Spielberg. I have Spielberg’s filmography point totals higher than his #28 ranking here which would suggest, correctly I believe, that his oeuvre is stronger than he is as a director. I love Spielberg’s films. I have always cherished them and always will. I would guess “movie” fans will think #28 is far too poor a ranking and “cinema” elitist will think he’s given far too much credit on my list…
Best film: Jaws. To a true cinema lover I truly think now (after watching it maybe 6-8 times) that the first half of the film is actually better than the brilliant shark-chase entertaining second half of the film. There’s a great triple shot sequence clean wipe edit and the camera and Spielberg creep closer to Scheider every time between edits- I think I had noticed it subconsciously before but it wasn’t readily apparent to me until this most recent viewing. It’s dazzling and effective. Of course there’s the Hitchcock Vertigo zoom-in track-out shot of Scheider at the beach—gorgeous. There’s a Hitchcockian transference of guilt in the film is well done as is the frame staging on the beach and on the boat with Scheider in the foreground and other characters or the shark in the shot just before the “we’re gonna need a bigger boat line”. Powerful slow tracking shot intro to Robert Shaw’s character. The film works as an intelligent 4 person character study- all 4 of them are brilliant characters and well performed by Dreyfuss, Scheider, Shaw and Murray Hamilton. Eerie dialogue-less horror opening is very well done. Roughly 80 minutes before seeing the shark- but just like The Birds (another Hitchcock mention) it’s a wonderful preamble- I almost enjoy it more which is another reason why the technology that delivers the birds or shark doesn’t really matter. The USS Indianapolis soliloquy by Shaw is perfect writing and acting.
total archiveable films: 20
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 7 (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, A.I. Artificial Intelligence)
top 100 films of the decade: 8 (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Close Encounters of the Third Kind)
most overrated: According to the TSPDT consensus Close Encounters of the Third Kind is #203 of all-time and I think that’s pretty far off. It’s not a top 500 film. I love the shot that Spielberg pulled from Tarkovsky’s Mirror in the door and some other elements of the film (Dreyfuss is great) but still.
most underrated: Raiders of the Lost Ark is Spielberg’s most underrated work on TSPDT. They have it down at #220 and I’m nearly 100 slots higher at #127. It works almost alone without dialogue just focusing on the spectacular set pieces, the editing (Oscar win), John Williams score, and the set design (Oscar win)—silent cinema. This is a spectacle—plays with and borrows from James Bond (heavy iconography) and Gunga Din—like Bond this starts in medias res—and since it borrows from Bond it also borrows from North by Northwest and certainly it has that sort of narrative momentum and set piece focus. The narrative absolutely steam rolls- there’s nothing here I’d take out and everything has a purpose to propel it forward- even when we show Karen Allen in the drinking contest early in the film it’s used again in her contest and attempt to escape Paul Freeman’s character. Welles’ Citizen Kane warehouse that goes on forever ending—phenomenal. Ford is a revelation in the lead- it’s his best work and he’s been very good before (star wars, empire) and after (witness, the fugitive, blade runner: 2049)
gem I want to spotlight: A.I. It’s a bit of an anomaly in Spielberg’s filmography. It’s a film that is visually superior (Spielberg actually doesn’t have many of these) and the narrative is vexingly opaque to Spielberg fans. It gets better with each viewing.
stylistic innovations/traits: He’s a pop artist and a great manipulator of audiences like Griffith and Hitchock and I mean that as a compliment (if it isn’t already obvious by who I’m comparing to here). He’s a fantastic storyteller and crafter of poignant scenes. I don’t think he’s as good behind the camera or with his mise-en-scene work as those ahead of him on this list, which is why I have him here. I will defend him against his many detractors though (many of whom think A.I. is his one good movie) who think he is maudlin and somewhat flat in true film style. Spielberg’s work will be forever intertwined with the genius of John Williams and those immaculate film scores. Spielberg has a penchant for the in medias res openings. The narratives and subjects most often center around children, aliens, divorce, and an absent father. In the second half of his career he’s become a great historical dramatist and chronicler as well.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Schindler’s List
- E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
- Saving Private Ryan
- Jurassic Park
- A.I. Artificial Intelligence
- Close Encounters of the third Kind
- Minority Report
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
By year and grades
|1977- Close Encounters of the Third Kind||HR/MS|
|1981- Raiders of the Lost Ark||MP|
|1984- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom||HR|
|1985- The Color Purple||R|
|1987- Empire of the Sun||R|
|1989- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade||R|
|1993- Jurassic Park||MS|
|1993- Schindler’s List||MP|
|1998- Saving Private Ryan||MS/MP|
|2001- A.I. Artificial Intelligence||MS|
|2002- Catch Me if you Can||R|
|2002- Minority Report||HR|
|2015- Bridge of Spies||R|
|2017- The Post||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
greatest director of all time. his images are beautiful and he is a self aware director that understands humanity. great list. to me those cinephiles that dislike spielberg are pretentious fools. schindler’s list is number one and second is ai than raiders but he has made many masterpieces. seems like a great guy too. he isn’t perfect and he has made some bad stupid films but so has scorsese (last temptation) and every other director. also spielberg like scorsese coppola and tarantino truly loves cinema and knows it better than most.
