Cinema owes a lot to Steven Spielberg, who over a career spanning seven decades has created some of the most celebrated and groundbreaking films of all-time. His stuff is legendary, but out of his currently 33 released movies, how many of them are worth a shot if you're not a purist (like me)?
33. The BFG (2016)
While Spielberg is known for creating some choice family films, not often do his films feel childish. The BFG, his adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl book is his single movie that's strictly for kids, but its largest problem is that it's tedious.
What should be a strictly 90 minute affair is bloated with vignettes, while Spielberg takes away some of the source material's key strengths. There's no threat employed to the overly goofy villains, who're watered down and far less intimidating, removing the dark aura that in turn amplified the wonder and bond between the little girl and BFG. That bond is also left somewhat one-note despite an inflated run-time, leaving the movie as a bunch of CGI escapades in the land of giants. There's not really a connecting sense of adventure.
With uncanny CGI and despite some changes to the book, a decision to double down on fart jokes, it's also a bit grating. Though, it is kept faithful enough to Dahl's source material and it is quaintly British a lot of the time. It's ultimately a harmless film, but one that has murky appeal. It's too boring for adults, but I can't imagine kids sitting through it either.
The BFG was a flop, not finding its audience in North America and relying on international markets to push its gross earnings above its budget figure, without taking into account the high marketing cost. While its production value pales in comparison, there is in fact a far tighter and truer to the source animated adaptation of The BFG from 1989, which runs at a lean 90 minutes, which is worth checking out instead.
Verdict: Skip ⏩
Average ranking: 31/33 (2.8/5)
My ranking: 33/33 (1.5/5)
32. Amistad (1997)
One of Spielberg's less popular films, coming in 1997 after a four year break for the director, released late in the year ready for 'awards season', following the release of his blockbuster sequel The Lost World, in the summer. Amistad felt like Spielberg repeating a pattern, following his 1993 mega success of releasing both the blockbuster of the year with Jurassic Park and then the Oscar frontrunner, with Schindler's List.
Amistad is not a bad film, which is certainly something not every director can say about their lesser works, but it is only periodically compelling. There are moments that are suitably rousing or assuringly brutal, but they're distributed unevenly throughout a dry, overlong and syrupy courtroom drama.
Most egregious though, Amistad feels like they're telling the less interesting part of a story in focusing on Matthew McConaughey's sideburns and the accompanying courtroom drama. The film is at its best and most visceral when it focuses in on the inciting incident of the film, which is a rebellion on a slave ship fronted by Djimon Hounsou's character. Flashbacks to the slave ship and this rebellion are the film's highlights, but the film is more interested in spending time with the white characters as they navigate a their many speeches and arguments, predictably paired with a stirring John Williams score.
Verdict: Skip ⏩
Average ranking: 24/33 (3.3/5)
My ranking: 32/33 (2/5)
31. 1941 (1979)
Spielberg's only film that is a comedy first, 1941's biggest sin is that it just isn't very funny! At all! Featuring one of John Belushi's few film roles, paired with his partner in crime and fellow Blues Brother, Dan Aykroyd. It's an impressively large scale production too, you rarely see comedies with such elaborate sets and action. But it's all in favour of lame slapstick and an absolutely weightless plot.
There's no lack of effort on show for Spielberg's third "summer blockbuster", sequences such as the fight in the dance hall is so needlessly showy, that it makes what is essentially just light slapstick humour, fairly enjoyable. But when the film is so long and lacking laughs, it's a tough watch. By the end it lacks any sort of plot or character depth as it has buried itself in meaningless chaos. Spielberg acknowledges that this one didn't really hit the mark, both critically and financially compared to his previous efforts of Jaws and Close Encounters, stating that the film would've done better if marketed as a drama. But when your film is filled with Looney Tunes level silliness and weightless drama, would anyone respect it as a drama? This resulting film is at least interesting, but too long and generally misses the mark to keep it from being worth a go.
