Ahead of the release of Bridge Of Spies, let’s look through the incredible filmography of one of the greatest directors of all time, and count down the top 10 best Steven Spielberg movies.
10. The Terminal (2004)
2004’s The Terminal is a hugely underrated film, and provides a completely different type of movie to what you’re used to from Spielberg.
Featuring a wonderful performance by Tom Hanks as an Eastern European stuck in New York’s JFK airport, the film is more of an uplifting comedy-drama that’s much more down to earth than the majority of action-packed Spielberg blockbusters, and tells a wonderful story about a man making the best with what he’s got.
Spielberg also proves his directing mastery away from the blockbuster genre, because he manages to create this vibrant world inside this airport terminal, and without making it feel frustratingly claustrophobic, he shows off the hum-drum of airport travel whilst mixing it with the central character’s positive outlook on life, which is just fascinating to watch.
9. Minority Report (2002)
Minority Report is a seriously cool, but amazingly intelligent and compelling sci-fi. We all know that Tom Cruise can be a great action hero, but what this film proves is his ability (not seen so clearly since the early 90s) to be a great actor too.
Set in 2054, when technology has developed to the point that the police are able to arrest criminals before they commit a crime, Tom Cruise plays a police officer who is wrongly accused and is forced to evade the authorities chasing him. The reason that it is such a good film is because the story is a combination of big-budget sci-fi action and pursuit, as well as a hugely intriguing and unpredictable murder mystery, making for another massively unique film.
What’s more is that Spielberg makes the film look so beautiful. The special effects are pristine, the action sequences are shot with a thrillingly gritty intensity, and it does an even better job than most other dystopian movies of juxtaposing the darker nature of the future with the wonder of the technological advances, which is just fantastic too.
8. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
E.T. is easily one of the most beloved movies of all time, a wonderful family adventure with a beautiful score, amazing performances, and classically fantastic direction by Steven Spielberg.
In comparison to his other most famous sci-fi movie, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T. is an adventure that blends the excitement of the sci-fi genre with powerful emotion and a wonderful sense of family fun, making for a hugely enjoyable film from start to finish.
The story is about an alien who is left behind on Earth, and then befriends a young boy who helps him get back home, and it is just a beautiful film. What’s more is that the special effects, mostly practical, work an absolute treat. E.T. is an actual animatronic/guy in a costume, and it makes such a difference, making his character so much easier to adore, which makes it even more wonderful.
7. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
For one of the most stylish movies of the 21st Century, look no further than the brilliant crime-caper, Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
It’s the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., a teenager who infamously became one of the most successful con artists in history, blagging his way through being a doctor to a Pan Am pilot, all the while being pursued intensely by the FBI.
The film is a hugely entertaining watch, and one with a great sense of humour, brilliant performances, Spielberg’s stylish direction, and a plot that (as the title would suggest) provides a massively compelling chase story, full of excitement and drama as Abagnale ingeniously avoids all of the FBI’s attempts to bring him down, while still confidently conning his way through life.
6. Schindler’s List (1993)
Now we come to what is arguably Steven Spielberg’s most important film, in fact one of the most historically significant films of all time: 1993’s Schindler’s List.
It’s the incredible tale of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who took in over a thousand Jews destined for death in concentration camps during the Second World War, following his realisation of the horrible atrocities that the Nazis were committing.
The film is a sombre affair, and tells the events of the Holocaust in unflinchingly brutal detail, but it is such a historically accurate film, as Spielberg himself said that he approached making it as if it were a documentary, that it is now basically necessary viewing for everyone.
It does feature some stunning performances, namely by Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, but it is Spielberg’s direction that stands out more than anything. Almost the entire film is shot in black-and-white, and it’s a technique that significantly increases the feeling of despair, but he also employs one of the simplest, yet most incredibly powerful pieces of symbolism throughout: one little girl in a red coat. If you’ve seen the film, you know what I mean, if you haven’t, it’s a simply astonishing piece of work that deserves a huge amount of praise.
5. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Another hugely important historical drama by Spielberg, 1998’s Saving Private Ryan provides a slightly more accessible and action-packed historical tale than the fact-heavy Schindler’s List.
It’s a fictional tale of a US army squadron sent into northern France during the D-Day Landings in 1944 to retrieve a Private who has been requested to return home as soon as possible. However, the story encompasses all you could ever learn about D-Day, as we see this troop battle hard through thick and thin to save Private Ryan.
