When we talk about about the greatest directors of all time, there are a lot of names that tend to come up. However, no matter who is having the conversation, it never fails that Steven Spielberg will somehow come into the fold.
Across the history of cinema, no one has made so many groundbreaking films, and none have had movies stand the test of time quite like Mr. Spielberg. His style and vision have influenced just about every active filmmaker today, and there are entire college courses based on his work. All this to say, the man has had a legendary career. If there were a Hall of Fame for film, his bust would be among the first enshrined. With the release of The BFG this past weekend, it's time to take a look back on this incredible career. While almost every film he's made has been extraordinary, I've compiled a list of my top 10 Spielberg movies below.
10. Bridge of Spies (2015)
Showing that even age can't slow him down, Spielberg captured the hearts and minds of critics with his Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies. Starring his good pal Tom Hanks, the film follows a lawyer as he tries to negotiate the release of an American prisoner. Written by the Coen Brothers, this film delivered a tight and emotional story, and perfectly captured the essence of the Cold War.
Spielberg has been known for his heavier action war films, but this movie showed he could handle the behind-the-scenes warfare as well. Bridge of Spies was nominated for Best Picture last year, and it proved that Steven hasn't lost his touch over the course of his seemingly endless career.
9. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Following the success of his breakout hit Jaws, Spielberg wowed audiences with this foray into the science fiction genre. Coming just before the Star Wars craze, Spielberg delivered a unique and thought-provoking look at what lives in the space above.
Unlike many of the sci-fi films that followed, Close Encounters of the Third Kind kept the story grounded and focused more on the people interacting with the aliens than the aliens themselves. This proved to be a great tactic, as moviegoers found the story incredibly close to home. This film also marked one of the only times Steven broke into screenwriting, as he penned the script himself. He also went on to write A.I. and Poltergeist. While the screenplay didn't get any awards recognition, Spielberg was nominated for Best Director for the film.
8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have teamed up numerous times over the years, but the addition of Leonardo DiCaprio helped take Catch Me If You Can to even greater heights.
Telling the true story of the hunt for con-man Frank Abagnale Jr., the film was an exciting game of cat and mouse that immediately grabs the attention of the audience. Diving into a one-of-a-kind true story, the director gave us a brilliant view of what it truly means to be an anti-hero. With style and pacing that only Steven Spielberg could create, this film became a fan favorite that many still watch today.
7. Munich (2005)
No stranger to the intense, Steven Spielberg delivered one of the most emotional thrillers in recent memory with Munich.
The film follows five Jewish soldiers as they look to take down the men responsible for one of the greatest terrorist attacks in modern history, and ultimately did those heroes justice. Led by Eric Bana and Daniel Craig, this all-star cast brought the soldiers to life and really did a number on many of our emotions. Paired with visionary storytelling and realistic special effects, Spielberg once again showed us that even the most painful of stories can be brought to life through film. There hasn't been a revenge thriller this masterful in the last 11 years, and I believe it will be a long time before another comes around. Spielberg was nominated for Best Director for his work on Munich, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture that year.
6. Jaws (1975)
I can hear many of you calling for my head for not having Jaws closer to the top of the list, but I'm going to stand my ground here. The movie was innovative and groundbreaking, yes, but Spielberg took the years that followed and truly perfected his craft.
This was his first big feature film, and the director knocked it out of the park. Never before had audiences been so captivated by such a terrifying story, and it was all due to the work of Mr. Spielberg. This film also marked the first partnership with composer John Williams. While the film is undoubtedly legendary, Spielberg has definitely improved over the years.
5. Jurassic Park (1993)
If Jaws invented the monster-based blockbuster, Jurassic Park perfected it. Since the release of the Michael Crichton novel in 1990, fans had been begging for the story to be adapted to the big screen. We all got more than we bargained for when Spielberg took on the material, and the rest is history.
Many big budget blockbusters don't stand the test of time, but Jurassic Park remains mesmerizing to this day. Spawning four sequels and counting, the franchise was a roller-coaster ride that moviegoers in the 90's had yet to experience. Much like Star Wars did in the 70's, Jurassic Park found a new way to excite audiences and made going to the movies feel fresh again. If it's been a while since you've seen the film, I'd encourage you to give it another look. With all of the advances in special effects in the 20 years since the film's debut, it still feels like a movie unlike anything we've ever seen. It's rare that an effects-heavy film stands the test of time, but Jurassic Park has continued to impress.
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Great summer movies don't usually come packed with heart, family values and lessons we can learn for years to come. But E.T. broke that mold and showed us that heart will always have a place in film.
The movie wasn't as big or exciting as some of Spielberg's other work, but it still found a way to enchant audiences from beginning to end. E.T. also proved Spielberg's talent as an actor's director, as he showed he can get the best performances out of child actors. Many directors have had trouble directing children over the years, but Spielberg got the most out of young star Henry Thomas, and launched the career of Drew Barrymore. The film took home four Academy Awards, and was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture.
3. Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981)
Just before E.T. captured the hearts of millions, Spielberg made Indiana Jones a household icon. Raiders of The Lost Ark was the brainchild of Spielberg and George Lucas, and the film became a phenomenon overnight.
Riding the success of his take on Han Solo in the Star Wars films, Harrison Ford brought his charisma to his own franchise and gave the people of the world the hero we'd all been waiting for. From bandits to rolling boulders, this film had everything the action genre had been missing, and really brought to life the essence of adventure that had been missing since the likes of classic literature. A true masterpiece, Raiders of The Lost Ark remains one of the most fun movies of all time, and we can never thank Lucas and Spielberg enough for this iconic creation.
2. Schindler's List (1993)
Has there ever been a more powerful piece of cinema? From start to finish, Schindler's List repeatedly broke your heart, and showed you exactly how incredible of a tool film can be.
Following the tale of a concerned Polish man, we watched the true horrors of the Nazi Regime unfold, and how real people reacted to the madness. Every second of this movie was flawlessly executed, and it stands out among the greatest achievements in the history of film. The only downside to this movie is the challenge of repeat viewings. It's breathtaking to experience the first time, but a film that powerful is hard to watch more than once. I know that shouldn't keep Schindler's List from the top spot, but I think Spielberg's next take on World War II was almost as powerful, and it's a film that can be watched again and again. The director won two Academy Awards for Schindler's List — Best Director and Best Picture.
1. Saving Private Ryan (1997)
Has there ever been a movie where you've experienced a wider range of emotions than you did when you first saw Saving Private Ryan? Fear, anger, laughter, sadness, joy, hopelessness — these all filled your heart while watching this film, and there hasn't been an emotional whirlwind like it since.
Chronicling the story of a troop of soldiers sent to save the life of one private, this movie delivered a completely one-of-a-kind take on the war genre. It was a story of a small group of men, their bond with one another, and what it means to sacrifice your life for your comrade. The opening 20 minutes was so visceral, it caused many to close their eyes or leave the theaters, and the closing scene had even the most grown men weeping at its conclusion. Every aspect of this film is nearly perfect, and it still stands alone as the greatest war movie ever made. The film also goes down as one of the biggest Academy snubs in history as the award for Best Picture went to Shakespeare In Love instead. Spielberg still came out a winner, however, taking home the golden statue for Best Director.
What did you think of this list? Disagree? Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments below!