Jaws (film)

Jaws (film)
Movie poster shows a woman in the ocean swimming to the right. Below her is a large shark, and only its head and open mouth with teeth can be seen. Within the image is the film's title and above it in a surrounding black background is the phrase "The terrifying motion picture from the terrifying No. 1 best seller." The bottom of the image details the starring actor and lists credits and the MPAA rating.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by David Brown
Richard D. Zanuck
Screenplay by Peter Benchley
Carl Gottlieb
Based on Jaws by
Peter Benchley
Starring Roy Scheider
Robert Shaw
Richard Dreyfuss
Lorraine Gary
Murray Hamilton
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Bill Butler
Editing by Verna Fields
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) June 20, 1975 (1975-06-20)
Running time 124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million
Box office $470,654,000

Jaws is a 1975 American horror-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. The police chief of Amity Island, a fictional summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from a giant man-eating great white shark by closing the beach, only to be overruled by the town council, which wants the beach to remain open to draw a profit from tourists during the summer season. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter. Roy Scheider stars as police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as oceanographer Matt Hooper, Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint, Murray Hamilton as the Mayor of Amity Island, and Lorraine Gary as Brody's wife, Ellen.

The film was shot on location at Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and had a troubled production, going over budget and schedule. As the mechanical sharks suffered many malfunctions, Spielberg decided to mostly suggest the animal's presence, by utilizing an ominous yet subdued theme noted film composer John Williams had created to describe the shark's impending appearances. Jaws is regarded as a watershed film in motion picture history, the father of the summer blockbuster film and one of the first "high concept" films.[1][2] Because of the film's success in advance screenings, studio executives decided to distribute it in a much wider release pattern than ever before employed. The Omen followed suit in the summer of 1976, and then Star Wars one year later in 1977, cementing the notion for movie studios to distribute their big-release action and adventure pictures (commonly referred to as tentpole pictures) during the summer months.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time,[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] Jaws appeared at number 48 on American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies, a list of the greatest American films of all time, dropping down to number 56 on the 10 Year Anniversary list. It ranked second on a similar list for thrillers, 100 Years... 100 Thrills and was number one on Bravo's list of The 100 Scariest Movie Moments.[16] The film was followed by three sequels, none with the participation of Spielberg or Benchley.



During an evening beach party on the fictional Amity Island in New England, a 23-year-old woman named Christine "Chrissie" Watkins leaves a beach party to go skinny dipping, only to be dragged back and forth violently and then under the water. Amity's police chief, Martin Brody, is notified that Christine is missing, and deputy Len Hendricks finds her remains on the beach. The medical examiner informs Brody that the death was due to a shark attack. Brody plans to close the beaches but is overruled by mayor Larry Vaughan, who fears that reports of a shark attack will ruin the summer tourist season, which is the town's primary source of income. The medical examiner consequently attributes the death to a boating accident. Brody reluctantly goes along with the explanation.

A short time later, a boy is killed by a shark at the beach. The boy's mother places a bounty on the shark, sparking an amateur shark-hunting frenzy and attracting the attention of local professional shark hunter Quint. Brought in by Brody, marine biologist Matt Hooper examines Christine's remains and concludes she was killed by a shark, not a boat.

A large tiger shark is caught by fishermen, leading the town to believe the problem is solved, but Hooper is unconvinced that the shark is the killer and asks to examine its stomach contents. Vaughan refuses to make the "half-assed autopsy" public, so Brody and Hooper return after dark and discover the dead shark does not contain human remains. Scouting aboard Hooper's boat, they come across the half-sunken wreckage of a boat belonging to local fisherman Ben Gardner. Hooper explores the vessel underwater and discovers a sizable shark's tooth protruding from the damaged side of the hull. While prying it loose Hooper is confronted by the remains of Gardner, which causes him to lose the tooth in a panic. Vaughan refuses to close the beaches, and on the Fourth of July numerous tourists arrive. A prank by two boys causes misguided panic and the real shark enters a nearby estuary, killing a man and causing Brody's son to go into shock after witnessing the attack. Brody convinces Vaughan to hire Quint. Quint reluctantly allows Hooper to join the hunt along with Brody. The three set out to catch or kill the shark aboard Quint's vessel, the Orca.