Verdict: Skip ⏩
Average ranking: 32/33 (2.6/5)
My ranking: 31/33 (2/5)
30. Always (1989)
Always can perhaps be forgiven as it's clearly a project that Spielberg embarked on making out of love for the film it is remaking, and as a chance to reunite with star Richard Dreyfuss, absent from both Spielberg's films and Hollywood in general since his starring turns in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
As a remake of a 1943 film titled A Guy Named Joe, it might distract you by how dated the plot and general premise feel, even by 1989 standards. Essentially the premise is that Richard Dreyfuss, puzzlingly paired up with Holly Hunter, dies(!) in a heroic aerial firefighting incident. Now he's dead, but remains on Earth as an unseen ghost and watches as Holly Hunter falls for a generic hunk. It's a scenario that doesn't lend to much comedy and the romance is dazzlingly boring. Dreyfuss's existential ruminating is probably the film's highlights, as well as very well shot aerial sequences. But mostly this is a romance that falls flat and a drama that is lacking.
Verdict: Skip ⏩
Average ranking: 30/33 (2.8/5)
My ranking: 30/33 (2/5)
29. The Post (2017)
A cynical view of looking at The Post is that despite being decades into his career, Spielberg still wanted to fish for some Oscars. With an impressive cast, including the Oscar magnet herself: Meryl Streep, in a starring role and a script that mined history to turn the mirror onto Trump era politics. With feminism and the free press being main topics explored by this historical drama.
It's a film that technically doesn't put a foot wrong, looking fantastic and the direction from Spielberg is kinetic in a way which enhances the film. But as effortless as Spielberg pulls off the film, it comes across as something totally needless. One of those films that pads out the 'Best Picture' category in the Oscars ceremony. The Post is worth watching, but only to those who read the premise and wish to explore it. I don't think it's particularly engaging, especially as the obvious mirror it holds to 2017 politics grows further and further away.
Verdict: Skip ⏩
Average ranking: 23/33 (3.4/5)
My ranking: 29/33 (2/5)
28. Ready Player One (2018)
Ready Player One is frustrating. because it builds up a great dystopian premise, only to seemingly not realise quite how cold and dystopian it is and indulge in nerd culture circlejerking. Based on a much maligned young adult novel which is infamously dominated by references to '80s pop culture, Spielberg has lived long enough to direct a film based on source material that lists him as a top filmmaker, alongside Kevin Smith...
Life sucks for the people living in the world of Ready Player One. Luckily they can ignore how much it sucks by strapping on a VR headset and entering the world of 'Oasis', an online game that is reminiscent of Mark Zuckerberg's Metaverse which debuted to a collective shrug. Maybe a better comparison would be the absolute bonkers pop-culture mash-up that Fortnite has become, but with an advanced VR headset and more of a focus on just hanging out.
There's often glimpses of potential in the film, Spielberg certainly doesn't shy away from the colder aspects of this dystopian view of the future. But far too often is it underplayed or simply left in the background to pursue a standard treasure hunt plot. It's a film that splits time between sprawling CGI and live-action, but leans more on the animated portions than you may expect.
So it's fun and technically dazzling for a while, often providing glimpses of something more substantial, but it ends up too tied down to a material that fails to realise its dystopian potential and instead packs in as many 'nerd culture' cameos as it can.
Verdict: Skip ⏩
Average ranking: 27/33 (3.2/5)
My ranking: 28/33 (2/5)
27. The Terminal (2004)
The Terminal has a premise suiting of an existential horror film, which is: man finds himself perpetually stuck in JFK airport. Continuing Spielberg's partnership with America's sweetheart, Tom Hanks, The Terminal is a bit nauseating despite gentle intentions.
There's toothless commentary on post-9/11 airport security measures in this sickly sweet dramedy (which has an puzzling detour into romance, until it drops that plotline!). What does this movie say about the measures introduced that provide a loophole in which Tom Hanks has to live in an airport for a while? Well it's all just a bit silly! Listen to his funny accent as he tries to order fast food!
