Jaws is a 1975 American thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. In the film, a man-eating great white shark attacks beachgoers at a summer resort town, prompting police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) to hunt it with the help of a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw). Murray Hamilton plays the mayor, and Lorraine Gary portrays Brody's wife. The screenplay is credited to Benchley, who wrote the first drafts, and actor-writer Carl Gottlieb, who rewrote the script during principal photography.
Shot mostly on location on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, Jaws was the first major motion picture to be shot on the ocean, and resultingly had a troubled production, going over budget and past schedule. As the art department's mechanical sharks often malfunctioned, Spielberg decided mostly to suggest the shark's presence, employing an ominous and minimalist theme created by composer John Williams to indicate its impending appearances. Spielberg and others have compared this suggestive approach to that of director Alfred Hitchcock. Universal Pictures gave the film what was then an exceptionally wide release for a major studio picture, on over 450 screens, accompanied by an extensive marketing campaign with a heavy emphasis on television spots and tie-in merchandise.
Jaws was the prototypical summer blockbuster, regarded as a watershed moment in motion picture history, and it won several awards for its music and editing. It was the highest-grossing film until the release of Star Wars in 1977. Both films were pivotal in establishing the modern Hollywood business model, which pursues high box-office returns from action and adventure films with simple high-concept premises, released during the summer in thousands of theaters and advertised heavily. Jaws was followed by three sequels (without the involvement of Spielberg or Benchley) and many imitative thrillers. In 2001, it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In the beach town of Amity Island, a young woman, Chrissie Watkins, goes skinny dipping in the ocean. While treading water, she is unknowingly attacked by an unseen force. The next day, her partial remains are found on shore. The medical examiner's conclusion that the death was due to a shark attack leads police chief Martin Brody to close the beaches. Mayor Larry Vaughn persuades him to reverse his decision, fearing that the town's summer economy will be ruined. The coroner tentatively concurs with the mayor's theory that Chrissie was killed in a boating accident. Brody reluctantly accepts their conclusion until the shark kills a young boy, Alex Kintner, in full view of a crowded beach. A bounty is placed on the shark, causing an amateur shark-hunting frenzy, and local professional shark fisherman Quint offers to catch and kill it for $10,000. Meanwhile, consulting oceanographer Matt Hooper examines Chrissie's remains, and confirms her death was caused by a shark—an unusually large one.
When local fishermen catch a tiger shark, the mayor proclaims that the beach is safe. Mrs. Kintner, Alex's mother, confronts Brody and blames him for her son's death. Hooper expresses doubts that the tiger shark is responsible for the attacks, and his suspicions are confirmed when, after an examination, no human remains are found inside its stomach. Hooper and Brody find a half-sunken vessel while searching the night waters in Hooper's boat. Underwater, Hooper removes a sizable great white shark's tooth from the boat's hull, but drops it in fright after discovering the partial corpse of local fisherman Ben Gardner. Vaughn dismisses Brody and Hooper's assertions that a huge great white shark is responsible for the deaths, and refuses to close the beaches, allowing only increased safety precautions. On the Fourth of July weekend, tourists pack the beaches. Following a juvenile prank with a fake shark, the real shark enters a nearby lagoon, killing a boater and causing Brody's oldest son, Michael, to go into shock. Brody then convinces a guilt-ridden Vaughn to hire Quint.
Quint, Brody, and Hooper set out on Quint's boat, the Orca, to hunt the shark. While Brody lays down a chum line, Quint waits for an opportunity to hook the shark. Without warning, it appears behind the boat. Quint, estimating its length at 25 feet (7.6 m) and weight at 3 tonnes (3.0 long tons; 3.3 short tons), harpoons it with a line attached to a flotation barrel, but the shark pulls the barrel underwater and disappears.
At nightfall, Quint and Hooper drunkenly exchange stories about their assorted scars, and Quint reveals that he survived the attack on the USS Indianapolis. The shark returns unexpectedly, ramming the boat's hull, and disabling the power. The men work through the night, repairing the engine. In the morning, Brody attempts to call the Coast Guard, but Quint, who has become obsessed with killing the shark without outside assistance, smashes the radio. After a long chase, Quint harpoons the shark with another barrel. The line is tied to the stern cleats, but the shark drags the boat backward, swamping the deck and flooding the engine compartment. Quint prepares to sever the line to prevent the transom from being pulled out but the cleats break off, keeping the barrels attached to the shark. Quint heads toward shore to draw the shark into shallower waters, but he overtaxes the damaged engine and it blows up.
As the Orca slowly sinks, the trio attempts a riskier approach. Hooper enters the water in a shark-proof cage, intending to lethally inject the shark with strychnine, using a hypodermic spear. The shark attacks the cage, causing Hooper to drop the spear, which sinks and is lost. While the shark thrashes in the tangled remains of the cage, Hooper manages to escape to the seabed. The shark breaks free and leaps onto the boat, devouring Quint in the process. Trapped on the sinking vessel, Brody shoves a pressurized scuba tank into the shark's mouth and climbs onto the crow's nest. Using Quint's rifle, he shoots the tank, which explodes and obliterates the shark. Hooper surfaces, and he and Brody paddle back to Amity Island clinging to the remaining barrels.