Jaws is a 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring the late Roy Scheider as Chief Martin Brody, the late Robert Shaw as Quint, Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper, Lorraine Gary as Brody's wife Ellen and the late Murray Hamilton as Mayor Larry Vaughn. It is an adaptation of the 1974 novel of the same name by the late Peter Benchley, who himself wrote the film's screenplay along with Carl Gottlieb and portrayed the Interviewer in the film. The novel was also inspired by the infamous Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916. The novel and film are about a giant killer shark roaming the seas, attacking beachgoers on a fictional Massachusetts summer resort town called Amity Island.
A group of college students were having a late-night beach party on the resort island of Amity Island, Massachusetts. A girl named Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie) leaves the party to go skinny dipping in the ocean. A classmate of her named Tom Cassidy (Jonathan Filley) follows her but falls due to his alcohol consumption. While treading water, she is constantly being dragged in several directions by an unseen force as she screams in pain. She manages to reach a nearby buoy and grab it as she sobs. Within a few seconds, she is violently pulled under as she lets out with her final scream.
The next day, police deputy Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer) informs police chief Martin Brody (Scheider) of the report from Tom, whom he meets with at the beach about her disappearance. They find her partial remains being feasted on by crabs. At the police office, Brody's secretary Polly enters unaware of what's occurred and gossips about minuscule police business as a call from the medical examiner (Dr. Robert Nevin) informs that Chrissie was killed by a shark.
This leads to Brody closing the beaches, but the mayor of Amity Larry Vaughn (Hamilton) overrules him, fearing it will ruin the town's summer season. The medical examiner now agrees with Vaughn's theory that Chrissie was killed in a boating accident. Brody reluctantly accepts their conclusion. After a young man suddenly loses his dog named "Pippit" to the water without a trace, a young boy named Alex Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees) gets pulled from a yellow raft by the shark, causing the swimmers to get out of the water. All that is left is Alex's blood-stained raft.
The boy's mother (Lee Fierro) places a $3,000 bounty on the shark. A local professional shark hunter named Quint (Shaw) offers his services for $10,000. At night, Brody sits at home paging through library books about sharks. His wife Ellen (Gary) informs that their son Michael (Chris Rebello) is enjoying his birthday present, a small sailboat docked outside and he's sitting in it. Brody tells Michael to get out of the boat, but he wants to stay a little longer. Ellen looks at an illustration of a shark attacking a boat and shouts to Michael to immediately get out of the boat.
Meanwhile, in a sailboat, two local fishermen named Denherder and Charlie and head to the dock, hellbent on getting the shark first and collecting the bounty. Their plan consisting Charlie's wife's holiday roast, a large hook, a metal chain, and an inner tube and tie it all to the pier. The unseen shark has struck the bait and begins to take it out. The dock is ripped in half with Charlie on the forward section before he loses hold. The forward section, now an extension of the shark, turns and targets Charlie, as he swims and then tries to fumble himself onto the pier. Charlie makes his way onto the dock as the shark swims away.
The next day, marine biologist Matt Hooper (Dreyfuss) is helped by local fisherman Ben Gardner (Craig Kingsbury) and amateur fishermen hunt for the shark, laying chum in the ocean. In the medical examiner's office, Hooper examines Chrissie's remains, confirming that she was killed by a shark, not a boating accident. Meanwhile, a large tiger shark is caught by the local fishermen, leading the townspeople and Vaughn to believe the problem is solved. Hooper disputes it being the same predator and asks to examine its stomach contents, but Vaughn refuses to make the autopsy public as Quint in his vessel watches.
