Best Steven Spielberg Movies
Since the dawn of the Film Industry, there have been 10-15 iconic film directors that have transformed the industry and how we think of movies. Some of those legendary directors include John Ford, John Huston, Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock, Elia Kazan, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and of course Steven Spielberg. While many of the great directors focused on dramas and epic films, Spielberg films have spanned a wide range of film genres from Drama to Sci Fi to Action to War Movies. It is because of that willingness to try different genres, that Spielberg has had such a wide influence on filmmaking.
Early in his career he transformed the horror thriller with a film about a Great White Shark that absolutely sticks with anyone that has ever seen it. Then he shifted his attention to Science Fiction and created two of the truly memorable films in the genre with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.. Later he brought us probably the greatest action thriller of all time, with the Archeological adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark. And of course, he has directed two of the all time classic war movies in Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.
While Steven Spielberg has only directed 27 feature films to date, the Spielberg filmography is an incredibly influential list of films. He has also produced over 100 movies and mentored many of the next generation of film makers. He has left an indelible mark on any film fan that will likely be remembered for hundreds of years. He is also a co-founder of Dreamworks which has become a highly influential movie and animation studio over the past 15 years.
Despite all his accolades and incredible box office success, none of his films have yet to win the coveted Best Picture Oscar. However, it is likely just a matter of time before he wins that award. He has won the Best Director Oscar for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.
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10. Minority Report (2002)
An Action Thriller set in Future Washington DC
One of the best science-fiction movies by Spielberg, there is nothing minor about Minority Report. The director definitely redeemed himself after a rare less-than-stellar attempt on A.I. and eternally cemented his position on the vanguard of science fiction filmmakers. Infused with Stanley Kubrick's vision and Scott Frank and John Cohen's imagination of a future world, this film cannot entirely be placed under Spielberg's credit-and rightfully so. But it was his seamless realization of the film that made it nothing short of fantastic.
Washington D.C. circa 2054, the city has been murder-free for six years all thanks to the Precrime unit led by their chief detective John Anderton (Tom Cruise). They prevent serious crimes before they happen with the help of three Precogs, psychics which can predict the future killings. Anderton is a vigilant Precrime officer until he is targeted as a future murder by the Precogs. Now he is on the run trying to prove his innocence for a crime that has not yet happened.
Steven Spielberg's first attempt at a neo noir film is not perfect but it is an exciting non-stop action thriller with an interesting Sci Fi feel. One of the most interesting questions asked by the film is ethical dilemma faced by "judging a book by its cover". Even if someone could accurately Precog a future murder, will it actually happen or can the murder or victim change the course of events before they happen.
9. Munich (2005)
A Fascinating Tale about the Conflict Between Vengeance and Morality
During the 1972 Munich Olympics, eleven Israeli athletes were kidnapped and murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September. Munich, based on the 1984 book Vengeance by George Jonas, is a film about a sect of the Israeli Mossad assigned to gain revenge against the terrorists involved in this attack. Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana) and his team of four other agents must hunt down and assassinate all eleven of the Black September suspected in the massacre.
Eric Bana gives a powerful performance in what many critics call his finest performance. It is a conflicted role and he portrays the struggle with the fine line between deserved justice and cold-blooded murder. The entire cast is also extraordinary in extremely difficult roles, including Geoffrey Rush, Lynn Cohen, Daniel Craig and Marie Josee Croze.
Munich is a semi-fictionalized espionage thriller that depicts the long standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the bitter "eye for an eye" philosophy that characterizes the struggle. It does not give answers but raises questions; questions about revenge and violence and about right and wrong. Steven Spielberg managed to create a political statement without preaching at us.
Munich was nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It did not win any Oscars however as it was up against stiff competition including Brokeback Mountain, Capote and Crash. In a huge surprise and probably one of the most undeserving Best Picture winners, Crash took the Oscar in 2005.
