Pictured: Sharknado 5 director Anthony C. Ferrante (far right), along with his stars Fabio, Masiela Lusha, Cassie Scerbo, Tara Reid, Ian Ziering and Chloe Lattanzi, offer up reactions of absolute terror re: a new Sharknado attack at the Fandango Studio @ Comic-Con. (Photo by Bryan Beasley.)
With Sharknado 5: Global Swarming set to terrorize TV screens this Sunday on syfy — and with the original Sharknado available to stream for free on FandangoNOW all day Friday — Fandango caught up with famed Sharknado director Anthony C. Ferrante to find out which epic disaster and apocalyptic movies helped inspire his incredibly successful string of freakalicious shark movies.
From Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark classic to the 1980 parody Airplane!, check out all of Ferrante’s picks below.
1. Jaws (1975)
Okay, so it’s about sharks, but it’s about the ultimate freakin’ shark (nicknamed Bruce behind-the-scenes). Bruce is a badass Great White that terrorizes the small town of Amity Island. Director Steven Spielberg has made the ultimate disaster movie because it’s not about going big and epic, it’s about being small and contained, which makes it so frightening. It’s no wonder several decades later we’re still talking about it and still seeing countless rip-offs that never come close to brilliance of the very first summer blockbuster film.
2. Titanic (1997)
There are many great filmmakers working today, but only James Cameron puts all his chips and clout on the table every time he makes a movie — and always manages to come out a winner. While science-fiction was his forte, Titanic was his defining opus, a love story set against the backdrop of the 1912 oceanic tragedy. Practical and CGI effects are integrated flawlessly. It’s an emotional but also technical tour-de-force which won a well-deserved Best Director Oscar for Cameron.
3. Airplane! (1980)
It would be more appropriate to list the 1970s Airport movies which loosely inspired this satire (though 1954’s Zero Hour is the official source material, probably to avoid any lawsuits at the time with the Airport movies). But directors David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams managed to not only make a hilarious movie, they also created the ultimate airplane disaster movie as well. It’s all played relatively straight, which is where its magic comes from, plus, you gotta love Robert Hays as the troubled pilot with a deep, dark past.
4. Independence Day (1996)
Director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin (who share writing credits on this film) pay homage to the disaster movies they loved from the 1970s in this glorious alien invasion movie. Not only do you have a cast of thousands populating the movie, concurrent storylines and funny one-liners, but there’s also some of the best big-city destruction captured on film (this was when miniatures and CGI were seamlessly integrated before CGI later took over every aspect of big-budget action destruction). What Emmerich and Devlin understood is that in order for a movie like this to work, you needed to have characters you love but also add a healthy dose of humor. This one also made Will Smith a movie star, and you can see why during every frame of this thoroughly entertaining crowd-pleaser.
5. Twister (1996)
Director Jan de Bont created perfection with this storm chaser movie featuring endearing Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt as squabbling exes trying to track down the ultimate twister. It’s a dizzying, thrilling and fun ride with state-of-the-art effects that literally puts you into the heart of the storm. This has so many great moments that it’s hard to list them all, but the drive-in destruction and flying cows are some of my favorites. Bonus points for those who love the film’s Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham theme song “Twisted,” which reunited the pair after having split from Fleetwood Mac years earlier.
6. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Both the 1956 and 1978 version of this film are amazing takes on the 1955 Jack Finney novel The Body Snatchers, where an alien life has landed in the form of plant-like pods. If you sleep, you die and you’re reborn as a hive mind double that wants to assimilate the rest of earth’s population in the process. The 1950s version played off of Cold War paranoia and conformity, but the 1978 version perfected the vision under the direction of Philip Kaufman. This is scary stuff, with the disaster not coming from mass destruction, but from within. It’s subtle, creepy and results in one of the best surprise endings ever. Also props for Kaufman for linking the 1956 version to the remake with an appearance from Kevin McCarthy, who starred in the original. Much like John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), when a remake works, it doesn’t supplant the original, it enhances it, which is clearly the case here.
7. The Birds (1963)
Alfred Hitchcock delivers a still-terrifying disaster movie where birds take over a small Northern California town. Known for his smaller, character-based suspense thrillers, this one was epic on every scale and Hitchcock proves why he’s a master at milking every moment for maximum terror. It also helps he had such a great and sympathetic lead with Tippi Hedren.
8. Earthquake (1974)
This movie certainly hasn’t aged quite as well as it should, but it’s still 1970s disaster movie tropes at their finest. Charlton Heston is a former football player trying to find and save his family after a massive earthquake rips through Southern California. So many modern-day apocalyptic films have riffed off the template here, and there’s a reason why – it works.
9. Piranha (1978)
While I wanted to list the unintentionally funny 2008 M. Night Shyamalan movie The Happening, I didn’t want to torture people with that film’s bizarre storyline which would have translated better as a book than a movie. Instead, Piranha is a film that is both scary and funny at the same time and far more enjoyable to watch. Director Joe Dante and screenwriter John Sayles played it straight and poked fun at Jaws with this effective Roger Corman exploitation film. It sent both of them into the A list, and it proved you can take on a classic film like Jaws and create your own classic film in the process. Plus, it’s killer piranhas, you can’t go wrong – until, of course, Piranha II: The Spawning.
10. The Abyss (1989)
Yes, James Cameron again, but I would have to say this is probably my favorite film of his – and also one of his most underrated and misunderstood. The studio forced him to cut down the running time of his movie before the release, resulting in a great first half and an unsatisfying climax. Years later he was given the chance to finish his director’s cut (with glorious end-of-the-world-esque destruction) with a runtime clocking in at 171 minutes. If you see The Abyss, check out the long version, because it’s worth every second. Once again, Cameron knows how to mix the emotional with the spectacle, and the first half of this film is jaw-dropping, as a search and rescue team finds something troubling at the bottom of the ocean. The twists and turns here are fantastic, but it’s the character work performed flawlessly by Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio that gives this film its beating heart.
Sharknado 5: Global Swarming premieres Sunday night on syfy. Meanwhile, see how it all began by watching the original Sharknado — FOR FREE!! — on FandangoNOW this Friday, August 4.