Nearly fifty years since moviegoers first “needed a bigger boat,”, the “shark movie” genre is still going strong – new survival, action, horror and thriller films featuring shark attacks are released every single year. Each and every one of those films can trace their heritage back to a single iconic classic: Stephen Spielberg’s 1975 feature Jaws.
Based on a novel by author Peter Benchley, Jaws tells the story of a 25-foot long great white shark which terrorizes the fictional seaside town of Amity. Police chief Martin Brody, marine biologist Matt Hooper, and professional shark hunter Quint team up to take down the creature in what remains one of the most tense and terrifying action and chase scenes in the history of film.
Despite the film’s troubled production (the script required multiple rewrites, and mechanical prop sharks frequently malfunctioned) it was released to massive acclaim. Jaws won several awards and earned millions of dollars, holding the title of highest-grossing film of all time for two years until it was unseated by Star Wars (now titled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) in 1977. Jaws is generally considered to have sparked the “summer blockbuster” phenomenon, leading to many other film studios releasing major titles during the summer months.
The film celebrated its 45th anniversary on June 20, 2020. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many planned anniversary screenings of the film were cancelled. However, a number of Jaws fans took to social media such as Twitter to express their appreciation and love for the enduring classic.
The hashtag #Jaws45 was used to celebrate the film, complimenting its characters, special effects, tense action scenes, and soundtrack including its particularly iconic main theme. Many fans feel that, despite its “dated” effects, Jaws still holds up as a terrifying classic today.
Film enthusiast Craig Koban called Jaws the “first ever summer blockbuster.”
45 years ago today the first summer blockbuster was released. It became the first film in history to earn $100 million at the box office and was the highest grossing film ever until STAR WARS was released a few years later.
— 𝘾𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙜𝙚𝙧'𝙨 𝘾𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙢𝙖 𝘾𝙤𝙧𝙣𝙚𝙧 🎥🎞🎬 (@CraigKoban) June 20, 2020
Twitter user Ian Failes paid tribute to the film’s most memorable prop, the mechanical shark nicknamed “Bruce”
— Ian Failes (@ianfailes) June 21, 2020
Voice actor Yuri Lowenthal shared insightful commentary comparing the film’s themes to the current global situation regarding responses to the coronavirus.
— Yuri Lowenthal (@YuriLowenthal) June 20, 2020
Even the official Twitter account for recently released video game Maneater, in which the player takes control of a bull shark seeking revenge on humanity, got in on the fun. They encouraged fans to celebrate Jaws by posting their best screenshots of sharks taking down boats and received lots of brilliant responses. Can you say “photos captured minutes before disaster”?
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” It’s the 45th Anniversary of JAWS! #Jaws45
— Maneater (@maneatergame) June 20, 2020
One element of the film which many posts discussed is the fact that so much of its success arose by accident. Jaws received praise for using music, props and camera angles to keep the shark hidden from view as much as possible, only allowing the viewer to actually see the creature a few times. While this was an effective way to ramp up tension and induce genuine fear in viewers, it was a decision which Spielberg only made because the “Bruce” prop was so unwieldy and difficult to work with.
Unfortunately, due to coronavirus concerns, the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where Jaws was filmed, was unable to hold its traditional festivities celebrating the landmark 45th anniversary. Hopefully, in 2025, when Jaws turns 50, the island will once again be able to celebrate this beloved piece of its history.
If you’ve never seen Jaws, or are an avid fan planning a 45th-anniversary re-watch, the film is currently available for streaming via the HBO Max subscription service.
What are your favorite things about Jaws? How are you celebrating its 45th anniversary? What other shark-based media do you enjoy? Let us know!