@m—- Thank you for sharing here. I love Spielberg but obviously made this list so I think 28th is the correct ranking for him. I agree that those cinephiles that dislike him are pretentious fools– Spielberg cannot be dismissed as an artist— but I’d be remiss if i didn’t say that I think there are a handful that are clearly stronger (Kubrick, Ozu, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Bergman and a few others) and dozens more you could (and I did) make the argument that are stronger.
Your underrating Spielberg here his body of wrk in the late 20th century alone makes him top ten if not top 5 and yet you have him as the 28th best Director of all time when he should at least be twenty spots higher.
@Randy … It is a natural progression for cinephiles to think Spielberg is like the greatest director of all-time early on in their studies. I’ve been on that journey. Spielberg is a great artist and director– don’t get me wrong– but he’s not in the class of the top 5-10. The They Shoot Pictures consensus would agree with me here. He’s 24th http://www.theyshootpictures.com/gf1000_top250directors.htm
Entirely correct. He is a populous. He writes for the masses, he is not a great director. One thing I have noticed over the years is the dumbed-down dialogue, overly emphasized. That is a directorial decision. He is also quite sloppy, making mistakes a film student would not make. In one scene ( of hundreds I saw) in Jurassic Park, an actor places his hand directly on (sugar) glass with no reaction, sound effect, etc. Moronic. Thirty seconds later, without setup the three main actors are suddenly fly though a truck. The concept is great, but the execution is childlike. So no, he is definitely not lower ranked than 28.
I’d guess “movie” fans will think #28 is far too poor a ranking and “cinema” elitist will think he’s given far too much credit on my list…
Why? Both ‘cinema’ lovers and ‘movie’ lovers should love him. Jaws and schindlers list are gorgeous to look at and brilliantly directed. I have never heard anyone call Spielberg overrated to 5-30 is the right placement for him.
You have raiders and schindlers as the best film of the year. Doesn’t that make him one of the best of all time. Surely no cinema lover should argue. He has a bunch of films on TSPDT top 2000
@Azman– I certainly love, admire and cherish Spielberg and his work. I’m not sure what you’re asking me here?
I’d guess “movie” fans will think #28 is far too poor a ranking and “cinema” elitist will think he’s given far too much credit on my list…
I’m not sure what this paragraph means. Could you explain?
I have never seen anyone call Spielberg overrated or underrated. ‘Cinema’ elitist (like you, I guess) love him and regular ‘movie’ lovers love him too. He is very highly regarded by critics and movie lovers alike. All I’m trying to say is that I disagree with what you said about cinema elitist and movie lovers. Spielberg is in most people’s (cinema elitist and movie lovers) top 5-30 greatest directors of all time
@Azman– I’ve ran into many cinema lovers, students, academics in the past– i think there are many that would take issue with having him as high as I do at 28th. That’s all I’m saying. Here’s such a list (and an awesome list of films) https://mubi.com/lists/sight-and-sound-top-250 — nothing from Spielberg in the top 250.
My statement means that I think I’ve found a relatively good spot for him. I think when people are starting out they tend to overrate Spielberg simply because they’ve seen so many of his films in comparison with the other greats (and he is a great). That was true for me as well when I was starting out.
The list you just posted has E.T. at #186.
But you’re right, he is incredibly underrated by film elitists, which I think is a crime that should sentence them to at least 20 years of jail, so they have time to reflect on their sensibility.
Having studied Bergman and Fellini and Ford and Kubrick and everyone that’s on the top 10 of every list, and even if I adore and admire them, (Fellini and Bergman are both top 3 and 4 respectively) I still consider Spielberg number 1.
Not because he’s necessarily the best, but because he has made the films that have touched me the most. the films that have captured my imagination the most. the films that have made me cry and laugh and dream the most.
