Jaws is a 1975 horror-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel of the same name, which was inspired in turn by the Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916. In the film, the police chief of Amity Island, a summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from the predations of a huge great white shark by closing the beach, only to be overruled by the town council, who want the beaches to remain open to draw a profit from tourists. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter to kill the shark. The film stars Roy Scheider as police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as marine biologist Matt Hooper, Robert Shaw as the shark hunter Quint, Lorraine Gary as Brody’s wife Ellen Brody, and Murray Hamilton as Mayor Vaughn.
Jaws is regarded as a watershed film in motion picture history, the father of the summer blockbuster movie and one of the first “high concept” films. Due to the film’s success in advance screenings, studio executives decided to distribute it in a much wider release than ever before. The Omen followed suit a year later in the summer of 1976, and then Star Wars one year later in 1977, cementing the notion for movie studios to distribute their big-release action and adventure pictures (commonly referred to as tentpole pictures) during the summer season. The unprecedented success of this film allowed Spielberg to insist upon “final cut” in every contract he signed from this point onward, effectively allowing him complete control over his own creative visions. The film was followed by three sequels, none of which Spielberg participated in: Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987).