Top Summer Movie #3: We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat
Release Date: June 20, 1975
Tickets Sold: 128,078,818
Total Box Office (Adjusted): $974,697,803
Brody, Hooper, and Quint head out on the Orca to hunt down a man-eating shark hell-bent on destroying the beachside community of Amity one skinny-dipper at a time. We’re definitely gonna need a bigger boat.
Wow Factor: Shark Week on the Discovery Channel has become a cultural phenomenon since it first appeared in July 1986, and it owes at least part of that popularity to this movie. Millions of people saw this movie and vowed never to go in the ocean again (I’m guessing they didn’t all follow through, but still…). Jaws also set a new standard for horror/thriller movies by proving that you could tell an interesting and engrossing story with developed and relatable characters, and still have it be scary.
Re-Watchability: There’s a reason this movie always seems to be playing on cable. You can jump in nearly anywhere and be at the good part. Early on you have the first strikes by Jaws and the arrival of Richard Dreyfuss (who brings some needed comedy to keep things from getting too heavy). As the movie progresses you have tension increasing among the town residents and police chief Brody, the vandalized billboard, and the classic scene where Hooper pulls a license plate out of the sharks belly (causing Brody to ask if it ate a car). Before you know it they’re tying knots in Quints’s workshop before boarding the Orca and heading out to sea, where we finally get a good look at Jaws, Quint gives his mesmerizing monologue about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, and a battle royale finishes things off. Seriously, name a part in Jaws where you’re flipping the channel instead of watching.
Improvement: Jaws is the only movie on this list with a perfect 100% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. If movie critics can’t find anything wrong with it…
Lessons Learned: Sometimes less is more. This movie is often praised for how effectively it creates tension and suspense by not giving the audience a good look at Jaws until the final act. By showing just a fin, or a shadow, or a rough outline, it kept the audience on the edge of their seats, waiting to see exactly what they were dealing with. Jaws employed the “less is more” technique more effectively than any movie before it (and 99.5% of movies since then), but it wasn’t totally on purpose. As several behind the scenes specials have noted, Jaws was originally intended to have a much bigger part in the movie, however due to ongoing mechanical issues with Bruce (the shark), Spielberg was forced to improvise and merely suggest the presence of the shark without actually showing it. So the second lesson learned is that sometimes you need to be lucky, even if you’re Steven Spielberg (somewhere Michael Bay is nodding sadly).
armovieguys score: 9.5 out of 10.
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