Jaws. In 1975 Steven Spielberg directed a movie about a shark. Not just any shark, but a great white shark that created panic in a fictional summer resort town, and it went on to scare the shit out of anybody who ever dared jump in any body of water after that. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw as police chief, marine biologist and shark hunter set out to kill the menacing creature as we nervously ate popcorn on the edge of our seats.
Jaws was the first blockbuster of summer. Without Jaws, would there be a Star Wars or Independence Day, Jurassic Park or Mission Impossible? Jaws was a game changer.
Jaws created such buzz during early screenings that studio execs decided to distribute it in wide release. It worked. Jaws was the first film in motion picture history to hit the $100 million mark. Every summer there will be another movie that studios designate as potential blockbuster. This year – there are at least two – Iron Man and The Dark Knight. These movies open on hundreds of screens simultaneously and the success of Jaws helped pave the way.
Pulp Fiction. In 1994, Quentin Tarantino directed an adrenalin rush of a movie with equal parts humor and violence. The film was Pulp Fiction and it’s nonlinear storyline and pop culture references caught the attention of the general public. The crime drama also proved to resurrect the career of John Travolta, who had reached great heights in Saturday Night Fever but had been wallowing in a career low with Look Who’s Talking.
Most significant about Pulp Fiction is that it is an independent film. The success of the movie, which won Best Screenplay and garnered many nominations, gave new hope to legions of aspiring filmmakers with access to a typewriter and a camera. It also served as a wake up call to major Hollywood studios that people will pay to see a great movie, no matter who makes it or how much it cost to make it.
Runner’s up: Enter the Dragon, Spinal Tap