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SYFY WIRE Jaws

The Ending of Every Jaws Movie, Ranked

Which Jaws is the best at saying fin?

By James Grebey

When you think about death in the Jaws movies, you’re probably thinking about the hapless beachgoers who are devoured by a giant, bloodthirsty great white shark — while John Williams’ iconic theme plays, of course. But, all four Jaws movies end with another death: that of the shark.

In Jaws (1975), Jaws 2 (1978), Jaws 3-D (1983), and Jaws: The Revenge (1987), some member of the Brody family is, after much struggle, able to kill the Carcharodon carcharias in spectacular fashion, making it safe to get back in the water (for now, at least). Some of these kills are exciting, iconic climaxes that rank up there with the best endings in blockbuster film history. Other endings have, let’s say, jumped the shark

With it being July, and with all four movies currently streaming on Peacock, we thought it was a good time to rank the shark deaths to determine which Jaws was the best at saying “fin.

For More on Jaws:
Where to Stream the Jaws Movies This Summer
When Jaws Jumped the Shark? Remembering Wild Sequel Jaws 3-D On its 40th Anniversary
The Most Memorable Moments from Each Jaws Film

4. Jaws 3-D

The third Jaws movie is the only one whose climax takes place completely underwater; the other entries all have the shark breaching the surface for a final face-off with its human combatants in their boats. Jaws 3-D, which has a giant shark terrorizing SeaWorld, much to the chagrin of Michael "Mike" Brody, is a fully aquatic ending. The shark has breached the underwater control room and Mike, wearing scuba gear, is able to use a long pole to pull the pin from a grenade that a half-eaten victim was still holding in the shark’s mouth. 

The shark explodes in a bloody mess as pieces of its titular jaws fly towards the screen — an effect that might've worked a bit better in the original theatrical 3D, but doesn't quite hold up these days. But the bigger knock against Jaws 3-D’s ending is that its underwater setting makes everything move so slow. There’s no sense of urgency as Mike jumbles with a bent pole, awkwardly, to kill a shark that’s basically motionless.

3. Jaws: the Revenge

Objectively, the ending of the fourth Jaws movie should rank behind, even goofier than 3-D’s underwhelming explosion, but Revenge’s shark kill is so silly that it has a certain sort of charm. In Revenge, which ignores 3-D in the series’ continuity, Chief Brody’s widow, Ellen, is being hunted by a giant great white shark that wants, yes, revenge on the Brody family and follows her to the Bahamas to get it. It all culminates on a sailboat when Ellen and her eldest son create a device that emits an electrical impulse that irritates the shark, causing it to roar (somehow) as it jumps out of the water repeatedly. 

Flashing back to Chief Brody’s much better defeat of a similar shark in the first movie (spoiler alert: that’s higher on this list), Ellen rams the shark with the boat’s bowsprit, impaling it. In four movies, the shark has never looked worse or more fake than it does in this instance, which might help explain why there are actually two versions of the ending. In the original theatrical release, the fake-looking shark just bleeds out and sinks to the bottom, giving audiences a good chance to see how bad this impaled fish looks. In international releases — and in home releases — the shark inexplicably explodes as soon as it has been pierced. 

It’s so, so nonsensical, and yet despite (or because) of how dumb it is, it’s highly entertaining!

2. Jaws 2

Steven Spielberg was not involved in any of the Jaws sequels, including Jaws 2, and while his absence shows, it's still the best of the sequels — including its finale. Chief Brody has raced out to sea again to rescue his kids and their teenage friends, who have been stranded near a small island outpost that Amity gets its power from. With no means of hurting the shark and with his family in danger, Brody spies a giant, thick, electrical cable. He whacks the cable with an oar repeatedly to get the shark’s attention and it charges towards him and chomps down on who knows how many volts of deadly electrical current. The shark bursts into flames as its electrocuted.

Jaws 2’s big shark death gets credit for being a novel way to kill a shark without seeming too contrived. Nothing could top the catharsis of the first movie, and the later sequels would have more farfetched finales. Jaws 2's method of shark slaughter isn’t too outrageous, but it’s something different — exactly what a sequel calls for. It’s just shocking enough, pun intended. 

1. Jaws

The gulf between Jaws and the previous entries on this list is so wide that a giant shark could easily swim right through it. It would have been a tall order for the sequels to live up to the original 1975 film, which is unquestionably is a cinematic masterpiece, and that extends to the ending, too.

Brody, Hooper, and Quint’s hunt for the shark is not going well. Quint has been eaten, Hooper is on the seafloor presumed dead, and the Orca is sinking. Brody manages to escape the shark’s jaws and in the process shoves a scuba tank in its mouth. He then gets a rifle and climbs onto the rapidly sinking crow’s nest in an attempt to make one perfect shot. As William’s score intensifies, he shoots and misses over and over again until he says, “Smile, you sonofabitch,” and fires. Blammo! The compressed air in the tank explodes, causing the shark to erupt in a spray of watery gore. 

Never mind that, in real life, shooting a scuba tank would not cause it to explode like that. It’s a perfect ending — the last, slim chance to defeat a seemingly unstoppable eating machine. It’s a high that all the Jaws sequels (and every other unrelated shark movie) have been chasing for nearly half a century.

Watch Jaws, Jaws 2Jaws 3, and Jaws: The Revenge, all streaming now on Peacock!

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