It's filled with really tame, dry comedy, intermittent slapstick that's rarely funny and Tom Hanks being the nicest man on Earth with a quirky vague eastern European accent the whole time. How do we defeat excessive airport security measures that stop him from going home, or entering NYC? With an EXCESS of Spielbergian sentimentality of course.
If this was 90 minutes long I'd probably say "sure" and give it a pass but at 2 hours it becomes a bit nauseating. Also the fact it's not saying much, the characters aren't that interesting and it's rarely funny (not without a lack of trying either) means this is one of the lesser Spielberg movies in his filmography. There's a really cool airport set though!
Verdict: Skip ⏩
Average ranking: 17/33 (3.5/5)
My ranking: 27/33 (2/5)
26. The Sugarland Express (1974)
The first Spielberg film to be released in cinemas was The Sugarland Express. A fairly humble entry in his filmography, lacking a lot of hallmarks of what we'd come to associate with the director.
Though it can be seen as a breath of fresh air if you're looking for something lacking the brand of sentimentality that Spielberg's blockbusters would go on to attain, it's mostly just an OK film. Based on real events, it follows a Bonnie & Clyde type couple who perform a jailbreak, steal their child from his foster home and take a policeman hostage. Then ensues a comically slow moving police chase throughout Texas.
This film is pretty technically impressive for a theatrical debut, but lacking in characters worth investing in. It's powered by the absurdity of the scenario and the richness Spielberg attains out of the Texas setting, but lacking in terms of plot. It's worth a look and also features an against type casting of Goldie Hawn, playing a psycho when she'd go onto star in screwball comedies. Though there's enough going on to keep this a engaging viewing if the plot interests you.
Verdict: It's Fine 👍
Average ranking: 22/33 (3.4/5)
My ranking: 26/33 (2.5/5)
25. War Horse (2011)
Ready-made for history classes across the globe, Steven Spielberg's War Horse offers the story of a boy and his horse as told through the vivid lens of WWI.
Technically, a very impressive film. Very pretty cinematography from Janusz Kamiński, some really impressive sequences of direction from Spielberg and a suitably soaring John Williams score. It presents WWI through a family-friendly, syrupy lens. It's a movie that can sweep you up in the emotions, or make you groan with how telegraphed all the big emotional beats end up coming around, depends on you really. I can't say I was super into it, but I appreciate the film regardless.
At the end of the day though, horse melodrama is not all that compelling and the pacing applied is not the best here. It's impressively put together, but very obviously emotionally manipulative while also really obscuring the horror of WWI with family-friendly horse melodrama.
Verdict: It's Fine 👍
Average ranking: 26/33 (3.4/5)
My ranking: 25/33 (2.5/5)
24. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Sequels to Jurassic Park were inevitable. After the original became the smash hit it was, author Michael Crichton began penning a second one. With an unimaginative premise, as it turns out there was a second BIGGER island with more dinosaurs on it that for some reason was not mentioned in the original, this gets off to a clunky start.
Though the core adventure that only Jeff Goldblum, from supporting actor to star, embarks on has some fun. It's a homage to classic monster films like King Kong or fittingly, The Lost World. It indulges in a lot of the dumb impulses that the original avoided, making it occasionally exciting, but almost always a bit stupid. Spielberg's kind of on autopilot for a lot of this, leaving in big plot holes and letting the ending devolve into pure blockbuster schlock. It's cool to see the T-Rex stomp around San Diego, but the path there is haphazardly paced and its plot just does not manage to present much of interest and mainly works to join the dots between dinosaur set-pieces.
It's hardly essential and the biggest issue is how poorly paced it is, but there's some good adventure spirit and silly moments to enjoy here.
