Logline: A great white shark terrorizes a small seaside town.
Review: If I had to choose only one film as my favorite of all time, it would probably be Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. It is a perfect film in every way; beautifully shot, tightly edited, and sharply written with a host of great characters and performances and an incredible soundtrack. Jaws gave rise to Hollywood’s summer blockbuster but rarely has any “summer movie” come close to its brilliance. Jaws also made millions of people terrified to go in the water, a notion that has had both positive and negative consequences. Jaws is also famous for being the film that made Steven Spielberg a household name.
The irony is that the shooting of Jaws was a complete disaster and the mechanical shark never worked properly. However, the fact that the shark is rarely seen makes it a more threatening and ominous presence. The scares are amplified further by John Williams’ brilliant score. The theme music is as famous as the film itself.
One of my favorite aspects of the film is its characters who are not just dumb, hapless victims. This aspect sets Jaws apart from most other horror films. The performances are also top notch. The trio of Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss is priceless and makes for a wonderful dynamic.
Jaws is a fine lesson in narrative film construction. Each scene flows effortlessly into the next and is embedded perfectly in my memory. My favorite is probably Quint’s monologue in which Robert Shaw is a revelation.
Jaws has made sharks into monsters and something for people to fear and kill rather than respect and protect. Jaws is based on the book by Peter Benchley who was inspired by a series of real shark attacks by a bull shark in New Jersey in 1916. The truth is that fatal shark attacks are rare. Sharks are amazing prehistoric animals that need our protection.
The success of Jaws led to a series of inferior sequels and bad imitators. Jaws is still a masterpiece forty years after its release and will be one forty years from now. It is one of America’s indisputable classics and one of the greatest films of all time.
Great scene: Quint’s monologue