Brody is given the task of laying a chum line while Quint uses fishing tackle to try to hook the shark. As Brody continues chumming, an enormous great white shark looms up behind the boat; the trio watch the great white circle the Orca and estimate it weighs 3 short tons (2.7 t) and is 25 feet (7.6 m) long while Hooper takes pictures of the shark for research purposes. Quint harpoons the shark with a line attached to a flotation barrel, designed to prevent the shark from submerging and to track it on the surface, but the shark pulls the barrel under and disappears.

Night falls without another sighting, so the men retire to the boat's cabin, where Quint tells of his experience with sharks as a survivor of the sinking of the warship USS Indianapolis during the War in the Pacific in 1945. The shark reappears, damaging the boat's hull before slipping away. In the morning, the men make repairs to the engine. Attempting to call the Coast Guard for help, Brody is stopped by Quint, who destroys the radio with a baseball bat. After a long chase Quint harpoons another barrel to the shark. The men tie the barrels to the stern, but the shark, after Quint harpoons it again adding a third barrel, drags the boat backwards, forcing water onto the deck and into the engine, flooding it. Quint is about to cut the ropes when the cleats are pulled off the stern. The shark continues attacking the boat and Quint heads toward shore with the shark in pursuit, hoping to draw the animal into shallow waters, where it will get beached and, once unable to swim, suffocate. In his obsession to kill the shark, Quint overtaxes Orca's engines, causing them to stall.

With the boat immobilized, the trio try a desperate approach: Hooper dons his SCUBA gear and enters the ocean inside a shark proof cage in order to stab the shark in the mouth with a hypodermic spear filled with strychnine. When the shark attacks and begins destroying the cage, Hooper drops his spear. The shark gets tangled in the cage's remains, allowing Hooper to escape and hide on the seabed. As Quint and Brody raise the remnants of the cage, the shark throws itself onto the boat, crushing the transom. As the boat sinks, Quint slides down the slippery deck into the shark's mouth and is eaten alive. Brody retreats to the boat's partly submerged cabin. When the shark attacks him there, he shoves a pressurized scuba tank into the shark's mouth, then takes Quint's rifle and climbs the Orca's mast. Brody shoots at the tank wedged in the shark's mouth, causing it to explode and blow the shark to pieces.

Hooper and Brody make rafts out of the Orca's remains and paddle back to Amity Island.




Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, producers at Universal Pictures, heard about Peter Benchley's novel at the same time at different locations. Brown came across it in the fiction department of Cosmopolitan, a lifestyle magazine then edited by his wife, Helen Gurley Brown. A small card gave a detailed description of the plot, concluding with the comment "might make a good movie".[17] The producers each read it overnight and agreed the next morning that it was "the most exciting thing that they had ever read" and that, although they were unsure how they would accomplish it, they wanted to produce the film.[18] Brown claimed that had they read the book twice, they would never have made the film because of the difficulties in executing some of the sequences.[19] They purchased the film rights to Benchley's novel in 1973 for approximately $175,000.[20]

Zanuck and Brown had originally planned to hire John Sturges to direct the film, before considering Dick Richards.[21] However, they grew irritated by Richards's habit of calling the shark "the whale", subsequently dropping him from the project.[21] Zanuck and Brown signed Spielberg to direct in June 1973, before the release of his first theatrical film, The Sugarland Express (also a Zanuck/Brown production).[21] Spielberg wanted to stick with the novel's basic concept, while removing Benchley's many subplots.[20] Zanuck, Brown and Spielberg removed the novel's adulterous affair between Ellen Brody and Matt Hooper fearing it might compromise the camaraderie between the men on the Orca.[17]

