Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Horror Films That Changed the Genre

Get out of the water! Universal/Moviepix/Getty Images
Get out of the water! Universal/Moviepix/Getty Images

There's a massive shark. It has a taste for human blood. It must be stopped. That's the plot of "Jaws." It's not a complex movie, although it is an excellent one. The effect it had on the film industry is a much longer story.

In the early 1970s, directors had a lot of freedom in Hollywood. They could write and direct their own movies and pursue whatever projects interested them. Experimental, artistic films that examined controversial topics like war or race were made under major studio banners [source: Dirks]. Film marketing budgets were relatively small, and it was rare to advertise on television. "Jaws" devoured all the old rules on film budgets and marketing in 1975.

Universal spent millions of dollars marketing "Jaws," much of it on TV commercials featuring the iconic two-note musical score that is now synonymous with shark attacks. Where similar efforts had failed in the past, this one succeeded spectacularly -- "Jaws" eventually made $260 million in the U.S. [source: Frontline]. This huge win completely changed Hollywood's approach, not just to marketing, but to what movies studios made and when they were released.

High-concept movies with lots of action and excitement, aimed at teen and young adult audiences, were released in the summer months, when those audiences went to more movies. Marketing budgets (and movie budgets in general) exploded, and TV ads for these summer blockbusters filled the airwaves [source: Stafford]. The summer success of "Jaws" paved the way for movies like "Star Wars," "Batman" and "Jurassic Park" and created the blockbuster culture that defines modern Hollywood.