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Jaws screenplay

The complete screenplay of Jaws with script notes.

The Script

Jaws Screenplay (PDF).

Script notes

Jaws is one of the most successful cinema releases ever. In 1975 this Spielberg film set a new record for the US domestic box-office, a record that had stood since 1939 when Gone With The Wind set the bar. While it's fair to ask whether a film was successful, after all emulating failure would be an unusual choice, this screenplay is interesting for a writer irrespective of the box-office numbers.

Jaws isn't written as a horror film. Its individual scenes have plenty of tension and there's no shortage of gore and violence, but the shark (which Spielberg named Bruce after a lawyer) isn't the villain of the film. The shark is a force of nature, a challenge and a threat, but it isn't a protagonist for the underlying conflict, any more than the storm in Twister or the fire in The Towering Inferno. In Jaws the shark plays the role of natural disaster, it's the greedy and corrupt town officials who are the enemy. In many ways the unthinking, random, nature of the shark's predations are a very scary idea so it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking it's a horror film, many have done so. We are, however, writers. We know a disaster movie when we see one.

Peter Benchley was the author of the novel and was involved in adapting it for the screen. One of the interesting things is that the ending on film is wildly different from the book's finale, not as wildly different as another Spielberg film, Jurassic Park, but still a very different tone. It's worth considering why Hooper survives the film and doesn't make it out of the novel alive.

The script also reveals the original script title - Stillness in the Water. I'm not sure the film would have been quite as much of a global success with such a generic name.

One notable thing of interest is that the two most famous lines from the finished film are not present in the script. I have been told that both lines were added as ad libs on set by Roy Scheider (Chief Brody). The two lines are, of course, We're going to need a bigger boat. and That's some bad hat, Harry.

"Film will only become an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper."

Jean Cocteau