"There is a creature alive today that has survived millions of years of evolution, without change, without passion, and without logic. It lives to kill; a mindless, eating machine. It will attack and devour anything. It is as if God created the devil and gave him… Jaws."
— From the trailer
When a giant great white shark
starts killing swimmers near the New England resort community of Amity Island, the town mayor tries to keep it quiet rather than risk frightening tourists away. The police chief, Brody, investigates anyway, eventually gaining the support of two other men; Quint, a professional shark hunter, and Hooper, a marine biologist.
The level of terror in the tourist-economy town of Amity (and in the audience) gradually grows to a fever-pitch throughout the film as the attacks persist, eventually forcing Brody, Hooper and Quint to spend the last part of the film completely isolated at sea, hunting the monstrous shark.Jaws
was adapted from the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley
, which was inspired partly by real shark attacks, partly by Moby-Dick
. Quint's dogged pursuit of the shark has many similarities
with Captain Ahab's hunt of the great white whale.
Released in June 1975, Jaws
was the first Summer Blockbuster
, soon to be codified
by Star Wars
. Along with Godzilla
and King Kong
, it was also the inspiration for Giant Animal rampage movies
, and it served as a launchpad for its director, Steven Spielberg
This film had such a negative impact on the public that beach attendance dropped sharply the summer it was released - it has been said that Jaws
filled the cinemas and emptied the beaches - and marine biologists cite it as a reason that people actively hunt great white sharks to endangered status. Peter Benchley, the novel's author, even said he regretted choosing the great white as the creature due to people needlessly killing them, even though the chance of being attacked by a shark is considerably less than
that of being hit by lightning or of being eaten by a crocodile or being murdered by a human.Jaws
is a classic of American cinema. It is very character-based, with a strong plot, fantastic pacing, and wonderful acting. It is still to this day widely regarded as one of the most chilling and exciting thrillers of all time.
The film was followed by three sequels:
It also spawned plenty of merchandise, including trading cards, toys, and four licensed games
for the NES
, Jaws: The Computer Game
for Commodore 64
, Jaws Unleashed
, and Jaws: Ultimate Predator
and Nintendo 3DS
. The Universal Studios
Theme Parks also had many Jaws
-inspired rides (though the one in Orlando was deactivated to expand the Harry Potter
Although Scheider, Shaw, and Dreyfuss got top billing, the true star of the movie was a mechanical shark named Bruce
These films provide examples of:
- Brief Accent Imitation: Brody's first scene has his wife encourage him to talk more like the locals. He busts out "They're out in the yahd, not too fah from the cah," and she replies that he sounds like a New Yorker.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Quint has a lot of really idiosyncratic mannerisms, and is often dismissed as a nutcase, but is a shark hunter of unmatched skill and experience.
- Burning the Ships: In the climax, Quint destroys the radio when Brodie tries to call for help, and later appears to deliberately burn out his engine so they can't escape their final confrontation with the shark.
- Chekhov's Gun
- Brody's accident with the scuba tank. Early in the movie, Brody flicks through a book of shark pictures, one of which shows a shark with a scuba tank in its mouth. Also an example of Foreshadowing.
- Quint shooting at the shark with a rifle that Brody uses later.
- Bit of a subversion/bait and switch example: the camera lingers on the machete Quint buries in to the Orca's rail after the cleats are pulled off. It is there for him to grab during his desperate struggle later (and he gets in a few stabs) but it really doesn't effect the outcome in the slightest.
- The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: The local authorities try to write the death that opens the movie as a "probable boating accident" instead of a shark attack. Hooper is furious when he has a chance to examine the body, as (to him) the signs of a shark attack seem obvious.
- Creator Cameo: Peter Benchley playing a reporter.
"In recent days, a cloud has appeared on the horizon of this beautiful resort community — a cloud in the shape of a killer shark."
- Curse Cut Short: "Smile, you son of a <*rifle firing*>" *BLAM!* Only in most television edits though. The film proper has 'bitch' intact and still audible over the sound of the rifleshot.