When they purchased the rights to his novel, the producers guaranteed that Benchley would write the first draft of the screenplay. Overall, he wrote three drafts before deciding to bow out of the project (he later had a cameo role as a news reporter in the final film of the series).[20] Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Howard Sackler happened to be in Los Angeles when the filmmakers began looking for another writer and offered to do an uncredited rewrite, and since the producers and Spielberg were unhappy with Benchley's drafts, they quickly accepted his offer.[22] Spielberg sent the script to Carl Gottlieb (who appears in a supporting acting role in the film as Meadows, the politically connected editor of the local paper), asking for advice.[22] Gottlieb rewrote most scenes during principal photography, and John Milius contributed dialogue polishes. Spielberg has claimed that he prepared his own draft, although it is unclear if the other screenwriters drew on his material. The authorship of Quint's monologue about the fate of the cruiser USS Indianapolis has caused substantial controversy as to who deserves the most credit for the speech. Spielberg described it as a collaboration among John Milius, Howard Sackler, and actor Robert Shaw.[23] Gottlieb gives primary credit to Shaw, downplaying Milius's contribution.[24]


Spielberg offered the role of Brody to Robert Duvall, but the actor was only interested in portraying Quint.[25] According to Spielberg, Charlton Heston expressed a desire for the role, but Spielberg felt that Heston was too large a personality, as Spielberg intended the film's primary "star" to be the shark.[26] Roy Scheider became interested in the project after overhearing a screenwriter and Spielberg at a party talking about having the shark jump up onto a boat.[22] Spielberg was initially apprehensive of hiring Scheider, fearing he would portray a "tough guy", similar to his role in The French Connection.[25]

The role of Quint was originally offered to actors Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden, both of whom passed.[22][25] Producers Zanuck and Brown had just finished working with Robert Shaw on The Sting, and suggested him to Spielberg as a possible Quint. For the role of Hooper, Spielberg initially wanted Jon Voight.[27] Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges were also considered for the part.[28] Richard Dreyfuss initially passed on the role of Matt Hooper, but after being disappointed by his own performance in a pre-release screening of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, a film he had just completed, he immediately called Spielberg and accepted the role, fearing that no one would want to hire him once Kravitz was released. Because the film was so dissimilar to the novel, Spielberg asked Dreyfuss not to read the book before offering him the role.[29] The first person actually cast for the film was Lorraine Gary, the wife of then-studio chief, Sid Sheinberg.[22]


"We started the film without a script, without a cast and without a shark."

—actor Richard Dreyfuss on the film's troubled production[30]

Three full-size pneumatically-powered prop sharks were made for the production: a "sea-sled shark", a full-body prop with its belly missing that was towed with a 300′ (roughly 100 m) line, and two "platform sharks", one that moved from camera-left to -right (with its hidden side completely exposing a wide array of pneumatic hoses), and an opposite model with its right flank uncovered.[20] The sharks were designed by art director Joe Alves during the fall of 1973. Between November 1973 and April 1974, the sharks were fabricated at Rolly Harper's Motion Picture & Equipment Rental in Sun Valley, CA. Their construction was supervised by legendary mechanical effects supervisor Bob Mattey and up to 40 effects technicians including Conrad 'Whitey' Krumm, Roy Arbogast, Richie Helmer, and the Wood brothers, Michael and Gary. After the sharks were completed, they were trucked to the shooting location. In early July, the platform used to tow the two "side model" sharks capsized as it was being lowered to the ocean floor, forcing a team of divers to retrieve it.[22] The model required 14 operators to control all of the moving parts.[29]

