence or self-awareness. When you watch Sharkboy breakdancing and threatening to beat the shit out of Max if he doesn’t go to sleep in his iconic ‘Dream’ song (which works by the way), it’s an eye-opening look into a time now-past.

Because my guy is just having fun. He has no concept of the permanence of the internet. He has no idea that this will seared into the brains of millions of children, who will see it pop up on Youtube a decade later thanks to inscrutable algorithms, and forever associate it with this now-30-year-old man who by all accounts is quite private. It’s the earnest, complete disregard for future possibilities that only a child could have, and it’s beautiful.

Also, fuck you Dobbie, Jaws is great.

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