Many directors have made a name for themselves in Hollywood. But there has always been one who’s name is enough for me to buy a ticket: Steven Spielberg. He has always been my favorite film director ever since I was young, probably the first whom I knew by name. Without his talents behind the camera, the world wouldn’t have timeless American classics to influence countless cinema lovers out there and other filmmakers decades later. We should lay no hate upon the one person who knows how to get a unique sense of imagination through the storytelling from his actors and crew. Also, you anticipate when he releases two movies a year that differ vastly from each other: The first being a summer blockbuster, then follow that up with a serious drama later on.
As a successful director who’s been a part of many childhoods, including mine, he’s one of the few people who paved the way as someone with his style of filmmaking for over 40 years in the business. Despite not going to film school, he has done everything from winning three Academy Awards, have an extensive list of producing/ executive producing brilliant movies (Back to the Future, Super 8, Gremlins), tackled nearly every genre in the book, he’s willing to put out anything for our entertainment. Nearly all of his films wouldn’t be the same without his frequent collaborations with his editor (Michael Kahn), director of photography (Janusz Kamiński), and, of course, composer (John Williams). With that in mind, it’s finally time to rank all of his directed features.
Originally planned on doing this when the upcoming remake of West Side Story comes out near the end of December (hopefully), but it’s best to get it out of the way. Before making this happen, watching eight of the remanding movies I haven’t seen yet was a property and finished in three weeks. The only one I didn’t include on this list is Twilight Zone: The Movie because he only directed a segment, and I heard it’s the weakest out of the four. He constantly working is one of many reasons I love movies to this day. Honestly, he has only directed four films I don’t like. But the top three were truly fighting for the top spot. From aliens, dinosaurs, and true stories galore, here’s Steven Spielberg’s filmography, ranked from worst to best!
Release Date: December 14, 1979
Domestic Box Office: $31,755,742
RT Score: 42%
Starting right from the very bottom is 1941. Spielberg’s war comedy from 1979 was noticeable for being the first in his filmography to be disliked by critics. This was his way of making a comedy, but following this up after the back-to-back successes of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind made for an unfunny experience. While the cinematography, score, and visuals are standouts, its story, written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, was all over the place amidst all the pandemonium. The movie doesn’t even have John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in a scene together. C’mon! At least they had The Blues Brothers the next year. Some might label this as misunderstood or even underrated, but 1941 is the weakest movie he’s ever directed that had the makings of a hit from the late ’70s, not having laughs in its two hours. Not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but this wasn’t how I envisioned him doing comedy.
Release Date: December 22, 1989
Domestic Box Office: $43,858,790
RT Score: 67%
Nobody remembers Always. Even hardcore fans of his don’t remember this coming out, and that’s because it’s not very good. The film is a remake of the 1943 Spencer Tracy movie A Guy Named Joe that Spielberg and star Richard Dreyfuss were fans of and wanted to do their version of it. From what I was watching, Always didn’t have that magic that made a story like this memorable, as it wastes three talented actors (Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman) on a fantasy drama that’s both sentimentally cheesy and boring. The aerial firefighting scenes are cool, but Dreyfuss’s character isn’t likable enough to get through this. What bothered me was that his reaction to being dead was nonchalant. The only reason it’s a bit better than 1941 is that Hunter kept me from turning it off. Just look at this as the movie Ghost a year before it came out. Very forgettable. And it also sadly was Audrey Hepburn’s last film.
30) ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’
Release Date: May 22, 2008
Domestic Box Office: $317,101,119
RT Score: 78%
There’s an outstanding movie somewhere in another dimension. I’m not kidding when I say Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the most disappointing movie I’ve ever seen in my life. 19 years after The Last Crusade and this what we got? The blame isn’t on Spielberg when the screenplay and the story conceived by George Lucas are at major fault. After realizing that I liked it on a second viewing, there was no way of thinking that now. This fourth installment just has too many dumb moments that will live in infamy, including “Nuking the Fridge” and the freakin’ aliens. Why?! While it’s divisive, Harrison Ford was still good as Indy, but there’s no fun here, and that means adding Shia LaBeouf as Mutt Williams. Not the best one to start off watching from the franchise, and there’s a reason we all ignore this entry from our minds.
29) ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’
Release Date: May 23, 1997
Domestic Box Office: $229,086,679
RT Score: 52%
The Lost World: Jurassic Park had big shoes to fill when it’s following up to the biggest movie at the time of its release. It was exciting to see Jeff Goldblum take the lead as Dr. Ian Malcolm and explore on a fresh adventure to discover dinosaurs on another island. Most Jurassic Park fans believe this is another Spielberg movie that’s considered underrated or really good. I never thought this was good, to be honest, since never came close to being like its predecessor. It never becomes interesting when we’re going along with what’s going down on this island that somehow has other dinosaurs. Everything that was awe-inspiring from before was never carried in here. The only scene that had any intensity was the entire RV sequences. But there were also some stupid moments like Ian’s daughter doing a gymnastic routine and kills a raptor, or when the T-Rex romps through San Diego. Really? It’s good from a technical standpoint, but everything else doesn’t deliver. Never cared for The Lost World, and I will argue Jurassic World is the only good sequel in the franchise thus far.
28) ‘War Horse’
Release Date: December 25, 2011
Domestic Box Office: $79,888,879
RT Score: 74%
War Horse was the only film from the 2010s I didn’t get the chance to see in theaters and rented it months after it came out. I only watched this once, thinking it was alright, not great like everyone said it was. This adaptation of the novel and stage play shows the effect of how one horse, Joey, can touch the lives of different people from WWI. Spielberg doing a period piece war flick isn’t anything new, but it just wasn’t grabbing me emotionally, which is why I thought it was too long. Maybe because seeing this from a horse’s perspective was different. Did it cause me to tear up? It didn’t. But it offers some great-looking action (the battlefield sequence) and a glimmer of hope. Not one of his best, but I need to see it again.
27) ‘The BFG‘
Release Date: July 1, 2016
Domestic Box Office: $55,483,770
RT Score: 75%
Honestly, The BFG flew out of my mind. That’s probably because not a ton of people saw this 2016 Disney fantasy based on the beloved Roald Dahl’s book, making it a box office bomb. That being said, we haven’t seen him do a family feature in a while, and what’s better than having one with a giant? While it might not be the most recognizable film in his filmography, he still brought that wonder we’ve come to expect from him. The performances from Mark Rylance as the title role and Ruby Barnhill made it all worth it. Wouldn’t mind watching it again, hoping to enjoy it more if the kid sitting next to me in the theater wasn’t annoying and stating the obvious.
26) ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence’
Release Date: June 29, 2001
Domestic Box Office: $78,616,689
RT Score: 74%
2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence is one of those sci-fi films that’s hit-or-miss with moviegoers. Since then, it has gained a more positive following, but this is not as bad as some made it out to be. Spielberg took over this project from Stanley Kubrick, who wanted to make it for a very long time before his death, and it’s told to be a futuristic take of Pinocchio. The results worked, mostly. A.I. is a fascinating fairy tale of this robotic boy wanting to be a human and to be loved by his mother. I thought Haley Joel Osment’s performance as David was outstanding, and the visual effects were amazing even 19 years ago. Where it ran into problems is during the third act with the Blue Fairy. That’s one of those endings that turned out to be bleak to leave out on. Other than that, it’s still watchable.
