I’ve always known Steven Spielberg as the King of Hollywood. My taste in movies has been shaped and moulded by mainly two people- my dad and Spielberg, although more credit to the latter than the former. When I was younger, I remember my dad being a movie buff who was specifically obsessed with Spielberg’s work, namely Jurassic Park and the Indiana Jones movies.
Being someone who preferred Barney and Friends more, I didn’t get my dad’s enthusiasm then. But as I grew, so did my dad’s fascination, which inevitably made me realize calling Steven Spielberg the King of Hollywood is an understatement!
The legend most certainly changed the norms of filmmaking and direction breaking stereotypes for cinematography. Spielberg has put forth a good number of the classics that served as benchmarks for movies that came after them in their respective genre, be it action-adventure, heartbreaking drama or brutal war.
We at The Hollywood Tribune have carefully picked 20 of the Best Steven Spielberg films and have ranked them. Now you know where to go when you don’t know which classic to watch!
20. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (2008)
This fourth instalment to the classic Indiana Jones trilogy was undoubtedly very close to not making the cut because of its corny setup and imperfect mix of action and comedy. But what made Kingdom of The Crystal Skull stand out was the exemplary sequences and set pieces that give this movie more merit than the others, by just a tiny bit though!
Kingdom of Crystal Skull, as expected, does not live up to the movie that started it all, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The film sees Harrison Ford returning as the adventurous archaeologist in the title role. Unfortunately, the movie did not live up to expectations. Nevertheless, Spielberg and Harrison are planning on a 5th instalment, and we’re most certainly hoping it brings back the glory of Indiana Jones.
19. The Big Friendly Giant (2016)
Spielberg is one of the very few directors who have successfully made films in almost every genre there is. This family-friendly, high key cute movie is proof of the fact. Despite having slapstick humour (at one point in the movie, everyone is farting) The Big Friendly Giant does not fail to showcase the director’s wild imagery while being adapted from the Roald Dahl novel of the same name. But don’t go in with giant expectations, you’ll surely be a bit disappointed.
18. The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
Steven Spielberg’s first and only fully animated film, The Adventures of Tintin is an adaptation of Herge’s famous Tintin comics, loved by kids for the adventures. To be very honest, except for characters that failed to enthral the audience, the movie is excellent with its fantastic set pieces and animated thrill.
I remember trying to watch the movie, and I was mesmerized by the pirate ship and the cute dog, but I was constantly zoning out because of its utterly thin characters.
17. The Color Purple (1985)
Adapted from Alice Walker’s Pulitzer-winning novel, The Color Purple would mark the first step Spielberg took towards a more serious plot. Although the movie has its flaws with melodrama and an inconsistent ending, The Color Purple makes up for it with its lavish visual approach.
The movie narrates the story of an African-American woman who strives through racism and misogyny in her surroundings. Starring Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple is undoubtedly a must-watch.
16. War Horse (2011)
This big-screen adaptation of a Broadway smash hit portrays World War I from the eyes of a horse. This take on war could only be thought of by Steven Spielberg. Starring Jeremy Irvine as Albert, War Horse sees him separated from his horse Joey when Joey is sold off to the British cavalry.
War Horse is an emotional drama that examines how dreadful war can be for a horse. The movie truly portrays the bond between a horse and its owner.
War Horse was one of the many movies that landed Spielberg an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
15. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Released after Raiders in the Indiana Jones series, Temple of Doom was most certainly a bold move for Spielberg as he decided to go in a very different direction with the series.
Searching for a mythical stone, Indiana Jones discovers a cult with a wicked plan. Set before Raiders of The Lost Ark, Temple of Doom is a prequel that proved Spielberg was ready to take big chances.
But with its racist undertones and utter darkness, the movie has dropped down the List of Best Steven Spielberg Movies by a lot. Reportedly, Temple of Doom was so dark and horrific that it forced the PG-13 rating to be set up.
Since Spielberg met his future wife Kate Capshaw on the set of this movie, we’ll let this one slide.
14. Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade (1989)
Indiana Jones movies back to back because they’re undoubtedly some of the best action-adventure movies to be made. After backlash for Temple of Doom, Spielberg decided to go the Raider way again with this threequel.
The Last Crusade excellently highlights the dynamic relationship between the father-son duo of Indiana Jones and his father, portrayed by Ford and Sean Connery respectively. This movie had the potential to neatly end the series with its glory intact.
Being lighter and more comedic than its predecessor, The Last Crusade follows Indy in his attempt to stop the Nazis from getting hold of the Holy Grail.
13. The Post (2018)
Having an outstanding ensemble cast (Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks to name a couple), The Post was written, shot and edited in a record time of just nine months! Spielberg was firm on having a voice against the Trump administration that had just come to power.
Standing as Spielberg’s 11th Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, The Post reminds us of power to the press and female empowerment in the most compelling way possible. Meryl Streep’s outstanding performance in the movie landed her an Oscar for Best Actress.