Verdict: It's Fine 👍
Average ranking: 29/33 (3.1/5)
My ranking: 24/33 (2.5/5)
23. The Color Purple (1985)
The Color Purple was Spielberg's jump to making 'mature films' about mature topics, and while later in his career he would better land this arbitrary transition. It's a hard film to denounce in any strong way, with such great central performances from Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey as well as Spielberg's typically deft work from behind the camera, tackling thoughtful source material.
However, what would become a common criticism of the director is arguably most at show in this film. Too much of the film's impactful moments are undercut by excessive sentimentality. While slice of life whimsy is captured well by Spielberg, the more 'mature' aspects of the film are tackled in a more pedestrian fashion. It ends up a film that's good enough, but doesn't feel like it totally comes together.
Verdict: It's Fine 👍
Average ranking: 9/33 (3.8/5)
My ranking: 23/33 (2.5/5)
22. Lincoln (2012)
Lincoln is a historical biopic by way of Steven Spielberg and a centrepiece performance by Daniel Day Lewis. Yeah you could read all this on wikipedia, or in a book, but that wouldn't provide the opportunity to see Daniel Day Lewis possessed by the ghost of the real Abraham Lincoln, would it?
This is carried hard by how good it looks, through another round of excellent cinematography from Janusz Kamiński, as well as impeccable production design. This alongside a set of committed performances means it's an easy movie to sink into. A typically chameleonic Daniel Day Lewis performance is a joy to watch as ever, but the supporting cast are all putting in great work too.
This is one of Spielberg's least 'showy' movies (or maybe: more subtly showy), mostly focusing on dialogue and the performances, so it makes the inevitable hokey moments of emotional manipulation all the more groan-worthy. Its presentation of the big vote that takes center stage, is more than a little mawkish. Also, while I'm clueless on how you'd really end a film like this satisfyingly, the attempt here is absolutely not it. False finishes, a ridiculous roundabout way of presenting Lincoln's assassination and an over-dramatization of key events makes it the low-light.
Average ranking: 24/33 (3.5/5)
My ranking: 22/33 (3/5)
21. Empire of the Sun (1987)
1987's Empire of Sun still sees Spielberg trying to find his way around developing more mature films. Unlike his previous effort in The Color Purple, this feels more distinctly Spielberg. Marrying a more serious war-time setting with the adventurous feel of his blockbusters makes for an interesting film. Juxtaposing morbid wartime reality with a kid's sense of wonderment.
It is really well shot and Spielberg's eye for spectacle is ever present. Lots of very impressively staged sequences where there's lots going on and the cinematography is really great start to finish. Though it suffers a bit from an aimless structure and a lack of particularly compelling supporting characters. However, centering in on a strong lead performance from a young Christian Bale makes the episodic feel of the film tolerable, his character is an essential core to the movie. Without him, it's not really saying much interesting about the war through a child's eyes. It's pretty tame overall, despite some moving moments. There's a feeling like a film like this is stuck between being a anti-war piece and a somewhat morbid kids adventure movie. The balance isn't well struck.
It has lots of great moments strung together somewhat messily. This leads to a film that should harbour a far larger emotional punch than it ends up providing and has a lot of downtime building up to the next big set-piece or emotional beat. Decent, but seems like a warmup for future Spielberg films. An impressive (and expensive looking) warmup for sure though.
Average ranking: 17/33 (3.7/5)
My ranking: 21/33 (3/5)
20. Hook (1991)
Nostalgia is powerful, and Hook is a testament to that. Despite some mixed critical reception from the very get-go, Hook is part of '90s cinema canon, which still gets some people riled up to this day. It's one of Spielberg's most polarizing films, which of course means I'm right in the middle of that polarized opinion. I think if you hate Hook, you have not heart but if you love Hook, you have no brain.
There's undeniably some magic to this interesting expansion of the Peter Pan story. The premise of 'Peter Pan grows up and returns to a divided Neverland' has a lot of potential and the first act of this film sows seed for a potentially moving character arc for Peter, in which he will realise that growing up doesn't mean losing your youthful soul. However, when the characters reach Neverland the film does turn into a spectacle first, story second.
