Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenwriters: Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb
Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfyss, Lorraine Gray, Murray Hamilton
In 1974, novelist Peter Benchley's Jaws emerged as a best seller, an unlikely thriller about a killer great white shark and the few men brave enough to battle it. As an enjoyable page-turner, Benchley's book works just fine, but it wasn't until Steven Spielberg endured a hellish shoot to complete his 1975 blockbuster adaptation that the homicidal fish earned its scary stripes.
Mostly kept off the screen—the unintended result of the animatronic shark's steady malfunctions on set—Spielberg's underwater antagonist strikes fear in viewers' bones through mere suggestion, be it a camera shot beneath swimmers' dangling legs or composer John Williams' iconic score. When Jaws does finally show his face and razor-sharp teeth, so to speak, the shocks are ferocious. The blockbuster would never be the same. —MB