RANKED: Steven Spielberg (#6 — Jaws)

Photo: Universal Pictures

Photo: Universal Pictures

Chris Luckett

6. JAWS (1975)

Release Date: June 20, 1975

Chronology: After Duel and The Sugarland Express set up the promise of a great director, Jaws was Spielberg’s breakthrough picture, followed two years later by Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Box Office: $260 million ($1.15 billion, adjusted for inflation)

Oscars: 4 nominations (including Best Picture), 3 wins

Premise: Beach resort town Amity Island is terrorized by a deadly great white shark, causing local police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), marine biologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) to team up and hunt it down

Over two hours?: Yes

John Williams Score?: Yes

Father Issues?: The near-death of Brody’s son is what ultimately makes up Brody’s mind to hunt the shark down

War?: Just a war on sharks

Aliens?: Nope

Surprise Appearance: Steven Spielberg

Fun Fact: The mechanical shark broke down frequently during the shoot, forcing Spielberg to improvise first-person camera angles and ways to show bits of the shark without fully revealing the creature until late in the movie — which inadvertently was what gave Spielberg his reputation for masterfully creating tension

Best Line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Best Scene: 

Verdict: The very first blockbuster, Jaws revolutionized the thriller, taking it out of the Hitchcock age and ushering in the modern era of cinematic tension for which Spielberg’s biggest movies have become poster children. John Williams’s simple but haunting score is one of his very best, the trio of Scheider, Dreyfuss, and Shaw work excellently together, and Spielberg incontrovertibly proves his mastery of cinema with just his third movie.

Rating: 5 stars / 5

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