Box office performance
Jaws opened with a $7 million weekend and recouped its production costs in two weeks. In just 78 days, it overtook The Godfather as the highest-grossing film at the North American box office, sailing past that picture's earnings of $86 million to become the first film to reach $100 million in rentals. Its initial release ultimately brought in $123.1 million in rentals. Theatrical re-releases in 1976 and 1979 brought its total rentals to $133.4 million.
The picture entered overseas release in December 1975, and its international business mirrored its domestic performance. It broke records in Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Spain, and Mexico. By 1977, Jaws was the highest-grossing international release with worldwide rentals of $193 million, equating to about $400 million of gross revenue; it supplanted The Godfather, which had earned $145 million in rentals.
Jaws was the highest-grossing film of all time until Star Wars, which debuted two years later. Star Wars surpassed Jaws for the U.S. record six months after its release and set a new global record in 1978. As of June 2013, it is the 127th-highest-grossing film of all time with $470.7 million worldwide, and the 66th highest domestically with a total North American gross of $260 million. Adjusted for inflation, Jaws has earned almost $2 billion worldwide at 2011 prices and is the second most successful franchise film after Star Wars. In North America, it is the seventh-highest-grossing movie of all time, with a total of $1.017 billion at current prices, based on an estimated 128,078,800 tickets sold. In the United Kingdom, it is the seventh-highest-grossing film to be released since 1975, earning the equivalent of over £70 million in 2009/10 currency, with admissions estimated at 16.2 million. Jaws has also sold 13 million tickets in Brazil, the second-highest attendance ever in the country behind Titanic.
On television, the American Broadcasting Company aired it for the first time right after its 1979 re-release. The first U.S. broadcast attracted 57 percent of the total audience, the second highest televised movie share at the time behind Gone with the Wind. In the United Kingdom, 23 million people watched its inaugural broadcast in October 1981, the second biggest TV audience ever for a feature film behind Live and Let Die.
Jaws received mostly positive reviews upon release. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "a sensationally effective action picture, a scary thriller that works all the better because it's populated with characters that have been developed into human beings". Variety's A.D. Murphy praised Spielberg's directorial skills, and called Robert Shaw's performance "absolutely magnificent". According to The New Yorker 's Pauline Kael, it was "the most cheerfully perverse scare movie ever made ... [with] more zest than an early Woody Allen picture, a lot more electricity, [and] it's funny in a Woody Allen sort of way". For New Times magazine, Frank Rich wrote, "Spielberg is blessed with a talent that is absurdly absent from most American filmmakers these days: this man actually knows how to tell a story on screen. ... It speaks well of this director's gifts that some of the most frightening sequences in Jaws are those where we don't even see the shark." Writing for New York magazine, Judith Crist described the film as "an exhilarating adventure entertainment of the highest order" and complimented its acting and "extraordinary technical achievements". Rex Reed praised the "nerve-frying" action scenes and concluded that "for the most part, Jaws is a gripping horror film that works beautifully in every department".
The film was not without its detractors. Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote, "It's a measure of how the film operates that not once do we feel particular sympathy for any of the shark's victims. ... In the best films, characters are revealed in terms of the action. In movies like Jaws, characters are simply functions of the action ... like stage hands who move props around and deliver information when it's necessary". He did, however, describe it as "the sort of nonsense that can be a good deal of fun". Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin disagreed with the film's PG rating, saying that "Jaws is too gruesome for children, and likely to turn the stomach of the impressionable at any age. ... It is a coarse-grained and exploitative work which depends on excess for its impact. Ashore it is a bore, awkwardly staged and lumpily written." Marcia Magill of Films in Review said that while Jaws "is eminently worth seeing for its second half", she felt that before the protagonists' pursuit of the shark the film was "often flawed by its busyness". William S. Pechter of Commentary described Jaws as "a mind-numbing repast for sense-sated gluttons" and "filmmaking of this essentially manipulative sort"; Molly Haskell of The Village Voice similarly characterized it as a "scare machine that works with computer-like precision. ... You feel like a rat, being given shock therapy". The most frequently criticized aspect of the film has been the artificiality of its mechanical antagonist: Magill declared that "the programmed shark has one truly phony close-up", and in 2002, online reviewer James Berardinelli said that if not for Spielberg's deftly suspenseful direction, "we would be doubled over with laughter at the cheesiness of the animatronic creature." Halliwell's Film Guide claimed "despite genuinely suspenseful and frightening sequences, it is a slackly narrated and sometimes flatly handled thriller with an over-abundance of dialogue and, when it finally appears, a pretty unconvincing monster."
Jaws won three Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, and Best Sound (Robert Hoyt, Roger Heman, Earl Madery and John Carter). It was also nominated for Best Picture, losing to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Spielberg greatly resented the fact that he was not nominated for Best Director. Along with the Oscar, John Williams's score won the Grammy Award, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, and the Golden Globe Award. To her Academy Award, Verna Fields added the American Cinema Editors' Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature Film.
Jaws was chosen Favorite Movie at the People's Choice Awards. It was also nominated for best Film, Director, Actor (Richard Dreyfuss), Editing, and Sound at the 29th British Academy Film Awards, and Best Film—Drama, Director, and Screenplay at the 33rd Golden Globe Awards. Spielberg was nominated by the Directors Guild of America for a DGA Award, and the Writers Guild of America nominated Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb's script for Best Adapted Drama.
In the years since its release, Jaws has frequently been cited by film critics and industry professionals as one of the greatest movies of all time. It was number 48 on American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies, a list of the greatest American films of all time compiled in 1998; it dropped to number 56 on the 10 Year Anniversary list. AFI also ranked the shark at number 18 on its list of the 50 Best Villains, Roy Scheider's line "You're gonna need a bigger boat" 35th on a list of top 100 movie quotes, Williams's score at sixth on a list of 100 Years of Film Scores, and the film as second on a list of 100 most thrilling films, behind only Psycho. In 2003, The New York Times included the film on its list of the best 1,000 movies ever made. The following year, Jaws placed at the top of the Bravo network's five-hour miniseries The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The Chicago Film Critics Association named it the sixth scariest film ever made in 2006. In 2008, Jaws was ranked the fifth greatest film in history by Empire magazine, which also placed Quint at number 50 on its list of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. The film has been cited in many other lists of 50 and 100 greatest films, including ones compiled by Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Weekly, Film4, Rolling Stone, Total Film, TV Guide, and Vanity Fair.
In 2001, the United States Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry as a "culturally significant" motion picture. In 2006, its screenplay was ranked the 63rd best of all time by the Writers Guild of America.