It’s been 45 years since Jaws took to the big screen, skyrocketing director Steven Spielberg’s career and creating the summer blockbuster. Upon release in June of that year, it became the highest-grossing movie of all time. That’s a title it held onto until Star Wars: A New Hope arrived in 1977.
To this day, Spielberg’s shark movie remains one of the most thrilling cinematic experiences of all time, as viewers are terrorized by the menacing beast as it chews its way through a list of victims–and more than one boat. Still, the story behind the making of this film might actually be more dramatic than the movie itself. With long filming delays, technical misfires, and so many other instances of things going wrong, it’s surprising Jaws turned out at all, let alone as well as it did.
To kick off the 4th of July weekend, we decided to head back to Amity Island and revisit the journey police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and shark hunter Sam Quint (Robert Shaw) went on to track down and kill the massive great white shark. Take a look below to see everything we learned, from the drama behind the scenes to what Spielberg thought the first time he heard the film’s iconic theme song. (Spoilers: He wasn’t a fan.)
After learning all you’ll need to know about Jaws, check out our deep dives in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Train to Busan, and Back to the Future. You can currently stream Jaws and all three of its incredibly inferior sequels on HBO Max.