See it...before you go swimming.
Jaws is a 1975 shark film directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, produced by Zanuck/Brown Company and Universal Pictures, and distributed by Universal Pictures. The film is based on Peter Benchley's 1974 novel, Jaws. It stars Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss. The film was nominated for and won Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing. Besides that, it was nominated for and didn't win Best Picture. This is the first film in the Jaws franchise. It was followed by Jaws 2. The film has been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
"You're gonna need a bigger boat."-Martin Brody
After a young woman is mysteriously killed on the beach of Amity Island, Police Chief Martin Brody tries to close the beaches, thinking that she was killed in a shark attack. Amity Mayor doesn't listen, and the shark begins terrorizing the small town. Brody hires grizzled fisherman Quint and oceanographer Matt Hooper to go out on the sea to kill the great white, ensuing an epic battle between man and sea.
I have a lot of positive things on this film. This is a classic film and made up of absolute genius, from the actors to the directing to the writing, etc.
Let's start with the opening scene. This is just an example of master filmmaking. The first scene begins with a young woman named Chrissie Watkins running across the beach and diving into the water to go skinny dipping. Chrissie swims in the water for a little bit before the camera cuts to an underwater and silhouetted view of her. The camera slowly approaches her while John Williams' infamously haunting score plays. It finally reaches her and cuts back to her as she dips underwater. The smile disappears from her face and she realizes something is wrong. She gets pulled under again and then begins screaming and thrashing around in the water. It is a horrifying opening scene that has been the most famous death scene since the shower stabbing in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.
The underwater shots from the POV of the shark is genius. This is the film that made Steven Spielberg famous, and he absolutely nails the directing. While Chrissie's death is one of the most famous scenes ever, I think that the best directed scene in the film is the second death in the movie, which is Alex Kintner. Since Mayor Vaughn had told Brody to leave the beaches open, Brody sits in his chair and watches out for a shark at the beach. The scene is crafted so well. People walk in front of Brody and the camera would zoom in after they pass by. There is something black swimming towards a woman. Brody stands up and gets ready to evacuate the water, but it isn't a shark. A young woman starts screaming and thrashing, but it is just her friend carrying her on his shoulders.
After these few scares, people begins talking to Brody, and it is shot from his point of view. You see their face and the water split-screen. This scene builds so much suspense and it completely pays off when a young man starts calling for his dog, who he'd been throwing a bone to in the water. Then you see the bone floating and you know that something is wrong.
Cue the music. Cue the moving underwater shots. Then the shark approaches Alex Kintner. Brody sees blood shooting out of the water and sees Alex flailing around. The camera zooms in quickly on Brody's face as he realizes that the shark is there. He frantically runs around yelling "Get out of the water!". It is a perfect way to build suspense and pay it off in an amazing scene.
You can't really talk about Jaws without talking about the score. This is one of the simplest movie scores ever put to film, but it is also one of the most famous and best...ever. It is very spooky and haunting. Anytime that John Williams' two notes are heard, you know that the shark is approaching and something bad is going to happen.
ALL of the acting in this film is Oscar-worthy. If you talk about the biggest Oscar snubs of all time, one of the three main actors deserved a nomination at least. Roy Scheider is fantastic. He is perfect as the serious chief of police who is still a little bit of an outsider. He knows that there is danger in the water, but goes along with the mayor's request to leave the beaches open. He has some of the best facial acting that I have ever seen. During the Kintner scene and the first time that he sees the fish fully, he shows the best expression I have ever seen. After he sees the shark, he slowly walks over to Quint. Then he improvises one of the most famous lines of all time. Richard Dreyfuss provides a little bit of relief and safety for the audience. His presence seems comforting and he makes Hooper a very likable character. He makes him very nerdy and geeky in the first part of the movie, and then he becomes tough and rebellious, but also a team player during the Orca part. Robert Shaw is a huge highlight. The USS Indianapolis is brought to life by his explanation and it is one of the best monologues I've ever seen. He seems like a veteran sea captain, and he never falters from that position. All three of the actors make the characters real people. They are all realistic people who aren't perfect, who are scared of what's in the water, and they all have traits and backstories.
The plot and writing are amazing as well. The plot is simple on paper and can be described in a single sentence: "A shark terrorizes a local town.". Spielberg turns that simple line into a movie and adds layers over the simple storyline. The characters all handle the situation different and that makes the movie incredibly interesting. The interactions between the characters give the movie life. The suspense and tension of the shark possibly popping out anywhere makes the movie scary. This is all because of the writers and Steven Spielberg. They make three classic characters and give them incredible chemistry. They throw them all on a boat to fight a violent force of nature. It is truly amazing.
The final thing is the Ben Gardner scene. Hooper and Brody are going out at night to try to find the shark and they come across Fisherman Ben Gardner's boat, which is sinking and all torn up. Hooper dives into the water to investigate and he finds a shark tooth stuck in a hole. As he's pulling out the tooth, Ben Gardner's half-eaten face falls into the hole.
That is the scariest jump scare that I have ever seen. I've seen Jaws three or four times, knowing that the jump scare is coming, and it still gets me. Now, the face looks incredibly fake, but that doesn't make the scene any less scary. It comes out of nowhere and makes your heart stop and makes you jump five feet in the air.
The biggest thing is the shark. The shark is involved for a lot of the second part of the film and it doesn't really look convincing. It looks like a giant animatronic toy that you'd see on the Jaws ride at Universal Studios. Actually, most of the effects aren't great. Ben's face looks fake, Chrissie's arm looks fake, and some of the green screens are kind of obvious. This is a bit distracting, but this is a forty year-old film, so the effects and props don't have to look perfect.
This is also kind of nitpick, but this movie should not be rated PG. The PG-13 rating wasn't a thing in 1975, but it is now. Some movies, such as The Birds, have been changed to a PG-13 rating. The Birds was released in 1963, twelve years before Jaws.
This is a classic film and one of the greatest of all time. Despite some distracting effects, Oscar-worthy directing, performances, music and a classic plot and characters take this movie to the top level.
I will give it a Sweet rating. The age range is 13+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Fun Factor: 9/10
WHERE TO WATCH
Amazon Prime Video: Available for rent
Apple TV+: Available for rent
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Released on June 20, 1975
Rated PG for strong bloody violence, scary images, brief sexual content, disturbing themes, thematic elements
2 hours and 4 minutes
Roy Scheider as Martin Brody
Richard Dreyfuss as Matt Hooper
Robert Shaw as Quint
Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody
Murray Hamilton as Mayor Larry Vaughn