Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Based on the novel by Peter Benchley
Roy Schider as Brody
Robert Shaw as Quint
Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper
I don't think there is a more influential or referenced blockbuster in film history than Steven Spielberg's first masterpiece. It's hard to think of what else to say about it that hasn't already been said, so instead of a standard review, I'll just be sharing my story of seeing the film and how it influenced me.
When I was a kid, even before I saw it, I knew what Jaws was. I remember seeing the poster with that oblivious swimmer about to meet her doom. I was familiar with John Williams' iconic theme. So one day, I was at a friend's house and we found the movie playing on TV. It was maybe about halfway through the movie. The three leads had already set out on their hunt for the shark. Even though this was quite some time ago, I remember how tense it was not seeing the shark and being on the edge of my seat and when Quint met his grisly fate, I was horrified and in complete awe. I had never seen something so gruesome in a movie before and that scene burned itself into my brain. Hearing the sound of his bones crunching and seeing him coughing up blood in agony is still haunting to watch. This was most likely the moment that started my love for the horror genre. I later saw the full movie on TV and would occasionally watch it if it was on. While I didn't own it on DVD, I knew that I loved the film and that it was one of Spielberg's best. We even played selections from the score in band class.
It wasn't until 2012 that I finally bought the movie when it was released on Blu-ray. It had been a few years since I'd last seen, so it was like seeing it fresh again. It wasn't until then that I realized Robert Shaw as Quint is truly one of cinema's all time greatest performances. His USS Indianapolis speech is incredible and I get chills every time. As a kid, I enjoyed that shark scenes, but as an adult, it's our three lead characters that have become my favorite part. I watched all of the special features and learned a lot more about the nightmarish production this film had. It's one of the best success stories in film history, considering how perfect the final film turned out. The more I watched the movie, the more it became one of my all time favorites. My favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark, but Jaws is a very close second.
In the summer of 2015, I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen and it made for one of the most memorable times I've had in a theater. It was Liz's first time seeing the movie, so that was quite the way for her to see it and we saw it with Bryan and his kids. It's Bryan's favorite movie and he was probably even more thrilled to see it in the theater than I was. I've noticed that whenever I see a classic on the big screen, there's a lot more that I notice that I wouldn't on my TV at home. Seeing something like Jaws in the theater is the definitive way to see it. It's the original blockbuster and it deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Even though I've seen the film countless times, the climax still had my heart pounding and it was only more intense with a theater screen and surround sound.
It's odd to think that this was the first movie to be truly considered a blockbuster. These days, we're so used to seeing them all year round as they dominate the box office. But Jaws was one of those lightning in a bottle films. While so many movies have tried to replicate it, they've all failed. And there have been countless rip offs, too. The amount of shark movies made since it, has to be in the hundreds. The best Jaws rip off is Razorback, which is about a killer pig instead. It's actually fairly intense and it's pretty well acted. There are many blockbusters that I admire, but my favorites will always be Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the original Star Wars trilogy. To me, those are the essentials.
Jaws is one of the most influential films ever made and for good reason. It takes a simple premise and makes something fresh and exciting about it. It's still just as tense of a movie 42 years later. The fact that the shark didn't work a majority of the time made for a blessing in disguise, because the movie is all the more terrifying for it. Once we finally see the shark in full view, it's a sight to behold. The practical effects hold up beautifully and they are something that CGI could never make look half as good. This is one of the best movies ever made and if you haven't seen it yet, get your hands on a copy or get to a screening. You're in for quite the experience.
Join the rest of the Celluloid Zeroes in our roundtable on the rest of the franchise and other films.