WhatCulture offers the Best and Worst Spielberg Films – Here’s their list of the Top 5
It never fails to surprise me when people refer to Jaws disapprovingly as nothing more than a silly shark movie which gave birth to the unintelligent summer blockbuster. While the film’s mammoth success was definitely instrumental in the rise of event movies – from Star Wars to Jurassic Park – it’s also an intelligent and extremely well crafted film which stands alongside any other thriller of the ’70s.
The simple story about a picturesque beach community terrorized by a huge man-eating shark, managed to not only terrify a whole generation to stay out of the water but stand the test of time in becoming a sheer classic. 36 years later and Jaws has lost none of its power to scare – becoming forever etched into public consciousness and playing on a primal fear which we all have when swimming in open-water.
Greatest Moment Of Spielbergian Magic: “Smile you son of a bitch !” – Brody takes out the shark with one lucky final shot.
The film which gave Spielberg his well deserved first Oscar is also perhaps his greatest achievement – even if I’ve got a soft spot for Jaws. A stark and uncompromising Holocaust drama, the film was a deeply personal work for Spielberg, whom had wanted to make the film for years, but was put off by his own feelings that he had not matured enough as a director. After years of the project being passed around to directors like Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese, Spielberg finally decided he was ready to direct Schindler’s List in 1993.
To many, it carries a reputation of being a difficult film to watch, due to its horrific depictions of genocide and uncompromising views of life within the Nazi concentration camps. Even if it is an upsetting film, it’s an incredibly important one and Spielberg’s most accomplished work as a director. Schindler’s List is also ultimately, an uplifting experience – depicting Oscar Schindler’s heroic attempts to save hundreds of Jews from execution. Janusz Kaminski’s stunning black and white cinematography brings a palatable coldness to the snowy camps of Auschwitz and makes the events of the film chillingly evocative of real life photographs and documentary footage.
Greatest Moment Of Spielbergian Magic: Spielbergian magic perhaps isn’t the right term for Schindler’s List, but the sequence with the girl in the red coat gives us a powerfully haunting symbol of the holocaust.
1981’s Raiders Of The Lost Ark introduced the world to iconic archaeologist Indiana Jones, who would lead a series of peerless adventure films (well mostly). Conceived by George Lucas as a throwback to the adventure serials of the 1930’s – which themselves heavily influenced Star Wars – the project drew the interest of Spielberg as it would allow him to fulfill his desire to direct something in the vein of the Bond films.
Indy was far more than a mere Bond clone however. Played brilliantly by Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones was a far more fallible character – often capable of being a hero one minute, but flawed and imperfect the next – especially if there’s a snake involved. As well as Indy, Raiders Of The Lost Ark is one of Spielberg’s best thanks to its pure unadulterated brilliance as an adventure film which delivers on all fronts.
Greatest Moment Of Spielbergian Magic: The off-parodied boulder dash opening sets the film off to an exciting start which it impressively manages to maintain throughout.
Spielberg is often criticized for the over sentimentality in his films, which many often argue makes his work too saccharin. Perhaps it’s fair to say that sometimes it’s a little too much to take – such as the illogical family reunion ending of War Of The Worlds – but when it’s done right, as is definitely the case with E.T, Spielberg is the master.
Many of Spielberg’s films deal with themes of childhood and family drama, but E.T is the most successful. The story of a boy who befriends an extraterrestrial and helps him return to his home planet is bittersweet and manages to connect to most of us on an emotional level as well as appealing to a nostalgic sense of childhood adventure. E.T himself was actually kind of creepy to look at as a child (so creepy it allegedly led to M&M refusing to allow their products to appear in the film) but Carlo Rambaldi’s animatronic creature is still impressive to watch.
Greatest Moment Of Spielbergian Magic: The exhilarating moment Eliot and his friends take to the sky on their bikes, accompanied by John Williams’ faultless score.
Jurassic Park was a welcome return to the exciting adventure of Jaws and Raiders Of The Lost Ark, coming at a time in which the director had been experimenting with more serious themes in films like The Colour Purple and Empire Of The Sun. In fact, it was Spielberg’s most purely enjoyable film in years, as well as an important landmark in special effects. The mix of practical model effects created by Stan Winston and the astonishing CG from ILM also make Jurassic Park visually stunning.
It also boasts many of Spielberg’s most exciting sequences, such as the terrifying T-Rex encounter or the climatic scene where characters hide in a large kitchen from a pack of raptors. The sense of wonder and pure magic that comes through Spielberg’s wonderful direction and John Williams’ majestic score makes Jurassic Park a timeless adventure.
Greatest Moment Of Spielbergian Magic: The first encounter with the dinosaurs, where the audience share the same excitement and wonder as the characters on screen. “You did it. You crazy son of a bitch you did it.”
Honourable Mentions: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Munich, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can.