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Steven Spielberg hid color symbolism in Jaws, it’s genius

Jaws is absolutely one of the best movies ever made, and Steven Spielberg was at the peak of his director powers. That even stretched to the colors on screen.

Jaws uses some impressive color symbolism in its use of red

You don’t need us to tell you that Jaws is brilliant. If we don’t see Jaws on any list of the best movies ever made, then there’s something very wrong with that list. With one perfect movie, the young Steven Spielberg cemented himself as one of the best directors alive.

It’s fair to say that there’s a lot of directorial flair at play too. The behind-the-scenes turmoil on the less-than-happy Jaws set is legendary by now, but it gave rise to some very impressive innovations. There’s a reason that, even among the formidable ranks of the best Steven Spielberg movies, Jaws still stands tall.

A big part of that was the tightly-controlled use of color. Spielberg explained in a book about his career, excerpted in Vanity Fair, that he told Jaws production designer Joe Alves to avoid using red – except for in the obvious moments.

Spielberg said: “For Jaws, I didn’t want red to be dominant on any of the sets. I told Joe: ‘Please, when you’re designing the picture and finding your colors, don’t use too much red, allowing for the blood’. And in general, we pretty much stuck to that.

“The Kintner boy had a red bathing suit, and we did have red wine in the scene with Hooper and Brody at the dinner table, but there was a bit of symbolism and foreshadowing in that.”

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However many times you’ve seen Jaws, this is something you might not have noticed, and that’s great. There’s so much going on to reward you on a rewatch.

For example, there’s another important color in the movie. Spielberg often uses yellow to signify danger, whether it’s with those barrels used to track the shark, the ill-fated Alex Kintner’s inflatable, or Mayor Vaughn’s ugly jacket. This could well be a reference to the common myth that sharks are attracted to the color yellow. Keep an eye out next time you watch the film.

If you’re after more Jaws stories, find out more about the scene so gory that Spielberg refused to include it and learn how one Jaws accident almost turned deadly on the set. You can also read about the best shark movies in our definitive list.