Our Top Ten Spielberg Films Of All Time

It’s not a secret to many who visit Cinema Crazed, or to many who know us that Steven Spielberg is our favorite film director of all time. The man has managed to re-think the way we look at film and filmmaking, and is one of the few film directors living today who can deliver a good old fashioned story that can inspire and amaze without rotting our teeth with over simplistic and sugary storytelling. Sure, he’s faltered a few times, but even his weakest films are much better than anything most young directors can deliver in cinemas today. Steven Spielberg has managed to stay relevant in an ever growing populace of movie goers with incredibly short attention spans who want flash and explosions over genuine storytelling, and for any director that’s a feat and a half.

He helped invent the blockbuster, helped define franchising, helped engineer the special edition (for better or worse), and he’s carved an amazing career from films that have touched, awed, and invoked conversation about movie goers and film buffs alike. Fanatics, supporters, and often apologists, we’ve followed Spielberg for years as he’s been one of our earliest memories of film going ever. There aren’t many guarantees in life. But the one thing we think life can guarantee is that there will always be a movie to grant me the same awe and wonderment every single time we pop in a film from Steven Spielberg.

Whether it’s a tale about a lone tourist in an airport, or the plight of the Jews in World War II, Spielberg can and always has guaranteed that awe and sheer enthusiasm for film will come with a film from his. And they guarantee to outlive Steven Spielberg even at the age of 66. Spielberg may just be a man biding his time in delivering masterpiece after masterpiece, but his films will have a shelf life of many many decades and introduce young audiences to the awe and charm of filmmaking as Spielberg did for us. We celebrate Steven Spielberg’s 66th birthday with our top ten Spielberg Films of All Time. So far.

10. Duel
1971
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The TV Movie that spawned a million rip offs, Steven Spielberg’s “Duel” is one of his first and most impressive cinematic efforts in the thriller genre that manages to channel Alfred Hitchcock at every turn. Providing his own twist on the thriller without ever feeling derivative or schlocky, “Duel” is a slow paced and calculated action thriller that pits man against machine and turns the open road in to an endless series of violent confrontations that threaten to destroy a man at any moment. Dennis Weaver gives a powerful performance as a bitter and angry man on a road trip who happens to cross the wrong truck at the wrong time during his travels.

What begins as an isolated moment of recklessness transforms in to an endless series of dangerous confrontations that will end his life if he isn’t quick with his wits and crafty on the stretch of road this mysterious driver and his behemoth of a gritty black truck seem to dominate without regard to human life. With limited resources, Spielberg is able to derive oodles of tension and dripping suspense that keeps the audience on the verge of a panic attack, watching as Weaver’s character David attempts to battle the ominous truck and make his way back home. Written by the immortal Richard Matheson, “Duel” has transcended the tag of Television movie to be revered as a cinematic gem.

9. Minority Report
2002
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Does the intent to murder or commit a crime mean we will ultimately act upon such a task? Does desiring revenge and blood lust make us potential murderers? Can killers be spawned by moments of passion and blind rage? Are we really stopping potential crimes by capturing criminals before they even act upon their base desires? Do we, as human beings, ever really have control over our own lives, or is everything determined before we even realize? And it if it determined beforehand, do we have to power to alter or change our fates entirely? Is history just inevitable? Most importantly, is it worth giving up our individual freedoms under the illusion that we’re being protected by an unseen menace?

“Minority Report” continues to be a sweeping, mature, and prophetic look at a Dystopian future that operates its law based around precognitive premonitions that can allegedly stop a crime before it’s even been committed based around the powerful thought of committing it. Though controversial in its state o the law, the formula seems fool proof and provides its own task force to snuff out the crime before it’s even been ignited. Evoking shades of “The Fugitive,” this Phillip K. Dick adaptation is a marvelous and richly compiled action thriller that garners a hefty amount of ambiguous plot elements that continue to be debated to this day. Tom Cruise is at his all time best while working with Spielberg who adds his own flavor and themes to the Dick story while also channeling the likes of Stanley Kubrick in the complex story and gritty view of a future that purports to work toward the greater good, but really seeks to control its populace, clearly capable of being corrupted from the inside out.

8. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
1982
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Spielberg has pitched this film plenty of times as a somewhat sequel to “Close Encounters.” What if during the alien visitation, other aliens landed and accidentally left behind an explorer who is marooned on our planet? “E.T.” is another iconic and classic title from the Spielberg gallery of films that have the trademark themes of the director. There’s the young boy who feels alienated from the world, his divorced parents one of whom is distant, the picturesque town that feels larger than life, and the ever lasting friendship. “E.T.” is that story of interstellar friendship that bonds two species in their feelings of loss and longing for some semblance of love and family, and they find it in one another in the mission to keep E.T. from becoming a prisoner on the dark and often scary world.

