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FAQ for
Jaws (1975) More at IMDbPro »

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FAQ Contents


A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Jaws can be found here.

What is 'Jaws' about?

When the remains of a woman's body wash ashore on the New England island of Amity, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) suspects a shark attack. When Brody's suspicion is confirmed by Oceanographic Institute shark expert Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), they request that the beaches be closed down until the shark is killed. Unfortunately, it is the weekend of July 4th, and Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) doesn't want to lose the tourist money that the community will gain, so he refuses to close the beaches. When another boy is killed, however, Brody, Hooper, and local fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) set out to kill the shark...but they're going to need a bigger boat.

Jaws is a 1974 novel by American author Peter Benchley [1940-2006]. The screenplay for Jaws was co-written by Benchley and American screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, with an uncredited assist by another American screenwriter, Howard Sackler. Benchley was inspired by several real-life incidents, such as the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 that resulted in four deaths over 12 days. The success of the movie inspired three movie sequels -- Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987).

Yes, in 1916 a Great White Shark killed four people in a series of attacks along the East Coast of America. It would later be caught and killed by a pair of amateur fishermen.

The only given clue to the location of Amity Island is that it is located in New England. In the book, Amity is located on Long Island, New York. The movie itself was filmed in Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts and the boats used in the film contain the state registration abbreviation of "MS" which also indicates Massachusetts. (State abbreviations for watercraft are not necessarily the same as the ones used by the US Postal Service.) During the scene on the beach when Alex Kintner is attacked, a radio report giving the times of ferry runs is heard. It is somewhat difficult to hear and it helps to have captioning turned on, but the announcer mentions Martha's Vineyard along with Amity and Nantucket Island. Therefore, Amity is apparently located off the coast of Massachusetts somewhere in the vicinity of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

The film gives no reason other than that his greed outweighs his judgment. He tries to justify it by saying the town couldn't possibly survive financially if the summer tourist season were disrupted. As a beach community, the small businesses of Amity (restaurants, stores, boat chartering, etc.) would rely on tourist money to pay for their expenses (heating, water, food) during the off-season months. If the beaches were closed until the shark was killed, none of the usual vacationers and their families would come to Amity. In the novel, the mayor owed money to some dangerous people and had to keep the beach open in order to stay alive. One could use this plot as his reasoning in the film, though it is never said.

No. The actual line is "You're gonna need a bigger boat." The line was improvised by Scheider on set and is, to this day, one of the most famous lines in film history.

Yes it is, though the screenwriters have dramatized some of the details. The ship was officially called USS Indianapolis CA-35, a U.S. Navy cruiser that was torpedoed and sunk in the Pacific Ocean by a Japanese submarine just after midnight on July 29, 1945. (Quint incorrectly states the date as June 29th rather then July 29th.) The loss of over 800 men made it the second worst single ship-loss disaster for the U.S. Navy during the war, behind the battleship USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (1,177 men) and more than the heavy cruiser USS Juneau (690 men) at Guadalcanal. The story of the ship's crew struggling for five days in the waters of the Pacific Ocean before being rescued is all true. Also, the Indianapolis didn't deliver the entire atomic bomb to Tinian which was dropped on Hiroshima but rather the critical components for it, namely the uranium used. Quint's telling of the story makes it seem as though most of the sailors were eaten by sharks. In actuality, it is believed a few hundred men died in the initial attack. After the ship sank, most of the other deaths were caused by dehydration from spending five days floating in salt-water (and in many instances, from sailors being poisoned by drinking salt-water out of thirst and desperation). There were indeed numerous instances of sailors being killed by sharks, but it was nowhere near the number that Quint indicates in his story (specifically, when he says that over 1,000 men went into the water, 316 survivors came out, and the sharks took the rest). However, a very large number of corpses were eventually eaten by sharks, and the Indianapolis incident, while often misleadingly dubbed as "the biggest shark attack in history" (based on the number of living sailors actually being killed by sharks) is still widely regarded as the biggest and most significant case of sharks eating human flesh.

