The global film industry has seen its fair share of movie franchises that become major hits with fans, such as Jurassic Park and Harry Potter. In recent years, one of the most bizarre and popular has been the Sharknado series. Sharknado, which debuted in 2013, is a series of disaster films that features a tornado filled with man-eating sharks.
The film was an instant sensation, spawning six feature-length films and numerous television shows. Its success has been due to a combination of an outlandish premise, B-movie acting, and an enthusiastic fan base that embraces the incredulity of the films. While it is far from a critical favorite, its appeal has caused it to become part of the popular culture landscape, inspiring costumes, statues, and amusement park attractions.
The first film in the franchise, Sharknado (2013), introduced audiences to the series’ signature shark-filled tornadoes. Fringe characters Fin (Ian Ziering) and April (Tara Reid) take on the task of saving Los Angeles from the shark-filled behemoth. Combining flagrant special effects, over-the-top acting, and an absurd concept the film appealed to audiences’ love of campy films. Sharknado spawned five sequels in the original franchise.
The films, which followed Fin and April as they attempted to destroy the titular tornadoes, were full of outrageous scenes and dialogue. As well as a shark laser, numerous puns and jokes referencing pop culture were made. Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (2016) saw Ziering’s character face a “sharctica”, and a further three films plus a TV series were quickly released.
The franchise is notable for its enthusiastic fan base and tie-in content. People cosplay as the films’ characters, compete in Sharknado-themed races, and have produced various parodies. It has also become somewhat of a status symbol amongst celebrities. Actors such as Olivia Newton-John, Martin Sheen, and Burt Reynolds have all made appearances in the series. Additionally, the films have become reliable moneymaking machines for The Asylum, the production company behind the franchise’s popularization.
The engaging franchise has become a global phenomenon. The Sharknado production team have even taken steps to turn the franchise into a self-sustaining universe, with plans to launch a “shark-based cinematic universe”. Cinematic universes have become increasingly common in recent years, with franchises such as Marvel’s Avengers being incredibly popular with audiences.
Looking at the immense success of the Sharknado franchise, it’s impossible to ignore the impact it has had on popular culture. Movies that are willing to embrace the ridiculousness of their parameters such as Sharknado have become increasingly prominent in recent years. While they may never be critical favorites, they remain commercially successful and can be enjoyed by both children and grown-ups alike. As the franchise continues its never-ending expansion, it will be interesting to see how it continues to shape popular culture.