Top 100 Movie Review: No. 050 – Jaws (1975)

Ranked 050 on the IMDb Top 100 Movie List (as at May 2017). Watched movie during May 2020.

Cast: Roy Scheider (Martin Brody), Robert Shaw (Quint), Richard Dreyfuss (Matt Hooper), Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Murray Hamilton (Mayor Vaughn), Carl Gottlieb (Meadows)
Director:  Steven Spielberg
My rating: 8.0 / 10

During a beach party at dusk on Amity Island, a young woman encourages a young man to go skinny dipping in the ocean. The man passes out on the beach while the woman is treading water, she is violently pulled under. The next day, her partial remains are found on shore. The medical examiner’s ruling that the death was due to a shark attack leads police chief Martin Brody to close the beaches.

Later Mayor Larry Vaughn overrules the police chief with the coroner changing his opinion to boat accident.  The Mayor fears the town’s summer season will be ruined and points out that the town has never had trouble with sharks. Brody is reluctant to accept the decision so watches the beach closely the next day  but can’t stop the shark killing a young boy paddling on his raft in full daylight on a crowded beach. 

A bounty is placed on the shark, prompting an amateur shark-hunting frenzy. Local professional shark hunter Quint offers his services for $10,000 which the Mayor doesn’t accept. Meanwhile, consulting oceanographer Matt Hooper examines the remains of the first victim and confirms her death was caused by a shark—an unusually large one.

When local fishermen catch a tiger shark, the Mayor proclaims the beaches safe. Hooper disputes that it is the same predator, convincing Brody to cut open the shark which they do finding no human remains are found inside it. They go searching out on the ocean for a shark with Hooper and Brody find a half-sunken vessel of one of the shark hunting boats. Underwater, Hooper retrieves a sizable great white shark’s tooth embedded in the submerged hull. He drops it in fright after encountering the partial corpse of local fisherman. 

Mayor Vaughn discounts Brody and Hooper’s statements that a huge great white shark is responsible for the deaths, and refuses to close the beaches, allowing only added safety precautions. On the Fourth of July weekend, tourists pack the beaches. Following a juvenile prank in which the presence of a shark is simulated, the real shark enters a nearby estuary, killing a boater and causing Brody’s oldest son, Michael, the attack is witnessed by the town and the media. Brody then convinces the shocked Mayor to hire Quint.

Quint, Brody, and Hooper set out on Quint’s boat, the Orca, to hunt the shark. While Brody lays down a chum line, Quint waits for an opportunity to hook the shark. Without warning, it appears behind the boat. Quint, estimating its length at 25 feet (7.6 m) and weight at 3 tonnes, harpoons it with a line attached to a flotation barrel, but the shark pulls the barrel underwater and disappears easily.

At nightfall, Quint and Hooper drunkenly exchange stories about their assorted scars, and Quint reveals that he survived the USS Indianapolis which saw hundreds of men eaten by sharks over several days. The shark returns unexpectedly, ramming the boat’s hull, and disabling the power. The men work through the night, repairing the engine.

In the morning, Brody attempts to call the Coast Guard, but Quint, who has become obsessed with killing the shark without outside assistance, smashes the radio. After a long chase, Quint harpoons another barrel into the shark. The line is tied to the stern cleats, but the shark drags the boat backward, swamping the deck and flooding the engine compartment. Quint prepares to sever the line to prevent the transom from being pulled out but the cleats break off, keeping the barrels attached to the shark. Quint heads toward shore to draw the shark into shallower waters, but he pushes the damaged engine past the safety limits and the overtaxed engine fails.

With the Orca slowly sinking, the trio attempt a riskier approach. Hooper puts on scuba gear and enters the water in a shark-proof cage, intending to lethally inject the shark with strychnine, using a hypodermic spear. The shark attacks the cage, causing Hooper to drop the spear, which sinks and is lost. While the shark thrashes in the tangled remains of the cage, Hooper manages to escape to the seabed.

The shark then leaps onto the sinking deck of the boat, dragging Quint down and devouring him. Trapped on the sinking vessel, Brody jams a pressurised scuba tank into the shark’s mouth, and, climbing the crow’s nest, shoots the tank with a rifle. The resulting explosion obliterates the shark. Hooper surfaces, and he and Brody paddle back to Amity Island clinging to the remaining barrels.

What’s to Like
The music and the tension.

What’s not to Like

This is the movie that launched the career of Steven Spielberg and the summer blockbuster movie.  The great John Williams creates an amazing music score that sets the tension throughout.  The movie has a simple plot so it needs good acting to carry it.  The three main protagonists Brody, Hooper and Quint have great chemistry as the disagree with each other and have vastly different background, Brody the washed up cop who moved to the island but is afraid of the sea, Hooper the wealthy and smart scientist, and Quint the battle hardened sea hand play off each other well.  Quint’s story of surviving in the sea for many days as he watched is shipmates slowly killed off is captivating. 

The story of the official more worried about economics these days is commonplace but back in 1975 was a fresh idea, and unlike most movies these days show the dismay of that official and does make the decision to open the beach at least partially understandable with the killing of the tiger shark.


Academy Awards

  • Best Sound – winner
  • Best Film Editing – winner
  • Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (John Williams) – winner
  • Best Picture – nominee 

About Nathan

A World traveller who has so far experienced 71 countries in this amazing world.
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