Along with giving many folks aquaphobia (nothing to do with a dislike of Danish pop groups), the 1975 blockbuster was known for spawning a wave of copycat/copyshark movies that sought to make a big splash at the box office through altering the location and/or monster. Here's a look at some of the most notable entries in the subgenre...
Pitched to studio execs as 'Jaws in space' Alien features the crew of a vessel being picked off by a largely unseen and sharp-fanged beast that can strike at any moment and often in a blood-splattering fashion. Fortunately, there were enough differences to make Ridley Scott's 1979 effort a classic in its own right, such as a strong female protagonist. Jaws might have sunk at the box office if Robert Shaw's Quint was revealed to be a Weyland Corporation android seeking to capture the great white shark for research...
Piranha 3D (2010)
A mammary-festooned reworking of the 1978 original Piranha, written by John Sayles, that was declared "the best of the Jaws ripoffs" by Steven Spielberg. This entertaining flick opened up with Richard Dreyfuss portraying a character close in nature to his Jaws oceanographer Matt Hooper - and he even whistled a very familiar tune before being killed off by a shoal of killer fish. Cue plenty of beach-based attacks, red water and Kelly Brook's cleavage bobbing up and down like one of the buoys...
Jaws in the sand. This 1990 cult classic featured 'graboids' as the main threat, giant underground killer 'worms' that pick up on vibrations and terrorise a mining community in Nevada. Tremors wisely replicates much of the humour inherent within the male camaraderie in Jaws, with Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward on top form. The two films also converge when the male leads warn the authorities about the threat - but are met with skepticism and derision at first.
Lake Placid (1999)
This 1999 horror comedy lacked the laughs and thrills it sought to elicit, but made a decent postmodern attempt of unleashing a 30-foot-long crocodile in a lake. An impressive cast for a self-aware B-Movie features Bridget Fonda in the Richard Dreyfuss role, playing a palaeontologist who tries to provide the voice of reason amid the panic and chewed up body parts. Extra brownie points are earned by casting Digital Spy favourite Betty White as a mad old lady who feeds the crocodile after it killed her husband!
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
What could possibly go wrong with an experiment to find a cure for Alzheimer's Disease through increasing the brain capacity of three Mako sharks? Renny Harlin's tasty 1999 movie was basically an excuse for pimped-up sharks to go on a rampage, smarter and faster than what we were accustomed to in a similar vein to how 28 Days Later and Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake upgraded zombies. In a nice homage to Jaws, Deep Blue Sea's beginning featured the same license plate found in a shark carcass in Spielberg's opus.
A police officer and reptile expert join forces to stop a killer beast from munching on humans. Sound familiar? Robert Forster and Robin Riker took on the Brody/Hooper roles in this 1980 retread of Jaws set in the sewers, featuring an alligator that seeks revenge after being flushed down the toilet as a baby. After that treatment, who can blame him? A bit of TLC goes a long way, even for scaly creatures. The movie benefited from a satirical script by 'Jaws Knock Off Expert' John Sayles, who would later carve out a decent career as an auteur with more personal films such as Lone Star and Passion Fish.
Open Water (2003)
Jaws meets The Blair Witch Project! Filmed on digital video and purportedly loosely based on a true story, this 2003 movie provides a series of terrifying chills as the fate of the two protagonists stranded at sea looks extremely grim. To call this gem a Jaws knock-off is a bit harsh, but the film certainly trades on the fear of oceans and sharks established by the 1975 movie - albeit while trying to seek a more realistic representation of the seaborne creatures.
Much like Alligator, this Jaws knock-off gives the beast an understandable motivation for its human-devouring activities. Richard Harris exacerbates the deep sense of poignancy that underlines the sad tale, playing a fisherman who inadvertently slaughters a pregnant female whale and watches the carnage unfold as her devastated mate seeks revenge. Still, it does provide an excuse for plenty of water-based thrills and bloodshed!
Great White (1981)
More of a Jaws facsimile than a knock-off, Great White's plot was so similar to Spielberg's movie that Universal Pictures won a lawsuit to block its release in the United States. It features a 35-foot Great White Shark that attacks swimmers by a port, a mayor who ignores warnings through fear of scaring off tourists, an old, ill-fated seadog who strongly channels Robert Shaw's Quint and culminates in the beast being blown to bits after biting into some explosives. The filmmakers clearly didn't give a hoot about lifting the entire source material, so much so that they even named the hero Peter Benton - a name not dissimilar to Jaws author Peter Benchley!
Basic Instinct (1993)
Sharon Stone proved an apt substitute for 'Bruce' the shark in Paul Verhoeven's sexually-charged 1992 thriller. Instead of a great white, Basic Instinct's villain was an ice-cool blonde crime author who struck unexpectedly. Don't let Catherine Tramell anywhere near a pick axe!
Which movie do you rate as the best Jaws knock-off? Leave your comments in the space below!