Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975)

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

The police chief (Roy Scheider) of the tourist town of Amity is pressured by its money-conscious mayor (Murray Hamilton) to keep the death-by-shark of a young woman (Susan Backlinie) under wraps — but when a boy (Jeffrey Voorhees) is killed during a very public beach day, Scheider relies on support from an ichthyologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a shark-fighting sea captain (Robert Shaw) to find the great white shark that’s really behind the gruesome deaths.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • At Sea
  • Horror Films
  • Fishermen
  • Killer Animals
  • Richard Dreyfuss Films
  • Robert Shaw Films
  • Roy Scheider Films
  • Small Town America
  • Steven Spielberg Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “exciting adventure-horror film” — an “adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best-seller” — “went far beyond anyone’s expectations” because “no one knew what to expect from [28-year-old] director Steven Spielberg.” He argues that “this is by far the best nature-retribution film since The Birds,” pointing out that “the fun and the tension are constant”: “there are thrills, there are terrifying scenes, there is humor, [and] there’s even a Watergate cover-up theme” (actually, it’s simple everyday small-town political corruption). He notes that “there are few horror films in which you’ll so identify with potential victims,” adding, “Has anybody who has swum in the ocean since seeing this film not worried about something latching on to a leg?”

Peary highlights the “excellent camera work by Bill Butler and special effects by Robert A Mattey under difficult conditions,” which have been discussed at length in various documentaries about the making of the film. He notes that the “first attack is a shocker”:

… the “entire boat sequence is nerve-wracking”:

… and “solid performances from the three leads (whose volatile conversations on the boat are quite enjoyable) give this film” — which “became a box-office phenomenon” — “real class”.

Indeed, this breakthrough film for Spielberg — who apparently was convinced each day that he would be fired, and that his career in filmmaking would come to a premature end — is arguably his best. I agree with Richard Scheib in his review for Moria, where he writes: “Spielberg demonstrates a real mastery – one that he has never fully demonstrated again – in detail, in character and most of all in the ability to manipulate the audience with shock and suspense.”

Note: Of special interest during COVID-19 times is how spot-on the film is in naming the political and financial drivers behind reckless disregard for public safety. As the mayor points out (where have we heard this before?): “Amity is a summer town — and we need summer dollars.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robert Shaw as Quint
  • Roy Scheider as Brody
  • Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper
  • Memorable supporting performances
  • Fine special effects
  • Impressive at-sea footage (shot at no small cost to the cast, crew, and producers)
  • Bill Butler’s cinematography

  • An excellent script by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
  • Verna Fields’ editing
  • John Williams’ iconic score

Must See?
Yes, as an exciting and enduring classic.


  • Genuine Classic

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


3 thoughts on “Jaws (1975)

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    The touchstone for the modern blockbuster format we’re suffering from today. Open in the summer, open wide on as many screens as possible and target the youth market.

    A true classic with not a line is out of place, not a moment of fat and it’s a terrifying, tense, suspensful tale. Superbly written by Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb and uncredited, Howard Sackler and John Milius based on Benchley’s 1971 bestseller.

    Spielberg’s direction is note perfect and the cast are perfection. Still one of his very best films.

  2. A tentative once-must.

    Seems to me this is the 3rd time I’ve seen this. I saw it on release and then again once it was available on video.

    As I’ve probably said elsewhere, Spielberg is not a director I have much feeling for – and this film (though generally successful – and with a few particularly powerful sequences) gives indications as to why. Mostly he gets out of the way and simply acts in service to the generally-tight script. But, frankly, it’s a much simpler tale than he allows it to be – and, even though it clocks in at just a little over two hours, cutting a good 15-20 minutes from it would have increased the tension.

    Speaking of tension… Williams’ score is mostly on-target but there are times when it shifts the film from being a thriller to a ‘boys’ adventure tale’ (which seems like something Spielberg would request), causing a jarring change in tone.

    Scheider and Shaw come off best. This is some of Dreyfuss’ best work, though he’s still occasionally annoying. As Scheider’s wife, poor Lorraine Gary doesn’t register (but it’s a nothing role). Hamilton gets the clichéd role of the tone-deaf capitalist (who, here, even encourages a beach crowd to go into the ocean that they’re wisely choosing to avoid!).

    I was hesitant about revisiting this film (not surprisingly) – and, even though it remains stronger than I expected it to be, its flaws are evident.

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