10 Reasons Jaws Might Be The Best Film Ever Made

Citizen Kane. The Godfather. Casablanca. Pfft! These classic movies might be widely adored and ranked amongst the greatest films ever made but here’s 10 reasons why Jaws is the best ever made.

Jaws, ending, classic scenes, Top 10 Films, Roy Scheider, Steven Spielberg,

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is one of the most financially successful films ever made. It is also loved by critics as exampled by its 100% Fresh rating on Rottentomatoes.com. Not only that, it is one of the most widely decorated films ever made, collecting three Oscars as well as ranking highly on hundreds of top film lists including being named as one of the top 100 films ever made by Total Film, the 5th best film ever made by Empire, and the 48th best film ever made by the American Film Institute.

Here’s ten reasons why it deserves all the praise it gets.

1. Its influence on the film industry

Jaws, 1975, blockbuster, film, queuing

Jaws had a huge influence on the film industry. It wasn’t just the first ‘event’ movie, it also welcomed in a new era of mass movie marketing and merchandising. This would be capitalised on by the huge conglomerations that would take over and vertically integrate the entire film production and distribution network in the 1980s.

It also made summer the new breeding ground for big-budget, big box office movies, a period previously reserved for films which studios felt wouldn’t make a lot of money.

It also had a direct influence on the direction of future films such as Ridley Scott’s Alien, which was pitched as “Jaws in Space”.

2. First film to break $100 million at US box office

Jaws, Spielberg, Chief Brody, Roy Scheider,

Jaws was the first film to break the once thought impossible box office receipt of $100 million. The film beat The Exorcist, which had taken $89 million in 1973.

Jaws is currently the 7th highest grossing film of all time when adjusted for inflation.

3. Steven Spielberg

E.T. Extra Terrestrial, Steven Spielberg, 1982

Without the success of Jaws, Spielberg may never have got another job. He had the studio breathing down his neck the entire shoot and went obscenely over budget. The film had originally been budgeted at $4 million but Spielberg ended up making it for $9 million. All was quickly forgotten when the first weekend’s box office receipts came in. But imagine if Jaws hadn’t captured the public’s imagination. Spielberg’s career may then have turned out very differently – consider a world without E.T., Close Encounters, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List, and Jurassic Park.

4. Fear of the unknown

Jaws, Steven Spielberg, Film, Chrissie Watkins, sea, shark,

The shark never worked properly. It could have been a problem. Spielberg made sure it wasn’t. By inferring the shark’s existence through various techniques – the use of point of view camera shots photographed underwater, the reactions of the characters, John Williams’ Da-da Da-da score, the shark’s fin or recognisable props as stand-ins (such as the jetty dragged by the shark when attacking the two midnight fishermen or the barrels used by Quint to bring the shark to the surface) – Spielberg created a monstrous villain that was largely created in our imagination.

It was a fantastic ploy, heightening the tension and making the shark’s eventual reveal all that more riveting.

5. Film better than the book

Peter Benchley’s novel shares a lot less with the film than you’d imagine and the writer frequently stated how much he hated Spielberg’s ending. Benchley’s book may have a great premise but it’s a damp squib in comparison to the movie.

6. Ocean realism

Jaws, Steven Spielberg, Daniel Stephens, Top 10 Films

The 1970s saw filmmakers leave the studio in favour of authentic on-location shooting. Jaws was no different. However, it went further by shooting its ocean scenes actually in the sea. This adds a realism that couldn’t be achieved in a studio tank. Spielberg was frequently advised not to shoot on the actual sea but ignored this advice. The end result proves the director was right despite the logistical problems posed by the ocean.

7. The three main characters/actors

Top 10 Film Characters In Way Over Their Head

Three perfectly cast actors in three fantastic roles. From the old sea dog Quint (Robert Shaw) to the over-eager Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and the ocean-phobic cop Chief Brody (Roy Scheider).

Dreyfuss didn’t want the part at first. But after seeing his latest performance in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz he became worried that it was so poor he wouldn’t be offered another role in Hollywood. He quickly called Spielberg hoping the role of Matt Hooper was still available. It was. The rest is history.

Roy Scheider wasn’t originally considered for the part of Brody (it was first offered to Robert Duvall who told Spielberg he was only interested in Quint) but after overhearing Spielberg talking about the movie at a party asked if he could play the part. Spielberg, a fan of The French Connection and Scheider’s performance in the film, was only too eager to get Scheider on board.