Principal photography began on May 2, 1974.[31] Location shooting occurred on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, chosen because the ocean had a sandy bottom 12 miles (19 km) out to sea and never dropped below thirty-five feet (11 m).[22] This helped the prop sharks to operate smoothly and still provide a realistic location. The film nonetheless had a troubled shoot and went considerably over budget. David Brown said that the budget "was $4 million and the picture wound up costing $9 million".[32] Shooting at sea led to many delays: unwanted sailboats drifted into frame, cameras got soaked, and the Orca once began to sink with the actors on-board. The prop sharks frequently malfunctioned owing to a series of issues including bad weather, pneumatic hoses taking on salt water, broken shark frames due to water resistance, corroding skin, electrolysis and "non-absorbent" neoprene foam that made up the skin absorbing water causing the shark to balloon, which it did on its original water test. More than a few times the sea-sled model would get caught in the seaweed forests prompting effects divers to search for the lost shark, scaring a few in the process. Contrary to popular Jaws production lore, the shark never sank during its initial water test.[22]

A large model shark is hoisted by a crane as two men watch it.
The mechanical shark, attached to the tower

To some degree, the delays in the production proved serendipitous. The script was refined during production, and the unreliable mechanical sharks forced Spielberg to shoot most of the scenes with the shark only hinted at. For example, for much of the shark hunt, its location is represented by the floating yellow barrels. Spielberg also included multiple shots of just the dorsal fin. This forced restraint is widely thought to have increased the suspense of these scenes, giving them a Hitchcockian tone.[29][33]

The scene in which Hooper discovers fisherman Ben Gardner's body in the hull of his wrecked boat was added after an initial screening of the film. After reactions to that screening, Spielberg said he was greedy for "one more scream" and, with $3,000 of his own money, financed the scene after he was denied funding from Universal Pictures.[22] Actor Craig Kingsbury had to press his head into a latex mold to make an exact copy, which was then attached to a fake body and placed in the wrecked boat's hull. The underwater scene was shot in film editor Verna Fields's swimming pool in Encino, CA.

Footage of real sharks was shot by Ron and Valerie Taylor in the waters off Australia, with a small actor in a miniature shark cage to create the illusion that the shark was enormous.[22][34] Originally, the script, following the novel, had the shark killing Hooper in the shark cage, but during filming one of the sharks became trapped in the girdle of the cage and proceeded to tear the cage apart.[22] The crew found the footage of this incident to be so visually stunning, they were eager to incorporate it into the final film.[26] However, no one had been in the cage at the time, so the script was changed to have Matt Hooper escape, thus providing an explanation for the empty cage.[22][26]

Although filming was scheduled to take 55 days, it eventually ended on October 6, 1974 after 159 days.[29][31] Spielberg, reflecting on the extended delay, stated: "I thought my career as a filmmaker was over. I heard rumors … that I would never work again because no one had ever taken a film 100 days over schedule."[29] Spielberg himself was not present for the shooting of the final scene in which the shark explodes. He believed that the crew were planning to throw him in the water when this scene was complete. It has since become a tradition for Spielberg to be absent when the final scene of a film he directs is being filmed.[35]

A fourth, hard-fiberglass shark was built in 1976 and placed at Universal Studios in Studio City, CA until 1990. It has been on display at the Aadlen Bros. U-Pick Parts yard in Sun Valley, CA since 1992 where it is affectionately referred to as "Junkyard Bruce". It first gained notice in 2002 when featured in the E! True Hollywood Story: JAWS show. In June 2010, eight years after regaining attention, art director Joe Alves and plastics and rubber specialist, Roy Arbogast (who were both part of the team that fabricated the original sharks in 1974), confirmed its authenticity as a prop that was pulled from the original molds. This was revealed during a segment on NPR.[36][37]


John Williams composed the film's score, which ranked sixth on the American Film Institute's 100 Years of Film Scores. The main "shark" theme, a simple alternating pattern of two notes, E and F,[38] became a classic piece of suspense music, synonymous with approaching danger (see leading-tone). Williams described the theme as having the "effect of grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable."[39] The soundtrack piece was performed by tuba player Tommy Johnson. When asked by Johnson why the melody was written in such a high register and not played by the more appropriate French horn, Williams responded that he wanted it to sound "a little more threatening".[40] When Williams first demonstrated his idea to Spielberg, playing just the two notes on a piano, Spielberg was said to have laughed, thinking that it was a joke. Spielberg later said that without Williams's score the film would have been only half as successful, and Williams acknowledges that the score jumpstarted his career.[22] He had previously scored Spielberg's feature film debut The Sugarland Express and went on to collaborate with him on almost all of his films.[39]

