Stephen Spielberg is a complete and utter legend. Director of 28 films, producer of a whopping 68, writer of 6, and even acting in few (although mostly as himself), he has to be one of the greatest film makers ever. For his levels of consistency, innovation, and differentiation, he’s certainly one of my favourite directors.
Although his genius started well before my time, many of his films have nevertheless had a large impact on me throughout my modest 25 years. Even films that were released up to 10 years before I was conceived were massive for me – watching Jaws for the first time when my parents told me not to, and pretending I was Elliot on my flying BMX when learning to cycle through Mancunian suburbs.
So here follows my top five (directed only) Spielberg films in no particular order. For those interested, only two of these films would make it into the list if it included films produced by Spielberg as well. But it doesn’t.
Whilst many people’s second favourite Indy film, The Last Crusade is my first. Because release-wise it was before my time, I first saw it (along with the other Indiana Jones films) one Christmas time, and became obsessed with the franchise from then on.
I’m not sure why I think it’s superior over the truly great Raiders of the Lost Ark. Maybe it’s the classic Ford-Connery chemistry, or the first scenes showing Indy as a kid. Doctor Schneider is the best Indy-girl of the lot (especially when you find out she’s a baddy), and the resultant goodbye kiss when she bites his lip is a great moment.
Perhaps the ultimate moment has to be when Jones and Jones Junior are fleeing the Nazi castle in sidebar and motorbike respectively. A bike-riding Nazi pulls alongside them, and Indy shoves a previously collected gate pole into the spokes of the front wheel of the enemy’s motorbike, causing it to explode and fly into the air. Indy blazes away grinning, until he catches his Dad’s chiding glance. Classic stuff.
Partly due to the popularity of the last massive shark I showcased on this blog, but also because of the fact that Jaws is one of the best all-round family-horror films ever made, this film made it easily into this top five. Firstly, let’s start with that giant shark:
Happy? Good. As I mentioned above, at one point during my childhood when we had a video tape of Jaws recorded off the telly, and I recall my Mum pointing to the tape (which had "J A W S" written on the side in fat black marker) and saying “don’t watch this”. Yeah right mother, and I won’t press that big red button either.
Anyway, I watched it, and loved it, and whilst I was never really scared of the film, it always to managed to sweep me up in it’s building sense of tension, culminating in the explosive ending that my friends and I often attempted to recreate using ketchup. Best way to blow up a shark ever.
Chronologically, Jurassic Park is the first film on this list that I had direct cinema-contact with. It was released when I was a tender 8 years of age, and I remember vividly my Dad taking me to the Odeon
in Bristol for my 9th birthday. I was super excited; a lot of my mates had already seen it, and the TV trailers (in typical Spielberg style) gave nothing away at all.
Sometimes when you see a film for the first time, certain moments have an impact on you that will be remembered for many years to come. Jurassic Park has many such moments; the obvious first encounter with the dinosaurs (the Brachiosaur and the epic soaring music), the frightening Tyrannosaur+electric power fence scene and the subsequent journey into the park, and the classic kitchen scene with the Velociraptors. I remember well sitting there in that cinema, with a bag of popcorn sitting forgotten on my lap, absolutely in awe of particularly these parts, but of the rest of the film as well. It’s simply magical.
In my humble opinion, Munich is one of the massively underrated Spielberg films. Basically a revenge film, it tells of an assassination squad tasked with murdering eleven men believed to be involved in the massacre of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich olympics.
It’s a slow meander through Europe, punctuated with violent, imaginative murders. It’s also shot really nicely, and features great performances from a load of decent actors. I must admit I haven’t talked to that many people who enjoy it as much as I do, so maybe you have to be in a certain frame of mind to get down with it. I urge you, my loyal reader, to give it a go anyway.
I remember watching this at the Odeon in Bournemouth when it came out; my friend Matt had to buy us all tickets because the rest of us didn’t look 15. There was a load of hype surrounding the film, but nothing prepared me for the cinema experience of the first half hour.
Certain films I’ve watched at the flicks have made a big impression on me and my taste in film (The Blair Witch Project, Jurassic Park), but none so much as this - it’s simply epic. I don’t really know what else to say about it, epic seems to be the only adjective I can think of.
What I do know however, is a good night in involves this film on widescreen, 7.1 Dolby surround on full volume, curtains closed and loads of popcorn. Magic.
Thank you for digesting my Top 5 Spielberg films. For those interested, this list would’ve been very different if I’d included films that Spielberg had produced as well as directed. Off the top of my head, that list may have looked like this:
What a talented fucker eh, all those classics. Anyway, this is me signing off for today. Until next time, take care x.