25) ‘Empire of the Sun’
Release Date: December 11, 1987
Domestic Box Office: $22,238,696
RT Score: 75%
Spielberg’s adaptation of Empire of the Sun, based on J.G. Ballard’s novel, tackles the subject of war but through the eyes of a British child, that of Jamie Graham, separated from his parents during WWII and becomes a prisoner in a Japanese internment camp. This isn’t one that I see myself if going back on since this is one of his slower dramas, but the appreciation of how well-crafted this was is astounding to understand the main character’s loss of childhood innocence. Having a connection to the story might make or break your overall enjoyment. But there’s no denying Christian Bale makes his feature debut here as Jamie, and it has got to be one of the greatest child performances ever in a film. To think this man is gonna be Batman 18 years after this being released. Perfectly capable of carrying this, Empire of the Sun isn’t his strongest effort in the genre, but it’s worth a watch.
Release Date: December 23, 2005
Domestic Box Office: $47,403,685
RT Score: 78%
The true story about the 1972 Munich massacre and the secret organization tracking those associated with the attack sounded too good to be made. This was a history lesson ready to be told, and 2005’s Munich is a competently made thriller, proving wisely that Spielberg can handle historical events and throw in something that’s both impactful and intense. Just watching it for the first time recently, it’s a bit of a hard watch and it feels too long to really consider it great. One of his dramas leading into controversy, it was better to do it back then rather than now. Eric Bana’s performance as Avner Kaufman might’ve been my favorite from the underrated actor, and even when it resorts to violence, there’s no way of never leaving your mind. Munich speaks the truth in wondering if revenge is the key when more will rise to power, recycling the process over again. As much as I don’t love it, I would much rather have this win Best Picture over Crash.
23) ‘War of the Worlds’
Release Date: June 29, 2005
Domestic Box Office: $234,280,354
RT Score: 75%
Released the same year as Munich, War of the Worlds was one of the earliest films I’ve seen from the director, believe it or not. This re-telling of the classic H. G. Wells story, told to be a response to 9/11, falls right in the middle. There are major problems I had when I watched it when I was nine, but as I thought about it more later on in life, it leans more of being passable. We are here to see Tom Cruise and his kids surviving this sudden alien invasion, and it makes for a somewhat good blockbuster. If there were pros and cons with it, the things I liked was Cruise’s performance (shouldn’t have gotten him that dumb Razzie nomination), the visual effects/ sound design were impressive, and the threat of the aliens was scary, especially when they appear, vaporize people into dust. Where it has issues are I didn’t like the kids, because they were annoying, and the near the end of the second act into the third is where it went for that ridiculous happy ending. Even when I was little, the fact bothered me Fanning was standing there when the aliens were about to abduct her. With its flaws, I’m on the mildly positive side when it comes to War of the Worlds. (Wish I saw this on my birthday).
22) ‘The Post‘
Release Date: December 22, 2017
Domestic Box Office: $81,903,458
RT Score: 88%
In one of his most recent films to come out, The Post makes it out to be some kind of companion piece to All the President’s Men, where it’s about the true story of the Washington Post’s big decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in the early ’70s. Did this live up to high expectations? Not quite since we might’ve expected this drama to be more riveting in how the news climate has changed. The film does its job of being fairly relevant that depicts investigative journalism realistically. Like always, it will have memorable performances from Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, and while the ensemble isn’t used as much, it was great to see them in a Spielberg project, especially from Bob Odenkirk. It was nominated for two Oscars (Best Picture and Streep for Best Actress), and while some will argue it was the weakest nominee in there, I personally didn’t think Darkest Hour or Phantom Thread deserved to be in that category at all. Not one of the best from the past decade, but for what it was, I quite enjoyed The Post.
Release Date: December 11, 1991
Domestic Box Office: $119,654,823
RT Score: 28%
Hook might’ve been the first movie I’ve seen from Spielberg, and I remembered not liking it when I was a kid. His fantasy adventure about Robin Williams as a grown-up Peter Pan is one that’s very divisve with his work, holding a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes. But it’s more entertaining viewing this from an adult’s perspective. It’s one of his more whimsical tales that embrace its fun. From the performances that came out if Williams and Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, all the scenes with the Lost Boys, and seeing a story the boy who never grows up actually grew up, it’s a worthy live-action take on a beloved story. Some flaws come with the screenplay in how not everything makes sense, and I might be in the minority by saying Julia Roberts wasn’t great as Tinker Bell, but there’s no reason for Hook to be talked about as one of his worst when it isn’t. I appreciate this now as a solid family romp. Seriously, you’re more likely to like this more than that Pan crap.