This movie feels like it was filmed at a theme park. The sets are impressive, but designed in such a way that it feels like one of those theme park theatrical performances a lot of the time. Especially come the end where Robin Williams is attached to wires and floating about. There's no cohesion to Neverland, it's like they choose between one of three sets to put any scene in.
Despite its bloated-ness and lack of a particularly effective follow through on its simple message, Hook has a fun energy to it. It's one of these massive '90s productions that's in way over its head and has crazy Hollywood blockbuster energy (see also: Waterworld), but not quite enough at its core. The bells and whistles are great, but strip them away and it's a bit of a confused mess of a Peter Pan sequel.
Average ranking: 25/33 (3.3/5)
My ranking: 20/33 (3/5)
19. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
I'm gonna have to be the guy to rush to the defense of what is generally seen as the worst Steven Spielberg film. A fourth entry in his Indiana Jones franchise belatedly washed into cinemas in 2008, bringing back Harrison Ford and Karen Allen, while teaming them with the blockbuster 'star of the moment': Shia LaBeouf.
The goofiest and campest of all the Indiana Jones films that undeniably has the franchise's lowest lows, but generally it is a success as a fun blockbuster adventure. It's a shame Harrison Ford is on autopilot and uncanny CGI ruins otherwise exciting action sequences, but despite the gap between titles I think there's enough good 'ol adventure spirit to make this a fun experience. There's lots of memorable ideas and by the final act when you've got an ensemble on a chase adventure, there's decent chemistry and preposterous thrills.
However, while I think this is fun enough, it's still largely unnecessary and audience reaction being so mixed is understandable. Writer George Lucas had seen his good will run out over the course of releasing his Star Wars prequel trilogy and to some, this Indiana Jones sequel further soiled his legacy, dragging Spielberg down with him. I can't be mad at it though and it's low-stakes enough to come across better than Lucas's messy Star Wars prequels.
Average ranking: 33/33 (2.6/5)
My ranking: 19/33 (3/5)
18. Bridge of Spies (2015)
This was a low-key powerhouse teaming, with Spielberg directing a script penned by The Coen Brothers. While it doesn't overtly seem like a project that either would snugly fit, it ends up working very well. It's one of the more restrained historical movies from Steven Spielberg, and I feel it's all the better for it. While his film's like War Horse or Lincoln indulged in some dramatic schmaltz, Bridge of Spies by contrast feels like it earns its emotional payoff and it feels far more consistently genuine.
It's powered by great central performances from Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, the film looks wonderful as usual and it's often quietly tense. Its plot is interesting and despite not quite managing to keep a good momentum, sometimes feeling slow, it's interesting and easy to sink into this time period that's been thoughtfully recreated.
While it's more of an interesting film than a particularly riveting one, there's still enough tense thrills and character depth to make Bridge of Spies one of the better later-career Spielberg films.
Average ranking: 18/33 (3.5/5)
My ranking: 18/33 (3/5)
17. War of the Worlds (2005)
Spielberg's post-9/11 blockbuster is one that's easy to poke hole into, but it would be criminal to ignore what this film does well even if it doesn't fully come together. Mixes dark, tense PG-13 horror with some disaster movie spectacle. Spielberg's usual warmth is absent and parts of this have a uneasy surreal tone. The first act is excellent, I like that Tom Cruise's character is a flawed dad and his redemption is hard earned. It has lots of powerful imagery that stays with you and the sound design is very memorable, the alien's foghorn-esque sounds evoke a wartime sense of panic and inevitability.
Every time I watch this I still can't believe how suddenly the ending comes around. It just feels so detached from the rest of the film, especially its vaguely positive tone (and certain preposterous elements that we just have to take for granted). I know the novel ends in a similar way, but I always feel that after a brilliant first act, this movie steadily rolls downhill from being great, to not nearly as great.