It seems that it should be easy to find such a large predatory animal, but remember that the ocean is a HUGE body of water and that the shark would have the entirety of it in which to hide. Quint knows that such a shark would be very difficult to hunt and find in the ocean. What Quint was really saying is that his price is $10,000. If they were to only pay him $3000, they'd only be buying part of his service; finding the shark. The extra $7000 would buy the catching and killing of the shark. It's more or less a negotiating tactic that worked out well for Quint because they eventually hire him. In the novel, when Benchley describes Alex Kintner being attacked, he goes into some pretty sharp detail about the shark's territory beyond the beach. There's a sharp drop off of several hundred feet about 50 yards from the edge of the beach. This seems to be the main area where the shark lives until it attacks. That's a HUGE area for the shark to hide within.

How does the movie end?

In the hope that he can inject a powerful poison into the shark, Hooper lowers himself in a shark-proof cage and waits underwater. Before long, the shark appears, rams the cage, and virtually destroys it. This results in Hooper dropping the injecting-device and fleeing to the seabed. Meanwhile, Brody and Quint, believing Hooper has been killed, must deal with the shark as it then begins to destroy the boat. The shark rams the boat, and the stern begins to submerge. Quint slips on the wet deck, slides into the shark's great jaws, and is pulled under the water to his death. Brody, still aboard the sinking boat, throws an air tank into the shark's mouth and then manages to get onto the mast. He grabs Quint's rifle and, as the shark approaches, begins to take shots at the air tank. Just before the shark reaches him, Brody hits it and the shark is blown to pieces. The boat sinks beneath the surface and Brody happily laughs to himself. Hooper suddenly comes up from behind him. Smiling all the way, they begin together to kick their way back to the shore. Meanwhile, seagulls begin to flock on the shark's corpse, pecking at the remains of the once great beast.

The biggest Great White Shark ever confirmed caught was 21ft long whilst the greatest ever claimed caught was 23ft long. Various Great White Sharks have been claimed up to 36ft long but these have never been substantiated. A 25ft long Great White Shark is therefore not impossible but it would have to be a one in a million.

Scientifically, no. SCUBA tanks are built and designed so that they would not explode when such pressure is applied. In a special episode of the TV show "MythBusters (2003+) dedicated to myths of Jaws, it was confirmed that an air tank would never explode like that. It would go flying off like a rocket if hit dead center at the end. If hit off center or in the side, it would spin in circles as it flew away, either of which would still have been fatal for the shark but in a much less spectacular manner. Spielberg decided that the ending would be more uplifting if he went against the logic and made the tank explosive (the film ending is very different from the original novel, where Brody's fight against the shark is of a completely different nature).

Great White Sharks have been confirmed to be able to jump up to 8ft in the air to pursue their prey so it is not unreasonable to expect them to be able to breach Quint's boat.

There are a number of differences between the movie and original novel (from which the feature film was adapted and based upon). Though the general idea is the same, both versions of the tale are completely separate in their portrayal of certain events.

- In the movie, Brody and Hooper become fast friends and work together side-by-side. In the novel, Hooper is a cocky young rich guy from Amity who has an affair with Ellen, Brody's wife. The two become enemies and Brody's battle with growing old and his envy of Hooper is a major sub-plot.

- In the novel the Brodys have three children: Martin Jr., Billy and Sean. In the film they have two sons, Michael and Sean.

- In the novel, Hooper is killed by the shark when he goes underneath the water in the cage. In the film, he survives.

- Quint is not killed by the shark in the same way as he is in the film. In the novel, instead of being eaten by the shark as it rams into the Orca, his foot is caught in a rope attached to the shark, and he is pulled underwater and drowns.

- Brody does not defeat the shark using a rifle and the air tank as he does in the film. In the book, the Orca sinks, and Brody is left helpless in the water. As the shark swims towards him, he can do nothing but accept his fate. But when it is mere inches away from him, the shark dies, from days and days of battle with the men, presumably mostly due to blood loss and exhaustion from the barrels stuck in it. It is a very anti-climactic, yet still poignant ending.

