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YMMV / Jaws

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The novel:

  • Adaptation Displacement: The novel, which was written before the film, was a colossal worldwide bestseller (approx. 20 million copies sold up to 2021), which was the primary reason why Universal was willing to greenlight the movie. Despite this, the movie is arguably much more well known through popular culture, being a unique and highly quotable colossal worldwide blockbuster.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Jaws predicted Sharknado?
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  • Romantic Plot Tumor: The illicit love affair, lasting one afternoon, between Matt Hooper and Ellen Brody. The subplot doesn't go anywhere because Hooper is killed by the shark.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Given how unsympathetic the main protagonists are and how real-life sharks face endangerment from humans, it's not hard to see the great white shark as the true hero of the story. Steven Spielberg admitted that when he read the book, he disliked the characters so much he wanted the shark to win. It's one of the reasons he applied some Adaptation Distillation for the film adaptation.
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: The protagonists are so unlikable, selfish, and hypocritical that they make the shark look decent by comparison. In fact, Steven Spielberg confessed to rooting for the shark when he read the book.
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  • Trapped by Mountain Lions: The adultery and organized crime subplots, neither which have much bearing on the hunt after the shark.

The film:

  • Accidental Innuendo: Right as Chrissie is being eaten by the shark in the first scene, the guy she took with her to the deserted beach is almost passed out drunk on the sand, breathing heavily and whispering, "I'm coming... I'm coming..." Given that he's wasted and he's chasing a girl, it may be deliberate.
  • Accidental Aesop: Don't go swimming at night in murky water. There are many creatures you can't see who can attack you for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, more than sharks. This is Truth in Television; people are advised to not swim at dusk, because that is when nocturnal predators come out.
    • What is worse, a low-funded economy or risking people's safety which will not help the economy?
  • Adorkable: Hooper can be a smartass at times, but his enthusiasm about sharks and eagerness to prove himself to Quint makes him quite a lovable dork.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: From none other than Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK, who pointed out that the mayor would be seen as a Reasonable Authority Figure in Real Life for his refusal to close the beach.
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  • And You Thought It Would Fail: The film was initially picked up as a script treatment by Universal Pictures, but ran into problems almost immediately. A rookie director who only had one other feature film — that bombed in theatres — to his name was chosen to direct the film. An actor who believed he was now box-office poison because of his prior work signed up as one of the main characters. Another actor was a belligerent drunk, and he would feud constantly with the aforementioned box-office poison actor, and his drinking would ruin takes to boot. Filming ran overbudget and overtime, with executives denying funding for key reshoots (which then had to be paid out of pocket). There were accusations that the practical effects were cheap and laughable, forcing the filmmaker to improvise by keeping it offscreen for most of the runtime. Yet, contrary to Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss' beliefs, Jaws became the first film to see wide-release distribution, became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, and ushered in a new wave in American filmmaking.
  • Award Snub:
    • Steven Spielberg himself was disappointed when he wasn't nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, as seen here. He keeps his complaining playful and lets his friends do most of it for him. Until he's then informed that the film only got four nominations, and then frankly points out that his film suffered from commercial backlash. "Everybody loves a winner, but nobody loves a WINNER".
    • Robert Shaw not getting a nomination for Best Supporting Actor has been known to enrage more than a few cinephiles, with many believing his portrayal should've won the award easily. That year's winner was George Burns for The Sunshine Boys, certainly a worthy winner but not as well-remembered as Shaw's performance here.
    • While it's overshadowed by Shaw's snub, neither Roy Scheider or Richard Dreyfuss were nominated for Best Actor despite their excellent work.
    • When Spielberg learned of his film's low nomination count, the first thing he asks about is whether Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb's screenplay got nominated. It wasn't.
  • Awesome Music: Da-DUN. Daaaa-DUN. The shark's Leitmotif is one of the most famous in film history. It's John Williams, what do you expect?
