Let’s Talk About The Parallels Between “Nope” And “Jaws”


2022’s horror blockbuster shockingly shares more than a few moments with the OG summer horror film.

Last weekend, Jordan Peele proved himself to once again be a formidable filmmaker at the box office with his epic horror offering, Nope, earning more than $44 million across the US.

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For those who have yet to see the frightening film, Nope follows two siblings (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) who discover a potentially extraterrestrial presence stalking their remote horse ranch as well as a local tourist attraction operated by a former child star (Steven Yeun).

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Like most of Peele’s directorial efforts, the film tackles a number of heavy social and cultural issues in its themes and subtext, but there’s an unmistakably adventurous attitude to the film, especially in its riveting third act.

However, that’s not all that’s buried inside of Nope, because whether it be conscious or otherwise, the film also shares a number of parallels with the original summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

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The film may not be a remake of the beloved horror movie, but you don’t have to look to the sky to see just how much of Nope’s alien fright fare was inspired by Spielberg’s terrifying shark flick. 

(And, yes, there be SPOILERS beyond this point, so don’t read further unless you’ve seen the film or don’t mind being spoiled!)


The Opening Death Scene

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Of course, this isn’t too far off-course for the horror genre in general, as most horror films since Jaws have opened with a death scene to tease the threat in play and establish the stakes. Nevertheless, Nope opens with a shocking death as random items fall from the sky, first in a moment of confusion that quickly turns into panic when a small coin plummets through the eye of Otis Sr. (Keith David). In this sense, the parallel comes from how uniquely opposite the sequences from each film might be: while Jaws showcases a young woman being slowly consumed by a hungry beast below, Nope offers an old man being quickly killed by the regurgitation of a beast from above.


The Noble, No B.S. Homegrown Heroes

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While the primary protagonist of Jaws is Chief Brody, a humble and easily agitated small-town cop who mainly hopes to prevent the shark from killing his townsfolk through sensible action, the primary heroes of Nope are the brother-sister team of OJ and Em. In many ways, the two seem to exhibit a lot of the same traits and emotional beats of Chief Brody throughout Nope, with OJ’s nobility, hardened resolve, and personal motivations for hunting down the alien while Em embodies the chief’s lighter (and more vulnerable) side, albeit with her own exploitative intentions that don’t necessarily bleed between the films.


The Tech-Savvy Know-It-All

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In Jaws, Chief Brody’s first ally comes in the form of Hooper, a marine life expert brought in to examine corpses only to confirm the shark attack as well as the extraordinary circumstances at hand. Hooper ultimately remains along for the ride, aiding Chief Brody with some helpful technology and becoming an unlikely hero by facing down the shark. Sound familiar? Nope’s Hooper substitute comes in the form of Angel Torres, an employee of Fry’s Electronics who installs a number of cameras to help catch an alien presence, a topic of which he has a wealth of “knowledge,” most of which seems to be sourced from the internet and Ancient Aliens. Nevertheless, Angel becomes an integral figure in the film, being the first to identify the unmoving cloud and risks his life on several occasions while being stalked by the extraterrestrial threat.


The Grizzled Capturer of Nature

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Perhaps the most on-the-nose parallel between Nope and Jaws is that Nope has its own Quint in the form of Antlers Holst, a gravelly-voiced cinematographer who became renowned for “capturing the impossible” through his nature documentaries, work of which we see glimpses of within his home. As such, Holst is eventually roped into the narrative once the shit hits the fan, much like Quint had, and becomes obsessed with capturing the extraterrestrial on a homemade camera (similar to Quint, who had his custom shark-catching reel). But outside of his surly attitude and the thrill of the hunt, Holst is most like Quint in his demise, as he goes rogue in order to film the alien himself, cranking the camera even as he disappears screaming into the creature’s all-consuming maw.


The Naive Public Figure

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Maybe the most relevant (and consistently referenced) element of Jaws in the here and now is Mayor Larry Vaughn, a character who puts profit and town image above the safety of his citizens and is willing to discount or spin whatever fact is thrown at him to reach his goals. While Nope’s Jupe is not a “Mayor” per se, he is the head honcho of his western-themed attraction, “Jupiter’s Claim,” who showcases his ability to profit off of tragedy (as revealed by his dark tourism museum where he charges guests to view memorabilia from his tragedy-stricken sitcom) and decides to exploit the extraterrestrial threat with a live show, which backfires spectacularly when the entirety of the audience is consumed by the alien creature. I guess the only difference between the two is Mayor Vaughn lives to see another day (and even re-election!!!) after racking up a body count with his reckless antics.


