The Movies-to-Watch List: Jaws (1975)

Nope, I had never seen Jaws. I don’t know why. It’s rated PG, it was by Steven Spielberg, it was a huge phenomenon, but I never saw it. Part of it is that I was 7 when it came out, but to have not even seen it since? I don’t know how that happened.

It’s a great movie, and a lot of fun. As with Alien, it works because someone thought about what would be happening when the monster wasn’t on the screen. It’s hard to talk about how well its done, knowing in hindsight that a lot of its strengths were born from the failure of the shark prop to work correctly. Sure enough, the movie is at its least effective when the shark finally breaches for extended periods. But by that time it doesn’t matter, you’re already invested.

I haven’t stuck with Spielberg, even for his genre stuff. There’s a saccharine taste in the stuff I have seen that kind of turns me off. There’s very little of that here, and it’s nice.

Jaws was a case where I pretty much knew everything going in. I knew how it ended, I knew most of the beats, the characters, the moments. It’s an iconic movie, well discussed and dissected. Yet I was still thrilled by it, still eager to see how it played out, still delighted by “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” A well-earned classic, and a pleasure to have finally seen for myself.

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