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Face-Off: Jaws vs. Alien

05.31.2016by: Brian Bitner
In our previous Face-Off, we pitted THE NICE GUYS' Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling against each other. While I gave Gosling the slight edge, your opinions ranged from agreeing, to calling it a tie, to say Crowe blows Gosling out of the water. Crowe is definitely more of a powerhouse than Gosling, but as a couple of you pointed out, he tends to be hit or miss, especially over the last decade, while Gosling has been pretty consistently on for his (relatively short) career.

This week, we're looking at two of the finest films to come out of the 1970's... which also both happen to be about humans taking on a terrifying monster. By all logic, JAWS and ALIEN should have been forgettable B-movie, monster-in-the-house fare, but in the capable hands of Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott, both films would go on to be considered classics and inspire a generation.
CAST
Roy Scheider as Brody
Robert Shaw as Quint
Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper
Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody
Murray Hamilton as Mayor Vaughn
Carl Gottleib as Meadows
Jeffrey Kramer as Hendricks
Sigourney Weaver as Ripley
Tom Skerritt as Dallas
Veronica Cartwright as Lambert
Harry Dean Stanton as Brett
John Hurt as Kane
Ian Holm as Ash
Yaphet Kotto as Parker
PLOT
When a massive shark begins terrorizing Amity Island, the town's mayor opts to keep the beach open to turn a profit. In order to protect his family and the people of his town, Police Chief Martin Brody teams up with oceanographer Hooper and shark hunter Quint to take down the beast.
When the spaceship Nostromo receives a mysterious distress signal from a nearby planet, the crew are awakened from stasis to investigate. After one of the officers is attacked and brought on board, the crew learn they have invited a horrifying creature onto the ship.

Giving ALIEN the slight edge here due to the fact that the crew are stuck in space with the alien, while in JAWS the terror is confined to the water.
QUOTES
"This was no boat accident."

"It's a carcaradon carcharias. It's a Great White."

"I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you on the ass! "This was no boat accident."

"Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin' bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', an' down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

"You're gonna need a bigger boat."

"Fast fish."

"Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be livin'. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah... then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin' and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin' and the hollerin' they all come in and rip you to pieces."

"Smile, you son of a bitch."
"You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility."

"Back to the ole freezerinos."

"Yes. I read you. The answer is negative."

"Micro changes in air density, my ass."

"So, um, we think we should discuss the bonus situation..."

"That's the only way. We'll move in pairs. We'll go step by step and cut off every bulkhead and every vent until we have it cornered. And then we'll blow it the f*ck out into space! Is that acceptable to you?"

"Mother! I've turned the cooling unit back on. Mother!"
"The ship will automatically destruct in "T" minus five minutes."
"You bitch!"

"Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew, Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas, are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off. Come on, cat."
DIRECTING
After directing a couple successful films, Steven Spielberg came barrelling onto the scene with JAWS. With cinematography still impressive to this day, genuine intimacy and realism from the cast, and a tension unmatched by most films of the genre, there is no question a new titan of the industry was making his mark.
I'd really love to call this one a tie. Ridley Scott takes what could have been a forgettable movie of the week and turns it into a masterpiece, building tension and letting us spend real time with the characters before all hell breaks loose. While ALIEN is pretty damn perfect, though, JAWS just features more of those "remember that?" moments, largely to the way Spielberg chose to handle them.
FINALE
Quint, Hooper, and Brody head out on the Orca to hunt down the shark. The crew successfully harpoon barrels into the shark, but the beast just uses them to yank the ship around and render it useless. Hooper enters a shark cage in hopes of injecting it, but the shark destroys the cage, attacks the boat, and kills Quint. As the boat sinks, Brody manages to get a scuba tank in the sharks mouth and shoot it with a rifle, blowing the fishy to bits. As the smoke clears, Brody and Hooper paddle into the sunset.
After setting the Nostromo to self-destruct, Ripley, Lambert, and Parker make for the ship's shuttle. Ripley alone makes it to the shuttle, at which point she goes back for the freaking cat, makes it back to the shuttle, and disengages, watching the Nostromo explode behind her. The end. Oh, wait, the alien is on the shuttle! Ripley uses the ship's controls and a grappling hook to expel the alien, at which point it tries to reenter the ship through the engine. Ripley activates the engine, blows the thing to hell, signs off, and goes the f*ck to sleep.
SCORE
John Williams provides one of the first unforgettable, iconic scores of his career. With two simple notes, Williams would play a huge hand in making JAWS a permanent fixture of the cinematic landscape.
Jerry Goldsmith's score is beautiful, unsettling, intimate, and grand all at once. The only thing lacking here is any kind of memorable theme. Granted, it can be argued the less notable the better, but in the case of JAWS, at least, the score helped make the movie.
BOX OFFICE & ACCOLADES
IMDB: 8.0 (Top 250: #225)
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% (Audience Score: 90%)
Metacritic: 79 (User Score: 8.7)
Domestic Total Gross: $260,000,000
IMDB: 8.5 (Top 250: #53)
Rotten Tomatoes: 97% (Audience Score: 94%)
Metacritic: 83 (User Score: 8.9)
Domestic Total Gross: $78,944,891
LEGACY
JAWS has inspired three mediocre-to-poor sequels, a ride at Universal Studios, the documentary THE SHARK IS STILL WORKING, and arguably, every water-based horror film out there, from DEEP BLUE SEA to SHARKNADO 6: THE SHARKNADOING. It should also be noted that ALIEN was pitched to studio execs as "JAWS in space."
ALIEN was followed by a sequel that some deem better than the original as well as two more films which are less universally acclaimed but still have a very solid fan base. Ridley Scott recently brought an ALIEN prequel to life with PROMETHEUS, and Ridley Scott and company are currently gearing up to bring us ALIEN: CONVENANT in 2017. ALIEN has also inspired plenty of underwhelming fare, including that whole ALIEN VS. PREDATOR thing, but I think it's safe to say this film has had a wider and heavier impact on the cinematic landscape than JAWS has.
JAWS
Holy crap, this is a tough one. I think when all is said and done, ALIEN has endured partially thanks to James Cameron's brilliant sequel as well as the subsequent films (which tend to at least be pretty interesting if not always good), while JAWS has remained an acclaimed classic in spite of the lackluster sequels and facsimiles it spawned. I can still watch ALIEN any day of the week, but I know some people find it too slow by today's standards, while I don't think I've ever heard anyone say the same about JAWS. It also doesn't hurt that JAWS seems to have been one of the inspirations for ALIEN, at least based on Scott's pitch to the studio. Feel free to disagree down below; I certainly won't argue.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at brianbitner@joblo.com.

