Are you afraid of sharks? If yes, answer this — have you ever actually seen the aquatic predator in person or even been near a coastal body of water in your life? If not, maybe it’s because you have seen JAWS — Steven Spielberg’s seminal, Academy AwardⓇ winning 1975 thriller about a quaint coastal community terrorized by a 25-foot maneater.
Decades after its release, the groundbreaking masterpiece is still scaring audiences of various generations, still influencing more movies that face big fears and is returning to the big screen on Friday, September 2, as an AMC Artisan Film. While it may already be clear to most what makes JAWS eligible for this honor, let’s go a few leagues deeper into the subject.
Pushes Boundaries And Sparks Conversation
Steven Spielberg helmed three classics that would top the all-time box office charts – including 1982’s E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, which would be surpassed by the director’s own JURASSIC PARK eleven years later. The first movie to prove the filmmaker had the golden touch was his second feature, JAWS, which also changed the movie industry forever by becoming the first film to earn $100 million at the box office – according to the Guinness World Records.
This groundbreaking success also demonstrated that the summer was the best time to release high-stakes genre pictures of this kind, which is why it is credited as the first blockbuster. However, the impact of JAWS goes beyond cinematic history, having also inspired the many who saw it to stay out of the water.
Brings A Unique Vision And Perspective
How did Steven Spielberg achieve such an effectively frightening adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel with JAWS? Well, for one, the mechanical shark that was built for the movie was subject to so many technical problems that the director was forced to borrow a page from Alfred Hitchcock’s handbook and keep the main antagonist hidden for much of the film. This turned out to be a happy accident, making the predator’s official reveal all the more startling.
However, slow-building suspense aside, what truly makes JAWS such a refreshing thriller for its time is its captivatingly raw and believably earnest approach to its grisly subject matter. Very few creature features before it have felt so genuine in their execution and only a handful of them released since – especially shark movies in particular – have managed to reach the same result, which is why it still remains a timeless classic to this day.
Features An Iconic Cast
As a movie about shark attacks, JAWS would have never felt so real and, more importantly, so human without the stellar performances by its three main lead actors. While Roy Scheider was no stranger to thrillers at the time – having received an OscarⓇ nomination for 1971’s THE FRENCH CONNECTION – playing devoted family man and burdened police chief Martin Brody solidified him as a legendary Hollywood hero who would maintain that reputation in films like SORCERER and BLUE THUNDER.
On the other hand, future Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss – then best known for AMERICAN GRAFFITI – had never done a film quite like JAWS, but owned the role of oceanographer Matt Hooper and immediately earned a leading man status that he carried in classics like Spielberg’s CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Fellow Oscar nominee Robert Shaw was easily the most experienced with high-seas adventures – having once played the lead of the TV series “The Buccaneers” in the late ‘50s – but had never been grittier than in his most iconic role as shark hunter, Quint.
Features A Compelling Score
You could be relaxing at an enclosed swimming pool miles away from any ocean and, nevertheless, humming the theme from JAWS would still manage to creep the life out of any of your friends or loved ones without fail. So simple yet so effective, it is no surprise the spine-tingling “duh-dum” of John Williams’ score earned the legendary composer his second Academy Award and it is impossible to imagine the film being as heart-racing without it.
The music lends so much to the movie’s suspenseful effect, especially to clue the audience in that our fearsome sea beast is nearby in scenes when it remains hidden. Williams’ composition remains one of the most instantly recognizable film scores of all time and could be the finest horror movie score we will ever hear.
JAWS had everything going for it in 1975 with a masterful cast, a remarkably chilling score and an inventive new vision of what adventurous horror thrillers could be. All these perfect ingredients still serve up a tasty feast that you can now relive on the big screen as an AMC Artisan Film… if you dare.