How Jaws Established Spielberg as the Future of Cinema

by Steven Spielberg Jaws is one of the most iconic films in Hollywood’s long history. Not only is the film considered one of the best to ever hit the screen, but the overall effect the legendary shark movie had on the film industry cannot be underestimated. It was the film that put Spielberg on the map. It established him as one of the go-to directors of the 1970s, before he became one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of the medium.


Released in June 1975, Jaws was a turning point for Hollywood. Although the landscape had already evolved for some time, Hollywood was still experiencing the growing pains that accompanied the exit from the Golden Age and the era of the studio system; it was the exit of Jaws who truly cemented the new era of American cinema. It would be a time dominated by new ideas, new faces and creative experimentation. Much of this change would be driven by a generation of filmmakers who would become known as “The Movie Brats”, with key figures such as Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma forming a friendship close that has changed forever. the cinematic landscape.

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Although Spielberg had already released two films, it was Jaws it changed everything, not just for the director but for the industry. Here’s how:


The first blockbuster of the summer

Jaws is so often referred to as the “first blockbuster of the summer” that the phrase has almost lost its meaning. However, that doesn’t mean the title is inappropriate for the film. Summer blockbusters are almost entirely what drives Hollywood these days, with films like The Avengers, Top Gun: Maverick, jurassic world, and so many others that bring people to the theater in droves. These are thrilling, big-budget action movies that bring mainstream audiences to experience the spectacle of it all. While there is no doubt that the content of the typical summer blockbuster has changed in the nearly 50 years since the release of Jawsevery blockbuster released today still has Spielberg’s ocean thriller to thank for laying the foundation on which they were built.

Jaws is the grandfather of it all. It’s a brilliantly made film that also has mass appeal. It’s exciting, funny, scary, adventurous and just an immensely entertaining theatrical experience. Doesn’t mean movies before 1975 was not designed to evoke that kind of reaction in their viewers, but Jaws was the first to do so on such a scale. Upon its release, Universal Pictures gave Jaws one of the greatest theatrical runs of any film up to this point. It was widely marketed and advertised, and it was simultaneously playing in most theaters across the country. Everyone could go see Jaws, and most people did. It ended up becoming the highest-grossing film of all time at that point, toppling The Godfatherwho had held the title since 1972.

The film was a major step in the landscape of Hollywood cinema. It proved that audiences would turn up in huge numbers for this kind of fun and exciting theatrical roller coaster. The effect this would have on the industry is still felt today, as most major studios produce almost nothing but blockbusters. It would only be a few years before Jaws would be knocked from the throne of the highest-grossing movie of all time by another blockbuster you may have heard of, star wars.

Related: Jaws: How A Masterpiece Brought A Terrible Franchise

The start of a long career

It wasn’t just the astonishing box office performance and resulting cultural phenomenon Jaws that put Spielberg in the books of movie history. Jaws was just the beginning for the young director, as he would go on to helm many of the most successful films and franchises in movie history. In the decade that followed JawsSpielberg cemented his place as one of the best working filmmakers at the time, with the likes of Dating of the Third Kind, The Raiders of the Lost Ark, AND the extra-terrestrial, and more. During the same period, he also received his first four Oscar nominations. He became one of Hollywood’s biggest names, churning out hit after hit and classic after classic.

Spielberg’s films were not only loved by the general public; they were also critical darlings. The director found himself in a sweet spot where almost everything he did was loved by almost everyone. No one would have blamed him if he had decided to take time for himself or had lost some of his Midas touch over the years. But he did not do it. He was a workaholic, constantly releasing a new film every couple of years, and to this day still makes some truly outstanding cinematic works. His most recent film, a remake of West Side Story, was his first attempt at a musical, and the result is arguably one of his best films to date. And his next film, The Fabelmansis a semi-autobiographical story of his childhood that is sure to be one of this awards season’s favorites.

There is always a lot of talk about who is the greatest of all time in his particular field. Well, in the movie landscape, there’s a very strong argument to be made for Spielberg to be the GOAT. He branched out into so many different genres, making some of the best movies ever to hit the screen, ranging from jurassic park at Schindlerit is Listing (in the same year!), Saving Private Ryan, The Raiders of the Lost Ark and obviously, Jaws. It all started with Jaws. This made Spielberg a name in the industry. If not for the success of this film, there wouldn’t have been so many studios lining up to work with Spielberg, and as such many of his countless masterpieces might never have been made. .

Related: Universal’s Jaws Reboot Pitch Got A Firm “No” From Steven Spielberg

Influence and Inspiration

Spielberg’s influence on the American film industry would change it forever. Over the past five decades, countless filmmakers have taken direct inspiration from Spielberg’s work. This inspirational trend started pretty immediately after the release of Jaws. In the years that followed, while Spielberg was still establishing his own career, he also worked to elevate those of the other friends and creatives he worked with.

A significant number of successful filmmakers of the 80s, 90s, and even today have taken inspiration from Spielberg and applied many of his filmmaking styles and techniques to their own films. The term “Spielbergian” was coined to describe those films which emulated the director’s brand of light-hearted humor mixed with an impressive tone. Many of the directors who would go on to become big names in the industry were first contemporaries and friends of Spielberg. Directors such as Chris Columbus (Alone at home, Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter), Joe Johnston (The Rocket, Jumanji, Captain America: The First Avenger) and Robert Zemeckis (Romanticize the stone, Back to the future, Forrest Gump) all had Spielberg’s help in establishing their careers. He often worked as a producer on their films, providing advice where he could and allowing his name to be put on the films, so that audiences would see a recognizable name and be more eager to watch the films. He spearheaded this new generation of successful filmmakers, many of whom have become Hollywood staples in their own right.

Return to Jaws, however, the influence of Spielberg’s groundbreaking image can be felt in films ranging from Extraterrestrial (which was famous as “Jaws in space”) to many modern thrillers and action films. Many modern movies take the same approach of hiding the creature that helped make Jaws the intensely thrilling experience that it was. More recently, Jordan Peele Nope was praised for his use of this technique, along with several other key aspects of the film that were directly influenced by Jaws.

At the end of the day, Jaws and Steven Spielberg had a huge impact on the film industry, both in the filmmakers they inspired and in the stories they influenced. The film and its director changed the way Hollywood studios viewed the way they produced their films. Jaws almost single-handedly established the summer movie season as we know it today, and on top of all that, it’s still just a really good movie that still holds up half a century later. Jaws is about as perfect as a movie can get, so it’s no wonder it has a lasting legacy. With only his third feature, Spielberg has created one of the greatest of all time. It’s a film worthy of the accolades it’s received, and its influence will continue to be felt in Hollywood for as long as Hollywood exists.