That evening, at dinner, Hooper talks to Ellen about the fishermen not hunting the shark that killed Chrissie Watkins and Alex Kintner. Then, Brody and Hooper open the shark's stomach and find no human remains inside it. While searching the night waters in Hooper's boat they find Ben Gardner's half-sunken vessel. Hooper explores the vessel underwater and retrieves a sizable great white shark's tooth embedded in the submerged hull. Terrified by finding Gardner's partial corpse, he drops the tooth. The next day, Hooper and Brody try to inform Vaughn that the shark that has been killing people is a great white (Carcharodon carcharias), but he discounts their claim and refuses to close the beaches or hire Quint. Many tourists arrive on the Fourth of July Weekend. Following a children's prank that caused panic at the main beach, the real shark enters an estuary, kills a boater (Ted Grossman) by ripping his leg off, and causes Michael to go into shock. Brody convinces Vaughn to hire Quint to hunt and kill the shark.
Quint, Brody, and Hooper set out to hunt and kill the shark on Quint's vessel called the "Orca". While Brody is given the task of laying a chum line, Quint waits for an opportunity to hook the shark. While Brody is still laying chum, he sees the shark for the first time behind the boat and is shocked, so he tells Quint that he's gonna need a bigger boat. The trio sees the shark, with Quint estimating it's length as 25 feet (7.6 meters) long with a weight of 3 short tons (2.7 metric tons). He harpoons a barrel into the shark's fin, but the shark drags the barrel and disappears. At night, the trio talks about their scars. Quint explains that he was a survivor of the USS Indianapolis during the war in the pacific in 1945. As the trio starts to sing "Show me the way to go home", the great white shark returns, ramming the hull and killing the power.
The trio work through the night, repairing the engine. The next morning, Brody attempts to call the Coast Guard, but Quint destroys the radio, making Brody very furious. After a long chase, Hooper harpoons another barrel into the shark. The trio ties it to the stern, but the shark drags the vessel backward, forcing water onto the deck and flooding the engine compartment, forcing Quint to sever the line to prevent the transom from being pulled out. He heads toward shore, hoping to lure the shark into shallow waters and suffocate it, but overtaxes and stalls the failed engine.
With the vessel immobilized, they attempt a riskier approach; Hooper puts on scuba set and enters the water in a shark-proof cage, intending to lethally inject the great white with a hypodermic spear filled with strychnine. The shark terrifies him and demolishes the cage, causing him to drop the spear before he can inject it. When the shark becomes entangled in the wrecked cage, Hooper manages to escape and hide on the seabed. The shark leaps into the boat directly and kills Quint.
Chief Brody is now trapped inside the sinking Orca, Brody shoves a scuba tank into the shark's mouth, then takes Quint's rifle and spear, and climbs the mast. He tries to stab the shark with the spear but drops it. The shark begins to swim towards Brody, but Brody shoots the tank, destroying it and killing the shark. Hooper surfaces and he and Brody use two barrels to swim back to Amity Island.
The movie ends with a nice wide shot of Amity Island's beach and as the credits roll, you can see Brody and Hooper swimming and they get out of the water.
Why It Rocks
- The first summer blockbuster and was just the beginning of a bright future for Steven Spielberg after several years of being little-known.
- Amazing and suspenseful score by the legendary John Williams, and was his second collaboration with Spielberg, the first being the 1974 film The Sugarland Express. Williams later won an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1976. (see below)
- The shark terrified many audiences, just like King Kong. It further proves how scary the shark animatronics were and how incredibly realistic it looked.
- Great acting, especially from Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss. The other actors were also really good.
- Roy Scheider is great as Chief Martin Brody.
- Robert Shaw is excellent as Quint.
- Richard Dreyfuss does a pretty good job as Matt Hooper.
- Memorable characters, especially the aforementioned main ones.
- The setting is pretty scary.
- The story, despite taking some liberties, follows the plot's key elements of the original novel and was written by Peter Benchley, the author of the novel. It also feels like a remake of the 1954 pre-code 3D monster film Creature from the Black Lagoon; they both feature the main protagonists on a boat hunting an underwater creature and a woman swimming with something watching her from underneath the water. The two films were both distributed and produced by Universal Pictures.
- Speaking of Benchley, he makes a nice cameo in this movie as an interviewer.