Release Date: December 10, 1997
Domestic Box Office: $44,229,441
RT Score: 77%
Amistad, the second feature ever released from DreamWorks Pictures, delves into the events of the slaves of the Spanish ship “La Amistad” escaping from their captives. This 1997 historical drama kind of reminded me of Lincoln when watching it for the first time, and it has since been a forgotten film of his. The best kinds of Spielberg dramas are those that offer a glimpse into the past and become familiar with it. Probably the weakest aspect keeping Amistad from being a great film is that it wasn’t impactful enough where others that touched on the subject of slavery might’ve hit harder. The moments where it goes for the brutal violence took me by surprise, especially the opening in learning how it got its R-rating. You’re intrigued by how it’ll play out, and it leaves on a sign of relief. Out of all the performances in here, the standouts were Djimon Hounsou as Cinque and Matthew McConaughey using his lawyer skills from A Time to Kill to here as Roger Baldwin. Representing the values of freedom in this courtroom drama, Amistad is one Spielberg flick that lands on being alright.
19) ‘The Terminal’
Release Date: June 18, 2004
Domestic Box Office: $77,872,883
RT Score: 61%
This might be a hot take, but The Terminal is an underrated movie. The third collaboration between Spielberg and Tom Hanks could’ve easily failed to have its a character, Viktor Navorski, stay at the JFK terminal after his country is no more, but it ends up being one of those feel-good comedy-dramas that has the human spirit we need right now. For a man who can’t leave, he makes the environment work with meeting new faces and enjoying life in the airport without even stepping into American soil. Some might find this charming, and it was thanks to Hank’s likable performance. The chemistry between him and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a flight attendant was cute, and the reason why Viktor traveled to New York honestly touched me. If you’ve never watched The Terminal, please seek this out because more should like this.
18) ‘The Adventures of Tintin’
Release Date: December 21, 2011
Domestic Box Office: $77,591,831
RT Score: 74%
Who would’ve thought an animated movie based on Hergé’s comic book series finally brought together Spielberg and Peter Jackson as a producer, and the results made for an exciting adventure? The Adventures of Tintin felt like it hardened back to the good ole Indiana Jones days with impressive motion-capture performances from Jamie Bell and Andy Serkis as Tintin and Haddock, respectively. For someone who has never read the source material, I was fully engaged in how well done it balanced the elements of action and mystery. And this is probably the best movie that’s all motion-captured, and it worked. The script, written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, and Steven Moffat, should’ve been more memorable, but it’s a lot of fun. Such a shame this isn’t talked about enough and how it didn’t get a Best Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars (Stupid Academy rules). Side note: The Adventures of Tintin was the very last movie I saw at the Regal UA Eagles Highlands 10 before it was torn down.
17) ‘Ready Player One‘
Release Date: March 29, 2018
Domestic Box Office: $137,690,172
RT Score: 72%
Ready Player One was seeing Spielberg come back to the big-budget blockbusters, and what better way than bringing Ernest Cline’s popular novel to life. What can you say about this 2018 hit but calling it fun for those geared towards pop culture that’s a feast for the eyes? The world of the OASIS looked like a place we are more likely to experience soon; only he can attempt to make it exceptional. I’m someone who lives for the nostalgia of 80s/90s references to look out for throughout, and those who’ve grown up in those decades might’ve had a blast watching this the same way I did. If it had fleshed out the supporting characters and more emotional heft, Ready Player One would’ve made it a top tier fantasy of Spielberg. But besides those issues, I always thought this was one of his coolest films in a long time with its amazing visual effects and had the abilities for us to geek out for a full two hours.
