“Don’t go in the water.” ~Jaws (1975)

IMDB Summary: When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 97%

Why I love it: I’m fascinated with any movie that defines a generation. And it’s awesome.

This one’s for my best friend Jalee, who said Jaws had to be on the list and she was totally right. And who, like myself,  will never let her legs dangle while swimming in the ocean because of the sharks or in a lake because of the piranhas.

It’s been 40 years since Jaws came out in 1975. It cost $9 million to make. To date, it’s made $471 million. It didn’t suck.

I snuck into Jaws in a movie theater that was on Westwood Blvd and Wellworth Ave., which is now a CVS. They must have been reshowing it, or that would have made me nine years old at the time it came out in 1975. I’m guessing I was more like 14, because the summer I was 14 I snuck into a lot of R rated movies including Endless Love and An Officer and a Gentleman. All I remember is walking in right when someone’s leg that had been chomped off was sinking down toward the bottom of the ocean. And I skedaddled my way outta there in a panic.

There’s much to love about this tale:

The opening scene. Two good looking hippie kids lock eyes across a bonfire on the beach one summer evening on Amity Island. He chases her down to the water as she takes off all her clothes for a little moonlit dip. She’s doomed. He’s too drunk to follow her in. “Come on in the water!” See ya.

The can/cup crushing scene. Quint is a salty, weathered-looking shark chaser. He has a dislike for Hooper, the college boy and shark expert. They’re on the boat. Quint is going off about a whole lot of nothing as he pops open a can of beer, tosses the pull tab and downs it in about four gulps. He stares at Hooper as he crushes the can. Not to be outdone, Hooper in turn stares right back and crushes the styrofoam coffee cup he’s holding. It’s as funny as it is telling.

The cutting open of the shark scene: I always wondered how a shark could have swallowed a license plate. And I thought we were going to see “that little Kintner boy spill out all over the dock.”

The nails on the chalkboard scene. The only reason I mention it is because I remember hearing about it before I ever saw the movie. And it’s chilling.

The underwater camera work. If you didn’t know already—like Jalee and me—not to let your legs dangle in the ocean, I’m pretty sure it’s clear when you see those chompable legs from the view of the shark.

This line: “It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.” I spent my summers growing up on an island. So true.

And this one: “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women.” I love Quint. Speaking of whom…

Robert Shaw is on my list of hotties. He was British. He was an alcoholic.He was scruffy. He wrote. And he was an amazing actor here as the archetypal bad boy, and a bit of a swashbuckler. Every time I watch Jaws I fall for him a little more during the unbelievable “Indianapolis speech.” (Read an interview about it with Steven Spielberg here on aintitcool.com.) In it Quint describes the most frightening moment of his life with just enough gravel and drunkenness in his tone that he manages to come off as vulnerable as he is hard. In a world where they’re actually using the Coneheads in State Farm commercials, it’s nice to be reminded what a brilliant monologue this is. I’d compare battle wounds with him any day, if he were still alive.

Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he’s got…lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin’ and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.

Steven Spielberg was 26 when he directed Jaws. When I was 26 I was a cocktail waitress. It’s good when you’re still young enough to not realize how naïve you are. Probably no seasoned director would have made the same movie.

Next: The Sixth Sense

Written by Anne Clendening
Anne Clendening was born and raised in L.A. She's a yoga teacher, a writer and occasionally slings cocktails in a Hollywood bar. She could eat chocolate cake for every meal of the day. She has a huge fear of heights and flying. And fire. She wishes she could speak French, play her guitar better and make cannoli. She's probably listening to The Dark Side Of The Moon right now, kickin’ it with her boxer dog and her hot Australian husband ★