He has changed my life and made me love cinema before I even knew what cinema was. The gift he has given me and millions of others is so unique that I believe he has never been matched. No matter how much of a genius Kubrick is…
@Adrien- thanks for the comment and yes- good catch on the Sight and Sight list! my fault. I for one am totally fine with your rationale for having Spielberg for you personally- “Not because he’s necessarily the best, but because he has made the films that have touched me the most” . I don’t know how long you’ve been into cinema- maybe a long time- but if not I’d be curious to see if this is still your answer 10 years from now.
“I’d guess “movie” fans will think #28 is far too poor a ranking and “cinema” elitist will think he’s given far too much credit on my list…”. This is in the first paragraph of this page.
@Oz— yes– I just wasn’t sure what Azman was asking. I think I do now– thanks.
As someone deep in the woods among cinema-elitists (cinema-studies elitists might be the more apt title), I can confirm that many such people hold the (silly) position that Spielberg is merely a gifted storyteller and entertainer, and nothing more.
Well , in response to my comment, Drake said that too (about cinema elitists and what they think of Spielberg) .Maybe cinema elitists consider Spielberg average but definitely not critics. He is regarded very highly by Ebert, TSPDT and other critics too. Aren’t critics consider cinema elitists too?
Depends who you’re talking about. Angry youtube bros absolutely consider critics cinema elitists… but many Film Studies academics consider ‘popular critics’ to be beneath them. The former group has its own nauseating issues, but the latter is where you’ll find the real (often self-identified) elitists.
I don’t agree with your ridiculous opinions. Roger Ebert taught quite a few film courses himself. That makes Roger Ebert a film studies professor and a professional critic. Goddard used to be a critic himself and now he is a director. A film elitist is anyone who knows a lot about film and/or has/is studying film.
@Azman– you’re missing the point here. We’re not complementing these cinema-studies elitists. The whole conversation started because I think some of these people are incorrect in underrating Spielberg. But again, in certain circles if you said you wanted to do your thesis on Spielberg I’m sure you’d get laughed at.
As for Godard– I have no idea what this comment means. But he is no admirer of Spielberg’s films . see below
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/godard-lashes-out-at-hollywood/ “I don’t know him personally. I don’t think his films are very good,” – Godard on Spielberg
@drake. There is some controversy around Goddard with many people believing he is Anti-Jewish. Maybe that’s why he did not like Schindler’s List. I know a lot about history and Schindler’s List is an accurate portrayal about the holocaust and the life of Oscar Schindler.
@Jon — thanks for sharing. I’m not sure the reason for it but even before I looked this up if you had asked me if I thought Godard was going to be a big fan of Spielberg’s— I would have said “no way” and I don’t know know how much more plain it can be than “I don’t think his films are very good,”
I could care less about religion, politics, or experience. Schindler’s list was simply a bad movie. Watched it once, saw nothing redeemable, and never looked back.
My ridiculous opinions? I’m not sure I said anything to warrant that, in fact I’m fairly certain I didn’t. I respect Ebert a great deal. But if you don’t know the sort of person who looks down their nose at Ebert, that probably explains why you’ve never heard someone dismiss the artistry of Spielberg. I assure you, there is a sizable cohort of “elitists” who do both.
Also, Godard was a critic, yes, but during a time when academically speaking, critic was the only game in town. We have him and the Cahiers critics (especially their ‘father’ Bazin) for the birth of film studies as a discipline. And, again, I assure you that a great many academics respect the cahiers critics for their place in history, but consider the type of work they did to be rather prosaic and too ‘cinephilic’ to warrant much serious consideration in the modern era. Trust me, I butt heads with these folks constantly.
As for defining “elitist”, it’s not just someone who knows a lot and/or has studied a subject… it’s someone who feels superior for having done so.
Ya. I guess you are right. I was wrong.
” “I don’t know him personally. I don’t think his films are very good,” Goddard said, adding that he would be happy to dissect one of his movies scene-by-scene if a cinema could be freed up.”” He said he would be happy to study and/or dissect Spielberg’s films if he had the time. Maybe he will appreciate them after rewatching them
Godard has also famously said that Hollywood lacks ideas (what a stupid thing to say). Yet he admires many American movies https://www.faena.com/aleph/articles/young-jean-luc-godards-ten-favourite-films/ and he even said “the cinema is Nicholas Ray(an American filmmaker”. He has very contradictory opinions.
Most people I have spoken to share the same opinions as M and Randy White (the first few comments on this page). But yesterday I told one of my friends that Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time and he scoffed at me. He told me that Spielberg is “a 2nd rate director” and anyone who rates Spielberg highly does not “understand the art of filmmaking”. Why can’t people see the obvious strengths Spielberg possess. Jaws and Schindler’s List are jaw-droppingly (no pun intended) good. He is great at directing, telling stories and making beautiful movies. I have never understood the hate for him.