Release Date: November 13, 1971
Domestic Box Office: N/A
RT Score: 88%
If Duel doesn’t sound familiar, that’s because it’s Spielberg’s first full-length film that was a television movie that originally aired on ABC as the Movie of the Week. Truth be told, this has got to be the best TV movie ever directed. He channeled his inner Hitchcock to deliver an intense thriller about Dennis Weaver being tormented on the road by an unseen truck driver. A simple premise like this is enough to make it work in today’s world. I love how we never see the driver’s face and the front of the track is an evil face itself. Spielberg has said that he had some insecurities as a child where the track is the bully and the car represents him in the schoolyard. But the best scene is where Weaver’s in the diner, trying to figure out who could be the driver. 90-minutes is all he needed to make a great chase thriller that makes you paranoid on the road while driving.
15) ‘The Sugarland Express’
Release Date: March 31, 1974
Domestic Box Office: $7,500,000
RT Score: 89%
The Sugarland Express was Spielberg’s official directorial debut that came out a year before Jaws. The first time I caught this was when it came on TCM in high school, knowing this was his first film, and it’s already impressive to get Goldie Hawn, William Atherton, and Ben Johnson to star is said feature. Do I remember a lot about it now? Not a lot. The film turns into a great chase drama where a wife breaks her husband out of jail to get their kid while being chased across the country. The Sugarland Express showed early on how Spielberg has become a well-told director with keeping pace with a comedy and drama. Talk about an exceptional debut that should get more recognition.
14) ‘Bridge of Spies’
Release Date: October 16, 2015
Domestic Box Office: $72,313,754
RT Score: 91%
How come nobody talks about Bridge of Spies anymore? It’s another film of his that’s underrated. Knowing that he and Tom Hanks were working together again on a Cold War drama bout a lawyer defending a Soviet spy where it was a time when both sides hated each other. I knew Bridge of Spies would not have high explosions and more talkative scenes stitched together, but it still turned out to be fantastic, which is a credit to Spielberg and the script co-written by the Coen Brothers. You learn to understand that neither county is good or bad; it’s about letting people get across hope without being seen as the bad guy. Once again, Hanks gives a great performance, while Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel stole every scene he’s in. His role earned him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Should he have won over Sylvester Stallone for Creed? Not really.
Release Date: November 9, 2012
Domestic Box Office: $182,207,973
RT Score: 89%
We’re very lucky to have Lincoln come out in 2012 because we needed a great movie to the taste of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter out of our mouths. The most interesting aspect of this is that Spielberg wasn’t telling Lincoln’s life story, but about him passing the 13th amendment to abolish slavery. Many have said the film is boring, or it only had the performances to lean onto. Sure, it’s long, but what film of his isn’t? Spielberg studied Abe Lincoln for a long time before making this. That’s what I call dedication. Talkative, but it’s important to realize how accurately handled this was in the hands of Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner, transcending us back to a time where change must happen to our country. If that’s not enough, Daniel Day-Lewis is 100% committed to his Oscar-winning performance (the first actor to win in a Spielberg film) as one of the greatest U.S. presidents to ever live.
12) ‘The Color Purple’
Release Date: December 20, 1985
Domestic Box Office: $98,467,863
RT Score: 81%
When The Color Purple was released, this showed that Spielberg can do more than the big summer blockbusters and directed a compelling adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Taking on this story would not be the easiest thing to do for him when it deals with subject matters with racism and abuse from a white director, even if it means staying away from certain aspects of the book. Above all, it’s an excellent drama that’s moving, and its carried through with favorable performances from Whoopi Goldberg as Celie, Margaret Avery as Shug Avery, and Oprah Winfrey as Sofia. Having this filed in the 80s is better suited, as it did its job at making you feel angry, tear up, and even making you laugh when it’s necessary. The Color Purple was nominated for 11 Oscars but sadly won nothing that night. How did this lose to Out of Africa?
11) ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’
Release Date: May 23, 1984
Domestic Box Office: $179,870,271
RT Score: 85%
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom did what The Lost World failed to do when it’s a sequel: Have thrills. The follow-up to Raiders of the Lost Ark was criticized back in the day as it was much darker rather than going for a lighter tone from the original brought. Forget the haters; this is a worthy prequel because they set this before the events of the first that’s full of adventure with new characters Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) and Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw). Why I really like Temple of Doom is that it differed from any of the other entries in the franchise when it’s unexpectedly violent. There’s no other way of being freaked out when Mola Ram ripped someone’s heart out. Thankfully, we got the PG-13 rating afterward because of this and Gremlins. So many cool moments from the opening in Club Obi-Wan to the bridge scene, Temple of Doom should be given a second chance.
10) ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’
Release Date: November 16, 1977
Domestic Box Office: $116,395,460
RT Score: 95%
Spielberg’s first step forward into the sci-fi genre, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, can be looked upon as the Arrival of the ’70s. For a film focusing on encountering UFOs, this isn’t one of those movies where it has a huge invasion, but his storytelling plays into why they are here, including how Richard Dreyfuss’s Roy Neary’s sudden obsession affects his family life, driving him into chaos. Without showing the aliens, all this needed to get us hooked was lights and sound in feeling frightened, which was used perfectly when the kid Barry was abducted. After re-watching, I forgot it’s sci-fi that has a slow-burn to it, and Roy can be seen as an unlikeable character when. That said, it’s one of Spielberg’s more personal films since his family life strained after his dad left. In the same year Star Wars came out, this proved to not be a flop after Jaws. Also, shout out to film critic Scott Mantz as Close Encounters of the Third Kind is his number one favorite from the director.
9) ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’
Release Date: May 24, 1989
Domestic Box Office: $197,171,806
RT Score: 88%
This would’ve been the perfect trilogy if they ended it with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The third installment is many people’s favorite, and I can’t blame them. Here we have a great sequel that pushed more stakes with Indy this time around while searching for the Holy Grail. While I love Raiders of the Lost Ark more, you’re so wrapped up with the amazing action sequences and the addition of Sean Connery playing opposite Harrison Ford as his father, Henry. How did he not an Oscar-nomination? The chemistry he shares with Ford is simply the best. Everything from the opening with River Phoenix as a young Indy, the boat chase, or the tank chase, this is how Spielberg does a sequel the right way. The Last Crusade is also the funniest, and we got to learn a bit more about our hero. My favorite third installment in a franchise that never dulls down.
8) ‘Minority Report’
Release Date: June 21, 2002
Domestic Box Office: $132,072,926
RT Score: 90%
There have been many adaptations of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, but my absolute favorite goes to Minority Report, which doesn’t get talked about much despite how much it made. The premise itself has always been intriguing about a future where “precogs” can predict when a murder is about to happen. Combining science fiction and mystery leaves you in an investing state of mind when following Tom Cruise’s John Anderton on the run. Every action sequence is nerve-racking, and it’s never predictable. The world that Spielberg created isn’t too far off from how technology has enhanced over the years, including touchscreens. I also have to mention Colin Farrell as Danny Witwer, one of the first roles I ever saw him in. Does the ending leave to mixed feelings? It does. But Minority Report still stands tall with amazing visuals, a theme that’s relevant about freedom of choice, and Cruise is an underrated performance. Personally, it’s a sci-fi gem that shouldn’t be hated.