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Probably the Greatest Action Films of All Time
One of the greatest action films of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark was a collaboration of two Hollywood greats, George Lucas (Writer) and Steven Spielberg (Director). This powerful film combination came together because of a chance conversation at an exclusive resort in Hawaii when Spielberg mentioned that he was interested in directing a James Bond film someday. To which Lucas famously responded, "I have something better than James Bond". And thus began the collaboration that delivered a movie adventure of epic proportions.
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is a globe-trotting archeologist who searches for sacred relics both for his University and the US Government. Of course these quests are usually dangerous because of the extreme conditions and ancient booby-traps guarding these relics. But when an old flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) walks into his life with an ancient relic given to her by her father, the danger amps up several notches. Turns out this relic is potentially a key to finding the Ark of the Covenant, a historic biblical relic that was thought to contain the original Ten Commandments of Moses and also special powers to help someone conquer armies.
This exciting action thriller is a non-stop adventure chasing clues around the globe. And like usual, Spielberg used rich imagery and expert editing to create suspense throughout this thriller. George Lucas did not originally want Harrison Ford to play the adventurous archeologist because he wanted to preserve his persona for the third Star Wars film. However, the first choice, Peter Coyote, was too unknown by the public and the second choice, Tom Selleck, had to back out due to his Magnum, PI commitments. Lucky for all of us that they had to rely on their third choice because no one could have been better for Indiana Jones than Ford. His unique combination of toughness, vulnerability and wit were just perfect for the anti-hero Jones.
Raiders was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won 4 Oscars including Best Visual Effects, Best Sound and Best Art Direction. While Raiders was by far the biggest box office winner in 1981 (almost double number two in box office receipts), it faced stiff competition for the Best Picture Oscar that year which was won by Chariots of Fire. Other nominees that year included On Golden Pond and Reds both epic films with loaded casts.
7. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestial (1982)
A Completely Different Kind of Sci Fi Movie
A heartwarming story about friendship? Check. A timeless tale that indulges the senses? Check. A film that captures childhood in its purest form? Check! E.T. may be the most beloved children's movie classic since Mary Poppins and it enchants me every time I watch it.
Elliott (Henry Thomas) is a normal 10 year old boy who finds a lost alien in his backyard. Turns out to be a very cute alien, E.T. Elliott lures E.T. in his house with Reese's Pieces. Later, in one of the most memorable scenes on film, E.T. meets Elliott's sister, Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and they both scream for about 30 seconds. Together with older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton), the kids develop a deep bond with E.T., who has been shipwrecked on Earth when his spacecraft crashed. The kids try to keep their new friend but they can't help telling a few people and eventually the news gets to the Defense Department who storm into town looking for E.T.
He has so many great films but this is definitely one of Spielberg's trademark films. It is both an exceptionally visual film and and beautifully coming of age children's story. Although he is sometimes accused of over sentimentalism but in this film was such a different type of sci fi movie that he can be excused for some cutesy moments. E.T. has undeniably earned its spot as one of the most genuine and touching movies in cinematic history.
This Spielberg classic was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. It actually won 4 Oscars including Best Visual Effects. Unfortunately this brilliant film did not win Best Picture which it might have won in many other years, but it was up against Gandhi in 1982 which was a worthy Best Picture winner.
6. Catch Me if You Can (2002)
A Cat and Mouse Thriller of a Real Life Con Artist
Based on a story stranger than fiction, this Steven Spielberg movie is a biopic about con-artist Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) who at the tender age of 16 ran away from home after his parents' divorce. Armed with irresistible charms, wit and willful determination, he masterfully impersonated a Pan Am pilot, a Doctor and an Attorney while cashing more than $2.5 million in fraudulent checks along the way. For years he was able to stay one step ahead of FBI agent, Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks).
DiCaprio was excellent as the ever shifting Abagnale Jr., who is tormented by thoughts of his broken down father (Christopher Walken), who he had always idolized, after his mother runs off with another man. As with many Spielberg films, there is a tension between parent-child relationships and in this film he is bitter about his mother's behavior. Walken, quirky as ever, delivers a heartfelt performance the broken man.
