Forty-six years ago today, the film Jaws premiered and created generations of people that are afraid of the water.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown
Screenplay by: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Based on Jaws by Peter Benchley
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, and Murray Hamilton
Music by: John Williams
Cinematography: Bill Butler
Edited by: Verna Fields
Production Companies: Zanuck/Brown Company and Universal Pictures
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: June 20, 1975
Running time: 124 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $9 million
Box office: $472 million
Academy Award Best Sound – Robert L. Hoyt, Roger Heman Jr., Earl Madery, and John R. Carter
Academy Award Best Film Editing – Verna Fields
Academy Award Best Picture – Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown
In the beach town of Amity Island, a young woman, Chrissie Watkins, goes skinny dipping in the ocean. While treading water, she is unknowingly attacked by an unseen force. The next day, her partial remains are found on shore. The medical examiner’s conclusion that the death was due to a shark attack leads police chief Martin Brody to close the beaches. Mayor Larry Vaughn persuades him to reverse his decision, fearing that the town’s summer economy will be ruined. The coroner tentatively concurs with the mayor’s theory that Chrissie was killed in a boating accident. Brody reluctantly accepts their conclusion until the shark kills a young boy, Alex Kintner, in full view of a crowded beach. A bounty is placed on the shark, causing an amateur shark-hunting frenzy, and local professional shark fisherman Quint offers to catch and kill it for $10,000. Meanwhile, consulting oceanographer Matt Hooper examines Chrissie’s remains, and confirms her death was caused by a shark—an unusually large one.
When local fishermen catch a tiger shark, the mayor proclaims that the beach is safe. Mrs. Kintner, Alex’s mother, confronts Brody and blames him for her son’s death. Hooper expresses doubts that the tiger shark is responsible for the attacks, and his suspicions are confirmed when, after an examination, no human remains are found inside its stomach. Hooper and Brody find a half-sunken vessel while searching the night waters in Hooper’s boat. Underwater, Hooper removes a sizable great white shark’s tooth from the boat’s hull, but drops it in fright after discovering the partial corpse of local fisherman Ben Gardner. Vaughn dismisses Brody and Hooper’s assertions that a huge great white shark is responsible for the deaths, and refuses to close the beaches, allowing only increased safety precautions. On the Fourth of July weekend, tourists pack the beaches. Following a juvenile prank with a fake shark, the real shark enters a nearby lagoon, killing a boater and causing Brody’s oldest son, Michael, to go into shock. Brody then convinces a guilt-ridden Vaughn 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 (3.0 long tons; 3.3 short tons), harpoons it with a line attached to a flotation barrel, but the shark pulls the barrel underwater and disappears.
At nightfall, Quint and Hooper drunkenly exchange stories about their assorted scars, and Quint reveals that he survived the attack on the USS Indianapolis. 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 the shark with another barrel. 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 overtaxes the damaged engine and it blows up.
As the Orca slowly sinks, the trio attempts a riskier approach. Hooper 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 breaks free and leaps onto the boat, devouring Quint in the process. Trapped on the sinking vessel, Brody shoves a pressurized scuba tank into the shark’s mouth and climbs onto the crow’s nest. Using Quint’s rifle, he shoots the tank, which explodes and obliterates the shark. Hooper surfaces, and he and Brody paddle back to Amity Island clinging to the remaining barrels.