- The novel develops the character of Ellen Brody to a greater degree. Whereas the film shows that both Martin and Ellen Brody were from New York and have recently moved to Amity, in the novel Ellen is a former "summer person" from a wealthy family who used to vacation on the island, and Martin is a native islander. Although basically content with her marriage, she still yearns for her former life and sees Hooper, whose older brother she used to date, as a reminder of that life which leads to a brief affair with Hooper. She also works as a volunteer at the local Amity hospital.

- In the novel, Mayor Vaughn's insistence on keeping the beaches open becomes a major plot point. Vaughn owes money to the Mafia; it is explained that Vaughn's wife had an undisclosed illness and that a desperate Vaughn acquired the money for her treatment from a mob-connected loan shark. Despite attempting to pay back the debt, the Mafia refused repayment, instead telling Vaughn that they would inform him when it would come due. Essentially extorting Vaughn, the Mafia then infiltrated the Amity real estate market (Amity newspaper publisher Harry Meadows finds that Vaughn's "silent partners" in his real estate firm are mobsters); hence his extreme desire to keep the beaches open, as a depressed real estate market would most likely result in the Mafia calling in his marker and Vaughn having no way to pay it. The movie removes this sub-plot and instead concentrates on the mayor's attempts to keep the beaches open to benefit the local economy.

- Harry Meadows, owner, editor and publisher of the Amity Gazette has a far more expanded role in the novel. Seen briefly in the film and portrayed mostly as a patsy to Mayor Vaughn and the Town Selectmen, in the novel he acts as Brody's confidante and in fact is the one who digs deep, at Brody's request, to find out why Vaughn is pushing to keep the beaches open. Meadows is able to find documents that show the "silent partners" in Vaughn's real estate firm are connected to the mob and that by keeping the beaches open Vaughn is essentially trying to keep himself alive: a depressed economy would destroy Amity's tourist-reliant real estate market and most likely force his partners to call in a debt that Vaughn owed them, a debt that he would have no possible way to pay. Meadows eventually convinces Brody that the chief should keep the beaches open, if not for Vaughn's sake, then because the chances that the shark would attack again are slim to none.

- Quint hardly speaks at all in the book and he's described rather differently -- he's tall and thin with a completely bald head and wears a Marine Corps. cap. The antagonism between him and Hooper, which is used mostly to comic effect in the film, is much more serious in the novel: Hooper, being an ichthyologist & more conservationist about sea life, hates Quint's methods (Quint at one point uses a fetal dolphin to bait the shark). Quint uses any methods to hunt sea life that he chooses.

- There is a higher body-count in the book than in the film as well.

- The book is much darker in tone. Most of the main characters are much more unhappy or ill-tempered, bordering on unlikeable. Martin and Ellen Brody fight quite a lot and Ellen seems impossible to please. Brody is very surly and more confrontational in the book too -- at a dinner party thrown by Ellen, he drinks too much and is rude toward his guests. As previously stated, Brody and Hooper become enemies when Brody feels threatened by the younger Hooper. Brody become convinced that Hooper has slept with Ellen (he has), and becomes obsessed with finding out what Hooper was doing on the day in question. Brody confronts Hooper before going out to sea and Hooper indirectly implies he slept with Ellen, causing Brody to lose it and nearly chokes Hooper to death while Quint watches rather nonchalantly.

Jaws is considered to be THE benchmark shark attack movie but, following Jaws, there have been a number of similar movies. You may wish to take a look at ¡Tintorera! (1977), Cyclone (1978), L'ultimo squalo (The Last Shark) (1981), and Deep Blue Sea (1999). There is the Shark Attack franchise featuring Shark Attack (1999), Shark Attack 2 (2000), and Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2002). More recently, there is Open Water (2003), The Reef (2010), Sharktopus (2010), Shark Night 3D (2011), 2-Headed Shark Attack (2012), Sharknado (2013) and Ghost Shark (2013).

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