Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Top 5 Movie Guide: Steven Spielberg

For this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we take on the films of one of the greatest directors of all-time, Steven Spielberg. With "Lincoln" getting a wide release this weekend, we figured this would be as good a time as any to try our hands at picking out some of our favorites from Spielberg's extensive filmography.

After high school, Steven Spielberg chose to attend Cal State University in Long Beach after being rejected twice by USC's film program. He soon dropped out though to pursue an entertainment career, not feeling like he was getting the hands-on training he yearned for. After dropping out, he worked doing various jobs on film sets, and eventually transitioned into writing and directing, mostly with short and made-for-TV films. But in 1975, Spielberg hit the spotlight in a big way. With his out-of-nowhere efforts for "Jaws", he was quickly catapulted to the top of Hollywood's to-watch list. The film, not only a critical and financial success, is also noted as being the film that kick-started the summer blockbuster.


After "Jaws", Spielberg never looked back. He followed it up with films like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", and "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial". At its time, E.T. became the highest-grossing film of all-time. It is what the director calls one of his most personal and memorable films to date (fun fact: in the iconic E.T./Reese's Pieces scene, Spielberg only used that candy because M&Ms did not want to be a part of anything that associated their candy with aliens. As of today, that scene is noted as the most iconic product placement scene in film history).

As Spielberg transitioned into the 1990's, his stock only continued to grow. 1993 saw two hit films in "Jurassic Park" and "Schindler's List". "Jurassic Park" again was briefly the highest-grossing film of all-time, though it did not have the international legs that E.T. did and was quickly dethroned. "Schindler's List" brought Spielberg his first Academy Awards, both for Best Director and Best Film (he and his films have been nominated a total of 12 times).

How else can we try to sum up such a storied filmmaker's career? He's ranked near the top of just about any all-time best-of filmmaker list you'll find, and is even the most represented director on AFI's 100 Most Important Films list, with five total titles depicted and three in the top 10 ("Saving Private Ryan", "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial", and "Schindler's List").

He's hands-down the director of our generation, and has inspired thousands of filmmakers who are working today. And our site speaks as one when we say that, even though we're not necessarily making films, he's definitely one of the biggest reasons why we have the interests and fascinations with film that we do. His movies always have a magical quality about them and we're continually amazed by what he's able to accomplish.

So without further ado, we do our best to narrow our favorites down to only five selections. Hit the jump to see which titles made the cut!

Alex Schopp -
Steven Spielberg is hands-down my favorite director. No one else has ever mixed mastery of craft and pure entertainment as well as he has. If we could have narrowed this list down to 25 selections I still would have had trouble figuring out which films I had to leave off.

     1. Jurassic Park (1993)

This is my favorite film of all-time.
     2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
This film really tries so hard to my my #1 film of all-time. If "Jurassic Park" didn't have such nostalgia for me, and evoke such pure child-like imagination and fantasy, this might be one spot higher.
     3. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
I didn't care about this movie so much when I was younger (I mean, we still owned it and I enjoyed watching it; it just wasn't a top five favorite), but the older I get, the more I'm able to appreciate its values. I feel like that's a common trend with many of Spielberg's films. The tones in this movie are so great, and E.T. really is a creepy little dude.
     4. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
When I watch this film as an adult, it's so much darker than I remembered it being. Not only does it agree with my statement above, but the final scenes in this movie are so powerful and eerie. It really is a great study of the human soul.
     5. Minority Report (2002)
I didn't care much about this outside of it being a futuristic action film when I first saw this in theaters, but again, with my previous statements, not only did this film age incredibly well, but when you look at other similar films that were coming out in the same era, this destroys them all. I love the atmosphere in this film so much.

Ben Foutch -
Spielberg is an icon with an extremely watchable/nostalgic filmography, so this was not an easy list to narrow down. Has he ever made a "bad" film?

