I’ve said it before – I’m a card carrying member of the Church of Spielberg. I can wash away his big misfires as things he didn’t really direct. Seriously, you think he was really on set for “Lost World: Jurassic Park 2”? Hell no. Maybe that one scene where the van falls into the tree (with the spiderweb/cracking windshield) but that’s about it. Same with “Crystal Skull.” The scene with Indy and Mutt on the motorcycle through campus – yes. Anything else? No.
Even the movies I wouldn’t put on this list are amazing:
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind
- Color Purple
- Schindler’s List
- Jurassic Park
- War of the Worlds
- Adventures of Tintin
- War Horse
- Saving Private Ryan
Any other filmmaker would love to have those on his resume. For Spielberg, those are in the “also ran” pile. Hell, that doesn’t even get into films like:
- Empire of the Sun
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- Catch Me If You Can
The fact is – he is the man. Enough of my man crush on his cinematic excellence. Onto the official Top 3:
3) “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – If Adventure Had a Name… It Must Be Indiana Jones! Sure, that’s a tag line from one of the other ones, but I don’t care. Raiders is pure awesome. The movie is carefully constructed. One scene gets your heart racing, the next allows you to catch your breath. The next scene kicks in adrenaline, the next settles back down. Only, the “coming down” scenes get shorter and the “blood pumping” scenes get more complex, until we hit the face-melting final.
Best Scene: The opening or the The Opening of the Ark. I’m not sure which. Both are iconic and incredible.
2) “E.T.” – If I created this list a few years ago this movie would have sat at #1. I love “E.T.” It captures a childhood sense of wonder that few movies ever have. Spielberg films the movie from a child’s perspective (ground up camera work – you don’t even see the “bad guy’s” face until 3/4 of the way through the movie) and it is lit with awe. The lightning style (lots of search lights coming from behind objects) will become a Spielberg trademark, but it was never done better than right here.
Best Scene: Towards the end as the kids are trying to get E.T. back into the forest. The “Man” is after them. What’s a group of punk kids harboring an Alien supposed to do? FLY! As E.T. lifts their bikes up over the police blockade… I still cheer.
1) “JAWS” – This movie has shot up my list of all time favorites in recent years. I don’t know why, but it took me awhile to fully understand its brilliance. We all know the story on how they didn’t show the shark much because the mechanical shark didn’t work well. Whether the decision was conscious or just dumb luck doesn’t matter. What does matter is the result.
Hitchcock once said “Their is no terror in the BANG, only the anticipation of it.” I think Hitch would have loved “JAWS” (it’s possible to say that “JAWS” was an extension of “The Birds” in terms of nature turning against man). There is terror in a shark. There is pure terror in the anticipation of the shark.
Best Scene – to prove that… there’s a scene where there are two people trying to catch the shark. It’s night and they are standing on a pier. They throw a pot roast into the water (on a hook) and tie the chain to the dock. The shark comes. Eats the roast and takes off – pulling the pier apart! One fisherman is in the water. As he starts to swim back we see the dock turn around. His friend starts yelling “SWIM! FASTER! DON’T TURN AROUND JUST SWIM!” His friend knows the dock turning means the shark has turned and is now after his friend.
The glorious thing is that throughout the entire scene… we never see the Shark. Not one dorsal fin. It’s exhilarating.
What do you think? Your top 3 Spielberg films?