Time: 124 mins.
Won Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Original Score. Nomination for Best Picture.
It's fairly common knowledge now that the reason the audience rarely ever sees the shark in JAWS is because they could never get the mechanical creature to actually work. Instead of being hampered by this problem, Spielberg used it to his advantage to create one of the best horror movies ever. This is a powerful drama that draws you in and refuses to let go. I've seen it more times than I can count and every time, no matter where I come in, I'm compelled to watch it to the end. JAWS is not your typical horror movie (where nubile young teens are slashed to death by a crazed lunatic), but it scared enough people to keep them out of the ocean for years afterwards and that's what makes it a great movie.
The plot is simple. Shark gets mad and starts eating people. Because it's the height of the summer season, the town refuses to close the beach. Shark eats more people. Chief of Police hires crazy old alcoholic fisherman to kill shark. Chief, fisherman and marine biologist chase shark. Almost get eaten by shark. Eventually they the kill shark, saving lives and the town from an ugly summer recession. Tourist season continues.
What makes this film great are the performances of Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfus and Robert Shaw (though playing an alcoholic wasn't a big stretch for him by this time). Scheider plays Chief Brody the local law enforcement officer whose job is to keep people safe on the beaches even though he's terrified of the ocean. It's his courage and conviction that are the heart of the film. He must put aside his own fears for the well-being of the community. Nobody plays conflicted better than Scheider. In the course of the film, he not only conquers the shark, but his own demons as well. Without this character arc, this film could well have been just like its hideous sequels Jaws 2-4.