     1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

     2. Jaws (1975)

     3. Jurassic Park (1993)

     4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

     5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)



Derek Clem -

     1. Hook (1991)

This is my favorite movie of all-time.
     2. Jurassic Park (1992)
This is sort of my third favorite movie of all-time (my second favorite movie is actually 16 movies).
     3. Jaws (1975)
It just feels so real.
     4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
I'll never understand why people think E.T. is adorable looking, he's disgusting.
     5. Minority Report (2002)
If someone asked me to point to the one movie that defines a Steven Spielberg/Janusz Kaminski team-up, this is what I would point to. Beautiful photography.

Nathan Hinds -
Let me start by stating that in my not-so-humble opinion, Steven Spielberg is the greatest director of all-time. If you disagree, you're wrong. The guy is just in a class by himself. There has never been a another director come close to blending all of the elements that we rate movies on this site by the way Spielberg has.

     1. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

You would think that a bigger name would be my number one choice, but this is the Spielberg film I find myself going back and watching the most these days. This is in my Top 10 films of All-Time, and I don't think there is a single flaw with it.
     2. Jurassic Park (1993)
Another film that's in my Top 10. This is easily the biggest movie of my childhood. It was the first film that, as a kid, I knew was a big deal. The first scene with the T-Rex is one of the greatest scenes in the history of film. Actually, you could probably say that about a couple of scenes in this film.
     3. Hook (1991)
Of all the films on my list, this is pretty easily the film I have watched the most times. This movie still gets better and better every time I watch it. This wasn't on my Top 10 list, and I feel like I made a mistake not putting it in there.
     4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
This is a film that didn't show up in my personal Top 10 films of all-time, but I do think it's one of the Top 10 Greatest Films of All-Time. It's really the perfect family movie. Plus, now that we have this little gem floating around the internet, we have a whole new way to love that little alien.
     5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
I know I will probably be the only one who has this on their list, but it's always been my favorite of the four Indiana Jones films. With all this talk of James Bond lately you'd probably think I'm biased towards it because it has Sean Connery in it, who also played James Bond. It really has nothing to do with that though; I saw and loved this film long before I ever saw a Bond film. I just loved Ford and Connery together, and I think this is the most entertaining of the series.

Andy Schopp -
I feel like this list needs no instructions as to why I decided the way I did on these. If I flip this list totally upside down it is still 100% acceptable.

     1. Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade (1989)

     2. Jurassic Park (1993)

     3. Hook (1991)

     4. Jaws (1975)

     5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)



So that's what we're looking at this week, folks. Plenty of great Spielberg titles presented above, but still plenty of the usual suspects as well. Many of Spielberg's films are some of the titles on our all-time Top 10 lists, so getting to finally compose a Top 5 Movie Guide on him was a fun exercise, even if we are so familiar with each of his titles that we could have formulated these lists in our sleep. What's neat is that even though there are a handful of Spielberg's films that appeared on multiple lists, each of ours did have a different film in the top spot. Think about that fact for a moment. In a Top 5 Movie Guide featuring a filmmaker who's films already riddle each of our personal Top 10's of all-time, there's so much quality content amongst films that are looked at as some of the greatest of all-time, that still five different writers have varying opinions on which is the best. It's an unbelievable stat.

That being said, only one film appeared on all five lists: "Jurassic Park". I don't feel that much outside of a tally for our selections is necessarily at this point; as we've attested to before, the quality and our love for each of these titles has been documented plenty already. It goes without saying that each film presented above is a must-see, regardless of your personal tastes.

Beyond "Jurassic Park", "Hook", "Jaws", and "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" each received three votes; "Hook" was the only one of the three to garner a first-place selection, as well. Two Indiana Jones movies, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", both joined "Minority Report" and "Catch Me If You Can" as the only other films to receive multiple selections, each with two.

This might be one of the most acclaimed lists we've done in this post, and while there probably aren't many titles presented above that are jumping out and surprising anyone - it's not our fault Spielberg is such an iconic director! - it's still fun to put lists like this together and show off which titles specifically are our favorites. It still helps show off our individual personalities and lends some rank to the films appearing on multiple lists.

As always, we hope that each of these film selections helps you to expand your knowledge of Steven Spielberg's filmography, and leads to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!