After the debacle of Freddy Got Fingered, I really needed to do something positive. I needed to believe that there are good movies out there. What better way than to do a top ten list for Steven Spielberg? Even better, I hadn’t seen some of his movies (more than I expected), so it gave me an excuse to watch a handful of well made films.
Spielberg does have his criticisms. Many hold his responsible for the summer blockbuster due to a movie on this list. His biggest knock is that he makes mostly feel good movies; he likes to tie things in a “bow” for us. I can agree with this to an extent. Movies like A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (a movie I quite enjoyed) and War of the Worlds (not so much) are hurt by this; they don’t end where and/or as they should. However, I do believe a movie like Munich shows that he doesn’t always do this. That movie, which very nearly made this list, isn’t a feel good movie by any stretch of the imagination.
Let’s get to the list. This was another very difficult one to make. There are some very good movies left off. Some of those left off are even considered classics. So I fully expect discussion on this topic.
10. Minority Report (2002)
A completely underrated science fiction movie (based on the Phillip K Dick novel), Minority Report takes place in the not-so-distant future. In this future, murder doesn’t exist due to “Precrime” task force (like Tom Cruise’s John Anderton) and a group of “precogs,” mutated human psychics. If the precogs envision someone committing murder in the future, that person is arrested before the act can be done. All is well in the world until Anderton’s, Precrime’s best detective, own name comes up and promptly goes on the run. Is he set-up or does he actually do it?
9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
After the slight misstep that was 1984’s Temple of Doom (a misstep they wouldn’t learn from), the series returned to it’s Biblical archeology roots. Harrison Ford is back in the titular role and with him we see the debut of his father, Henry Jones Sr (Sean Connery). Together, they venture to find the Holy Grail before the evil Nazis do. What we get is a non-stop adventure that’s full of fun and humor. Plus we get to see the origins of Indiana’s fear of snakes, his whip, and his famous fedora. This is where the series should have ended. They even rode off into the sunset for crying out loud!
8. The Color Purple (1985)
A movie the earned Spielberg his fourth Best Director Oscar nomination and the introduction of Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple is not an easy movie to watch. It tells the story of Celie (Goldberg), a “poor, black, ugly” woman (something she is constantly reminded of) following 30 years of her life, from the early 1900s on. By the age of 14, she had been impregnated by her father twice (her children sold off) and is married off to the much older and abusive Albert (Danny Glover). Her exodus from her former life is a pleasure to see after all the heartbreak, “but dear God, I’m here! I’m here!”
7. Empire of the Sun (1987)
Spielberg followed The Color Purple with another foray into the World War II era (and it certainly won’t be his last). This time we view the war through the eyes of Jamie (a very young Christian Bale), an English boy living in China as the Japanese invade. During the chaos, he’s separated from his parents, left on his own in a warzone and eventually a prison camp. Along the way, he meets up with Basie (John Malkovich) and the two develop a father-son relationship, much to Basie’s reluctance. A touching story, Jamie has to use his intelligence and resourcefulness to learn to live in his new surroundings.
6. Jurassic Park (1993)
1993 would prove to be a huge year for Spielberg. There is just something special about watching this movie, especially had one seen it on the big screen. We can’t help but be in awe of the creatures on the screen. From the first brachiosaurus that is encountered, we are just amazed by the sheer vastness of the animals. This is where the velociraptor is introduced to the world (almost literally); the kitchen scene shown in the picture above is beyond intense. However, it’s the T-Rex that’s the star of the movie. It’s introduction is one of my favorite scenes ever.
5. Jaws (1975)
This is the original summer blockbuster, having scared people out of the ocean and into the movie theatre to a tune of $260 million. This would be Spielberg’s first major movie and the one that put him on the map. Often with the movie business, things don’t go right. This was the case with Jaws: the mechanical shark didn’t work! To counter this, Spielberg had to be creative. He barely shows the shark and uses the camera to show the shark’s point of view. These tactics don’t just make the movie scarier (more so than it would have been), they make it one of the best and well crafted horror movies ever.
4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
I used to watch this movie so much when I was a kid. This would be Spielberg’s second foray into alien science fiction (and there would be more, unfortunately). Elliot (Henry Thomas) is a middle child with divorced parents. He’s just making his way through life when he befriends a stranded alien with Reese’s Pieces. The now dubbed “E.T.” becomes Elliot’s best friend and the bond (both literally and figuratively) they develop for one another is a special one. Their eventual goodbye tugs at the heartstrings so hard that it’s okay if you’re a guy to tear up. Not that I do. Honest.
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Did you think that I would have Indiana Jones only at #9 on this countdown? Come on, he was rated second on A.F.I Top 50 Heroes List! This is Harrison Ford’s most iconic role, which is saying a lot as he was Han Solo. Indiana Jones is an archeologist/adventurer/professor. Along with the help of his on again-off again sweetheart (Karen Allen), they rush to find the Ark of the Covenant before the (wait for it) evil Nazis do. The climax is terrific (what happens to the Nazi leads is rather awesome) and the eventual resting place for the Ark is both funny and sad due to how true it would be.
2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
This would be Spielberg’s second Best Director Oscar and a movie that was painfully robbed of Best Picture. The fascination, stemming from all the way from his days as a kid, continues here with a brutal portrayal of war. Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) is the only remaining son left in his family and the army sends a group, led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), to find him. The story of this group’s sacrifice, including Miller’s justification for the FUBAR mission, is the heart of the movie. The storming and taking of Omaha Beach is the best opening scene ever filmed.
1. Schindler’s List (1993)
The movie that finally earned Spielberg the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars. Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a flashy business man in Poland during the beginning of World War II and the Holocaust. While working with his assistant Itzhak (Ben Kingsley), Oskar begins to see the treatment of the Jews and uses his money to save as many as he can. Ralph Fiennes plays the murderous SS officer Amon Geoth, who Schindler has to trick at each turn. Schindler’s emotional words of regret, saying how he hadn’t “done enough,” makes this movie worthy of the top spot alone. This is a truly difficult movie to watch, but one that NEEDS to be seen.
Now it’s time for you to chime in. Did I get the order wrong? What movies did I leave out? Which ones would you put in this list and which ones would you take out in their place?
I’ll be back again on Monday where I’ll review Chloe, a movie with a limited release which stars Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.
Have a great weekend everyone!