- Daylight Horror: The shark attacks mostly during the day on a bright, sunny beach. It does not stop it from being absolutely frightening. This includes the dramatic climax.
- Determinator: Quint, the obsessed hunter. The Shark, too. It ain't gonna let three puny humans get the better of him.
- Developing Doomed Characters: While Spielberg read the book, he found the characters so annoying that he started rooting for the shark. So in the movie he cut some subplots and developed them better so it would not fit this trope.
- Diagonal Billing: For Scheider, Shaw, and Dreyfuss.
- Discreet Drink Disposal: Brody does not enjoy Quint's homebrew.
- Dissonant Serenity: Quint's Indianapolis tale of watching his Navy mates eaten by sharks is horrific enough. But the sly grin playing around his face for most of the story makes it ten times more disturbing.
- Played for laughs a few minutes later, when the shark is attacking the boat and knocks an oil lamp to the floor, starting a fire. Brody and Hooper are rushing around frantically, while Quint says, in a very calm voice, "Chief. Put out the fire, would you?". His tone of voice is the same one you'd expect from him saying "Chief. Pour me a cup of coffee, would you?"
- Double Entendre: A pretty obvious one, when Hooper is playing solitaire on the deck:
Quint: Stop playin' with yourself, Hooper.
- The Drunken Sailor: Quint is no stranger to a bottle, and all three lead characters get drunk one night at sea.
- Drunken Song: "Show Me The Way To Go Home" (which Spielberg said that became the Survival Mantra for the crew during the Troubled Production, and they cried as the scene of Power Trio singing it was shot).
- Dude, Not Funny!: In-universe example; Mrs. Taft's reaction during the town meeting when Denherder jokes if the reward money for the shark's capture comes in cash or check.
- Every Scar Has A Story: Quint and Hooper show off their scars and explain how they received them. This leads to Quint telling the story of the USS Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Brody surreptitiously checks his appendectomy scar, but remains quiet and sort of embarrassed, as he can't compete with the seasoned seamen. He does appear to have a few bullet-wound scars, suggesting why a New York policeman who hates being on the water might have moved to a quiet little town like Amity, but he doesn't remark on those either.
- Follow the Leader: The Summer Blockbuster and "giant dangerous animal" movies were all inspired by this film.
- In his first speech, Quint forecasts his own demise.
This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go.
- A lot of what Quint said foreshadows his death. When he sings Farewell and Adu to You Ladies of Spain the first time, it's in response to seeing Hooper's anti-shark cage, and he ends it after the second stanza, where the lyrics mentions never seeing you again. The last time Quint sees Hooper is as he's being lowered into the water in the shark cage.
- Hooper is warned twice that his shark-proof cage is no match for this shark, first by Quint when they are preparing to leave Amity:
Quint: Anti-shark cage? You go inside the cage? (Hooper nods) Cage goes in water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark? Farewell and adieu...
- Then by Brody, right before preparing the cage:
Brody: That shark will rip that cage to pieces!
Hooper: You got any better suggestions!?
- Gargle Blaster: Quint's homebrew hooch, judging from Brody's reaction to tasting it.
- Glasses Pull: Martin has a few of these.
- Gonna Need More X: Perhaps the most famous example of someone suddenly realizing they need more of something as a situation gets out of hand:
Brody: You're gonna need a bigger boat.
- Gory Discretion Shot:
- Hooper's narration of Chrissie's body is a classic, letting our minds do all the work as we never see the body. It also applies when Chrissie's remains are first discovered on the beach. We only see her hand, but what Hendricks, Cassidy, and Brody see is enough to make them all dry heave.
- Averted with the killing of Alex Kintner, with the camera seemingly capturing every blood spray.
- Great White Hunter: Quint — with bonus points for hunting an actual Great White.
- Greedy Jew: Quint obliquely berates Hooper with this.
Quint: You have city hands, Mr. Hooper. You been countin' money all your life.
: All right, all right. Hey, I don't need this... I don't need this Working Class Hero
- Half the Man He Used to Be:
- During his recollection of events from the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, Quint notes how one morning he found his friend missing everything from the waist down.
- There isn't much left of poor Chrissie, either.