The score contains echoes of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, particularly the opening of "The Adoration of the Earth" and "Auguries of Spring".[41] The music has drawn comparisons to Bernard Herrman's score for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and the ominous music for the off-screen hunter in Bambi, in which the music enhances the presence of an unseen terror, in this case the shark.[42]

There are various interpretations of the meaning and effectiveness of the theme. Some have thought the two-note expression is intended to mimic the shark's heartbeat, beginning slow and controlled as the killer hunts and rising to a frenzied, shrieking climax as it approaches its prey.[43] Others have stated that the music at first sounds like the creaking and groaning of a boat, and therefore is inaudible when it begins so that it never seems to start, but simply rises out of the sounds of the film. One critic believes the true strength of the score is its ability to create a "harsh silence", abruptly cutting away from the music right before it climaxes.[42] Furthermore, the audience is conditioned to associate the shark with its theme, since the score is never used as a red herring.[39] It only plays when the real shark appears. This is later exploited when the shark suddenly appears with no musical introduction. Regardless of the meaning behind it, the theme is widely acknowledged as one of the most recognized scores of all time.[44] In addition, industrial rock act Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor (who composed the soundtrack to David Fincher's The Social Network along with Atticus Ross) declared the Jaws score his favorite movie soundtrack, remarking that he saw the film when he was a 10-year old and Williams' music was "added to the fear of the film."[45]

The original soundtrack for Jaws was released by MCA in 1975, and as a CD in 1992, including roughly a half hour of music that John Williams redid for the album. In 2000, two versions of the score were released: one in a re-recording of the entire Jaws score performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conducted by Joel McNeely; and another to coincide with the release of the 25th anniversary DVD by Decca/Universal, featuring the entire 51 minutes of the original score. Many fans prefer the Decca release over the Varèse Sarabande re-recording.[46]

Inspirations and themes

Jaws bears similarities to several literary and artistic works, most notably Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. The character of Quint strongly resembles Captain Ahab, the obsessed captain of the Pequod who devotes his life to hunting a sperm whale. Quint's monologue reveals a similar obsession with sharks; even his boat, the Orca, is named after the only natural enemy of the white shark. In the novel and original screenplay, Quint dies after being dragged under the ocean by a harpoon tied to his leg, similar to Ahab's death in Melville's novel.[47] A direct reference to these similarities may be found in the original screenplay, which introduced Quint by showing him watching the film version of Moby-Dick,[48] with his laughter throughout making people get up and leave the theater (Wesley Strick's screenplay for Cape Fear features a similar scene). However, the scene from Moby-Dick could not be licensed from Gregory Peck, the copyright holder.[49] In the novel and original screenplay, when the Orca, like the Pequod, is sunk by the creature, only the Brody character survives. There is, however, a scene in which the shark rapidly tows the Orca, which is obviously indebted to the "Nantucket sleigh ride" scene in Moby-Dick. Some have also noticed the influences of two 1950s horror films, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Monster That Challenged the World.[50]

Critics such as Neil Sinyard have noticed similarities to Henrik Ibsen's play An Enemy of the People.[51] The Ibsen work features a doctor who discovers that a seaside town's medicinal hot springs, a major tourist attraction and form of revenue, are contaminated. When the doctor attempts to convince the townspeople of the danger, he loses his job and is shunned. This plotline is paralleled in Jaws by Brody's conflict with Mayor Vaughn, who refuses to acknowledge the presence of a shark that may dissuade summer beachgoers from coming to Amity. In the film, Brody is vindicated when more shark attacks occur at the crowded beach in broad daylight. Sinyard calls the film a "deft combination of Watergate and Ibsen's play".[51]


