CinemaSpin Article

Animal attack movies are popular because they prey on moviegoer’s fear of nature. Instead of phantoms, demonic spirits, or imaginary beasts, the protagonists are creatures we know are real and lurking out there… somewhere. But how close to reality are they? We took a look at a few animal attack movies to find out.

The Birds

If Alfred Hitchcock didn’t invent the animal attack subgenre of horror films, he certainly was the one who popularized it in his 1963 horror film The Birds. The movie focuses on a small California town called Bodega Bay that is beset by a deadly murder of crows.

News reports of people being swarmed by crows are hard to come by, but that doesn’t meant birds can’t kill you. See a list of the “Top 10 Birds Most Likely To Kill You” here, which includes a man who died of a heart attack after being swarmed by seagulls. Not exactly like The Birds, but close.


Sharknado may have surpassed Jaws in terms of recent popularity, but Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic still keeps people on the lookout for dorsal fins when they’re at the beach. In the original Jaws, the shark kills 5 people. In Jaws 2, the kills jump to 16.

Conservationists routinely tell people that sharks are misunderstood and not the bloodthirsty killers as portrayed in the movie. The numbers seem to back up this assertion. Approximately 75 shark attacks are reported each year, but only a handful are unprovoked and fatal.

The International Shark Attack File says there have been only 497 confirmed fatalities from unprovoked shark attacks since 1580 – or slightly more than once per year. Do sharks kill humans? Sure. But it’s not a bloodbath like we saw in Jaws.


Backcountry’s movie poster proclaims that the film is “based on a true story.” Director Adam MacDonald told an interviewer after deciding to do a movie that was “Open Water in the woods,” he found a “story of a couple that encountered a predatory black bear in Northern Ontario.” You can read the initial news report about that attack here, but we won’t ruin the movie by telling you how closely MacDonald stuck to the real story.

People usually think of black bears as smaller and less dangerous than grizzlies, but in recent years, black bears have killed about as many humans in North America as other bears, leading states such as New Jersey to allow hunters to kill more bears.

Could what happens in Backcountry happen in real life? It definitely has, and probably will again.


Piranha (1978) and Piranha 3D (2010) both feature human-hungry schools of the small fish indigenous to South American rivers. Both films feature unsuspecting swimmers being devoured in a matter of seconds by mobs of the fish.

Piranhas look like relatively harmless fish, so each movie gave them a spin. The aggressive flesh-eating piranhas in the 1978 film were the result of a military experiment gone wrong while the 2010 version featured an ancient variety that had been thought to be extinct for 2 million years.

Fatalities due to piranha attacks are pretty rare, but a massive Christmas attack took place in Chile a few years ago. More than 70 swimmers were bitten by a variety of piranha called Pygocentrus palometa, tearing off chunks of skin.