- Happily Married: In contrast to the book, Martin and Ellen Brody.
- Harpoon Gun: How else they're gonna attach those barrels on the shark?
- He Who Fights Monsters: Quint's obsession with the white shark makes him behave weird near the end, endangering himself and his mates by destroying his radio equipment to prevent Brody from calling for help. He also wrecks the Orca's motor by pushing it to overdrive even when Hooper begs him not to.
- Heel Realization: After the Fourth of July attack, Mayor Vaughn sputters "My kids were on that beach too!" as he realizes he put his own children in danger to sell himself a lie and keep the tourist dollars coming in.
- Hollywood Darkness: During Denherder's and Charlie's attempt at capturing the shark.
- Hollywood New England: Changed from Long Island, New York in the novel.
- Hope Spot: As Chrissie thrashes around, she manages to grab onto a buoy. Judging from her evident relief, the shark apparently lets go of her at this point — only to immediately grab hold of her again and finish her off.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Jaws is set around the Fourth of July.
- Ignored Expert:
- Brody insisted on closing the beaches, but the town council refused to take his advice.
- Hooper tries in vain to explain that the shark they caught is not the man-eater.
- Immune to Bullets: The thing is so big and its hide is so tough that bullet wounds are a mere annoyance. It doesn't help that most of the animal is underwater, making it difficult to see what you're shooting at, and (as the MythBusters demonstrated) the fact that most bullets stop after a few feet in water, assuming they don't disintegrate altogether on impact.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Initially averted when Brody tries to shoot the shark with his service revolver in a genuinely realistic depiction of just how hard it is to hit a moving target with a handgun, but later played straight when he hits the gas canister in the shark's mouth from a not-inconsiderable distance. Arguably, an easier shot due to him using a rifle this time, but the director admits he wasn't exactly aiming for realism with this one. Although, to be fair, in the latter case it did take him 6 shots to hit the scuba tank.
- Infant Immortality: Averted, twice. To top it off, the incidents in question happen within seconds of each other.
- Irony: Quint became a shark fisherman because of his experience with the Indianapolis. He also states, somewhat indirectly, that he'd rather drown than die by shark ("I'll never wear a life jacket again"). His house/business is filled with shark jaw trophies, a multitude of victims mirroring the multitude of sailors lost to sharks. He views the great white as the embodiment of his fears and thoughts towards sharks. And in the end, he falls victim to his living nightmare.
- After the shark leaps onto the stern of the Orca, Quint loses his grip and slides to his death when a scuba tank rolls onto his hand. The same scuba tank that Brody then uses to kill the shark.
- It Can Think: The shark thinks almost as a human.
- Jaws First Person Perspective: The Trope Namer.
- Jerk Ass With A Heart Of Gold: The Mayor. While all the rest of his efforts to suppress the threat of the shark were based on greed, his refusal to let Hooper and Brody to cut open the tiger shark was based on not wanting to see the partially digested remains of a little boy with the entire town watching, including the boy's mother, who looked like she had just come back from his funeral. As well, after she gives Brody a "Reason You Suck" Speech, he is the first one to jump to Brody's defense.
- Jump Scare: Spielberg already had one when the shark suddenly appears behind Brody, and he decided to add another when Hooper finds Ben Gardner's body. It worked so much the original had less of an impact.
- Kick the Dog: It is strongly implied that Pippet the dog has become the shark's victim — his sudden and ominous disappearance during the beach scene (where he had once been running into the waves to fetch a stick his owner had tossed to him, now we only see the stick floating on the water while his owner frantically calls for him) occurs just before the attack on Alex Kitner (which is itself a Kick the Dog moment), and is the first hint of the shark's presence.
- Knight, Knave and Squire: Brody is The Knight, Quint is The Knave, and Hooper is The Squire.
- The Shark Theme... Dun dun, dun dun...
In the extras on the DVD, Spielberg talks about getting an excited call from John Williams, wanting to demonstrate said Lietmotif. Cue John Williams playing that incredibly basic two-note dun dun... dun dun... on his piano. The director remarks wryly, "Johnny always had a great sense of humour. I thought he was joking." It apparently took some time before it really sank in that yes, just those two notes would do it.