  • "Common Knowledge": The book and film have contributed to making sharks an endangered species; instilling such fear and hate on to them by mislabeling them as vicious killing machines. Except no, they haven't. Shark populations were drastically declining years before either were released, with the primary reasons ― finning, consumption, overfishing and bycatching ― having nothing to do with fear. Additionally, sharks had a fearsome reputation prior to the book and film, going back to the time of Ancient Greece with tales of gods assuming the form of monstrous sharks to enact vengeance.
  • Creepy Awesome: The shark is huge, powerful, intelligent, tenacious and even shows some sadistic qualities that separate it from actual sharks. All of these things are why it is widely regarded as a timeless villain in cinema despite it being an unspeaking animal.
  • Fan Nickname: Due to the first shark's Production Nickname, the later sharks are usually called "Bruce (sequel number)" or something along those lines. The baby shark in the third movie also tends to be called Bruce Jr. to distinguish it from its parent.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: What allows the original movie to be untainted by the sequels.
  • First Installment Wins: Not only for its own franchise, but some consider Jaws to be the only good shark movie ever made - only Open Water and The Shallows have (somewhat) gotten the same reaction (and both of which take a fairly different approach to the overall "shark attack" story). Many also consider it the best "man vs beast" movie ever.
  • Genius Bonus: Quint's boat is named the Orca, after the killer whale. Orca whales hunt great white sharks
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Richard Dreyfuss stated that Spielberg looped the screams of the opening sequence by diving Susan Backlinie's head into a water bucket — what's torture today.
    • As if what happened to poor Pippet wasn't bad enough. . .
    • The film features Brody's young son being endangered while his father is at work. Skip several decades later, and Richard Dreyfuss' own son was preyed upon by his father's boss for the play Complicit... Kevin Spacey.
    • In 2010, when the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheik experienced killer shark attacks, it used the plot of Jaws as its guide, including denying the problem, resisting closing the beaches, reluctantly closing them after a near-shore attack, killing the wrong shark and declaring it the right one despite clear evidence to the contrary, re-opening the beaches with a fanfare declaring them safe, then having more attacks take place. After that, the shark simply left on its own accord, perhaps because it knew what came next in the film.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • One of the proposed introductory scenes for Quint had him laughing out loud at Moby-Dick, displeasing everyone else. The remake of Cape Fear actually featured such a scene.
    • Steven Spielberg would later make another movie with sharks in it.
    • One of the three-note xylophone bits from the score to Chrissie's death scene sounds an awful lot like the kind of audio-chime a laptop might play to show it's booting up a peripheral.
  • I Am Not Shazam: Jaws is not the name of the shark. It had no name, unless you count Bruce. On official merchandise or film articles, it is usually referred to as "The shark from Jaws" or occasionally "The Great White Menace from Jaws". Peter Benchley's name for the creature was "The Great Fish" or simply "The Fish."
  • Just Here for Godzilla: People often forget there's more to the first half than just a shark killing everyone.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "You're gonna need a bigger boat."
    • "This was no boat accident."
    • "Smile, you son of a bitch!"
    • And see Awesome Music above.
    • The image of a shark's head rising from the depths has been reused many a time, notably in The Road to El Dorado.
    • Mentioning the Mayor keeping the Amnityville beaches open is often referred to in response to officials ignoring or downplaying a major disaster because of Skewed Priorities (such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which indeed involved keeping beaches open despite the danger)
    • "That is one bad hat, Harry," thanks to the TV company Bad Hat Productions using it as their Vanity Plate.
  • Narm: Yes, even a timeless classic like Jaws has Narm-tastic moments.
    • When Mrs. Kintner confronts Brody and calls him out on allowing people to go to the beach despite knowing of a shark in the water, her tears are remarkably unconvincing. Her delivery of the line "My boy is dead; I wanted you to know that" has induced chuckles in more than a few moviegoers.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Susan Backlinie, in the very first scene. Still jaw-droppingly terrifying decades later.
    • The movie has a wealth of these, thanks to the makers' practice of finding colorful-looking locals for background roles. For many of these, this was their only (uncredited) film role, making them "One Scene In Their Whole Career Wonders." Examples include Donald Poole (Harbormaster Frank Silva), Steven Potter (Pipit's owner), Wally Hooper ("That's Some Bad Hat" Harry), and Carla Hogendyk ("Artist," a.k.a. the girl who shouts "Shark!" when it goes into the pond).