The main story line is the cat and mouse game between Hanratty and Abagnale Jr as the hunter and the hunted. There are many near misses that improve the tension throughout. This Spielberg movie is a coming-of-age story, an action thriller and a true-to-life biography all rolled into one.
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5. Jaws (1975)
Spielberg's Ultimated Summer Thriller
While not his first film, Jaws was the movie that catapulted Steven Spielberg to the public forefront as an up and coming master filmmaker. Many also think that Jaws may be Spielberg's greatest film and it is certainly one of his most memorable.
When a great white shark terrorizes the beaches of the small town of Amity Island, Chief of Police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) urges the closure the beaches. However, Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) and the town council overturn his closure fearing that the action will lead to a huge decline in tourism during the busy summer season. Consequently, Brody must race to find a way to capture or kill the beast. He partners with marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and resident shark hunter Sam Quint (Robert Shaw) to track down the great white.
Interestingly, while this film scared us all to death and changed how we viewed the Oceans, the shark itself is only on the screen for a very short time. That was Spielberg's genius to create our fear in our minds as opposed to on the screen. Just seeing the fin and hearing the back music was enough to get our heart pounding of the deep unknown underneath the swimmer.
The combination of Steven Spielberg's artful cinematography of shots from the predator's point of view and John William's unforgettable score created the perfect movie thriller.
Jaws was nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture. It won 3 Oscars for Original Score, Film Editing and Best Sound.
4. Jurassic Park (1993)
An Thrilling Ride into the Land of Dinosaurs.
In 1993, Steven Spielberg embraced computer-generated imagery (CGI) effects to create his highest grossing film, with Jurassic Park. This film pushed CGI to its limits in order to recreate a world in which Dinosaurs and Humans coexist. This Spielberg classic takes the viewers on a wild thrill ride on a jungle island of the coast of South America.
Wealthy entrepreneur John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) and his scientists have discovered a way to clone Dinosaurs from prehistoric mosquitoes preserved in Amber (calcified tree sap). They have created a theme park featuring the Dinosours including a T Rex and the deadly Velociraptors.
Along with his two excited grandchildren, Hammond invites top paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and the sarcastic mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to experience and test out the theme park before it officially opens to the public. However, as Dr. Malcolm predicts, chaos ensues when the park's security system collapses freeing the Dinosaurs.
Steven Spielberg released Jurassic Park in the same years as he also released Schindler's List. The two films could not be more different and yet both will endure as film classics but for very different reasons. Jurassic Park created a new standard for CGI effects in films and actually proved to the world that Hollywood could create incredibly realistic Dinosaurs. It paved the way for the amazing imagery that we now see in films like Avatar, The Dark Knight and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
This Spielberg film was nominated for 3 Academy Awards and won all 3; 2 for Visual Effects and one for Best Sound.
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Spielberg's Tribute to the Men that Stormed Normandy in WWII
It was June 6, 1944 when Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) and hundreds of thousands of Allied men stormed Omaha Beach during World War II. And the first 24 minutes of this film are truly unforgettable. Even veterans that actually landed on Normandy felt that it was a realistic depiction of the battle. As the men land on the beach they are immediately assaulted with bullets and mortar explosions. Chaos, gore, violence and death were all portrayed without restraint. It was probably the most unique battle scene ever caught on film and for the first time we were actually transported to the heartbreaking reality of war.
After the opening sequence, the story follows Miller and his squad's impossible mission to track down Private James F. Ryan (Matt Damon), whose three other brothers have died in the opening battles of Normandy and the Generals are determined not to send his mother the fourth fateful letter.
Unlike the first World War II Steven Spielberg film, Saving Private Ryan is much more about the mental anguish of battle and fighting an unknown enemy. While Schindler's List, dealt with the horrors of the concentration camps, Ryan was much more about the strategy, battles and intensity of close combat. It is deeply moving experience and a realistic account of war.
