Mr. Spielberg celebrated his 70th revolution around the Sun over the weekend, which actually sounds quite young, as he has changed the face of cinema in his over 50 years of filmmaking. His name is now synonymous with success, and few directors have garnered as much praise for their talents and box office numbers as he has, and he deserves every bit of it.
From action adventure films to horror to war to comedies to dramas, there's no genre Spielberg hasn't left his mark on. Looking back at Duel, his first feature film that was made for TV, it's hard to imagine seeing just how seminal his career would become, considering that movie is basically a 90-minute car chase.
Take a look at Spielberg's greatest films and everything he's done for the art of storytelling! Let us know in the comments what your favorite Spielberg film is.
From a malfunctioning robotic shark to hostilities flaring between cast members to weather being uncooperative, Jaws was set to be a total financial disaster. Luckily, Spielberg's tale of a small town trying to handle a monstrous shark was so expertly crafted and was filled with so much humanity that audiences connected with it in ways no film before it ever had, truly becoming cinema's first "block buster." This would be far from his first massive success and Jaws would go on to make people afraid of the water for decades to come.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
What Jaws did for the ocean, Close Encounters of the Third Kind did to outer space. No, not gave audiences an irrational fear, but rather explored the unknown in a way that made audiences truly believe what they were seeing on-screen could actually happen. Sure, there are elements of the film that show characters full of fear over the possibility of aliens coming to earth, but the lead characters explore mysterious events in such an analytical and scientific way, it reminds viewers why it's so important to send scientists into the unknown instead of civilians.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Spielberg teamed up with his film school pal George Lucas, who was hot off the successes of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, to recreate the vibe of action adventure serials they watched growing up. Lucas tapped Harrison Ford to play a guy named "Indiana Jones," who spent half of his time as a professor and the other half as a treasure hunter, seeking the rarest historical artifacts as he could find. In addition to cementing Ford as one of the most charming leading men in all of cinema, Raiders of the Lost Ark also helped build Spielberg's already diverse filmography and allowed him to display his plethora of talents.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Most of Spielberg's previous films weren't explicitly geared towards adults and were definitely an enjoyable experience for the whole family, most of his protagonists were more mature. E.T. changed the game for Spielberg, focusing instead on a group of kids who find themselves in an incredible situation when they find an alien hiding in their toolshed. Spielberg exquisitely captured the wonder and innocence of children dealing with incredible circumstances and showed a new type of adventure, something that forever altered the tone of children's films.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Continuing his trend of putting people in far-fetched situations that react somewhat believably, the director adapted the Michael Crichton novel about a tycoon resurrecting dinosaurs for a state-of-the-art theme park and brought the concept of "special effects" to a whole new level. The combination of animatronics and CGI in Jurassic Park convinced audiences of the reality Spielberg created in ways never before imagined while also tapping into the excitement and fascination of these prehistoric beasts that laid dormant in many adults. It's no surprise that 20 years later, films about dinosaurs continue to capture the imagination, and money, of movie audiences.
Schindler's List (1993)
The same year as the director released a fantastic movie about the horrors of what men could do while acting under science, he gave us Schindler's List, one of the most disturbing, yet accurate, depictions of what life was like for prisoners in concentration camps. Liam Neeson played the real-life hero Oskar Schindler who used the limited power he had in Germany while working with Nazis to save as many Jews as he could from their ultimate doom. The film earned seven Academy Awards and helped solidify Spielberg's legacy as not only one of the best maker of blockbusters, but of compelling human dramas as well.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The first 30 minutes of this film shows one of the most devastating altercations in the history of warfare, and Spielberg served it justice by depicting how truly awful war is without ever romanticizing elements of it. From there, the more human elements of Saving Private Ryan began to blossom, showcasing how people from all different walks of life joined the efforts to stop Hitler in his tracks. The film is truly awe-inspiring, not just for the filmmaking talents on display, but it changed the way audiences detached from the war perceived anyone who had involvement in it. The film also kicked off a series of collaborations with Tom Hanks, considered one of the greatest actors of his time, for some memorable films.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Many of the films on Spielberg's roster are heart-wrenching dramas or immense spectacles, making Catch Me If You Can a departure from both. Telling the real story of a teen who runs away from home and makes a living by forging checks and counterfeiting, Spielberg teamed up with Tom Hanks as an agent aiming to catch the culprit and Leonardo DiCaprio as the teen on the run. The film is a period piece, catching the swinging '60s in their prime, but was a mostly lighthearted exploration of a kid who set his sights on the stars and the law enforcer obligated to catch him. A definite departure from the rest of his films, Catch Me If You Can still shimmers from the fantastic performances Spielberg conjured from his cast.
Lincoln gave us one of the greatest directors of all time directing a film about one of the greatest presidents of all time, starring one of the greatest actors of all time. Much like he did with Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg used spectacle elements in scenes showing the Civil War, but emphasized humanity by showcasing the softer side of Abraham Lincoln (played by Daniel Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning performance) and the difficult decisions he had to make to better not just his own country, but humanity as a whole.