“E.T.” continues to be one of the touchstones of the science fiction and family film gamut, a touching and often intense film that reaches in to complex emotions every viewer can connect with while also conveying a sense of wonder and whimsy within its simple tale of a fish out of water. There’s the ever wonderful performance from a very young Drew Barrymore, as well as memorable performances from Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, and Peter Coyote. As well, Spielberg manage to conceive one of the most celebrated (and much imitated) moments in cinema history with young Elliott zipping through the sky past the full moon on his bike with the ailing alien in his basket. Though the decade is prominent in its influence, “E.T.” is still a deeply moving story of a boy finding a soulmate in the stars.

7. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
1984
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Influenced greatly by the wonderful 1939 adventurer “Gunga Din,” this sequel to the wildly popular “Raiders of the Lost Ark” acts as a prequel to Indiana Jones’ adventures where he finds himself confronted with evil Hindu overlords whom are kidnapping and enslaving children and making them dig in to their sacred mines in hopes of finding the last of three sacred stones that can guarantee them domination of the world. Teamed with his sidekick Short Round, as played by the utterly adorable Jonathan Ke Quan, Jones ventures in to the pits of the mines to fight vicious soldiers, and evil guardsmen.

All the while trying to save Willie from immediate death and keep his heart firmly planted in his chest. “Temple of Doom” is almost as awe inspiring as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with just a bit more dread added for the sake of defining the urgency of the master plot of the evil Mola Ram and his army of followers. “Temple of Doom” is very much in keeping with the adventurous spirit of the series featuring sweeping terrain, incredible set pieces, and very menacing villains you love to hate. It’s still a rollicking and entertaining bit of escapism the carries the narrative of Indiana Jones perfectly.

6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
1977
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Still a dazzling and amazing science fiction film, “Close Encounters” is the movie that sound systems were made for. Based on Spielberh’s assertion that alien visitors would be more explorers and visitors rather than villains, “Close Encounters” builds an alien presence that’s both awe inspiring and still rather menacing. Spielberg delves in to the spirituality of interstellar contact between species, and manages to drive the film based around complex characters and complicated human relationships, all of which are interrupted by the visiting of aliens.

Played by frequent collaborator Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Neary is a man haunted by his visitation of aliens and envisions a mysterious mountain, all of which will become the scene of the climactic meeting of two species, both of whom have something to learn from each other while also discovering they have something in common. Filmed with masterful special effects that continue to amaze to this day, along with an incredible climax filled with a dazzling array of sounds and sights, “Close Encounters” is one of Spielberg’s biggest and boldest genre pictures.

5. Jurassic Park
1993
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I like to think of this as Indiana Jones on Dinosaur Island, as star Sam Neill is basically outfitted as a somewhat interesting facsimile to Indiana Jones. An archaeologist committed to his work, and strapped with his own woman by his side, he seeks to illuminate others about the wonders of the dinosaur. As Dr. Alan Grant, he dons the fedora and the courage to stare down a full grown T-Rex when a visit to a revolutionary theme park goes awry. Channeling the likes of films like “West World,” Dr. Alan Grant and his long suffering wife Dr. Ellie Sattler are invited to explore Jurassic Park, the theme park of the future that has managed to recreate dinosaurs from top secret experiments and bring them to life in their own controlled habitats.

When a computer virus from a company mole seeking to sell the dinosaur DNA for a huge profit shuts down the park, Grant, Ellie, and a group of other visitors are trapped inside the park as its being terrorized by the ferocious and often deadly dinosaurs inside including the dread Raptors, the horrific spitters, and the ever ominous T-Rex which is never shy about hunting for food. With incredible special effects that continue to hold up to this day as well as some genuinely great performances, and Spielberg’s trademark sense of awe and wonder, “Jurassic Park” is one of Spielberg’s finest action adventure films that sparked a renewed interest in dinosaurs in the nineties and continues to live on as a masterpiece of science fiction cinema. Watching this in theaters upon its release is one of the most memorable experiences in years. The T-Rex’s roar blasting through the theaters speakers still give us goosebumps.

4. Saving Private Ryan
1998
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Spielberg hoped to pay tribute to one of the most historic events in history by telling the story of an infantry of soldiers who have to go behind enemy lines to bring home an only surviving son of a mother during the war. Tasked with finding him and infiltrating other territories in the land, director Spielberg never shies away from the brutality and fierce gore of war, offering one of the most mind blowing and incredibly horrific opening prologues of any film ever made. Even with an all star of cast of veteran character actors and young Hollywood up and comers like Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi, Spielberg simply spares no one and never shies away from how truly terrifying and merciless war can be.

Telling various tales of heart ache and woe, Spielberg follows our group of mismatched soldiers through horrible combat, scenes of sadistic violence, and must watch as the group is wittled down more and more as they travail the land and experience enemy forces. “Saving Private Ryan” garners a host of truly incredible performances from Tom Sizemore, Giovanni Ribisi, Matt Damon, and Tom Hanks, who shines as the anxiety ridden Captain Miller forced to endure his own psychological torment while committing to finding Ryan and bringing him back to safety. Spielberg doesn’t provide his audience with a watered down family friendly glimpse at war and provides various moments of cringe inducing violence that we still can’t experience again. It’s surely one of his greatest and most honest historical accounts.

