7 reasons why ‘Jaws’ is the scariest movie ever

There are scary movies and then there’s Jaws. Steven Spielberg’s career-launching movie was released on June 1st, 1975 and it still holds up as one of the most terrifying films on the planet.

Now, Jaws is coming back to theaters to celebrate its 40th birthday, and to remind us that we’re going to need a bigger boat.  In partnership with Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies, and Universal Pictures, Jaws is getting two very special showings on June 21st and June 24th at over 500 theaters across the country.

For those of us who love Jaws (myself included), this is amazing news because there’s nothing like seeing a giant man-eating shark on the big screen — really. Everyone should see it on the big screen, but fair warning, it’s also terrifying on the big screen. I’m serious. Even 40 years later, Jaws is still scaring audiences more than any found-footage-human-centipede-slasher-monster movie of today. This is one classic horror movie, and it’s time it got a little credit for scaring the pants off of us. So here we go:

The fear of a shark attack is a real thing

Shark attacks are actually pretty rare, but still they do happen. This movie proves that the only thing more terrifying than a fictional monster, is a real one. And the kind of monster who hangs out at the beach on an awesome summer day? Bone-chilling.

Seeing it as a kid is way worse — and it stays with you

I distinctly remember trying to watch Jaws with my dad one summer, and my mom immediately put her foot down and said NO. I was also probably 12 at the time, but my mom still thought it was too scary. She was right. As a kid, not being able to understand that movies aren’t real is a big issue. For anyone who has the slightest aversion to the beach as a child, Jaws is the last movie you should ever watch. For anyone who grows up to dislike the beach, Jaws is still the last movie you should watch, because you will never go back to the beach. Ever.

That music, you guys

Thanks, John Williams. Thanks for creating a score that’s scary just listening to it. As a kid, you heard the “dun dunnn, dun dunnnnnnn” and knew that trouble was coming, even if you hadn’t seen the movie. There aren’t too many soundtracks that can instill fear in your heart that way. It’s a warning that something’s about to happen, and we can’t do anything about it. Except maybe panic-eat popcorn.

All the fake-outs 

It’s a beautiful day at the beach, so what could go wrong? That’s the whole point — you know something is going to go wrong. As Brody (Roy Scheider) sits on the beach, staring out at the ocean, we’re all just waiting for something to happen. There are a dozen fake-outs, and then you think the coast is clear. Nope. The shark’s just getting started.

There are no big special effects

When you think of a “summer blockbuster” you probably think of lots of explosions, robots, dinosaurs, and spaceships. Jaws had none of those things. Jaws had three guys out in a boat trying to kill a shark. They didn’t have laser guns. They had harpoons. That’s their weapon of choice. They probably should have lasers, but Jaws isn’t that kind of movie. What the movie lacks in special effects it makes up for with sheer fright instead.

Two words: shark cage

Hey, do you like enclosed spaces? How about enclosed spaces underwater? Cool, now add in a shark ready to destroy everything, and you’ve got an insane standoff that still takes place underwater.

We don’t see the shark till the very end

The villain of the movie, the shark, makes his big breakout moment at the very end. There’s actually a reason for that, and it’s not a scary reason: the mechanical shark used in the movie kept breaking down. So even though Speilberg wanted us to see the shark early on, he couldn’t get it to work. So he had to re-write the movie so the shark was rarely seen and you know what? That little setback added 10x the fear to the movie, since we don’t know kind of monster we’re dealing with. How big is this shark? How mean is it? Is it going to swallow that boat whole? All those questions linger until the very end, when we finally see the beast. As Speilberg said, it’s all about the “fear of the unknown.”

But, if you want to try thinking of the shark as not-so-scary, his name is Bruce. Now he sounds a little bit friendlier, right? No? OK, anyway, see you guys at the movies (and the beach) soon.

Images via here, here, here, here, and here.