Apart from the incredible opening sequence, a powerful and incredibly brutal 20 minute-long presentation of the landings themselves on Omaha Beach, one of Spielberg’s finest achievements, the film features such a realistic portrayal of the horrors of war, and whilst it does have the strength of the troop’s relationship bringing a degree of positivity, it is a largely desperate and often devastating war film.
However, it doesn’t feel that doom-and-gloom, and thanks to the action and the stunning performances, it’s actually an exhilarating film to watch, and one that you will almost undoubtedly love even if you’re not a war movie fan, because it is simply a brilliant film.
4. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
Made in collaboration with Star Wars mastermind George Lucas, 1981’s Raiders Of The Lost Ark is the first in the Indiana Jones series, and it is easily the best of all.
It follows archaeologist Indiana Jones, who travels the world during the inter-war years collecting relics, teaching classes and battling Nazis, and with no-one less than Harrison Ford in the title role, it’s one of the coolest and most entertaining films ever made.
With a sense of adventure arguably greater than any of the Star Wars films, it’s a fantastic watch for all the family, but it’s also a wonderful tribute to the classic adventure serials of the 1930s. Spielberg gives the film a slightly grainier, older look, and that helps immensely in cementing the setting wherever Indy travels.
Its iconic soundtrack is full of ambition and fun, the performances by Ford and co-star Karen Allen are both fantastic, and it’s got some of the best hand-to-hand action sequences ever seen on screen, proving that you don’t need big special effects to wow audiences when you’ve got ingredients as brilliant as there are here.
3. Duel (1971)
And now, we come to the movie that started it all, Steven Spielberg’s feature directorial debut: 1971’s ‘Duel‘.
Put simply, it’s about a guy driving across the USA from work, who suddenly finds that a truck driver is following him, and for some reason trying to ram him off the road. What follows is one of the most intensely thrilling 90 minutes I’ve ever experienced, and all from such a simple and down to earth concept.
Originally made as a TV movie, the film was eventually upscaled to theatrical release, and it was definitely worth it. Although it does feature a very simple concept, and doesn’t have a sky-high budget, this film, arguably more so than any other on this list, shows off why Steven Spielberg is a naturally gifted film director.
The film has a fast-paced intensity to it like very few others from the time, thanks to Spielberg’s brilliant use of fast cuts and innovative camera angles, whilst, despite it not having, on paper, a really scary story, it creates a huge sense of fear by Spielberg’s decision to never show the face of the man driving the truck. As a result, your imagination runs wild, and you begin to fear that the man inside is one in the same as the truck, making it so much more terrifying, but definitely one of the most exciting movie experiences you can ever have.
2. Jurassic Park (1993)
There’s very little to say about Jurassic Park apart from the fact that it is Jurassic Park, one of the most iconic movies ever made, and definitely one of the best.
Set on a Caribbean island where a billionaire is planning to open a theme park where live dinosaurs roam, the film is notable for its incredible special effects, as well as its hugely entertaining blockbuster story and brilliantly-written main characters, who you always really feel for, and as such get a more emotionally riveting experience than any of the dire disaster movies that attempted to copy this in the late 90s-early 00s.
Above everything, though, it’s the way this film looks that makes it stand out from the crowd. In 1993, it became the highest-grossing film of all time, and was simply light years ahead of anything else of its time with regards to special effects, as it utilised a combination of never-before-seen computer generated imagery (or CGI as we now know it) to accomplish the seemingly impossible, as well as beautiful practical effects that still hold up today.
Jurassic Park was the movie that reignited kids’ interest in dinosaurs, and, just like Star Wars in 1977, completely changed the world of cinema into one dominated by brilliant special effects that allowed us to be transported to worlds that we really could never have dreamed of.
1. Jaws (1975)
Dun dun. Dun dun. Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun DUN DUN DUN!
Jaws is renowned for having possibly the greatest cinematic score of all time, but its significance still goes beyond that, and is a clear choice for the best Steven Spielberg movie of all time.
Made in 1975, the film is credited as being the first ever modern-day summer blockbuster. It’s the story of Amity, a small beach town, which is terrorised by a huge great white shark that threatens to completely destroy all of the tourism that the town receives, as people become too scared to go in the water.
Apart from having an absolutely thrilling story, the film is still hugely intense and scary today because of how Spielberg directed it. Despite the fact that it was a movie plagued with production issues, Spielberg’s genius shone through to give us a terrifying tale, where we very rarely see this menacing shark that is murdering people left, right and centre, and it makes for such an impressive film to watch.
Couple that with the unnerving music, and you’ve got yourself a masterpiece that was so scary it actually drove beach attendance figures down in the USA by up to 60% the summer it was released. That’s pretty amazing.