I’m sorry, I assumed that most critics and elitists like Spielberg because he is highly rated by this website and the cinema archives. I guess i was wrong
I know this is not related to the topic but I found Goddards favorite films from when he was a critic. I think his lists might interest you. What do you think about them? He has some great movies but some strange choices too.
@Azman Godard is the greatest fraud cinema has ever seen. I wouldn’t worry too much about his opinion. Spielberg is great, one of the greatest.
Hey, Drake. You speak about it briefly here, but what could you expand a bit on more on why you think Raiders is Spielberg’s best? What makes it a massive MP? Is Raiders the most re watchable (or close) movie of all time?
1 more question Drake, what is the best performance in a Spielberg film for you? Ford in Raiders? Shaw in Jaws?
@Azman – here’s my page on Raiders http://thecinemaarchives.com/2019/07/01/raiders-of-the-lost-ark-1981-spielberg/
Hmmm- both of those are great- probably add Neeson and Fiennes in Schindler’s List.
spielberg does a lot of great works with children. what do you all think is top ten or so performances of children in cinema history. i don’t know what age would exactly be the cutoff, would matthew broderick in ferris be too old. this is a harder question to define but i think it is interesting.
@m – Spielberg does get great child performances. You’re right. I’ve never thought about the category. I know Tatum O’Neal won a best supporting actress Oscar in Paper Moon, Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, Anna Paquin in The Piano, Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun would have to be on the short list.
How could they forget the best, Jean-Pierre Léaud in the 400 blows
Hi! My ranking of his movies :
2. Raiders of The Lost Ark
3. Close Encounters of The Third Kind
4. Schindler’s List
5. Minority Report (love the ending)
6. Saving Private Ryan (dont love the ending)
7. Jurassic Park
8. E. T.
10. Catch Me If You Can
11. War of The Worlds
12. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
14. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
15. A. I.
16. Bridge of Spies
18. Empire of the Sun
19. The Color Purple
20. The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
21. The Post
Not in the Archives :
24. Ready Player One
25. The BFG
26. War Horse
27. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
28. The Lost World
30. The Sugarland Express
31. The Terminal
@ KidCharlemagne – thank you for sharing your list- excellent work. What makes you put War of the Worlds so high do you think? or AI so low? I largely agree with your list so hate to nitpick– just was curious as to your reasons.
Love the story & set-pieces in WotW + a good direction (the 11/9-esque invasion). Love the ending too (Spielberg/Cruise and the family, à long history)
I think i just dont get AI. A friend of mine loves this movie.
[…] 28. Steven Spielberg […]
What about the lost world. That is a very gpod movie that isn’t as good as the first film but I think the characterizations are just as interesting. The daughter Julian Moore were very good additions and especially Vince Vaughan was terrific. I like the idea that the men went out to capture the t rex and it showed the darker side of human lust but also Julian Moore and Vince Vaughan treating the baby Dino show a lighter side. If anyone is the star of the film though it is jeff Goldberg who is great. Spielberg did some really good action choreography and genuine frights. Richard attenborough was barely in it but good in his scenes of course. John Williams music was in a way a disappointment xonisdering the greatness of part 1s score. How do you feel
@m- I’ve seen it multiple times- it is entertaining enough but I’ve never felt compelled to archive it. It is rightly considered one of Spielberg’s worst efforts
Top 10 all time, no doubt about it. You have the best directors list out there but have to seriously disagree with this placement. Here are my top 10 of his films (not that it matters but it’s just fun to make these lists)
1. Jaws (1975)
2. Schindler’s List (1993)
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
4. ET (1982)
5. Jurassic Park (1993)
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
7. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
8. Lincoln (2012)
9. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
10. AI Artificial Intelligence (2001)
@James Robbins— “no doubt about it” huh? hmmm. I’ve said it before but Spielberg is a progression. He’s accessible– entertaining , he’s a very good director. But it is a reach to put in him in the top 10.
Hey, Drake. I noticed you put Temple of Doom as HR & The Last Crusade as R. I also agree.
I always preferred the darker Sequel /Prequel to Raiders. Imo, it was far more ambitious & executed very well. But I can also see why people love Last Crusade merely off the fact that James Bond is Indiana Jones father lol.
Also, the great River Phoenix.
@Von- thanks for the comment. Yes, I mean thing all three are great– I go back to them often.