Robert Shaw wasn’t the first choice for the role of Quint. Charlton Heston wanted to do it but Spielberg thought he was far too heroic. If Heston was out there on the Orca the shark would have no chance, Spielberg mused. So he wanted someone with the ability to convey fragility and flaws. He offered the role initially to Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden but both eventually passed. Although Jaws’ producers wanted Spielberg to consider Robert Shaw, the director became interested in Jon Voight. But he did relent and it’s difficult to envisage anyone else playing Quint as well as Shaw did (even if he was notoriously drunk most of the time!).

8. John Williams’ iconic score

john williams film composer

Simple yet so effective. John Williams’ reoccurring notes – only two of them, an E and F played alternately – have become pop culture’s theme tune of impending doom. With such a terrific musical reference to the shark it didn’t matter so much that Spielberg’s robot fish malfunctioned constantly. You only needed to hear those notes to know something monstrous was lurking. The score ranks 6th on the AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores list.

9. Pop-Culture

Jaws, ending, classic scenes, Top 10 Films, Roy Scheider, Steven Spielberg,

Take away the merchandising (which was huge and still is, from Jaws t-shirts to Jaws toys to soundtrack CDs and posters) and the film still maintains its place in pop culture. From the often quoted lines: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” and “Smile you son of a bitch!”, to John Williams’ two-note theme tune, the film has grown bigger than itself in so many ways that it exists in the lives of people who haven’t actually seen the movie.

10. A (horror) film for everybody

Jaws, Steven Spielberg, Daniel Stephens, You're gonna need a bigger boat - Top 10 Films

Horror films do get a bad reputation. Some of that is justified but rarely does Mr Oscar cast his gaze towards the most refined and beautiful work of the genre. Jaws however transcends the boundaries – it isn’t a horror movie aimed just at adults, it’s one the whole family can enjoy. I remember watching the film for the first time as a six or seven year old with my sixty year old Granny. And she loved the film.

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About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Avatar
    Jawsphobia Reply

    Good article, good points. Rare for internet blurbs. Good for Jaws.

  2. Avatar
    Shawn Aguirre Reply

    Everything that is stated above is 100 % plus true ! and I concur !!!!!

  3. Avatar
    Jaccstev Reply

    As a master of suggestive art, Spielberg used his ability to make Jaws into one of the most memorable films in movie history. With an excellent original music score, he turns an entirely stupid looking foam shark into a beast of terror.

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    Fitz Reply

    One of the few instances where the film is better than the book (Children of Men’s source material was fucking terrible).

  5. Avatar
    Peter E. Reply

    It’s amazing because you make some fine points here and put it all so well. But to even put this movie in the Top 50 ever made I would have a hard time. Very odd because your factors all make sense (except I don’t believe the box-office take should have anything to do with artistic merit). I don’t even think this is one of Spielberg’s Top 3 films….A good read, man.

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    Bob P Reply

    I completely agree. I saw Jaws on July 24, 1979 and it scared the living shit out of me (I also saw Piranha & The Exorcist on the same day). Ben Gardner’s head popping out still is the scariest film moment of all time in my book. I slept with the light on for a month.

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    Jamie Reply

    The only person who should get cerdit for this movie’s success is JOHN WILLIAMS. He’s the greatest composer to ever walk the face of the earth. The movie would’ve been a joke without that soundtrack!

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    Craig Reply

    I saw Jaws for the first time when I was 9 years old. I swear I was afraid to take a bath for weeks! It is MY fovorite movie of all time because it stroked my fear and fascination unlike any other movie. Because of the terrific score by Williams, and a superb cast and director, I have been intrigued by sharks ever sense. I keep hoping they will make a new Jaws film – one with a humongous budget and awesome effects! It’s time to scare the SHIT out of a new generation with computer technology as it is… and release it in the summer, of course!

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    Dan Grant Reply

    I saw Jaws as a youngster. My carpet was blue and in between my bed and the door was about a foot of carpet. At night, if I had to get up to go to the washroom, I’d stand up in my bed, and then leap over the carpet and into the hallway, which didn’t have blue carpet. JAWS terrified me and it is truly the one movie that never gets old. It is just as iconic and brilliant today as it was in 1975.

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