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3:26PM on 06/06/2016
I think Jaws hold up better today than Alien. Alien is an awesome movie and I'm one of the few that thinks it's better than Aliens (probably because I prefer suspense over action). Jaws just doesn't have great characters, but the interaction between the characters is incredible - particularly the final act when Brody, Hooper, and Quint are on the boat. The character dynamic in that final act is hard to beat.
I think Jaws hold up better today than Alien. Alien is an awesome movie and I'm one of the few that thinks it's better than Aliens (probably because I prefer suspense over action). Jaws just doesn't have great characters, but the interaction between the characters is incredible - particularly the final act when Brody, Hooper, and Quint are on the boat. The character dynamic in that final act is hard to beat.
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1:48PM on 06/02/2016
I agree. Both are masterpieces, and it's damn close. In terms of pure entertainment value, I'd give Jaws a slight edge over Alien.
I agree. Both are masterpieces, and it's damn close. In terms of pure entertainment value, I'd give Jaws a slight edge over Alien.
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3:59PM on 05/31/2016

JAWS

Jaws is my favorite all time movie so I'm going with that one. It's so much more than a monster movie. The shark is not the star - rather Brody, Quint and Hooper.

I do still love Alien.
Jaws is my favorite all time movie so I'm going with that one. It's so much more than a monster movie. The shark is not the star - rather Brody, Quint and Hooper.

I do still love Alien.
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12:30PM on 05/31/2016

Legacies?

I very much disagree with your conclusion that "it's safe to say this film (Alien) has had a wider and heavier impact on the cinematic landscape than JAWS has." Jaws, by virtue of originating the very concept of the "summer blockbuster" has had a much more lasting impact on the "cinematic landscape." THAT is how Jaws still resonates today.
I very much disagree with your conclusion that "it's safe to say this film (Alien) has had a wider and heavier impact on the cinematic landscape than JAWS has." Jaws, by virtue of originating the very concept of the "summer blockbuster" has had a much more lasting impact on the "cinematic landscape." THAT is how Jaws still resonates today.
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12:09PM on 05/31/2016
ALIEN: 7/10
JAWS: 10/10
ALIEN: 7/10
JAWS: 10/10
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11:47AM on 05/31/2016

Jaws takes the cake

The cast, score, and cinematography are great, but it's the suspense and eeriness of the shark being hidden for a lot of the film that makes it so unique. It's one of those flawless, enduring films in my book.
The cast, score, and cinematography are great, but it's the suspense and eeriness of the shark being hidden for a lot of the film that makes it so unique. It's one of those flawless, enduring films in my book.
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9:26AM on 05/31/2016
Believe it or not I've only seen Jaws once. I was probably a teenager at the time. However it's iconic enough that, while I need to see it again to properly compare the two, I have a pretty good idea about it.

I do know that I consider the first Alien movie to be pretty much a perfect film. The genius of Aliens was that it took the franchise in a very different direction, but for my money I still think Alien is the better monster movie.
Believe it or not I've only seen Jaws once. I was probably a teenager at the time. However it's iconic enough that, while I need to see it again to properly compare the two, I have a pretty good idea about it.

I do know that I consider the first Alien movie to be pretty much a perfect film. The genius of Aliens was that it took the franchise in a very different direction, but for my money I still think Alien is the better monster movie.
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8:40AM on 05/31/2016
I guess they're both "monster movies" though arguably different genres. I love both films but if I had to pick one to watch it would usually be Alien. If it was Jaws vs Aliens though, the quotes round would have been a much tougher call. I can't really argue with this result, but assuming both films were going for shock and tension, Alien might just have it in that respect.
I guess they're both "monster movies" though arguably different genres. I love both films but if I had to pick one to watch it would usually be Alien. If it was Jaws vs Aliens though, the quotes round would have been a much tougher call. I can't really argue with this result, but assuming both films were going for shock and tension, Alien might just have it in that respect.
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8:19AM on 05/31/2016
Cant compare. Both influential in their own rights
Cant compare. Both influential in their own rights
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7:13AM on 05/31/2016
Jaws for me. It's more enjoyable than Alien. And Robert Shaw just stole the entire movie.
Jaws for me. It's more enjoyable than Alien. And Robert Shaw just stole the entire movie.
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2:41AM on 05/31/2016

Alien

^^^
^^^
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2:20AM on 05/31/2016

Jaws in unquestionably better.....

I just disagree about the cast. I think they dominated in the talent department (especially since Hurt died so early on). I read the book and Lambert was supposed to be some kind of hottie who caused the other guys to act stupidly to protect her, but they chose a really average (below average) looking actress to play her. Huge fail.
I just disagree about the cast. I think they dominated in the talent department (especially since Hurt died so early on). I read the book and Lambert was supposed to be some kind of hottie who caused the other guys to act stupidly to protect her, but they chose a really average (below average) looking actress to play her. Huge fail.
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