This was the most decorated Steven Spielberg film, at least so far. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 5 Oscars including Best Director, film has been rightfully showered with accolades and won Spielberg his second Oscar for Best Director and Best Cinematography. Unfortunately, in a huge surprise it did not win the Best Picture Oscar, that went to Shakespeare in Love in 1998.
2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
The First of Many Brilliant Sci Fi Films for Spielberg
Steven Spielberg followed up the runaway smash Jaws with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and much like he transformed our view of the Oceans, with Encounters he transformed the skies. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a power company technician, has an encounter with a strange aircraft and bright lights during a power outage call. Unfortunately, his friends and family don't believe him after the event event though he has slight burn marks on the side of his head due to the encounter.
Instead, he searches out others that have had encounters with the ship, including Jillian (Melinda Dillon) and her son Barry (Cary Guffey). Together they compare their experience and realize they all recall a similar melody that they heard from the ship and a vision of a mountain. Roy becomes obsessed with finding this mountain and finding others that have experienced an "encounter". Despite alienating friends and family, they are all drawn to this strange mountain. And that is all I can tell you without spoiling the ending.
Steven Spielberg is nothing if not utterly imaginative. This beautifully crafted tale showcased the famed director's personal wonder of the unknown. In this unique Spielberg film, viewers are guaranteed a thrilling journey towards the center of one of the greatest mysteries of all time. It gives a positive portrayal of the aliens co-inhabiting the universe. The final 30 minutes marks the film's climax and Spielberg did not fail to deliver with magnificent visual mastery, coupled with ethereal music.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind was nominated for 9 Academy Award and won one Oscar for Best Cinematography.
1. Schinder's List (1993)
A Compelling Biopic of Incredible Compassion
Steven Spielberg struggled with whether he should direct this film for nearly ten years. He actually tried to pass it to three other directors including Martin Scorsese, because he was not sure he had the maturity to direct the film. However, in the end he decided that he had to direct the film to do something for his children and the families of the Holocaust. While awards were the least of his interest in taking on this project, it actually netted him two of the three Oscars he has won to date.
Schindler's List is based on the book written by the Australian author Thomas Keneally entitled Schindler's Ark. It follows the true story of German businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) in his pursuit to save Jews from the barbaric hands of Nazis in Krakow, Poland during the World War II. It is an amazing story of a life transformation as Schindler starts out as a wealthy playboy with little interest in business or human rights, but what starts out as a business proposition turns into a human rights crusade. He effectively saved over 1,100 Polish-Jews by hiring them as his factory workers and relocating them in his hometown, Moravia, and insisting that he keep his people. He fought of many efforts by Nazis to take his Jews but he learned how to appeal to their own greed and need for more munitions that he produced in his factories.
Save for the flames of the candles and the little girl in a striking red coat, the film is entirely shot in black-and-white. Liam Neeson delivers a compelling performance and we are able to watch him transform his personality throughout this film as he develops more and more compassion. The film is filled with great performances including Ralph Fiennes brutal portrayal of a Nazi Lieutenant in charge of Auschwitz and of course Ben Kingsley, as Schindler's Jewish accountant who devises much of the plan that Schindler implements. This heart-wrenching masterpiece is considered by many as one of the greatest and most important Spielberg films. It depicted the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust while also profiling the great story of hope that is embodied in Schindler's List.
The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won 7 including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Which Steven Spielberg Film is the Best Ever?
- 43% Schindler's List
- 5% Close Encounters of the Third Kind
- 5% Jaws
- 9% Saving Private Ryan
- 2% Catch Me if You Can
- 5% Jurassic Park
- 14% Raiders of the Lost Ark
- 9% E.T.
- 2% Munich
- 2% Minority Report
- 2% Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
- 0% The Color Purple
- 0% A.I. Artificial Intelligence
- 0% Amistad
- 2% War of the Worlds
Interesting Steven Spielberg Collectibles
Last updated on September 22, 2014
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