Box office performance

Jaws was the first film to successfully use "wide release" as a distribution pattern. As such, it is an important film in the history of film distribution and marketing.[52] Until the release of Jaws, films typically opened slowly, usually in a few theaters in major cities, which allowed for a series of "premieres." As the success of a film increased, and word of mouth grew, distributors would forward the prints to additional cities across the country. Some films eventually achieved a wide release, such as The Godfather, but even that blockbuster had originally debuted in just five theaters.[53]

Jaws was the first film to successfully open nationwide on hundreds of screens simultaneously, coupled with a national marketing campaign—a then-unheard of practice. (A month earlier, Columbia had done the same with a Charles Bronson thriller, Breakout, but the box office was middling at best.) The film became the first to use extensive television advertising.[54] The media blitz "included approximately twenty-five thirty-second advertisements per night on prime-time network TV" between 18–20 June 1975.[52] Universal executive Sidney Sheinberg's rationale was that nationwide marketing costs would be amortized at a more favorable rate per print than if a slow, scaled release were carried out. Sheinberg's gamble paid off, with Jaws becoming a box office smash hit and the father of the summer blockbuster.[55][56]

After the release of Jaws, journalists and critics detailed its impact on how films were released in theaters. Peter Biskind wrote, "[The film] diminish[ed] the importance of print reviews, making it virtually impossible for a film to build slowly, finding its audience by dint of mere quality. … In a sense, Spielberg was the Trojan horse through which the studios began to reassert their power."[57] Author Thomas Schatz also wrote on the film's impact: "If any single film marked the arrival of the New Hollywood, it was Jaws, the Spielberg-directed thriller that recalibrated the profit potential of the Hollywood hit, and redefined its status as a marketable commodity and cultural phenomenon as well. The film brought an emphatic end to Hollywood's five-year recession, while ushering in an era of high-cost, high-tech, high-speed thrillers."[57] Following the success of Jaws, major studio films have almost universally been distributed and marketed on a national scale. In addition, when summer was usually a season to dump films likely to be poor performers, the success of Jaws caused studios to shift their action and thriller films out of winter releases.[57]

When Jaws was released on June 20, 1975, it opened at 464 theaters.[58] The release was subsequently expanded on July 25 to a total of 675 theaters, the largest simultaneous distribution of a film in motion picture history at the time. During the first weekend of wide release, Jaws grossed more than $7 million, and was the top grosser for the following five weeks.[59] During its run in theaters, it became the first film to reach more than $100 million in U.S. box office receipts.[54][60]

Jaws eventually grossed more than $470 million worldwide, and was the highest grossing box office film until Star Wars debuted two years later.[61][62] It is currently the 94th highest grossing film of all time.[62] Jaws and Star Wars are retrospectively considered to have marked the beginning of the new business model in American filmmaking and the beginning of the end of the New Hollywood period.

Critical reception

The film received universal acclaim. It currently holds a 100% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, with the critical consensus stating "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."[63] In his original review, Roger Ebert called it "a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller that works all the better because it's populated with characters that have been developed into human beings".[64] Variety's A.D. Murphy praised Spielberg's directorial skills, and called Robert Shaw's performance "absolutely magnificent".[65] Pauline Kael called it "the most cheerfully perverse scare movie ever made… [with] more zest than an early Woody Allen picture, a lot more electricity, [and] it's funny in a Woody Allen sort of way".[66] Frank Rich of The New York Times wrote "Spielberg is blessed with a talent that is absurdly absent from most American filmmakers these days: this man actually knows how to tell a story on screen. … It speaks well of this director's gifts that some of the most frightening sequences in Jaws are those where we don't even see the shark."[67]