Scenes early in the film of Cruise evading the alien tripods as they beam people into ash are brilliantly terrifying, Dakota Fanning coming across a river of bodies is frightening imagery and though it owes a lot to Jurassic Parks' Raptors, the scenes where they're stuck with Tim Robbins in his basement are so tense!
Lots of spectacle and post-9/11 ideas of horror make this a movie that's always stuck with me, but it really peters out in the final act. Though it's admirably committed to being bleak and has some really excellent sequences, so it's pretty good overall!
Average ranking: 28/33 (3.2/5)
My ranking: 17/33 (3/5)
16. The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
Steven Spielberg's sole fully animated film is this mo-capped take on the Tintin comic books. While already quite keen on adventure spectacle as shown by his many blockbuster films, Tintin's medium of animation allows Spielberg to let loose and explore, creating some of his most creative & exciting blockbuster set-pieces. The energy this film keeps, even in more simple scenes of dialogue, or exposition delivery, is quite something.
Lots of the action here is amazing, particularly there's a final act chase sequence done in one take with so many variables involved that it makes a case for being one of Spielberg's best individual scenes. Generally the script is very sharp and is lovingly carrying the spirit of the Tintin comics, not Americanising or modernising the material (though they absolutely UP the spectacle). One cool thing is how, compared to most 'cartoon' films, there's a real sense of danger and suspense for a lot of scenes. Keeps you on edge despite the preposterous size of the action set-pieces.
Compared to how Indiana Jones or James Bond handle the episodic feeling of their film adventures, here Tintin's first cinematic adventure definitively feels like his first, with a fairly underwhelming cliff-hanger ending. With no sequel, it's a shame that this feels less like its own thing and more of a tribute to the comic and the start of a series that never happened. There's not much to the characters and the mystery plot is simply fuel for spectacle and entertaining encounters.
Regardless, this has aged so much better than the Robert Zemeckis mo-cap animated movies that were preceding this (like The Polar Express), and has some outstanding scenes and generally a light, exciting adventurous tone. Hard to go wrong with this one.
Verdict: Very Good!
Average ranking: 21/33 (3.5/5)
My ranking: 16/33 (3.5/5)
15. Munich (2005)
While Spielberg's '00s output varies in quality, it's hard not to appreciate the his vast range of the course of just a few years. Munich is one of his most mature films and one that feels uncharacteristically Spielbergian, in a refreshing way, showing that decades into his career he was still looking for different sorts of stories to tell. This being based on the real life terrorist attack 'Black September' and the retaliation from the Mossad.
While it's pretty different from his usual material, that's not to say that Spielberg's ever-strong direction can't be felt, because he's on fire here. Nothing to really decry about this film's production values, you don't often get to see such a richly produced political thriller. It's very believably settled into the '70s setting and everything from the costumes, sets and dialogue feel appropriately dated.
I do like the way this twists what could've been portrayed as a 'righteous revenge' sort of film into a more sobering account of how messy this sort of political warfare is and the ensuing effect it has on its participants. While at nearly 3 hours long the film does occasionally feel plodding, the journey is compelling because of just how morally murky it gets. The length can be a positive as it really gets you in lead character's increasingly paranoid mindset, performed very well by Eric Bana.
Verdict: Very Good!
Average ranking: 14/33 (3.7/5)
My ranking: 15/33 (3.5/5)
14. West Side Story (2021)
A remake of the 1961 film, this reeks of passion and even while still not totally necessary offers a chance to see a director let loose on something they clearly love so much. This new version of the story tackles the material with more emotional maturity than the 1961 film and mostly tidies up the dated aspects. Even as impressive as the original often was, this one is served better by the NYC setting feeling even richer.
This film is an absolute spectacle, looking amazing and being choreographed impeccably. Making the most of a cast made up almost entirely of Broadway performers, with dazzling dance sequences and songs. Some of the film's smartest ideas are ones in which they change up the original material. They recast Rita Moreno, who had a major role in the 1953 film in a clever way - working on both a meta level and a general storytelling level. Having an older character offer great emotional context on the doomed cycle of xenophobia, which sadly is as relevant now as it was in 1953.
