Welcome to the second in our series of Top 10 posts (check out our first here), covering our top 10 favourite Spielberg movies, as voted for by the CineChat team. Important note – our choices were taken from those movies where Spielberg was credited as director, so any producer roles (of which there are many more!) were not considered.
10. Raider of the Lost Ark (1981)
Lee: It just goes to demonstrate the consistently high level of work that Steven Spielberg is responsible for when a movie like Raiders of the Lost Ark only makes it to the number ten spot on our list. It’s a movie that received a whopping 8 Academy Award nominations, resulting in 5 wins., not to mention BAFTA and Golden Globes wins, among many others. It resulted in a franchise which seems determined to continue to this day and has spawned a prequel TV series along with numerous video game tie-ins. And it’s one of those timeless movies where you forget just how good it is until you happen to stumble across it on TV one day and then find yourself completely immersed in it right until the end. Full of action, humour, romance, the brilliant Harrison Ford and scenes that would have scared the living crap out of you had you watched them as a child. Truly a classic.
9. Ready Player One (2019)
Lee: The Ready Player One book that this was based on is probably the only (non-picture) book that I’ve read in the last 20 years. I read it over 2 days while laying poolside in the Ibiza sunshine, and I absolutely loved it. Like many other fans of the book, I was cautiously optimistic that the movie version wouldn’t be able to deliver on the hefty chunk of pop culture references and intricate scenes which, on paper, seemed as though they would result in the biggest movie budget of all time. But, in Spielberg we trust, and for me he well and truly delivered. I sat in the cinema, slack-jawed and giddy while Spielberg did what he does best. Admittedly, a further viewing on the small screen didn’t hold up quite as well, but you can read my initial 5 star review following my cinema visit here.
8. TIE: Schindlers List (1993) / Minority Report (2002)
Matt: Few can deny the legendary status that Schindler’s List holds in the realm of cinematic achievement. I’m sure many will agree that Spielberg’s devastatingly realistic but nonetheless nightmarish depiction of the Holocaust, Jewish concentration camps and ghettos during WWII could almost be mistaken for documentary. It remains one of the most important films ever made, one that is truly unforgettable – of course earning Spielberg his first Best Picture and Best Director Oscars (the film winning a total of 7 of its 12 nominations).
Lee: When I created my Top 10 Tom Cruise list, Minority Report was number 1, so it’s hardly surprising that I’d be voting it so highly on the Spielberg Top 10 too. It’s a sci-fi action thriller with a powerful human story at its core, fantastic visuals which serve only to enhance that story rather than drown it out, and a plot which gives the mind a good workout along with your emotions. And it stars Tom Cruise. Running. A lot…
7. Hook (1991)
Clare: I only discovered Hook a mere fortnight ago, but I would happily now fight for it’s safety. The film was utterly charming and made me want to fly away to Neverland with them. Despite it’s age, it still felt magical, so I was sad to learn the Spielberg doesn’t like the film. It wasn’t seen as a success due to the large budget and medium takings, but there are 80s and 90s kids everywhere who credit it as one of their favourite childhood films. And for those latecomers like me? It’s up there in one of my favourites this year.
6. The Terminal (2004)
Matt: I was so pleased to see this make this list, especially as it was far from Spielberg’s biggest or best received film. But this one really sticks in my memory as one of his most wholesome. The Terminal is impossible not to fall in love with – as is Tom Hanks’ performance as Victor Navorski, an Eastern European tourist who finds himself confined to JFK airport indefinitely after his passport and visa become suddenly invalid. It reminds me somewhat of The Truman Show meets Mr. Bean – especially as Navorski masters the art of getting by (by any means necessary) as gobsmacked airport staff observe from a distance. It’s an inspiring watch for when life feels as much ‘up in the air’ as it does ‘grounded’!
5. War of the Worlds (2005)
Clare: I was a late fan of War of the Worlds. Typically I avoid Tom Cruise/Action epics (especially action epics involving Tom Cruise) however I ended up teaching War of the Worlds as part of a Science Fiction exam paper for GCSE Media Studies. I was surprised about how well it held up 10 years after it’s release, how engaged I was with the whole cast, and how it really is a perfect Sci-fi film. Spielberg is at his best working within the genre, and he manages to update the classic tale to a modern age, without losing any of it’s charm.