7) ‘Catch Me If You Can’
Release Date: December 25, 2002
Domestic Box Office: $164,615,351
RT Score: 96%
2002 was the year when Spielberg had two of the best films: Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can. Having him direct Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks is something, but telling the most amazing true story ever told on screen is another. The story of how con man Frank Abagnale Jr. had the brains to get away with everything sounded too good to believe. Why it’s memorable is because Spielberg wasn’t trying to make this a big success like his other blockbusters, but make a fun caper/coming-of-age drama that’s entertaining. The performances from DiCaprio, Hanks and Christopher Walken were never a letdown, and it’s the kind of film that makes you root for a character that’s doing unethical things. Whether he’s impersonating a pilot, lawyer, or a doctor, you wonder how Hanks’ Carl Hanratty will catch up to him. Both this and Minority Report are single-handily Spielberg’s most underrated movies of the 2000s. I still think it’s a crime this only received two Oscar nominations.
6) ‘Schindler’s List’
Release Date: December 15, 1993
Domestic Box Office: $96,065,768
RT Score: 97%
Schindler’s List is unlike any drama out there. If there was a director who would tell the most terrible time in history, it has got to be Spielberg. Although it’s a masterpiece of cinema, it’s too depressing to ever watch again, that’s a positive. It gave us a film that takes us through a horrifying look during the Holocaust, and the decision to make it black-and-white has the same effect as looking at a documentary or old pictures from the past. Difficult and controversial as this was, it’s a heavy reminder to the world that this should never happen again. Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler gives the best performance he’s ever given, along with Ralph Fiennes as the vial nazi Amon Göth. No sequence leaves a lasting impression more than the haunting “Liquidation of the Ghetto” that was hard to watch on the first viewing. Take into account how beautiful this was, a fantastic script from Steven Zaillian, and the heartbreaking nature of it all, this is an absolute good in all its three hours. Schindler’s List took home seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Director for Spielberg.
5) ‘Saving Private Ryan’
Release Date: July 24, 1998
Domestic Box Office: $216,540,909
RT Score: 93%
Dunkirk and 1917 are the more recent war movies that are still talked about, but Saving Private Ryan is the greatest war movie ever made. Period. No other film has taken the brutal realistic take of WWII, showing the bravery of these soldiers went through in finding its titular character. Capturing death, heroism, and sacrifices are enough to show how important this was for those who fought. One of my all-time favorite moments is the entire Omaha Beach sequence that was the perfect opening (27 days of filming). Some will stupidly say it gets boring after that when they’re traveling, but that’s when the story kicks into full gear. Why Saving Private Ryan is Spielberg’s best war-related film is because it could combine what he’s great at getting: amazing, immersive action that felt like you’re along with the squad, drama that’s never forced, and putting a great ensemble. Out of all the collaborations with him and Tom Hanks, this is number one. Spielberg won his second Oscar for Best Director, but it controversially lost Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love. Which film is more remembered? One of the worst Best Picture decisions ever.
Release Date: June 20, 1975
Domestic Box Office: $260,000,000
RT Score: 98%
The one that rightfully put Spielberg (27-years-old at the time of filming) on the map: Jaws. Back in 1975, and even now, it took a thriller about a shark terrorizing Amity Island to make everyone afraid of stepping foot in the ocean. Knowing Jaws had a ton of production problems like not getting the mechanical shark to work, an unfinished script, and actually shooting on the water showed to be more of a positive, as it was even scarier not showing the shark until halfway through. Peter Benchley’s novel has already taken inspiration from Moby Dick, and it’s one of those cases where the translations that’s better. It’s only 45 years old, yet it still scares me. Jaws could’ve easily been a massive flop, but it was the one that created the term “summer blockbuster.” The magic was there in the suspense, the performances (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw), and overcoming those many obstacles that show why other shark movies, later on, couldn’t replicate. Also, John Williams’ recognizable score is a character of its own in not showing the shark. In no way should Universal or any other studio even dare to remake this. A disaster this is not since it was the biggest movie ever released at the time, becoming a timeless classic.