3. Jaws
1975
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The massive hit film that spawned a million copycats and is known for being one of the most disastrous film shoots in Hollywood history, “Jaws” is one of the rare blockbusters that provides substance and genuine story with its flash and explosions, and Spielberg offers a nature run amok horror film that has never been duplicated. Like Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” many have tried to parallel its sheer unique storytelling and tension, and have failed spectacularly. Not to knock “Piranha” or “Orca,” but you must bow at the feet of “Jaws,” you pitiful worms.

The massive shark in “Jaws” is less a monster terrorizing a beach side community, and more an ominous and ever looming presence that haunts and terrifies the town folks around it. After a series of vicious attacks, its purpose is made apparent when it begins inspiring hysteria among locals, paranoia, and even damages nature when rogue hunters decide to start slaughtering helpless sharks around the waters in an effort to cash in on the monster’s rampage. As has been well documented, Steven Spielberg had a horrible time getting the mechanical shark to work for filming, and what was intended to show the shark at every turn, ended up inspiring the director to improvise with the shark’s special effects.

Using tricky editing and camera work, and wisely implementing the shark for crucial parts of the story, the lack of shark attacks work very much in favor of the story. “Jaws” becomes a character based horror film about a man deftly afraid of water who has to go in to the deep sea with a crusty old seaman and a courageous marine biologist and put a stop to this menace once and for all. With teeth grinding suspense, an incredible score by John Wiliams, and a slew of brilliant dialogue, this is the template for summer blockbusters.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark
1981
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Meant to invoke the glory days of movie serials, George Lucas, director of “Star Wars,” and his friend Steven Spielberg joined forces to create one of the most iconic action heroes in film history. A hodgepodge of classic adventure movie tropes and characteristics of icons like Allan Quatermain along with the golden age of epics from Howard Hawks and David Lean, Steven Spielberg builds Doctor Henry “Indiana” Jones, an esteemed archaeologist and teacher who is tasked with finding the sacred Ark of the Covenant. With his fedora, bomber jacket, and trademark bullwhip, Harrison Ford brings to life the contemporary action hero with charisma, deadpan humor, and the every man quality.

Viewers identify with the trials and tribulations of the adventurer time and time again thanks to his ability to get in to all kinds of entanglements that keep him on the verge of death constantly. Though Indiana Jones becomes a larger than life hero, the appeal is his ability to take hits and be battered like every man out there and still live to tell about it. Filled with iconic moments of action and dark humor, along with some brilliant scenes of gun play and fist fights, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a gift to movie goers who weren’t alive during the days of Zorro or Tarzan.

Still one of the most entertaining action adventure films of all time, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” compiles a wonderful epic three part story of the adventurer who dodges evil warlords, vicious soldiers, and death at every turn for the sake of keeping the world safe from evil. It’s yet another film that spawned a dozen wannabes, and has yet to be matched in terms of entertainment value and sheer wit. As an added bonus, Harrison Ford managed to re-invent his career once again, preventing the pigeonholing his “Star Wars” co-stars suffered in their careers.

1. Schindler’s List
1993

One of Spielberg’s most mature and ambitious epic films to date, and the dramatic account that garnered the director a long overdue Oscar win, “Schindler’s List” is not just our favorite Spielberg film of all time, but definitely one of our top ten films ever made. In a gallery of compelling and powerful tales about the holocaust, Steven Spielberg’s own stands alone as the tale of an inadervent hero who helped save many Jewish prisoners from death and torture by buying them and using them to run his factories. Told through various perspectives and painted in a bold black and white palette, Spielberg reaches the crescendo of his career by bringing us in to the most horrific and painful events in world history where a race of people were nearly wiped off the face of the Earth by Adolf Hitler’s forces.

Never shying away from the sheer brutality and sadism of the holocaust, Spielberg explores many moments of absolute terror and disgusting brutality revealing the Nazi’s reveling in torturing many of their Jewish prisoners, and the despicable carnage that was inflicted on helpless prisoners in the confines of concentration camps and factories all through world war II. Star Liam Neeson gives the performance of his career as Oskar Schindler, who gains a sympathy and heartache for the Jews and their endless suffering and seeks to do whatever he can to help them while keeping his safety in the midst of growing paranoia and madness among the Nazi ranks.

Oskar Schindler is a war mongering businessman who seeks to gain profit from the Nazi movement, and through the course of the narrative transforms in to a valiant man who implements his resources, and sacrifices his wealth and luxuries in an effort to save just one more human being from being slaughtered. With an incredible spanning narrative, a slew of brilliant performances from the likes of Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes, amazing symbolism and subtlety, and an overwhelmingly heart wrenching final scene, “Schindler’s List” is the best from the bearded one.