Dir. Steven Spielberg (1975)
A killer shark has taken up residence off Amity Island, terrorizing the summer tourists before it is hunted down by a shark hunter, an oceanographer, and the local sheriff.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Enough is enough! Jaws is not just a horror movie, it is perhaps the greatest horror movie ever made. That’s a mighty big claim, and I totally get how some folks are already shaking their heads in horror, but hear me out. First off, Jaws is a horror movie because it scared the absolute shit out of an entire generation of people, horror and non-horror fans alike. It’s one of those iconically American movies that is so institutional to our collective subconscious that every kid in the pool will hum its legendary, John Williams-written theme song, even those who have never seen the movie. Watching the film is a rite of passage in many American households. And, if you’ve ever been swimming at the ocean and haven’t had the thought of a Great White bursting through the waves to eat you, you’re someone that I don’t care to know or have in my life.
There’s something truly terrifying about oceanic monsters, those that lurk below the depth of the sea that can come and eat you anytime you dare to dip a toe in the water. Sharks are nature’s most efficient and brutal killing machine, the perfect hunter who stalks its prey beneath the ocean’s surface. Knowing that one minute, you could be swimming peacefully, while the next you could be in the belly of a creature that has existed since the dinosaurs essentially unchanged, is a dreadfully terrifying thought, and one that most beachgoers had never considered to full effect until Jaws burst onto the scene in 1975. My mom got so scared reading the book that she locked it in her freezer like Joey from Friends, and she never went swimming in the ocean again.
Nope to absolutely all of that.
From the terrifying opening scene, where the skinnydipping girl is being thrashed around in the water, to the explosive finale, Jaws is one of the best American films ever made. I remember my first “watch” of the film as a child, not paying attention to much and going in and out of the room in which my family was playing the film. I looked up in time to watch as Robert Shaw was eaten whole by the shark, the blood bursting from his mouth as Bruce’s teeth clamped down on his waist. I cried, ran from the room, and didn’t watch the film in full for probably another five years. To this day, I get chills during the scene where Shaw is retelling the tale of the Indianapolis and its doomed sailors. The writing in that scene alone would be enough to make the film legendary, but the whole film is elevated by horror’s greatest trio, that of Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss.
Nice boat. It would be a shame if something happened to it.
Jaws was the first summer blockbuster of all time and completely changed the way Hollywood released its movies. Everything about it screams summer: the idyllic beach town; the peaceful and serene waters; and all of those goddamn kids. It is as scary and effective as it was in 1975, and it is an absolute must see for any American movie fan. I won’t go any farther into the plot here, because you should’ve already seen Jaws by now, and if you haven’t you need to rectify that fact immediately. The Morrigan says that I’m not allowed to say it anymore because it’s been overused, but I don’t give a fuck: Jaws is a Grade-A, certified masterpiece, and it made every generation that watched it afraid to go in the water. If that kind of terror isn’t horror, then I’m afraid I don’t know what is. Every time I watch Jaws, I remember exactly how good it is, and if you have any questions about it you should go watch it again.
Who this movie is for: Every American movie fan, No, seriously, every movie fan ever, Why are you still reading, go watch Jaws again!
Bottom line: One of the best American movies ever made and unquestionably scary. Bruce the shark is one of the most effectively used horror movie villains of all time, and the sense of foreboding that the audience feels from the open ocean during the movie’s third act is unrivaled. You never know where he’s going to pop up, and all you know is that when he does, someone’s getting eaten. Filled with legendary dialogue and some of the best acting in any film ever, Jaws is an unmissable masterpiece. Watch it today if you haven’t, and if you have, watch it again.