G.O.A.T. is a term that many of the younger generation understand because they like to use it for everything they consider great, even if the sentence doesn’t flow with the acronym. For those that aren’t familiar with the term, it stands for the Greatest of All Time and that’s a topic for the list at hand today. Steven Spielberg has given us some of the most iconic films arguably in the history of films. His diversity in unparalleled with the success it has brought himself and the actors and actresses around him while his impact is felt anywhere you go in the world.
This Jewish born American director has collaborated with some of the greatest actors and arguably the most iconic film composer of all time, John Williams. Spielberg has never shied away from any genre in film and has proven he can tackle any style of film and do it justice. His start came in horror/drama and was later tapping into his sci-fi roots only to give us historical dramas later in his career. Without Spielberg, there is no fear of sharks or the love of adventure or the heartache of history through cinema like we see it now and this list is dedicated to his works in an order I am giving a least to greatest.
These are only films he has directed, not produced, funded or strictly written. I am putting every Spielberg film to date that he has directed on this list so buckle up for the endless amounts of Spielberg films….now!
QUICK DISCLAIMER: I am not picking films that were the most financially successful, but films that I consider to be his best of the best.
31. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008): This is not at the standard of the Indiana Jones title and it’s hard to believe this even came from a director like Spielberg. I guess even Spielberg isn’t perfect.
30. Always (1989): A little fun fact for those who don’t know, but the man who wrote this will be portrayed by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston this coming week aka Dalton Trumbo. It’s a weird and sort of cheesy romance, but it’s entertaining enough.
29. Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983): This was an anthology film based on the famous television show of the 60’s that didn’t quite hit me like it did for many Twilight Zone fans. The part of the story Spielberg directs is weird, but still has that touch of his magic he’s known for.
28. 1941 (1979): Written by his good buddy Robert Zemeckis, this off brain comedy starred some heavy hitters that struck out for most people, including this writer. While it has some laughs, it is not as cohesive a project that I’d expect from Spielberg. Granted, this was only five years after he made a film that will appear much later on the list…
27. The Sugarland Express (1974): I bet everyone forgets this was technically Spielberg’s first theatrical release for film. It stars a 25 year old Goldie Hawn that is both wild in nature and rambunctious like the early career of Spielberg. It’s a quality flick that not many have or will likely see.
26. Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997): Making sequels are tough but it’s even tougher when the sequel is of a film like Jurassic Park. No one ever thought that dinosaurs would come to life like they did with the first film and that hype was a dimming candle that would burn like the wax falling from it’s less than likable new characters. Jeff Goldblum and Julianne Moore are great though.
25. Duel (1972): It was because of a YouTuber named Chris Stuckmann for me going back with a different pair of eyes for this film. Being a made-for-TV film, it’s actually quite impressive. Tension and mystery can be some of the toughest emotions to convey from a young director and you can tell just from this film where the career of Spielberg was going to end up.
24. Bridge of Spies (2015): This is a young entry on the list, but it still has a spot either way. It was written by the Coen Brothers and stars Tom Hanks, a winning formula right? Well, sort of. It has great monologues and dialogues between characters during the film, but like the cold war itself, there is not any actual action that takes place. It’s a great story that is well crafted, but it can be a tad dull compared to more kinetic films of Spielberg’s past.
23. The Color Purple (1985): An emotional and inspiring story of abuse and overcoming adversity, I often wonder if Spielberg was truly the right choice for this certain project. He definitely gets the main agenda across on a film like this, but you have to wonder if it was in someone’s hands who was slightly closer with the subject matter would it have turned out even better than it did. It is dramatic and sometimes tough to handle, but if we’re able to get through some of the films below, we can get through this one.
22. Munich (2005): It’s a good movie, but it is loooooooooooooooooong.
21. Amblin (1968): This was a film I got a chance to find for a project in college and I was enthralled at how the man who made Jaws and Jurassic Park started from a film such as this. It later became a name of one of his production companies and is a key vocal point to the creation of a legend. It’s also just a really interesting little short story.