12. The Sugarland Express (1974)
Aren’t we all curious about where the legendary Spielberg started off? Being his first theatrical feature, The Sugarland Express might not stand out next to its blockbuster companions, but it is still an excellent movie for the first watch.
Being one of the most phenomenal debuts of all time, The Sugarland Express revolves around a man and his wife trying to get back their son. What fails this movie would be its shoddy character work and the sympathy given to the antagonists.
11. Minority Report (2002)
Having cutting edge visual effects and high-octane action, Minority Report is a sci-fi thriller you do not want to miss. Tom Cruise’s performance in the movie just adds to the already great direction.
The only downfall would be its terrible ending. Known to give happy endings, Spielberg surely did not get this one right.
10. Bridge of Spies (2015)
A political drama inspired by true events, Bridge of Spies tells the story of an American lawyer (Tom Hanks) defending a Soviet spy in court (Mark Rylance).
Although being nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Bridge of Spies did not bag the award because of its slow pace. Rylance however, went on to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his splendid portrayal of the spy.
9. Lincoln (2012)
This is not your classic biopic. Lincoln surely is as informative as it is entertaining. Being the first Spielberg movie that bagged an Oscar for Best Actor (by lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis), the movie examines one of the most notable achievements of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
The movie portrays Lincoln in his attempts to end the Civil War and abolish slavery. The reason why Lincoln ranks on 9th would be the fact that it is not a piece of cake for the casual viewer. With its heavy script and having each frame packed with details, the movie challenges the audiences to keep up with how much is happening on screen.
8. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Made during a time where most films showed war to be happy and joyful, Saving Private Ryan breaks stereotypes, a move that Spielberg had mastered by then.
This relentlessly realistic movie changed the way people saw war. Set in World War II, Saving Private Ryan sees the brotherhood going in search of Ryan (played by Matt Damon) whose brothers have been killed in the war. With its incredibly visual opening scene and heartbreaking performance, the movie was a masterpiece that won the legend his second Oscar for Best Director.
7. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Being a firm believer that there is something greater than us out there, this was Spielberg’s first foray into sci-fi, Close Encounters puts forward the possibility that perhaps the first alien-human interaction might be peaceful instead of the usually portrayed world-end.
6. Jurassic Park (1993)
The movie that changed it all. It surely is a surprise that Spielberg came up with this movie AND Schindler’s List in the same year! Jurassic Park, with its extravagant special-effects and life-like animations, was the benchmark for CGI in movies that came up in the subsequent years.
Don’t be mistaken! Jurassic Park is not just vicious dinosaurs killing humans. The movie has more depth to it. Jurassic Park questions our need for entertainment along with our disrespect for nature.
5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Starring Leonardo de Caprio and Tom Hanks, Catch Me If You Can is the real-life story of a successful con artist Frank, who manages to steal millions with the personal motive of wanting to make his father proud.
The jazzy biographical drama shows Frank acting as a doctor, lawyer and pilot, fantastically portrayed by DiCaprio. Catch Me If You Can is definitely a more breezy movie compared to its counterparts.
4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The birth of Indiana Jones. Raiders of the Lost Ark basically invented the action genre in Hollywood. The movie is one of those movies that just don’t expire!
As a winner of four Oscars, nobody would expect Raiders of the Lost Ark to be shot on a tight budget by Spielberg and having tight schedules and limited takes of only 3-4 per scene. Learning this, my respect for the movie has only increased!
3. Schindler’s List (1993)
Known as somebody who could not do serious content by his critics, Spielberg stunned audiences with this adaptation of Thomas Kenneally’s book.
Schindler’s List shows us the good things that happened during the Holocaust without neglecting the grave seriousness of it. Oskar Schindler, a German businessman, saves Jews by hiring them at his facilities and becomes essentially a saviour and hero to them.
The emotionally powerful use of black and white photography in the movie stands out. Schindler’s List marks the start of Spielberg’s work with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who has been working with the director ever since.
2. Jaws (1975)
Spielberg’s breakout film, Jaws, is the classic that was simply so superb that it gave off a bunch of not-so-great sequels.
Beginning production with an unfinished script, Spielberg sets the bar for exceptional work. Jaws was the first film to gross over $100 million in the U.S., making Spielberg the King of the Box Office at just 29.
1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Number one on the List of The Best Steven Spielberg Movies had to be E.T. This touching tale of an alien trying to go back home with the help of a child that’s dealing with his parents’ divorce is a movie that you can watch with just about anybody.
With its unforgettable scenes and fantastic child actor performances, E.T. is sure to touch the heart of any viewer.
We hoped you enjoyed our List on The Best Steven Spielberg Movies, let us know in the comments if your favourite movie managed to make the cut!
Stay tuned to The Hollywood Tribune for updates on Steven Spielberg movies and more news from Hollywood and beyond!