Steven Spielberg is one of, if not, the most well-known and successful directors of all time. He has revolutionized cinema multiple times and inspired millions of people around the world with his work. Although Steven Spielberg began his filmmaking journey at 19 years old in 1963, at 74 years old, he has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, we’re just days out from the release of the new adaptation of West Side Story directed and produced by Steven Spielberg. The musical already has rave reviews, with some saying that it is Spielberg’s best movie in years. In honor of Spielberg’s new release, we have created a list of the 10 best Steven Spielberg movies, ranked.
The Indiana Jones original trilogy was a cultural phenomenon when it was released in the 1980s. The movies were known for their fun, adventure-filled spectacles, and the third installment, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, is often considered one of the best ends to any trilogy. The movie follows Professor Henry “Indiana” Jones as he searches for his father and attempts to stop Nazis from obtaining The Holy Grail. Sean Connery stars as Indiana Jones’ father and has remarkable chemistry with Harrison Ford all-throughout. Overall, The Last Crusade is a wildly entertaining finale that gives a wonderful sendoff to a legendary character.
Steven Spielberg is no stranger to creating a grand scale adventure and Minority Report is no exception. The science-fiction movie deals with the age-old philosophical question: Does free will exist? Starring Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell, Minority Report centers around a future police unit that is able to arrest murderers before they commit their crimes, and an officer from that unit who is himself accused of a future murder. Minority Report is a stylish, ferociously intense, and energetic neo-noir that proves to also be deeply philosophical. It’s one of Spielberg’s more dreary blockbusters that is well worth your time.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind was one of the instrumental science fiction movies that inspired the genre as we know it today. Released in the same year as Star Wars, Spielberg decided to take a more grounded approach to the topic of extraterrestrials. Close Encounters of the Third Kind tells the story of an Indiana electric lineman (Richard Dreyfus), who finds his quiet and ordinary daily life turned upside down after a close encounter with a UFO, spurring him to an obsessed cross-country quest for answers as a momentous event approaches. Spielberg succeeds in creating a film that elicits both fear and awe out of viewers because of its enigmatic extraterrestrial elements.
One of Spielberg’s skills is capturing the imagination and wonder of a child on film in a way that isn’t exclusively for children. E.T. is a children’s movie but it is also so much more. The film is filled with comedy, drama, and a whole lot of heart. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is about a troubled child who summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his homeworld. Spielberg’s sci-fi was an instant classic on release and has only gotten a stronger reputation through the test of time.
Along with War of the Worlds, Munich was one of Spielberg’s films that was created in response to 9/11. The movie is dark, political, intense, and incredibly violent. Munich is about 5 men who are chosen to eliminate the people responsible for the Black September capture and massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Revenge is often played for thrills and Munich may seem like a revenge story, but Spielberg instead manages to create a thought-provoking and powerful study on the cost of taking lives.
Jurassic Park was a significant film in cinema history for several reasons. Most notably, the VFX was genuinely convincing and it paved the way for future CGI-heavy films. The film was based on a 1983 novel of the same name written by Michael Crichton. It follows a pragmatic paleontologist who is touring an almost complete theme park on an island in Central America and is tasked with protecting two kids after a power failure causes the park’s cloned dinosaurs to run loose. Jurassic Park captured a duality among viewers. The story was a child’s fantasy and an adult’s nightmare.
Saving Private Ryan has one of the most brutal and merciless opening sequences of all time. The sequence quickly distinguishes itself from other war movies and gives viewers unfamiliar with combat a harsh reality check. The film is based on the real-life story of the Niland brothers and follows Captain Miller with a group of US soldiers who travel behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action. Spielberg flexes his filmmaking muscle with Saving Private Ryan and proves that he has a range that continues to grow. Tom Hanks similarly flexes his acting skills and gives a powerhouse performance as Captain Miller. Saving Private Ryan is largely regarded as one of the best war movies of all time, and likely only captures only a glimpse of the horrors soldiers had to endure.
Saving Private Ryan is also one of the best movies to watch on Memorial Day. Check out that list here.
Schindler’s List stands as a testament to the horrors of genocide. The film is almost completely shot in black and white along with the color red to emphasize the blood that was shed during the Holocaust. The story is a historical recount of the life of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who became concerned for Jewish workers after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis in WWII. Liam Neeson is stunning in the lead role of Oskar Schindler and Ralph Fiennes gives a chilling performance as Amon Goeth.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas collaborated to make one of the most iconic franchises and characters of all time, Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark is, in many ways, an example of pure entertainment. Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, is charismatic and embodies the classic hero traits. The humor is tongue-in-cheek and sly. The action is adventure-filled and thrilling. The first installment of Indiana Jones has all of the elements needed to create an enjoyable experience, making it an instant classic.
Jaws is at the top of our list of Steven Spielberg’s movies. The writing, acting, directing, and SFX, all came together flawlessly to create a spectacle like no other. The film single-handedly created a cultural fear of sharks that still exists in people today. The SFX of the shark that Spielberg used was years ahead of their time and created the new genre of the underwater menace. The film is about a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer who team up to hunt down a killer shark that unleashes chaos on a beach community off Long Island. Jaws may not be as terrifying as it was when it first came out, but it could be seen as one of the most effective horror movies ever released.
Steven Spielberg has had a long and successful career since 1963. He has demonstrated an incredible amount of range and continues to expand it even today with the release of West Side Story. Through all 30+ of his films there is a constant underlying theme of the strength of humanity and the ability to overcome anything. We hope you enjoyed this list as much as you’ll enjoy each one of these movies.
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