Though the unfortunately controversial aspect of this film, the untimely casting of Ansel Elgort who was accused of sexual misconduct in the run-up to this film's release, unfortunately sticks out even ignoring that context. Everyone is performing circles around him, while he's simply 'fine'. It's a shame that he was picked for the leading role when a broadway actor would've fit the role better.
At the end of the day it's still just a dressed up version of Romeo & Juliet, and many aspects of the central romance and fact it plays out over just two days feels slightly ridiculous and hard to take seriously. Thought it's a film worth watching for the music and production value, again. Improves on the original, has great performances and generally looks gorgeous.
Verdict: Very Good!
Average ranking: 18/33 (3.7/5)
My ranking: 14/33 (3.5/5)
13. Minority Report (2002)
Minority Report's vision of the future probably seemed a bit silly back in 2002, but in 2022 it sometimes feels oddly prophetic. Focusing on a 'precrime' cop played by Tom Cruise, where technology can predict crimes before they're committed, he gets stuck in a game of cat and mouse when the technology shows him as the newest perpetrator of a 'precrime'.
The first half of Minority Report is excellent. A cool, thought provoking premise and a rich futuristic world is crafted up. Its central idea of arresting people for "pre-crimes" is interesting and they occasionally take this idea into moral questioning which makes for some good thematic depth. However come the close it pulls twist after twist that instead reduces the film to a slightly convoluted whodunnit with a noir tone.
Stuff like the targeted ads feel like an astute vision of the future, though there's still silly stuff like jet packs to keep the fun rolling. I was thinking there's an excellent action chase sequence where Tom Cruise is evading Colin Farrell and co. - ending up with lofty fist-fight, that it felt like sci-fi Indiana Jones, which was really cool. Spielberg directs a particularly impressive one-shot sequence which is shot from above an apartment complex, moving between rooms. There's lots of impressive effects and while I'm not 100% on the super-bright bluish colour palette of the film, it does often lead to some great cinematography.
I just feel like the first act is so strong and sets up something that the final act just can't follow through on, even though it's still pretty solid. The ending comes off as a bit cheesy to me, but otherwise lots of amazing ideas, some excellent sci-fi action and light philosophical food for thought.
Verdict: Very Good!
Average ranking: 15/33 (3.7/5)
My ranking: 13/33 (3.5/5)
12. Duel (1971)
Spielberg's first film was a TV movie of the week and it has a quality that far outperforms that modest billing. It's a great directorial debut, a more paranoid and enraged work than we'd come to associate with the director.
A simple premise, is elevated by strong direction and an underlying theme about masculinity. A travelling businessman is caught in a dangerous encounter on the desert roads when he angers a tanker driver. The lead everyman is chased in his dinky car by a big fuck off truck that blows smoke in his face while he's driving behind. It's a premise so simple and with a limited budget involved you'd wonder if it'll be able to work for 90 minutes, but it does!
It's remarkably restrained and offers some simple, but great fun road-rage cinema.
Average ranking: 11/33 (3.8/5)
My ranking: 12/33 (4/5)
11. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
One of the coolest premises for any of Spielberg's films, based on a supposedly real-life tale of a successful con-man whose dedication to ripping people off leads him into an entertaining game of cat and mouse with the FBI. Starring a duelling duo of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, it's one of those undeniably great movies y'know! It'll have you glued to the screen and invested front to back.
It's the ideal mixture of being comedic & heartfelt, has great characters with well thought out dynamics and a triple threat set of performances from Leo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken in the biggest roles. Lots of fun editing tricks and I thought for its length it was also pretty well paced.
It's varied and exciting, would be a top-tier film for most directors, but it just grazes the top 10 for me personally considering some of Spielberg's other remarkable films.
Average ranking: 6/33 (4/5)
My ranking: 11/33 (4/5)