- The opening scene is great and scary. It's also shown in the film's poster.
- Great dialogue (eg. Quint's first lines; "Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go. And we gotta do it quickly, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than 3,000 bucks, chief.)".
- Memorable quotes like "You're gonna need a bigger boat" and "Smile, you son of a bitch". The line "You're gonna need a bigger boat' has been referenced and/or parodied several times in movies and TV shows and is also misheard as "We're gonna need a bigger boat".
- Epic ending climax during the battle between Brody and the shark.
- Quint's gruesome death provides excellent entertainment for splatter fans.
- The cinematography is great.
- Excellent directing by Steven Spielberg.
- Great pacing.
- The poster by Roger Kastel is well drawn and later became one of the most iconic movie posters of all time.
- There's a nice reference to Spielberg's 1971 film Duel; when the shark blows up, the same sound effect in Duel when the truck falls of the cliff is heard.
- This film helped inspire many filmmakers, from Eli Roth to Bryan Singer.
- There's a really cute scene in the movie where Brody and his son Sean mimic each other by touching themselves in the face.
- Really good sound mixing by Robert L. Hoyt, Roger Herman, Earl Madery and John R. Carter, which won them an Oscar (see below).
- The film is also responsible for popularizing the entire killer animal movie genre and paved the way for other movies of the same genre such as Orca and Alligator.
- You don't get to see the shark that often, due to the mechanical sharks not working.
- However, this is sort of a good thing at the same time, since it makes him more intimidating and scary.
- Historical inaccuracy: Quint mentions that the U.S.S. Indianapolis sank on June 29, 1945, when in actuality, it sank on July 30, 1945
- While the first sequel was good, the last two were terrible.
- There are a variety of bits in the film that aren’t loyal to Peter Benchley's book.
- There is a moment when the shark roars. Shark's can't roar.
- While the shark looked amazing for the standards of when it was released, it may not have aged well by today's standards.
The film opened with a $7 million weekend and in two weeks, it recouped its $9 million production costs. In just 78 days, it overtook Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather released in 1972 as the highest-grossing film at the North American box office, sailing past that that motion picture's earnings of $86 million to become the first film to earn more than $100 million in the US gross rentals. It's initial release ultimately brought in $123.1 million in rentals. The two theatrical re-releases in 1976 and 1979 brought its total rentals to $133.4 million. In December 1975, the film entered overseas release and its international business mirrored its domestic performance. It broke records in Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, and Spain. By 1977, the movie was the highest-grossing international release with worldwide rentals of $193 million, equating to about $400 million of gross revenue; so, it supplanted The Godfather.
Jaws became the highest grossing-film of 1975 and the highest-grossing film of all time until Star Wars was released almost two years later.
The film currently holds a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 79 reviews, with an average rating of 9.2/10. The site's critical consensus says "Compelling, well-crafted storytelling and a judicious sense of terror ensure Steven Spielberg's Jaws has remained a benchmark in the art of delivering modern blockbuster thrills." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 87/100, based on 21 reviews, meaning “universal acclaim”. On Common Sense Media, the film has a rating of 5/5 stars and the film also got an 8.0/10 on IMDb.
Jaws won three Academy Awards (Best Film Editing for Verna Fields, Best Original Dramatic Score for Williams, and Best Sound Mixing for Robert L. Hoyt, Roger Herman, Earl Madery, and John R. Carter). It was also nominated for Best Picture but lost to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Williams also won the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music and the Golden Globe Award.
- In the novel, Brody has three sons; Michael, Sean, and Martin Jr. Whereas in the movie, Brody has two sons; Michael and Sean.
- This film is rapper Ice Cube's favorite movie.
- Spielberg named the shark "Bruce" after his lawyer Bruce Raymor.
- Many people have criticized the film's PG rating due to Quint's gruesome end. However, keep in mind, this film was released before the PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984, almost a decade after the release of Jaws.