Jaws is a 1975 American horror/thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. The prototypical summer blockbuster, its release is regarded as a watershed moment in motion picture history. In the story, a giant man-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers on Amity Island, a fictional summer resort town, prompting the local police chief to hunt it with the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter. The film stars Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as oceanographer Matt Hooper, Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint, Murray Hamilton as the mayor of Amity Island, and Lorraine Gary as Brody's wife, Ellen. The screenplay is credited to both Benchley, who wrote the first drafts, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb, who rewrote the script during principal photography.
Shot mostly on location on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, the film had a troubled production, going over budget and past schedule. As the art department's mechanical sharks suffered many malfunctions, Spielberg decided to mostly suggest the animal's presence, employing an ominous, minimalistic theme created by composer John Williams to indicate the shark's impending appearances. Spielberg and others have compared this suggestive approach to that of classic thriller director Alfred Hitchcock. Universal Pictures gave the film what was then an exceptionally wide release for a major studio picture, over 450 screens, accompanied by an extensive marketing campaign with a heavy emphasis on television spots and tie-in merchandise.
Generally well received by critics, Jaws became the highest-grossing film in history at the time. It won several awards for its soundtrack and editing, and it is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time. Along with 1977's Star Wars, Jaws was pivotal in establishing the modern Hollywood business model, which revolves around blockbuster action and adventure pictures with simple "high-concept" premises that are released in the summer at thousands of theaters and supported by heavy advertising. It was followed by three sequels, none with the participation of Spielberg or Benchley, and many imitative thrillers.
A young woman named Chrissie Watkins leaves an evening beach party on New England's Amity Island to go skinny dipping in the Atlantic Ocean, only to be dragged back and forth and then pulled under the water. Amity's police chief, Martin Brody, is notified that Chrissie is missing, and Deputy Hendricks finds her remains on the beach. The medical examiner informs Brody that she was killed by a shark. Brody plans to close the beaches but is overruled by Mayor Larry Vaughan, who fears that reports of a shark attack will ruin the summer tourist season, the town's primary source of income. The medical examiner consequently attributes the death to a boating accident. Brody reluctantly goes along with the explanation. A short time later, a boy is killed by a shark at the beach. The boy's mother places a bounty on the shark, sparking an amateur shark-hunting frenzy and attracting the attention of local professional shark hunter Quint. Marine biologist Matt Hooper examines Chrissie's remains and determines that she was unquestionably killed by a shark, not a boat.
A large tiger shark is caught by fishermen, leading the townspeople to believe the problem is solved, but Hooper is unconvinced and asks to examine its stomach contents. Vaughan refuses to make the autopsy public, so Brody and Hooper return after dark and discover the dead shark does not contain human remains. They come across the half-sunken wreckage of a boat belonging to local fisherman Ben Gardner. Hooper explores the vessel underwater and discovers a sizable shark's tooth protruding from the damaged hull before he is startled by Gardner's remains and drops the tooth. Without evidence, Vaughan refuses to close the beaches, and on the Fourth of July many tourists arrive. A children's prank causes panic at the main beach while the shark enters a nearby estuary, killing a man; Brody's son, who witnesses the attack, goes into shock. Brody persuades Vaughan to hire Quint, who reluctantly allows Hooper to join the hunt along with Brody. The three set out to catch and kill the shark aboard Quint's vessel, the Orca.
Brody is given the task of laying a chum line while Quint uses fishing tackle to try to hook the shark. An enormous great white shark looms up behind the boat, and the trio watch it circle the Orca while Hooper takes pictures for research. Quint harpoons it with a line attached to a flotation barrel, but the shark pulls the barrel under and disappears.
The men retire to the boat's cabin, where Quint relates his experience with sharks as a survivor of the sinking of the warship USS Indianapolis during the War in the Pacific in 1945. The shark reappears, damaging the boat's hull before slipping away. In the morning, Brody attempts to call the Coast Guard, but Quint destroys the radio. After a long chase, Quint harpoons another barrel to the shark. The men tie it to the stern, but the shark drags the boat backward, forcing water onto the deck and flooding the engine. Quint heads toward shore, hoping to draw it into shallow waters and suffocate it. In his obsession to kill the shark, Quint overtaxes and stalls the Orca's engines.
With the boat immobilized, the trio attempt a desperate approach: Hooper dons scuba gear and enters the ocean inside a shark proof cage, aiming to stab the shark with a hypodermic spear filled with strychnine. When the shark attacks the cage, Hooper drops his spear but manages to escape to the seabed. As Quint and Brody raise the mangled cage, the shark leaps onto the boat, crushing the transom. Quint slips down the deck into the shark's mouth and is eaten alive. When the shark attacks Brody, he shoves a pressurized scuba tank into its mouth, then takes Quint's rifle and climbs the sinking Orca's mast. Brody shoots at the scuba tank, blowing it and the shark to pieces. Hooper emerges, and the two make rafts out of the Orca's remains to paddle back to Amity Island.
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