20. War of the Worlds (2005): This may not be my favorite film of Spielberg’s but it has it’s moments. The aliens, unlike his former projects, are actually quite menacing and villainous. Tom Cruise is great in this one and has a place in the world of sci-fi next to the best of them. The final few scenes of the film are a little underwhelming for a regular audience but do make sense when it comes down to the story. It’s good smartly done fun.
19. War Horse (2011): This may be at number nineteen, but I really enjoyed this movie. It was a great rendition of the great stage play and book of the same name and had a unique linear storyline that was captivating to follow. The scenes are shot with grace and love as well as with an eye for detail. Every angle conveys some form of strong emotion whether you see it or not. It also serves as a great historical drama but with the eyes of an animal and his master(s) and friend.
18. The Adventures of TIntin (2011): A mixture of 3D animation and motion capture, Spielberg and Peter Jackson bring on the mo-cap king in Andy Serkis for some aid on the characters as well as a talented group of actors that include; Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg. Think of it as an animated version an Indiana Jones style character but younger and more animated.
17. Lincoln (2012): Helping Daniel Day-Lewis cement his legacy as the greatest actor of all time, he nabbed his third (a record) Oscar for Best-Actor as Abraham Lincoln. The historical dram hits you hard with facts, historical drama, and surprising humor and energy though it is far from a comedy. The ensemble cast doesn’t get much better and they all transform in front of our eyes as Spielberg continues with his historical pieces.
16. Hook (1991): It makes sense such a polarizing film is in the middle of this list because you can ask 40 random people and half will say they love this movie and the other half with despise it. I am neutral. I accept the flaws and embrace the stronger moments of the film. Robin Williams is absolutely remarkable as an adult Peter Pan and the film boasts a cast and story that is often a delightful and original spin on the classic story.
15. Empire of the Sun (1987): A young Christian Bale is in full effect in this underrated film about a boy (Bale) who learns to take care of himself in a Japanese occupied Shanghai. Once a spoiled British child, he is taken under the wing of a soldier who helps him grow as a person in the process. Who knew Christian Bale was already in a Spielberg movie?
14. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984): A great middle film of a trilogy that was sadly made into a quadrilogy that is considered the weakest of a great series, but also it’s dark turn. Thankfully, the dark turn is enough to still be entertaining and outlandish without taking away the spirit of what the original brought to us. It’s still iconic in it’s own right and has all that you want from an Indiana Jones film aka no aliens.
13. Amistad (1997): I have this movie for helping me realize that I have a knack for picking out future talent in films e.i. Djimon Honsou and Matthew McConaughey. The performances and dialogue are strong as well as being the majority of this film. Horrid imagery of slave ships and the racism that ran this country to the ground was then flipped for the better in a shocking true story about justice and the true pursuit of happiness and the freedom we as people take for granted.
12. The Terminal (2004): Give me crap all you want because I will defend this film until I am on my death bed. Tom Hanks returns for another collaboration with his director and brings us a small and friendly romantic comedy that entertains while captures you in the most simplistic ways. There is no over the top storyline or intense battles, all this movie relies on is the good nature of people. Some find it boring, I find it gratifying and satisfying as well as penetrating through small pores of emotion.
11. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001): It’s poetic justice that a film that was suppose to be a collective effort between Spielberg and the late-great Stanley Kubrick was then released in 2001. Though not as well received as many would have hoped, I enjoy this film. A visual collective of a photo-imaginative world that has robots, androids, and fantasy like storytelling all wrapped in one. It has a young Haley Joel Osment as a Pinocchio like character who meets Jude Law’s Gigelo Joe — a pleasure bot — as they embark on a journey that is a respect to Kubrick with the warmth of Spielberg.