- Quint sings "Ladies of Spain", and the tune repeats in the background as his stubborn insanity drives them further into peril. The first two times Quint sings it are after talking about shark attacks (mocking Hooper about the cage and the story about the Indianapolis). The third time he sings it is as he speeds the boat to shore in a desperate attempt to drown the shark, knowing that the engine will most likely burn out before that and leave them stranded and helpless on a sinking boat. It is heard a fourth time, incorporated into the soundtrack, played after the Orca is immobilized and Quint goes below to inspect the damage. It ends on a sour note when his eyes rest on a pair of soaked life preservers hanging on their hooks.
- Losing Your Head: Ben Gardner's head when it's discovered by Hooper.
- Made of Explodium: The air tank would not blow up when shot, but Spielberg insisted on this as he felt a "big rousing ending" was necessary.
- Mayor Pain: Vaughn, in league with the city council, ignores Brody's concerns and tragedy ensues again.
- Mood Whiplash: Comedy and horror, done expertly.
- Hooper and Quint go from laughing and comparing scars to Quint's tale about the Indianapolis. Hooper takes a second to realize that the mood has changed, and then the smile disappears from his face.
- Most Annoying Sound: How Quint introduces himself. He drags his nails down a chalkboard.
- Musical Pastiche: "Ladies of Spain" for Quint.
- Musical Spoiler: The shark's theme (i.e. the one that got caught has no music). At times it's subverted, with the shark appearing without any musical indication.
- Nails on a Blackboard: Quint, making his legendary entrance.
- Night Swim Equals Death: The opening scene may be the Trope Codifier.
- Non-Indicative Title: To the point that when Spielberg saw the unfinished book, he imagined if it was about dentists. Many countries went for "Shark" or some variations instead (Tiburón, Tubarão, Lo Squalo, "The White Shark" in German, "The Jaws of the Shark" in Greek), if not a Completely Different Title: in French it's Les Dents de la mer, "The Teeth of the Sea".
- Noodle Incident: It's not clear whether Brody's fear of the ocean is based on a specific incident. He brusquely responds to his wife's attempt to name his condition with "Drowning!"
- Nothing Is Scarier:
- Spielberg despised how phony the shark prop looked, so he shot it from awkward angles, beneath the water, for only moments at a time; anything to keep the audience from getting a good look at it. It also kept breaking down, which resulted in lots of shots in the movie that imply the presence of the shark, without showing so much as a fin. Spielberg later said that much of the credit for this goes to the film's editor, Verna Fields. They would fight in the editing room (Fields' pool house) over whether to use this trope (her preference) or to use a shot of the shark that Spielberg had spent a day capturing.
- The aforementioned dog scene. We never actually get any clarification over what happened to Pippet; all we see is his owner calling frantically for him and the stick he was fetching floating in the water. It's strongly implied that Pippet was an appetizer for the shark shortly before it attacked the little boy. This is especially horrifying for animal lovers.
- Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The town hall meeting about the shark problem quickly degrades into bickering, cut short by Quint stealing the floor with his entrance.
- Obscured Special Effects: The mechanical shark was used sparingly, not so much because it was unconvincing, but because it was malfunctioning all the time. Therefore, Spielberg cut out the parts where the shark was constantly malfunctioning. This decision helped rack up the suspense, making the film all the more effective.
- Oh, Crap: "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
- Hooper in the cage after the shark has slammed into it once and is coming back a second time. Despite being underwater with a respirator in his mouth, you can hear him scream in terror.
- Only Sane Man: Hooper tells Brody that he will be "the only rational man left on [Amity] island" after Hooper leaves the next day to join a shark research vessel. Even after Hooper stays, Brody is arguably still the only rational man on the island.
- Peek-A-Boo Corpse: One appears under the wrecked boat.
- Precision F-Strike: Right before we get a good look at the shark for the first time: "'Slow ahead.' I can go slow ahead. Come on down here and chum some of this shit."