The film was not without its detractors. Vincent Canby, of The New York Times, said "It's a measure of how the film operates that not once do we feel particular sympathy for any of the shark's victims…In the best films, characters are revealed in terms of the action. In movies like Jaws, characters are simply functions of the action. They're at its service. Characters are like stage hands who move props around and deliver information when it's necessary", but also noted that "It's the sort of nonsense that can be a good deal of fun".[68] Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin disagreed with the film's PG rating, saying that "Jaws is too gruesome for children, and likely to turn the stomach of the impressionable at any age." He goes on to say: "It is a coarse-grained and exploitative work which depends on excess for its impact. Ashore it is a bore, awkwardly staged and lumpily written."[69] The most widespread criticism of the film is the artificiality of the mechanical shark.[44]

In 2010, criticism surfaced from an unexpected quarter — conservationists. They credit the film with the so-called "Jaws effect", which allegedly inspired "legions of fishermen [who] piled into boats and killed thousands of the ocean predators in shark-fishing tournaments."[70]


Jaws won three Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Sound (Robert Hoyt , Roger Heman , Earl Madery and John Carter).[71][72] It was also nominated for Best Picture, losing to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.[73] In 2008, Jaws was selected by Empire magazine as the fifth greatest film ever made.[74] Quint was also placed at #50 on Empire's list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.[75] In 2003, The New York Times included the film on its list of the best 1000 movies ever made.[76] In 2010, Total Film selected the film as one of The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.[77] Jaws was number 48 on American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies, a list of the greatest American films of all time, dropping down to number 56 on the 10 Year Anniversary list.[78] It was ranked second on a similar list for thrillers, 100 Years... 100 Thrills.[79] Jaws was number one in the Bravo network's five-hour miniseries The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004).[80] Similarly, the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 6th scariest film ever made.[81] The shark was anointed number 18 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains.[82] In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.[83] In 2005, the American Film Institute voted Roy Scheider's line "You're gonna need a bigger boat" as number 35 on its list of the top 100 movie quotes.[84] John Williams's score was ranked at number six on AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores.[85] In 2006, the screenplay of Jaws was selected by the Writers Guild of America as the 63rd best screenplay of all time.[86]

American Film Institute Lists


A large replica of the film's shark hangs from a wooden frame. A sign next to it says "Jaws" and a man standing nearby is about a third of the height of the shark. A pulley and rope are used to pretend to hold the shark's mouth open.
"JAWS" on display at Universal Studios Florida

Jaws was a key film in establishing the benefits of a wide national release backed by heavy media advertising, rather than a progressive release that let a film slowly enter new markets and build support over a period of time.[87] Rather than let the film gain notice by word-of-mouth, Hollywood launched a successful television marketing campaign for the film, which added another $700,000 to the cost.[30]

Similar to the fear of showers created by the pivotal scene in the 1960 film Psycho, Jaws caused many viewers to be afraid to enter the ocean.[88][89] The film was credited with reduced beach attendance in the summer of 1975.[44]

Although it is considered a thriller-horror classic, the film is recognized as being responsible for perpetuating negative stereotypes about sharks and their behavior.[90] Author Peter Benchley stated that he would not have written the original novel had he known what sharks are really like in the wild.[91] Benchley later wrote Shark Trouble, a non-fiction book about shark behavior, and Shark Life, another non-fiction book describing his dives with sharks. Conservation groups have bemoaned the fact that the film has made it considerably harder to convince the public that sharks should be protected.[92]

Jaws set the template for many future horror films, so much so that the script for Ridley Scott's 1979 science fiction film Alien was pitched to studio executives with the proposed tag line: "Jaws in space."[93]

Universal "devised and co-ordinated a highly innovative plan" for the first film's distribution and exhibition.[52] The studio and publisher Bantam designed a logo which would appear on both the paperback and on all film advertising. "Both publisher and distributor recognized the mutual benefits that a joint promotion strategy would bring."[52] Producers Zanuck and Brown toured six cities to promote the paperback and the film.[52] Once the film was released, more merchandising was created, including shark-illustrated swimming towels and T-shirts, plastic shark fins for swimmers to wear, and shark-shaped inflatables for them to float on. The Ideal Toy Company produced a game in which the player had to use a hook to fish out items from the shark's mouth before the jaws closed.[94]