The Prank Gone Wrong

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In one of Jaws’ more memorable scenes, beachgoers are thrown into a panic when fins appear out of the water, drawing a multitude of gun-toting deputies to capture two kids attempting to pull off an ill-advised prank. In Nope’s first major horror sequence, OJ discovers what appears to be small, oddly-shaped aliens in his horse stables, and swings upon one that appears behind him, only to discover the aliens are none other than Jupe’s children attempting to prank the paranoid ranchhand using costumes and masks we later see on sale during the alien show.


The Harrowing Speech

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There are many quotable lines throughout Jaws, but none leave as much of an impression as the entirety of Quint’s U.S.S. Indianapolis story, in which the veteran seafarer describes the harrowing trauma of his military vessel being destroyed in the Pacific Ocean and left him stranded him at sea, forced to watch his friends and shipmates mercilessly picked apart by hungry sharks. It’s a shocking moment that reveals Quint’s motivations and resilience while hinting at the fear beneath his impenetrable exterior and remains a benchmark for monologs in modern cinema. But an equally shocking moment comes in the form of Jupe’s own speech, as he recalls the Gordy’s Home incident with a darkly humorous twist, emphasizing the unspeakable horror of witnessing his friends and costars be ruthlessly torn apart and eaten by the show’s chimpanzee star by reiterating the facts via a Saturday Night Live parody of the incident in which the monkey is played by Chris Kattan, who is just crushing it.


The Hidden Monster

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As the legend goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and when the non-functioning shark animatronic in Jaws would fail to work so frequently, director Steven Spielberg decided to frequently hide the shark throughout the film to keep it from looking fake or ineffective. As such, the shark became much more of a terrifying presence, and until the climax of the film, Peele decides to utilize the same “less is more” tactics for his extraterrestrial horror, giving small glimpses and teases of what it may be before giving us the full monty in the final showdown.


The Marker

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In Jaws, our heroes attempt to drag the shark to the surface by hooking three flotation barrels to the beast, which are impossibly dragged into the sea and re-emerge sporadically as a sign of the shark’s presence in lieu of its terrifying fin. In a minor parallel, Nope has OJ trick the extraterrestrial monster into consuming a horse mannequin with a string of flags wrapped around it, with the dangling flags becoming an early visual warning sign of the aliens’ appearances until disposing of the mannequin shortly before the third act.


The Monsters Themselves

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In Nope’s most interesting twist, we learn fairly early into the film that the thing in the sky is not, in fact, a UFO or spacecraft: it’s the alien being itself, consuming its prey as opposed to abducting. In this sense, Nope evolves from an extraterrestrial horror film into an animal attack horror film, and the fact that the monster itself reveals itself to be a sentient maw of some sort, it’s almost *literally* a pair of jaws, gives it its most intriguing connection to Spielberg’s classic chiller.


The Nerd Survives a Close Encounter

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In the thrilling climax of the film, the alien descends upon Angel Torres after wrecking his film station and eating Antlers whole. However, Torres decides to wrap his body to a nearby barbed wire fence, harming the alien and forcing him to regurgitate him as he scurries off to safety. Subtly, this shares a lot with Hooper’s own face-to-face interaction with the shark from Jaws, as Hooper is surrounded by a metallic shark cage when the beast attacks, providing the scientist with the opportunity to hide away until after the grand finale.


The Final Shot

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In Jaws, the film comes down to Chief Brody struggling to make one devastating shot on an air tank that would cause the shark to explode, finally doing so after delivering his iconic quip, “Smile, you son of a—.” In a climactic callback to the ending of Jaws, Em attempts to position the alien above a photo well to get the perfect shot of the alien consuming a giant balloon version of Jupe, getting the picture in question at the last second, as the balloon explodes within the alien, causing it to erupt into pieces and allowing the siblings to ride off into the sunset.

What was your favorite part of Nope? Let us know in the comments below!

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