You might not like him but one can’t say he’s a 2nd rate director and the filmmaking is weak. Just think Stanley Kubrick told Spielberg to direct AI:Artificial Intelligence (2001). Kubrick never had such kind of relationship with any other director. Imo Spielberg is a great director.
@Tanishk Shingala- Perhaps you’re not addressing me here- apologies. But for me I don’t “like” or “dislike” any director. Only in comparison with the very very top echelon (which Spielberg isn’t there) could you characterize him as “2nd rate” or “weak”– if I described him that way I shouldn’t have- I mean I have him 28th here on a list of 250. Sorry. That’s great Kubrick liked Spielberg– but that doesn’t put Spielberg on the level of a Kubrick or like a Scorsese.
@drake it wasn’t addressed to you or anyone in particular . I don’t find your ranking that extreme.
I think some people(not you)grossly underrate him as a director and somehow his image as a “mass” director makes it difficult for people to look at him as a great artist. He’s a master storyteller and that’s a great trait to have as a director.
Anyway i loved to read your take on Spielberg .
@Tanishk Shingala- ok great–we’re on the same page here or very close. Yep- those that write him off (perhaps solely because he’s popular) are missing out on some of the best cinema the last 50 years
I don’t really get the people who write him off as some mediocre director. Same thing happens to guys like Fincher or Tarantino a lot too, because they’re “Hollywood directors” which means their contributions to the cinematic arts are pretty dismissable. I do think this attitude will eventually fade since for example Leone’s films were horribly received on release but are now viewed very positively. Scorsese is at times received largely the same way, especially in the popular opinion where he’s often thought of as “that gangster director” even though crime films make up maybe a third of his total output at most depending on your definition. It’s that dismissive critical attitude that earned Godard the #5 director of all time position on TSPDT imo, he’s a great director but they’re certainly overrating him because he isn’t a “people’s director” so to speak. I mean if you’re going to write off Spielberg you have to write off Tarantino, Fincher, Hitchcock, and others too, which is just insane. Jaws alone is one of the best auteur-driven cinematic experiences ever and he has multiple other great films as well, particularly Raiders. Too underrated.
Anybody who thinks Spielberg is some average “Hollywood” director clearly needs to rethink their definition of that since things like the USS Indianapolis monologue don’t happen in a film by say Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay.
@Zane- yeah we’re on the same page. Spielberg’s reputation is fine– the consensus list has him at #24 http://www.theyshootpictures.com/gf1000_top250directors.htm .
Oh I know the consensus treats him right; he is an Academy Award-winner after all. I’m just talking about the number of “filmbros” and other assorted cinematic elitists who he is often dismissed by because he’s more of a “movie” director and not a “film” director, so to speak.
@Zane- for sure– and agreed
@Zane@Drake – I see this conversation is from over a years ago but recent viewings of Jaws and then last night ET (1982) brought me to this page. I agree with Zane points regarding the disrespect by “cinema elitists toward Speilberg. The opening 8 minutes of ET was breathtaking, the camera movement, low angle shots (since you are seeing from the perspective of ET, and he silhoutte images of US government workers scanning the area with flashlights is all so well done.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind MS
Raiders of the Lost Ark MS
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom HR
The Color Purple R
Empire of the Sun R
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade R
Jurassic Park HR
Schindler’s List MS
Saving Private Ryan HR
A.I. Artificial Intelligence MS
Catch Me if you Can R
Minority Report HR
Bridge of Spies R
The Post R
@James Trapp- thanks for your help here
New Spielberg film with tremendous reviews so far! This completely snuck up on me and is funny as I was planning on a Spielberg study after Argento and that was before I knew about this.
@James Trapp- Very nice! We’re heading into the best season of the year here for new arrivals certainly
I finally caught The Fabelmans (2022) and was very impressed. I think I need another viewing before grading it but its definitely the best coming of age film I have seen since Boyhood (2014). There is a great scene near the end of the film where Spielberg stand in Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) meets John Ford (played by David Lynch of all people). Its based on a true story with link below. Its a great mix of family drama crossed with coming of age. It is not excessively sentimental which was a (pleasant) surprise. Apparently the film stays relatively close to the Speilberg’s real life story. Seeing his creativity as a kid is quite interesting to watch and I love seeing the high level of details regarding the “movies in the movies” as just as in real life Speilberg started making home movies at age 12 and at 13 made a 40-minute war film, titled Escape to Nowhere, in which he used his classmates as the cast members; the film won first prize in a statewide competition.
Steven Speilberg tells story about meeting John Ford:
@James Trapp- Nice share- not 100% sure I believe that story – haha. But still.