Mayor Vaughn: I don't think that you're familiar with our problems.
Hooper: I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you on the ass!
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Smile, you son of a bitch!" Also doubles as a literal Precision F-Strike, as Brody fires the killing shot the moment he says 'bitch'.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
- Quint is the town's major expert on shark hunting, and has a sizable collection of shark trophies at his shop. When we find out he was on the USS Indianapolis — Hooper stops mocking Quint the second he finds out — we realize he's been hunting sharks for 30 years to get his revenge for what they'd done to his crewmates.
- And the shark currently hunting them could well be on his Roaring Rampage after Quint.
- Room Full of Crazy: Quint's shack is a rare heroic version: The walls are lined with the jaws of the countless sharks he has killed. Doubling as a Trophy Room, the shack displays Quint's obsessive insanity and lust for vengeance against all sharks.
- Rule of Scary:
- The shark does some things against the boat that would in actuality compromise itself, but the sheer shock of a 25 foot shark jumping into the back of the boat was enough to overlook that logic.
- Richard Dreyfuss recalls that he first heard about Jaws at a party, overhearing someone (possibly Spielberg) talking about how to achieve that exact shot. He also recalls thinking something along the lines of "Good luck with that!". Spielberg has said that the last few minutes of the movie were a case of "If they've come this far with me, they'll go the last mile."
- When the shark's mangled corpse sinks to the seafloor, it is accompanied by the same roar featured during the destruction of the semi in Spielberg's previous movie, Duel.
- At one point, Hooper does brief Robert Newton and W.C. Fields imitations.
- A subtle homage to The Searchers: Deputy Hendricks digging in the sand with his knife after finding Chrissy's remains.
- Multiple shots are very similar to ones found in Creature from the Black Lagoon, such as the underwater monster viewpoint of a woman swimming on the surface of the water, as well as the fact that early on in both films we barely glimpse the monster at all.
- Skinny Dipping: Chrissy picked the very worst time for it.
- Staggered Zoom: An interesting use of this trope right before Alex Kintner gets eaten. Roy Scheider is framed in a medium shot. Twice passerby obscure the camera, and each time Scheider is closer when the camera reveals him again. This is done not for any dramatic effect — that comes with the famous Vertigo Effect a couple minutes later — but to demonstrate Martin's feeling of unease as he watches the beach.
- Suddenly Sober: Hooper, right after Quint mentions the Indianapolis.
- Suit with Vested Interests:
- Mayor Larry Vaughn. Despite the obvious danger he refuses to shut down the beach he wants the tourism money. This results in several deaths that might have been prevented.
- In the original novel, Vaughn is in serious debt to a Mafia family, and thus needs the beach attendance to boost revenue to pay them back, making his insistence on keeping the beaches open significantly more understandable/plausible — he's already in fear for his life.
- Summer Blockbuster: The first.
- Super-Persistent Predator: The shark in Jaws spends the entire ending hunting our heroic crew.
- Symbol Motif Clothing: The Mayor wears a suit patterned with anchors.
- Tagline: "Don't go in the water."
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Quint and Hooper can't stand each other. They begin to warm up to each other as they prove their mettle on the boat (alcohol helps it along).
- Threatening Shark: One of the most famous examples.
- Vertigo Effect: Chief Brody's reaction to seeing the Kintner boy being attacked by the shark. Hitchcock might have invented it, but Speilberg's flawless use of the technique here is why everyone recognises it today.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: A series of shark attacks along the New Jersey shore in 1916 along with an anecdote to the wartime sinking of the USS Indianapolis.
- Widow's Weeds: Mrs. Kitner is wearing a black veil to show she is in mourning for her son.
- Window Pain: The third barrel breaks the Orca's front window when it's launched.
- Working Class Hero: Played with. Quint is a veteran, competent, and savvy seaman who dismisses Hooper's knowledge of sharks outright because Hooper is a college kid. Hooper, treated with contempt, calls him out using the exact term. Deconstructed in that Quint's pride causes him to ignore important advice from Hooper, and ultimately gets killed for it. Hooper, although not exactly effective in his own right, at least survives at the end.
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