    • Ms. Kintner when she slaps Chief Brody. Technically, she was also on the beach when her son dies, but her confrontation with Brody is unforgettable.
  • Only the Creator Does It Right: Spielberg only directed the original movie, and the sequels are generally believed to get progressively worse.
  • Paranoia Fuel: You better believe it. Beach attendance noticeably dropped in 1975 because of this movie. Some people were even afraid of swimming pools. And ever since then, promotional materials have billed it as "The film that made you afraid of the water."
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Hooper is a total Jerkass in the original book who sleeps with Brody's wife in a subplot that's boring and pointless. In the film, he's a much more likable, selfless, and funny character embodied by an excellent performance from Richard Dreyfuss.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Sometimes happens with the shark. Mostly due to Rule of Cool. The fact that humans annually kill more sharks in real life than the other way around could also have something to do with it.
  • Sacred Cow: Good luck finding someone who thinks that this film isn't a timeless masterpiece.
  • Signature Line: "You're gonna need a bigger boat".
  • Signature Scene: Five of them; the opening death scene, the Indianapolis monologue, Brody seeing the shark for the first time, Quint's death, and the shark's death.
  • Special Effect Failure: Part of the reason the first film uses suspense and doesn't often show the shark is precisely because of this trope — Spielberg thought that the animatronic shark that they had was too unconvincing... That, and it kept breaking down during filming, especially when they were out on the water.
    • The shark's appearance in the "you're gonna need a bigger boat" scene has not aged well since the film's release. To modern audiences with any eye for visuals/art, it looks almost intolerably fake.
    • The scene with Hooper in the shark cage intercuts footage of a real shark (as mentioned above) with close-ups of "Bruce." It's very easy to tell the difference.
    • When the shark jumps out of the water and on to the boat in the beginning of the scene where Quint gets devoured, you can clearly see the wire attached to the shark's fin.
    • As the shark drags the fourth victim (the man in the pond) under, its mouth is still wide open.
  • Strawman Has a Point: The mayor isn't completely wrong that news of a shark could ruin the town — all "summer tourist" towns are extremely dependent on seasonal income. He's extremely wrong, however, in the degree to which he ignores the evidence. Also, his refusal to cut open the shark, possibly spilling the remains of its latest victim (a young child), is completely right. Why they couldn't both agree to wait until everyone left and cut it open late at night (what Brody and Hooper do anyway) is anyone's guess. On the other hand, he did let the killing of one shark erupt into a media frenzy and declare mission accomplished without making sure it was even the right shark in the first place, which is why Brody and Hooper even wanted to cut the shark open.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: For the film's 25th anniversary DVD release in 2000, a new 5.1 stereo sound mix was done. However, this new mix changed several sound effects from the original mono (such as gunshots, and the sound of the shark bursting through the Orca's window after eating Quint), causing complaints from audio purists and original fans. Thankfully, later DVD and Blu-Ray releases added the mono option back.
  • Too Cool to Live: Captain Quint.
  • Vindicated by History: An odd trope for one of the most financially and critically successful films of all time, but if you grew up in the 80s, the mantra of "the shark looks fake!" would have rung continuously through your ears to the point that you could only agree. Except now, a slew of Gen Z Youtube reactors seeing the film for the first time, their minds keyed to decades of cheap CGI sharks, have been genuinely impressed by the practical effects used to create it.
  • Woolseyism: In the Latin American Spanish dub of the first film produced by ESM, and also overlapping with Bowdlerise, the Smile, you son of a bitch was changed with the simpler but still effective line of ¡Escualo miserable! ("You miserable shark!" but it also means, context-wise, as "You goddamned shark!"), the fact Brody's voice actor, Víctor Mares, says that line with a really enraged tone helps a lot. On the other hand, during the flashback scene of the fourth film, it was translated as simply ¡Sonrie, maldito! ("Smile, you bastard!" translated context-wise.)

The NES video game:

  • It's Short, So It Sucks!: The game can be completed in under an hour, which is remarkably short by NES standards.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: The game mostly consists of swimming around harpooning innocent and harmless sea creatures. The fact that it's also based on what many agree to be the worst of the Jaws movies doesn't help matters.

The ride:

  • Ham and Cheese: Some of the skippers that have poor acting skills can fall under this.
  • Opinion Myopia: The ride, while extremely beloved by fans, received merely average attendance levels from everyday guests.