Jaws came to theaters on June 20, 1975, and it’s impossible to overstate its place in movie history. It created the summer blockbuster, launched Steven Spielberg’s career into the stratosphere, and made it impossible to go swimming in the ocean without wondering what lurked beneath the surface. It’s also a flawless film, one of the most entertaining ever made. And because we never get tired of watching or talking about it, we’re celebrating it’s 45th anniversary by listing the 45 best moments from Jaws.
And yes, even at that number a lot of great ones didn’t make the cut. Sorry Amity Harbor Master Frank Silva!
45. Wealthy College Boys Can’t Admit When They’re Wrong
But they sure can make funny faces.
44. Whaaaat Kind of Shark is It?
“A whaaat?” Nobody, anywhere, has ever been more confused about anything as much as this guy was about a tiger shark.
43. “It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.”
Drunk Chief Martin Brody doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but he sure does make us laugh while night hunting a great white shark.
42. Impromptu Father and Son Vaudeville Routine
A terrible day gets a little bit easier when Brody’s youngest son starts mimicking him at the dinner table. This is the cutest moment in the film.
41. “Tell them I’m going fishing.”
Mrs. Brody says goodbye to her husband in a tender farewell laden with sad undertones. They only say it with their eyes, but both know he might not come back.
40. Quint Laughs at the Group Photo
While “idiots” take a celebratory photo with their dead shark, a knowing Quint sails by and laughs. They’re going to be in all the papers, but they didn’t land the right fish.
39. The Mayor Questions Brody’s Gut Reaction
The film’s human villain, Mayor Larry Vaughn, lets Brody know a shark attack didn’t happen (during a long continuous shot that is one of Spielberg’s most impressive). Not because that’s what the medical examiner suddenly decided, but because it’s what the mayor needs to be true. It’s a chilling scene that is unfortunately far too timely in 2020.
38. The Police Find an Arm
Poor young Chrissie’s arm, with its painted nails and jewelry, would be nightmarish enough. But the crabs and seaweed makes it an unforgettable image.
37. Two Idiots and a Holiday Roast
Great plans, fellas! At least they didn’t become the shark’s own holiday roast.
36. False Alarm
The brass is takes to pull off a stunt this stupid under these circumstances is immeasurable. This is one of the dumbest/best pranks in film history. We’re glad these kids didn’t get shot. They’re legends.
35. Crushing Cans (and Cups)
A hilarious, wordless sequence perfectly encapsulates the uneasy relationship between Quint and Hooper.
34. 25 Feet of Fish
Nope, not a twenty-footer. “Twenty-five.”
33. Bruce Jumps on the Boat
…..Holy crap. LOOK AT THIS SHARK JUMPING ON THE BOAT.
The most gut-wrenching emotional moment comes when Mrs. Kintner desperately searches for her son Alex. Hoo boy, this is brutal, especially when the scene ends with his bloody, shredded raft washing ashore.
31. Planting the First Barrel
The most hopeful moment of the Orca’s hunt comes during a fantastic sequence where they land the first barrel on Bruce (the crew’s name for the mechanical shark). So much is going on here, and anything seems possible. Ha! One barrel. We were all so young and naive then….
30. Refusing to Be Towed
Plans to tie the shark to the boat go awry when it starts eating its way to the ship. It also comes close to ripping Hooper’s legs off. This was not exactly what Quint was looking for by bringing the shark to the surface, but it sure is crazy to watch.
29. Quint Readies for Battle
A quick jerk of the line leads the Orca’s captain to silently prepare for a fight, like a gladiator slowly making his way into the Coliseum. And when the “smart fish” goes “under the boat” we know just how hard this war will be.
28. Chief Brody Pours a Glass of Wine
This is what the kids call “a mood.”
27. Hopper Cuts Open a Shark from the Gulf Stream
No, it didn’t eat a car, but only because it didn’t get a chance to.
26. An Attack in the Pond
The first time we really see the shark is also one of the most gruesome scenes in the movie, as a boater is pulled under in the normally serene estuary. The shot of his severed leg falling to the ocean floor will always make us cringe.
25. Hooper Performs Chrissie’s Autopsy
“Well this is not a boat accident! It wasn’t any propeller! It wasn’t any coral reef! And it wasn’t Jack the Ripper! It was a shark.” We also need some cool water after watching an overwhelmed Hooper perform an autopsy on the scant remains of Chrissie.
24. Bruce Goes Under With Three Barrels
The Orca and its crew never felt more alone and hopeless than when the shark did the seemingly impossible.
23. What Day is It?
The film’s final scene gives us a moment of peace after two of the most stressful hours of movie history.
22. Quint Pushes the Boat Too Hard
Quint’s pure hatred for sharks makes him lose control when he thinks he’s finally bested his greatest enemy. Instead his anger kills the Orca—and ultimately him—instead.
