21.) Quint’s shark shack
Quint ribs Hooper about his city hands, and the Chief can’t stomach Quint’s homemade booze. The scene sets up a lot of the conflict to come. These characters and their dynamic are a real strength of the film. I could watch these guys on a road trip.
22.) “Farewell and adieu…”
Before setting out, Quint sings “Spanish Ladies.” (It’s catchy as hell!) I’ve always loved the smile Hooper gives him. I like to think it’s a rare moment of camaraderie between them, Hooper perhaps recognizing a song he’s heard on the ocean. But you could also read it as “Just nod and smile at the crazy loon.”
23.) Genre hop
An interesting things about “Jaws” is that it changes genres halfway through. It starts as a horror film — an unseen force preying on a white picket fence community — and then it becomes an adventure when our three heroes embark on a hunt for a killer shark.
24.) Drinking contest
One of the things that makes “Jaws” so special is its sense of humor. It leverages the suspense and excitement, and it comes naturally from its characters. Consider Quint and Hooper having a drink. Quint drains his beer can and crushes it, Hooper does just the same…except his is a Styrofoam cup.
25.) Air tank exposition
Hooper chews Brody out for sending air tanks across the Orca’s deck. It’s a great bit of exposition, because it accomplishes three things at once. (1) It ups the stakes and the possibility for disaster. (2) It reinforces that Brody is not at home on the water and isolates him from the other characters. (3) It sets up the shark’s final scene and the climax of the film.
26.) Whose [fishing] line is it anyway?
An attempt to capture the shark involves piano wire and a fishing rod. Brody and Hooper are busy, so only Quint notices that something seems to be nibbling on the end of his line. The sound work is fantastic, allowing tension to build. Click, click, click. The line twitches in the water. Creak. And Quint fastens himself to his chair.
27.) The shark is ready for its close-up
Martin: “I can go slow ahead. Come on down and chum some of this shit!”
And boom, more than an hour into the film, the Great White finally gets his close-up. Timed perfectly, I love the way Spielberg turns a laugh into a scream.
28.) Shark’s limited screen time
I adore the judicious use of the shark, a strategy that would surely fall flat today. (Remember all that bellyaching about Godzilla’s screen time in last year’s reboot?) Still, few things take the majesty and menace out of a monster like overexposure.
29.) “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
C’mon, what else do I need to say! The perfect encapsulation of an insurmountable problem.
30.) Pirate music
John Williams’s work highlights that transition from horror to sea-faring adventure. Nowhere is that more prevalent than the first chase. Listen to the track here. Still gets my heart racing.
31.) Fish stories
Quint and Hooper, a little tipsy, compare scars in a game of one-upsmanship. I got this from a bull shark. Well, I got this from a thresher. The Chief lifts his shirt, takes a look at his appendectomy scar, then quickly dismisses it. The scene’s a welcome reprieve after the first thrilling chase and before…
32.) “You were on the Indianapolis?”
I love the way Hooper’s laugh deflates when he learns that Quint was on the USS Indianapolis. It’s a great bit of acting by Dreyfuss. If you’re not familiar with the story — I certainly wasn’t as a kid — it lets you know that you’re in for something. Also note how Brody isn’t aware of the event. Yet again, he’s the outsider.
33.) The Indianapolis monologue
Robert Shaw delivers the movie monologue to end all movie monologues. The language is so evocative: “You know the thing about a shark, he’s got black eyes. Lifeless eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t seem to be livin’…until he bites ya.” Whether a conscious choice or not — Shaw was a drinker on set — I love Quint’s drunken portrayal. As though his boat-mates wouldn’t be hearing this story if he were sober. It also serves as a basis for some of Quint’s more questionable decisions.
34.) The sound of silence
After conditioning the audience to expect the shark’s theme before an attack, Spielberg and Williams pull a great switcheroo. When the barrels attached to the fish surface, the audience knows the threat is there. Its attack comes out of silence.
35.) “He’s chasing us, I don’t believe it!”
I love the characterization – I’m using that word loosely — of the shark. He’s driven by more than just instinct, and, yes, there wouldn’t be much of a movie if he just moved on to another beach. He almost mocks our heroes before bringing his full strength to bear. The way he passes by Hooper in the cage before striking (more on that in a bit). And the way the tables turn and he starts chasing the Orca. The shark’s final scene is spectacular, but it’s earned. You feel as though that’s what it’d take, nothing less, to kill this unstoppable force.
36.) Life jackets
Quint tells Brody and Hooper that he’ll never put on a life jacket again. So when he hands each of them one, the boat hanging low in the water, it speaks volumes about their predicament. This is as close as Quint gets to apologizing. And I love the visual of him finding the life jackets: hanging from the ceiling, dripping with water.
37.) Cage match
With Hooper in the cage, we finally get our first full-body look at the Great White. It appears out of the din, Williams’s theme chugging along in the background. It glides by the cage, not even fitting inside the 2.35 framing. As it disappears into the murk again, the theme fades. So haunting!
38.) “The ocean turns red…”
A shark attack in all its grisly horror, Quint comes face-to-face with the thing he fears most. Shaw’s committed performance sells it and makes for one of the best movie deaths of all time. Oh man, and the foley work — the snap-crack when the shark bites into Quint’s leg. Ouch.
39.) The end
Martin: “I used to hate the water.”
Hooper: “I can’t imagine why.”
40.) Source of inspiration
Okay, not really a moment from “Jaws,” but I owe my love of movies to this film. I’ve told the story before, but when I was seven years old, I wanted to be a marine biologist. So my mother showed me “Jaws,” and I wanted to be a filmmaker. When you hear about all the production’s trials and tribulations — ballooning budgets and schedules, a malfunctioning shark, weather, location politics — it’s a marvel it got made at all and a testament to art coming from adversity. That the film turned out as well as it did, well, that’s just icing on the cake. Or chum in the water. I liked “Jaws” as a kid, but it took getting older to appreciate how good it is.
Thanks for reading! Do you have a favorite moment from “Jaws?” Comment below.