It may seem pretty tame now, but when Steve Spielberg first brought a monstrous animatronic shark to the big screen in Jaws, it simply astonished people. Spielberg and his crew were making up these filming techniques as they went along, and no one knew whether or not the mechanized puppet would even work all throughout filming.

Of course, Spielberg and his special effects crew not only managed to make the mechanical shark work, but they made it part of pop culture history. Jaws spawned numerous sequels, video games, and amusement park rides, but nothing tops the terror of the original. It was one of the biggest gambles of Spielberg’s career, but it paid off brilliantly.

Jaws showed that it was possible to create a main character using only special effects and have it work within a movie. (Mind you, the animatronic shark had some serious difficulties and led Spielberg to leave far more up to our imagination than he'd originally intended to.) Filmmakers like George Lucas, James Cameron, and Peter Jackson soon followed and improved upon these effects, but Spielberg really opened the doors to their unfiltered imagination.