4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Mary: I have loved E.T. since I was a kid, this film feels like a nostalgic piece of childhood, you don’t have to have been a kid of the 80’s or lived in suburban America, there is just something about it that makes you remember your childhood. E.T. is not really a kids film though, this is an adults film that children can watch, it is surprisingly complex, a study of divorce and the effects on the mother and children, E.T. becomes an aid to putting this broken family back together. This is an example of all the aspects of cinema coming together to make something pretty close to perfect. When I re-watch it now it still makes me cry every time, and I always feel the exhilaration of the flight across the moon and the soaring of that score. But more than anything else I am reminded how small this film actually is, it is homely and cosy but with lots of heart and big moments. What’s not to love?
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Matt: It’s hard to think about Saving Private Ryan and not immediately think about Shakespeare in Love stealing the Oscar Best Picture title back in the late nineties… Fortunately though, Spielberg did pick up his second Oscar for Best Director here, and rightly so – he deserved it for the iconic Normandy Landing sequence alone, one of the most memorable scenes in put to film in my opinion. He pulled out all the stops to transport us that that unimaginable moment in history (a true-to-life recreation for sure), compelling us to acknowledge the value of human life, and the brave sacrifices that are made amidst the horrors of war. Another classic staple in cinema history thanks to Mr. Spielberg.
2. Jurassic Park (1993)
Clare: I first saw Jurassic Park when I was 4. Except I only saw one scene. The raptors in the kitchen scene. As you can imagine, there was screaming and I’m fairly sure I have a genuine memory of trying to hide behind the sofa. It took 22 years for me to take a second attempt at the film, as I desperately wanted to see Jurassic World, but wanted to respect the source material. I settled down with some homemade cookies and a blanket, and whilst there were some genuine scares (seriously, raptors in the kitchen – TERRIFYING) there was also so much to love. The majesty of those initial dinosaurs, the soundtrack and using puppets rather than CGI, it all won me over. I’ve yet to check out The Lost World, but I did love the ridiculous Jurassic World spin-offs, and look forward to the original park goers returning for the third film. If only Spielberg’s wistful vision and wonderful dinosaurs could return too.
1. Jaws (1975)
Mary: I am not at all surprised to see Jaws in the top spot, not only is it Spielberg’s first credited hit but it broke the box office record, changed how people viewed the horror film and made people very tentative to step into the sea after they’d seen this. This film amazes me, Spielberg made this when he was a year younger than I am now which feels incredible. Everyone remembers Jaws for the fantastic John Williams score which exudes terror in just two notes; a remarkable feat of genius, and everyone remembers the shark and the boat. But what surprises me almost every time I see the film is how little the shark appears and how much of the film is about the characters. This film is a character piece, disguised as a horror movie, I cannot imagine a time if Jaws is on TV that I would not have to sit and watch it to the end. Its mesmerising.
Mary: I think this is a cracking list, all the classics are there and a few more modern movies made the list too. But it is clear that his best work was done when he was a younger man. I think there are few surprises on there, namely The Terminal; I didn’t realise it was as well liked as some of his bigger films. What was interesting was Jaws was the only film on every list from the team, which probably goes without saying as it really is one of Spielberg’s masterpieces.
Clare: I’m more surprised by Ready Player One, I thought that was pretty disliked! I’ve only seen Jaws once, and it was only two years ago, but it holds up very well.
Matt: I can only really be objective with lists like this, so as much as I know the likes of Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Hook and E.T. are massively popular, these didn’t feature on my list! It’s a shame Catch Me if You Can didn’t make the list, and that there wasn’t more love for The Post, but it’s great to see the likes of War of the Words and The Terminal make our Top 10, (as well as Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, which of course should have been at #1 and #2!)
Lee: I agree with Mary that it’s clearly his earlier work which has had a lasting impact on audiences over the years and all of these movies have easily stood the test of time too. I’m also surprised to see The Terminal here, but overall it’s a real testament to Spielberg that the majority of the movies on this list are some of the most beloved and successful movies of all time.