3) ‘Jurassic Park’
Release Date: June 11, 1993
Domestic Box Office: $402,828,120
RT Score: 91%
Jurassic Park gets better with each repeat viewing. It was impossible to think a movie with realistic dinosaurs would ever work, especially in 1993. In a shocking discovery, it blew our minds, just like all the characters seeing them for the first time on Isla Nubar. Spielberg’s greatest film released from the ’90s, it was a unique approach to a monster movie that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. Jurassic Park helped revolutionized visual effects by blending CGI and animatronics to recreate dinosaurs, and it still looks great to this day. Thrilling as this was, it shows the dangerous implications of what happens when humans mess with what was once gone. Maybe that’s why actual scientists wanting to do this is a horrible idea. Nothing about this was boring, even when the dinosaurs aren’t on screen. Introducing the T-Rex breaking out in the rain is one of the best scenes ever filmed. Adding to the greatness is the cast (Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum) and John William’s captivating musical score. Bringing all that intensity and magic the same way author Michael Crichton brought to his book, saying Jurassic Park isn’t fantastic is one way of saying you’re wrong about everything in life.
2) ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’
Release Date: June 11, 1982
Domestic Box Office: $435,110,554
RT Score: 98%
You don’t have a soul if you don’t at least like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial; that’s a fact. If I recall correctly, this might’ve been the first film from Spielberg I first knew about when they re-released it for the 20th anniversary. The story about a young boy named Elliot finding an unlikely friend who is an alien didn’t turn out to be cheesy as it was believable. It’s the boy and the dog storyline with a twist. As I grew up, I never realized that it’s about a boy who’s looking to fill a void in his heart after his dad left; that’s where E.T. comes in with a tale about friendship that’s unforgettable. Henry Thomas proved that Spielberg knows how to work with child actors, making his performance flawless, along with Drew Barrymore. Melissa Mathison’s screenplay captures the feel of a plot that never gets old, featuring some iconic scenes like Eliot and E.T. on the bike flying over the moon. June 1982 was a stacked month with sci-fi gems (Blade Runner, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), but none of them came close to beating this. Beautiful, adventurous, and has a dominant sense of wonder, E.T. has always held a special place in my heart. And this explained why I love Reese’s Pieces. What’s the one movie that makes me cry every single time? This, as it has the saddest ending I’ve ever seen in my life.
1) ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’
Release Date: June 12, 1981
Domestic Box Office: $248,159,971
RT Score: 95%
If I was on a deserted island and can only bring one movie in all the years he directed, it wouldn’t be a hard choice: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg had always wanted to make a James Bond movie. But what happens when he and his buddy George Lucas created a new character that’s better than 007? We got Indiana Jones in the definition of adventure. This is where he truly became a groundbreaking filmmaker with an action classic that’s more relevant than the adventure serials that inspired it. Watching Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time took me to a place where it felt like being an archaeologist searching for artifacts around the globe was the most exciting thing ever.
Every moment has nothing flawed about them since it’s kept with fast-paced energy that never breaths for a second. Seeing Indy getting out of danger was like I was looking at an actual hero (in the original three). Nobody else can portray one of the greatest cinematic heroes than Harrison Ford in a role on the same wavelength as Han Solo. The first film Spielberg did in the ’80s made him more than a one-trick pony. When you talk about the action, there’s nothing to say negatively about Indy stealing the Golden Idol and the giant boulder chases after him, chasing after the track while being dragged on the dirt road, or fighting that giant mechanic while Marion (an amazing Karen Allen; love this character) is in the moving plane; all of them standout into what makes this perfect.
Nearly every minute is some kind of enjoyment in this journey our protagonist goes on that’s never predictable. Raiders of the Lost Ark was the beginning of a franchise that started great and is currently in the limbo of despair after the fourth entry. Bringing Indiana Jones to life by Spielberg and Lucas is magic on its own. Represented by an awesome story, jaw-dropping action with practical stunt work, and never becoming tired, it’s phenomenal. To me, this has always been my all-time favorite film ever made by Mr. Spielberg.
Question of the Day: What is your favorite movie from Steven Spielberg?