Did ‘Jaws’ Almost Have a Completely Different Ending?

There are two different kinds of people in this world. Some go to the beach and think of all the fun they’ll have in the ocean. Then there’s those who see the ocean, immediately hear the Jaws movie theme song and promptly plop themselves down in the sand where they’ll remain for the rest of the day.

It’s safe to say that most 80s babies can’t see the ocean without getting the notorious “duh nun… duh nun…” stuck in their heads. Before Jaws, shark attacks weren’t really top of mind when having a family day at the beach, but the 1975 blockbuster changed that. What most people don’t know is that the famous horror film almost had a very different ending.

'Jaws' movie poster with shark rising towards the surface of the water
‘Jaws’ 1975 | Photo by LMPC via Getty Images

Jaws is based on the book by Peter Benchley

Before Hollywood’s most notorious man-eating fish made it onto the silver screen, he first appeared in a book by the same name. The novel by Peter Benchley is what launched his career. 

The book tells the story of Martin Brody, a sheriff in Amity Island, who spends his entire summer trying to save people a great white shark. Quint, a surly seaman, and Matt Hooper, a marine biologist, join Brody on his quest.

Because it was Benchley’s first novel, he never thought it would be optioned for the silver screen. Still, miracles do happen, and one year after the book was released, the movie that convinced audiences that it really wasn’t safe to go back into the water premiered. 

In fact, Benchley ended up regretting allowing the book to be turned into a film. After the movie and book became so popular, there was an uptick in shark deaths. He felt the movie demonized sharks and even became an ocean activist later on in his life.

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The original ending was pretty depressing

The movie’s production ran into several issues, from the mechanical shark constantly malfunctioning to co-stars Dreyfus and Shaw fighting. It was not a production anyone would refer to as smooth sailing.

Spielberg pressed on despite the issues, and Jaws became a classic. However, what many don’t know is that the original ending was much darker. The original ending for the movie stuck much closer to the novel. Both Hooper and Quint lose their lives, and the shark almost eats Brody himself. He only survives because the shark succumbs to its wounds before it can get to him.

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Spielberg wanted to lighten things up

Spielberg ultimately decided that Hooper and Quint dying and leaving Brody alone on the sinking Orca was too much for audiences. He wanted something just a little more uplifting. That’s how audiences were graced with the ending we all know and love — Brody shoving a giant gas canister into the shark’s mouth and blowing it to bits. 

Plus, even though Hooper only narrowly escapes the shark, he survives and can accompany Brody on his long paddle back to shore. Both men live as they’re either seen or mentioned in the sequel, Jaws 2.