Steven Spielberg Films

For a good part of my young life I wanted to be a filmmaker when I grew up, thanks mostly to Stephen Spielberg. I was a Spielberg fanboy by the age of seven at least, or as soon as I learned that not only had Spielberg directed Jurassic Park (my favorite film at the time), but had also directed all kinds of other great films. This is why: Spielberg has always been about giving the audience what they want, but also telling good stories along the way. He gets accused of audience manipulation and being overly-sentimental at times, and he has gone a bit overboard on the Nazis, but even some of his worst films carry with them a pure enthusiasm for good old-fashioned cinema magic (yes, even Hook...), and that's exactly what I've always loved about his films. I never ended up going into film-making (it's way too hard!), since all my pretend movies would've been very derivative and Spielbergian anyway, but that love of telling a good adventure story still inspires me to write my own tales to this day (which are still forthcoming). Here's a look back at some of my favorites which have played a part in forming who I am today:

"Come in through the door!"
Close Encounters of the Third Kind - This is currently my favorite movie. It's got just enough intrigue, suspense, pacing, humor, and eye-popping special effects to make it for me. Some of my earliest memories of this movie involve the colorful ships buzzing past the boy on the road, the "mashed potato mountain" scene, and the trash mountain in the living room. And I don't care one bit that the aliens (spoiler!) don't "do anything" at the end, because Spielberg spends the whole film piquing your curiosity and wonderment until you're numb from it and then delivers the best light show you've ever seen, which is pay off enough in my book. It's good old-fashioned movie-making, taking full advantage of that "warm summer night" feel to inspire you to go look up to see what you can spot in the horizon-backlit starry sky. Spotlights and lens flares galore-- all Spielbergian trademarks.

"Smile you son of a *bang!*!!"
Jaws - I first saw this movie on late night TV when I was like 10 or so, and lucky me it was the last half when they really start going mano-a-sharko with that monster of the deep. I also saw the "Shark!" beach run scene, which features one of Spielberg's other favorite trademarks: namely, women clutching their children and screaming (also seen in Close Encounters and E.T.). When that shark started chowing down the boat, bit Robert Shaw in half, and he spit blood at the camera, that was THE most graphic thing I had ever seen in a movie up until then, and it was awesome! Then there's plenty of thrills to be had, especially when the boat starts sinking, but overall it's just a huge entertainment-fest of a movie from beginning to end. I even found the drunken fisherman's rant and song entertaining back in the day, which inspired many "Lego remakes" in our downstairs playroom, featuring sharks and our Lego boats.

Remember? This happened too!
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial - This may just be the ultimate Spielberg film. It's got everything (except the Nazis). There's the "initially-scary-but-ultimately-benevolent" government types from Close Encounters once again flashing their high-intensity spotlights all over the place, the sentimental "average American family antics" we saw in Jaws and Close Encounters, the main character who becomes "obsessed" with something (Eliot toward the alien), mothers grasping their children and screaming, plenty of "movie magic" with the flying bicycles and the spaceship, and at least a few classic "They're heeere!" or "We're gonna need a bigger boat..." kinds of classic movie lines, including: "E.T. phone home.." and "It was nothing like that penis breath!" The movie just has all the elements of a great adventure tale that Spielberg made staples, and every scifi movie in the 80's wanted to be this movie.

"Start the engines! Start the engines!"
Indiana Jones Trilogy - Yes I know there's a "fourth one," but to be honest I was very disappointed so that one's going to have to be out for me (sorry George). I'm including the first three films in one just because there's no separating them. Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade are, once again, that classic Spielbergian adventure-serial concept, only now we're globe hopping from booby trap to booby trap with the most elite archaeologist to ever pick up a pick and shovel, not to mention handy whip and damn cool-looking hat. No boy ever turned away from these movies and didn't at least consider a career in archaeology (including this one). Plus we get badass NAZIS now to schadenfreude-ourselves into bliss by blowing apart, crushing, incinerating, exploding, and running over with tanks. Admittedly, Temple of Doom (the supposed "prequel") was the weakest and possibly one of the weirdest films Spielberg ever made. It also had the most annoying female lead in the history of cinema (so useless she made Short Round look like Shaft!). But even Temple of Doom has enough of its own spectacular "suspension-of-disbelief" action scenes that make it worthwhile, and the actual temple was pretty cool.

"Clever girl..."
Jurassic Park - Nothing more need be said on this one. It's got all the elements of a classic Spielberg adventure tale once again, only this time we're in the jungle and there's dinosaurs amok! The T-Rex? The Velociraptors? That's "Land Jaws" as far as we're concerned. The family antics? Well, we got the sentimental back-story of two semi-lovebird paleontologists defending their somewhat "professional relationship" from the attacks of the real carnivore on the set (the Goldblum!), and of course the Spielbergian "kids in peril" that we care about because they're "kids in peril" (we saw this in Temple of Doom as well). But really, what's so great about this movie? It's got just enough suspense (of disbelief), just enough sentimentality, just enough death and (mostly) bloodless carnage, and the special effects are fantastic. And nobody can film helicopters just simply "flying around" like Spielberg (also check out Close Encounters for that)!

Spielberg's films are defined by epic story-telling, evocative dramatics, and sentimental audience manipulation which (often) works. Nearly all of them serve as tributes to well-crafted crowd-pleasing movie-making, giving us just enough awe and just enough excitement or drama to do what films ought to do, which is entertain and inspire. Some other honorable mentions I'll include are: Poltergeist (he produced it and it definitely has all the Spielbergian trademarks), The Goonies (another he wrote and produced), Empire of the Sun (evidence that underrated Spielberg films do exist), and even War of the Worlds wasn't half bad. Let's also not forget that he produced a lot of the now-classic WB cartoons like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs. Oh yeah, not to mention Saving Ryan's Private and Schindler's List, because he didn't have enough anti-Nazi movies already.


  1. I liked Jurassic Park. Joseph Mazzello was amazing in it. And I loved the first three Indiana Joneses (obviously). Apart from that, Spielberg has always left me feeling who could have achieved more.

    1. Yeah I thought Mazzello nailed the "I need a father-figure" role pretty good, especially when he's idolizing Grant.

      Thanks for stopping by.