I’ll admit, it is hardly ground-breaking to be posting a Top 5 Spielberg movie list, due to his mainstream popularity and global household name. But because Steven Allan Spielberg has tackled such a wide variety of film genres, jumping from horror to thriller to science-fiction and back again in a few short years, everybody’s Top 5 Spielberg flicks are going to be different. Therefore, this Top 5 is purely my favourites and not necessarily which ones I think are the best. This will probably reveal more about my taste in movies than his directing prestige, but it will also hopefully pay tribute to some of his films that are perhaps not as recognised as others. Hope you enjoy the list and comment with your own Top Fives!
5: Duel (1971)
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Starring Dennis Weaver and Jacqueline Scott
Proof that horror does not have to be covered in blood, Spielberg’s made for TV movie and directional début Duel showcases his talent in its purest form. The simplicity and unerring realism of the situation is marked by a myriad of inventive and hauntingly suspenseful camera shots and invasive sound effects, which throw you right into the seat next to Dennis Weaver as he desperately tries to out-think and escape the anonymous truck driver.
I became obsessed with the dirty giant truck when I was a kid, and the tension and broad daylight setting for this relentless threat was one of the catalysts for my movie obsession. Even though it is less famous than his other seventies hits, to create such a vibrant and emotive movie out of the simplest of plots really is testament to Spielberg’s skill and ingenuity. If you have not seen it yet, then grab it on Amazon, you won’t regret it.
4: Jurassic Park (1993)
IMDB Rating: 8.0
Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum
If you look up Jurassic Park on the ever reliable Wikipedia, it is classed as “a 1993 American science-fiction adventure film that incorporates some horror elements as well”. This genre-layering is something done so well by Spielberg, and ensures his films stand out even more. Of course it is based on a fantastic book, but if you have read Crichton’s perennial work you will notice that it leans more towards the horror element, and much of it is watered down for the PG audience, which meant Spielberg was able to ramp up the adventure element with grandiose shots of Brontosaurus’ and heart stopping Tyrannosaur chases.
As the film predominately used animatronics, it still looks fantastic even now, giving it massive longevity. Reading the book will show how brilliant the casting was, with the excellent Goldblum as the realistic and skeptical Ian Malcolm and Richard Attenborough as the determined but deluded John Hammond, creator of Jurassic Park. Despite some wooly science, the whole story, cinematography and pace of the film is truly breathtaking and stands out as one of Spielberg’s greatest achievements, landing it a place at number four in my list.
3: Minority Report (2002)
IMDB Rating: 7.7
Starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton
You may sneer at my choice for the number three spot, but bear with me. Although not the most revered of Spielberg’s movies, it is nonetheless a breathtakingly fast paced and achingly well filmed movie that takes Philip K Dick’s story and pays it huge credit. It is typically dark as with all the best from the famous director, but is also brilliantly modern and Cruise excels in a role almost tailored for him. As I have mentioned above, some of Spielberg’s best work comes from genre-melding, and the combination of crime, mystery, thriller and science-fiction ensures a different experience every time I watch this slick film. The film’s central theme regarding free-will is so well handled, that it actually creates an intelligent debate amidst all the gun-fire and Cruise running as per usual.
Spielberg always gets the absolute best out of all the actors involved. With this in mind, Colin Farrell is in one of my favorite roles, and his ambiguous position as he chases and then sides with Cruise is brilliant. The plot twists and turns in a sci-fi world glittering with the neo-noir tropes that surround the cast, and much of K Dick’s premonitions about the use of technology in the future is hauntingly realistic. Not only an underrated film, but also an underrated directing performance from Spielberg, and if it was not for the brilliance of the next two films below, it would be my number one choice.
2: Saving Private Ryan (1998)
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon and Tom Sizemore
What more can be said about possibly the best war movie ever made? Along with me, those lucky enough to have caught it at the cinema were completely blown away by the famous D-Day landings at the outset, which left cinema-goers with their jaws rooted to the floor. The adherence to real-life testament of the experience was also revered across the board, landing it five Oscar awards, including a best director award for Mr Spielberg himself. The muted sound effects that Captain Miller experiences during the initial battle was so innovative on the big screen, it has been reused ever since.
With such a variety of well edited scenes, and almost a plethora of great actors all putting in the some of their best performances, it is almost impossible to not experience some new emotion with every watch. The camerawork is masterfully handled from the first person perspective that the viewer’s connection to the film itself has arguably never been bettered. As with all Spielberg’s best work, it still looks fantastic 16 years on, and may never be beaten in terms of realism and sheer excellence.
1: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
IMDB Rating: 8.6
Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen and Tom Freeman
This is probably the point at which you are shaking your head and wondering how I could possibly have omitted Jaws, Schindler’s List and Close Encounters of the Third Kind from my Top 5, and I would assume there may only be a handful of my fellow Indy lovers that are agreeing with my top choice. But I ask you to find me a better opening sequence that is so iconic, so genuinely cinematic, and so delightfully well crafted, than the famous sequence of Idol-swapping, trap-dodging and boulder-fleeing at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I have watched all four Indiana Jones movies many times (albeit not so much the disaster that is Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), and for me Raiders is the one with the most artistic value, directing vision and pure genius. From the fantastic patient reveal of the iconic hero at the start, all the way through to the unforgettably horrifying and fairly bleak ending. No matter what Amy says on the Big Bang Theory, Raiders of the Lost Ark has never been emulated and every time it is tried, there is always too much emphasis on either heavy-handed comedy, or over-produced action. The balance of adventure, romance, comedy and pure cinematic wonder has never been beaten, and it remains still my favourite of all Spielberg’s films.
I hope you enjoyed my list, and please open up the debate with your own opinion!