21. “Farewell and adieu, to you fare Spanish ladies.”
If a grizzled old sea captain and trained shark hunter ever sings this song to you before setting sail, don’t get on the boat. Just stay away, especially if you planned on using a shark cage.
20. Quint Destroys the Radio
Quint doesn’t just want to beat the shark, he wants to do it on his terms without help. This is personal, and he won’t let anyone radio for assitance. This proves to be what’s best known as a “huge freaking mistake.”
19. Quint Sizes Up Hooper
Hooper and Quint’s first meeting sets the tone for their uneasy partnership, as the grizzled seaman puts the young college grad to the test. Literally. Hooper didn’t like the “working class hero crap,” but we did.
18. Comparing Scars
A brief detente between Quint and Hooper leads to the classic scene where the two trade war stories, as they show off their various scars. (Note: Hooper’s joke about a broken heart is funny, but he oversells it with his obnoxious laugh.)
17. “My kids were on that beach too.”
You know a scene is good when the movie’s most detestable character makes us feel bad for him, as Mayor Vaughn finally realizes what he’s done following the attack on July 4th.
16. A Group Singalong Gets Interrupted
Here’s how good this entire sequence is: the group singalong that gets interrupted by the shark head-butting the boat and nearly sinking the Orca is only the second best (out of three) moments on this list.
15. The Mayor Won’t Close the Beaches for the 4th of July
Well, the mayor was right about one thing. Amity was open on the Fourth of July. If only he had ended up being the shark’s hot lunch instead of that poor guy in the row boat..
14. “Michael did you hear your father out of the water now! Now!”
The single funniest moment in the film also reminds us reading is important.
13. Alex Kintner’s Death
Everything about this sequence is incredible. It’s fraught with tension, as anyone of the beachgoers could be the next victim. All of that suspense bursts to the surface when poor Alex Kintner is killed. It’s gory and hard to watch, and yet we can never look away.
12. Hooper Goes in the Water
Did anyone think Hooper was actually going to survive his trip in the cage? We still don’t think he will, and we’ve seen the movie a million times.
11. Mrs. Kintner Confronts Chief Brody
Chief Brody did know a girl was killed there last week, and he didn’t do anything. And now Alex Kintner is dead, and there’s nothing he can do to change that.
…….Oof. This one always hurts.
10. Quint Makes an Offer
This is among the greatest character introductions in movie history. And it gets eve better when you realize Quint drew that picture of the shark on the chalkboard. (It’s blank when everyone files in first.) Also, huge bonus points for his scraping of the board producing this reaction.
Our head canon says she’s the mother of the “a whaaat?” tiger shark guy.
9. John Williams’ Score (Opening Credits)
Jaws gives us a perfect way to include one of the most iconic track’s in movie history, as John Williams’ “da-dum” theme opens the film.
8. Quint Meets His Match
One of the most compelling characters in cinematic history gets one of the most famous—and gruesome—deaths, as the sharks finally come for Quint.
7. “Michael’s in the pond.”
An exhausted Chief Brody isn’t ready for another false alarm when his wife reminds him their son is in the pond, where his father asked him to go. Brody slowly starts walking over before realizing this could be real. He’s no longer a cop in this moment, he’s a father, and that’s what makes his run, intercut with the shark’s attack, so scary and powerful.
6. Chrissy’s Fateful Swim
How did anyone ever go swimming again after this scene? Goodness gracious it’s a nightmare, which is why it’s such a perfect start to the movie.
5. Smile You Son of a Bitch
Is this pure “Hollywood?” Definitely. It’s so pure we want to inject it straight into our veins every time we see the shark blow up.
4. Zoom in on Brody
This dolly zoom is one of the most famous and influential in film history, and with good reason. The “Vertigo Effect” captures the horror of the moment, as Chief Brody realizes his worst fears have come true. It’s disorienting, yet it also makes the scene personal.
3. Hooper Finds a Tooth and Ben Gardner
In a movie full of terror, Ben Gardner’s head popping out while Hooper checks the wrecked boat in night waters might be the scariest single moment. Good luck sleeping tonight after seeing that image. Or ever again.
2. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” (121:53)
The movie’s most famous line also comes in one of the best scenes ever, as Spielberg’s deft touch behind the camera conveys both the size and strength of the shark as well as Brody’s absolute fear at finally seeing it up close.
This is a perfect scene in every way, and the fact it is only number two on this list is a testament to how good Jaws really is.
1. The Story of the U.S.S. Indianapolis
“Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”
And Robert Shaw delivered arguably the best speech in movie history, in one of the best scenes from one of the greatest films ever made. That’s what it’s a worthy number one in a list with so many candidates.
Our only complaint is we could only fit in 45 of them on here. We could have easily celebrated the film’s 90th anniversary.