In the 2000s, an independent group of fans produced a feature-length documentary. The Shark is Still Working features interviews with a range of cast and crew from the film, and some from the sequels. It is narrated by Roy Scheider and dedicated to Peter Benchley, who died in 2006.[95][96]

Home video releases

The first Laserdisc title marketed in North America was the MCA DiscoVision release of Jaws in 1978. A second Laserdisc was released in 1991, before a third and final release came under the MCA/Universal Home Video's "Signature Collection" imprint in 1995. This release was an elaborate boxset, which included the film, along with deleted scenes and outtakes, a new two-hour documentary on the making of the film, a copy of the novel Jaws, and a CD of John Williams's soundtrack. A year after its MCA DiscoVision release, it returned to theaters for a special 2-week limited engagement. It was also released on VHS by MCA Home Video in the mid 1980s and in 1995 by MCA Universal Home Video as a Collector's Edition featuring a making-of retrospective. MCA Universal Home Video released it on VHS again in 1997 as a THX-certified Special Widescreen Edition featuring a 10-minute special introduction at the beginning of the tape which was shown previously on the 1995 VHS.[97]

Jaws was first released on DVD in 2000 for the film's 25th anniversary. It featured a 50-minute documentary on the making of the film (an edited version of the one featured on the 1995 laserdisc release), with interviews from Steven Spielberg, Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Peter Benchley and other cast and crew members. Other extras included deleted scenes, outtakes, trailers, production photos, and storyboards.[97] In June 2005, on the 30th anniversary of the film's release, a festival named JawsFest was held in Martha's Vineyard.[98] Jaws was then re-released on DVD, this time including the full two-hour documentary produced by Laurent Bouzereau for the LaserDisc. As well as containing most of the same bonus features the previous DVD contained, it included a previously unavailable interview with Spielberg conducted on the set of Jaws in 1974.[99]

It has been confirmed by Spielberg that a Blu-ray release is in the works.[100]


The film spawned three sequels, all of which failed to match the success of the original. Indeed, their combined domestic grosses barely cover half of the original's.[59] Spielberg was unavailable to do a sequel, as he was working on Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Richard Dreyfuss.[73] Jaws 2 was directed by Jeannot Szwarc; Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, and Jeffrey Kramer reprised their roles from the original film. It is generally regarded as the best of the sequels. The next film, Jaws 3-D, directed by Joe Alves, was released in the 3-D format, although the effect did not transfer to television or home video, where it was renamed Jaws 3. Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. starred in the movie. Jaws: The Revenge, directed by Joseph Sargent, featured the return of Lorraine Gary and starred Michael Caine, is considered one of the worst movies ever made.[101][102] While all three sequels made a profit at the box office (Jaws 2 and Jaws 3-D are among the top 20 highest-grossing films of their respective years), critics and audiences were generally dissatisfied with the films.[103][104][105]

In February 2010, film website Cinema Blend reported that a source from Universal Pictures has indicated that Universal is "strongly considering" remaking Jaws in 3-D, following the commercial success of Avatar.[106] The source also reported that 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan was considered to portray Matt Hooper in the remake, which they say could be more comedic and make more use of special effects.[107] The studio has not officially commented upon the rumor.[108][109]

Adaptations and merchandise

The film has been adapted into two video games, two theme park rides at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Japan,[110][111] and two musicals: JAWS The Musical!, which premiered in the summer of 2004 at the Minnesota Fringe Festival; and Giant Killer Shark: The Musical, which premiered in the summer of 2006 at the Toronto Fringe Festival.[112] Aristocrat made an officially licensed slot machine based on the movie.[113]

See also

  • List of killer shark films


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