10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): When you want to suggest a film to people who want to get into film you have to suggest Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Directed and written by Spielberg, it’s a tale about aliens that doesn’t involve them wanting to anally probe humans or eat them with their second mouths (though we love those aliens too). What Spielberg gives us instead is groundbreaking sci-fi that taps into the wonders and imaginations of the human desire to understand the unknown and it’s a brilliant, if not one of the best films ever made, that should be seen at least twice.
9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1988): When else do you get to see Sean Connery and Harrison Ford in a film together? Returning to the classic adventurous nature of the series and it’s more lightly captured thematic moments rather than the darker tones brought from the second installment of the franchise, The Last Crusade creates what should be one of the best trilogies in film history.
8. Schindler’s List (1993): What a testament to diverse film making and what a testament to the prowess of Spielberg for making a film like this and Jurassic Park in the same year. I may not say to myself “Oh I want to watch a Holocaust movie!” but when the urge to watch something emotional and grim, I look at Schindler’s List. It is one of those great films that brings a visceral reaction through your body because you know how horrid human nature can be, but you also realize how great human nature can become.
7. Minority Report (2002): Comparing this film only 13 years later, we are not far off from this thought provoking sci-fi tale of policing of the future. Sadly, if we were able to stop murders before they happened there’d be far more different issues here in America…I digress. Minority Report is a film before it’s time with a great performance by Tom Cruise and Colin Ferrell that have realized themes, characters, and ideas that are encapsulated by one of the coolest visually attractive glows in any movie. We often forget how great Tom Cruise is and the same goes for original storytelling.
6. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982): You quote it, you eat the famous candies, and you probably have said the line having to do with “phoning home”. E.T. is classic Hollywood and sets the standard for family film making and science fiction. It tells the story and bond of an alien and a young boy and how they are both different on a planet that will never seem to understand them, but when misfits find each other, voids are filled, and warmth spreads like a summer day in Florida.
5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): The first collaboration between Spielberg and George Lucas, this was our first ever intro to one of the most iconic fictional characters ever created and that is Indiana Jones. Every shot captures what we love most about going to the theaters and watching movies. The adventure and style that great films like Laurence of Arabia gave us decades before are seen here through classic humor, action, and set pieces that will hold up for many more years to come.
4. Saving Private Ryan (1998): Talk about looking at a car crash. You know it’s going to be horridly gut-wrenching imagery but you still can’t help but go back and watch it. Thanks to masterful cinematography, immediate emotional pull, and graphically stylized realism, Saving Private Ryan tells the stories of the failed WWII event known as D-Day and has Tom Hanks as a soldier attempting to survive along with try to make sure Private Ryan gets home safely. You’d think a film so violent and gruesome would be a film you’d never want to watch again, but Spielberg is just too good.
3. Jurassic Park (1993): It’s hard to believe we’ve been given three sequels to this one spectacular movie and none have impressed us anywhere near like the original has. The more and more I view Jurassic World, the more annoyed I get with the film. The constant flow of fully realized characters, including the T-Rex, make this more than just a tension soaked monster flick. Instead, it’s a revolutionary look at how CGI with practical effects can stand the test of time as well as give us a nearly perfect story.
2. Catch Me If You Can (2002): This is an overlooked classic with one of the best duos in film history — Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio — and then you sprinkle some Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, and a young Amy Adams, you are quick to forget two and a half hours have passed. This is endlessly re-watchable and boasts humor through the classic Spielberg style of adventure, but along the way becomes surprisingly sweet.
1. Jaws (1975): I go back to this film every year and throw it into the blu-ray player and just realize what film is suppose to really be. Jaws is the reason we have summer blockbusters and proved to us that even through some of the roughest adversity when doing something, you can still make gold out of sh**. Jaws gave us an unhealthy fear of water as well as endlessly quotable moments that will live on for the rest of our existences and it’s as simple as hearing the John Williams theme song.. duh dum…duh dum….duhhhh dum….