June 10, 2011

COUNTING TO 10: Best Spielbergs

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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On the occasion of Super 8‘s release, the Top 10 movies directed by Steven Spielberg:

10. THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974):  His first feature film, it suggests that had he never touched a special effect in his life, Spielberg would still have been a great American filmmaker.  A movie about celebrity and family that moves like a dream and anticipates reality television decades before it existed, it also has the best performance of Goldie Hawn’s career.

9.   INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984):  Undoubtedly a controversial choice–it’s widely considered the least of the original trilogy (but, I trust, far ahead of the ugly 4th).  And yet, for sheer thrills and insane set-pieces, it’s the best of the bunch.
8.   MINORITY REPORT (2002):  Roughly 7/8 of a masterpiece, equal to Blade Runner and A Clockwork Orange in its view of a future civilization, and as prescient as either.  Here, though, his pesky need for happy endings tears the picture apart in the last reel.
7.   SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998):  One of the greatest first reels in the history of motion pictures.  Then the plot kicks in, and it’s a little less great.  Still, a magnificently made vision of war.

6.   CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002):  A master filmmaker at his storytelling peak; it may not have the intensity or thrills of some of his other films, but it’s bliss to watch, just about flawless.

5.   MUNICH (2005):  For decades, critics pleaded with Spielberg to make a film about serious, complicated themes that didn’t have a happy ending; when he finally did, they wanted him back in blockbusters.  His most underrated film.

4.   CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977):  Made the same year as Star Wars, a fantasy about other worlds that stayed rooted on this one.  Brilliantly designed, scored, and imagined.

3.   JAWS (1975):  36 years later, when we finally see that shark it’s as much a sight gag as it is scary.  And yet the movie remains thrillingly, exhilaratingly, sometimes hilariously exciting.  Imitated countless times and never ever equalled.
2.   E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982):  The quintessential Spielberg movie, able to jerk tears from strong men, yet not manipulative in any cynical way–no one, you feel, is weeping or grinning as much as Spielberg himself.

1.   SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993):  Yes, it’s sentimental and can be criticized as the Holocaust movie where almost all the characters survive.  It’s also the single greatest scripted account of the supreme event of the 20th Century.  Spielberg earned his accolades and, finally, his Oscar.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."