Top 10 Spielberg movies

By Brandon Matzke and Nevin Hooper

On December 18, the legendary director Steven Spielberg celebrated his 71st birthday. Seeing as he inspired both my and my friend Nevin’s love of movies, I thought it would be fair to cover his best to celebrate a late birthday. So, let’s kick off 2018 with Spielberg’s best! An honorable mention: Hook. I know it’s far from his best, and it does have its flaws, but it still is a good time.

10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Review by Nevin Hooper and Brandon Matzke

Brandon here, beginning this with a fun tidbit:I actually visited the famous “Devil’s Peak”, where the finale of this film was shot! The people there love this movie! But, I’ll let Nevin cover the actual film.

Nevin: Since I have already reviewed this film, I will make it short. Spielberg’s second film after his major success with Jaws (1975) is also excellent in his characters. He shows their slow descent into madness so perfectly, helped by fantastic performances from Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon. It is just a great time with Spielberg’s signature direction, Oscar-winning cinematography, and a great score by John Williams. The whole movie is definitely a must see for fans of Spielberg’s work.

9. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Review by Brandon Matzke

This is one of Spielberg’s most underrated movies. It follows the life of the youngest and most infamous con man in US history: Frank Abagnale (played excellently by Leonardo DiCaprio) and his run from the law over the years. For one, Leonardo DiCaprio is awesome in this movie: he has this weird charm to everything he does, whether it’s sneaking his way into the world of doctoring, or pretending to be a bestselling author, it’s awesome to watch. His interactions with Tom Hanks’ character are also awesome to watch: they start as enemies but slowly become allies (in a very difficult to explain way). And Christopher Walken was inspirational in all the right ways (and was thankfully Oscar-nominated for this role). The score by John Williams? Swagger incarnate. That sums up this whole film: swagger incarnate.

8. Minority Report (2002)

Review by Brandon Matzke

Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick, this film follows John Anderton (Tom Cruise), a former chief of police convicted of a crime he’ll commit in the not-too-distant future. This film, like Catch Me If You Can, is extremely underrated. It asks some very big questions about the nature of justice, and what can be determined right or wrong in this sort of world. The future in this world feels both fantastical and realistic; probably the result of Spielberg consulting many futurologists to design the world. Tom Cruise takes a break from his usual “look at how cool I am” performance and plays a man with serious issues: he’s a grieving father and a junkie, and he definitely nails it. This film also has what I consider to be a rare example of a perfect beginning: a opening so good it could work as a short film. And the rest of the film continues the awe and thrills of the opening, until it’s satisfying conclusion.

7. Jurassic Park (1993)

Review by Nevin Hooper

1993 is considered the best year out of Steven Spielberg’s filmmaking career because he made not only the Best Picture winning Holocaust drama, Schindler’s List, but after he made that film, he reverted back to his more family friendly movies and made still to this day the best movie about dinosaurs, Jurassic Park. If for some odd reason someone has not seen this magnificent film, it follows a group of scientists who are invited to stay a weekend at a theme park said to have recreated dinosaurs. When the system shuts down in a big storm, all the dinosaurs are loose and attacking everyone on the island, and it is the scientists desperate chase for survival. Both Brandon and I adore this movie with a passion. For me it was movie heaven when I was younger since I was huge into dinosaurs, and it still is to this day. It has great characters, Oscar-winning visual effects that still hold up today, the best scene with a T-rex in a movie ever, and even has some of the most suspenseful moments in film history (I mean come on, the velociraptors in the kitchen with the kids is just fantastic and frightening at the same time), and just an overall great watch. Whoever has not seen this movie, watch it ASAP.

6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I have so many memories with this one that I find myself coming to it whenever I feel the need to watch Indy (and who doesn’t feel the need to watch Indy?). The action is awesome, but for me the heart of the film lies in the relationship between Indiana Jones and his father: two men who haven’t even talked to each other for decades, and even when they lived in the same house their conversations were minimal. Watching them bond over the course of the film is pretty touching, and lends itself to Spielberg’s signature humor at the same time. This film is a very nostalgic movie for me (since I used to watch it all the time with my dad), and is a film I recommend to all adventure movie lovers.

5. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Review by Nevin Hooper

E.T. Who doesn’t love this movie? Personally, I think this is by far one of the best films of all time, and definitely one of Spielberg’s best. It is a childhood favorite of mine, and I usually watch the film once a year. It’s just one of the most nostalgic movies ever for me, it just brings back great childhood memories. The characters are extraordinarily great, especially E.T. himself, who you desperately want to get back home to his family. The direction is fantastic, but the music. The music by John Williams still to this day gives me goosebumps it’s so good. This whole film is a classic for the ages, and definitely must be seen by all.

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Review by Nevin Hooper

The first installment in the now vastly acclaimed Indiana Jones saga, Raiders of the Lost Ark I still consider the best Indiana Jones film, and one of the best films of all time. It is one of the most rewatched films I have seen, and has some of the best action scenes to date. The entire character of Indy is still one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history, and even the scene where they open the ark is still one of the most frightening scenes in history, so this film all around is phenomenal. But, how can you talk about a John Williams scored movie without talking about the memorable Indiana Jones score. This whole movie is fantastic, and is one of the most influential adventure films of all time. It’s a must see for all.

3. Jaws (1975)

Review by Brandon Matzke

Based on the novel by Peter Benchley, this film is a rare example of a “better than the book” film. I think this may even be my favorite Spielberg movie. And it’s not because of the shark. I mean, the suspense in this film is basically Hitchcockian, but it’s not where the true heart of the film is. The heart of the film is the characters: they all feel very real, with their own past, flaws, and very memorable moments. My favorite scene in the whole film is entirely dedicated to the characters; they’re just sitting around a table, discussing their past. It has everything: comedy, suspense, drama, emotion, and even more that I haven’t caught on. And the rest of the film is great too, using suspense and emotion to tell a very good story of man versus nature, showing how this small town is affected by the shark. I have the poster (admittedly one I got for a dollar), a special edition DVD, and I consider this to be one of the best films ever made. But I know Nevin has two Spielberg films he prefers…

2. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Review by Nevin Hooper

TV version

Okay, Spielberg has been normally known for making more light hearted, family movies, and this movie is not even close to family friendly, so not for the light hearted. The film’s basic premise is that a group of men, led by Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks), during World War II are assigned a mission to find and bring back home a certain Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), who’s other three brothers have been killed in battle. The film is brutally realistic, depressing, gory, and an all around fantastic film. The film is expertly directed, and won Spielberg his second Oscar-win for Best Director, has excellent cinematography, which thankfully won an Oscar, phenomenal sound design, the whole film is downright excellent, and a must see for fans of war movies.

1. Schindler’s List (1993)

Review by Nevin Hooper

TV version

Even though this film is definitely not for the light hearted, this film is a must see for everyone. The film is based on a true story following the business man Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson, in his best performance) who works in a metal factory in Germany, but once World War II starts, the Nazis take away all of his workers, since they were all Jewish. Now, he goes to the concentration camp and convinces the camp director, Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes, who plays one of the most dastardly movie villains of all time), to have the Jews from the camp work in his factory, and then starts to realize that in doing so, he is saving these people’s lives. This film by far is probably the best looking film I have ever seen, with most of the film being in black and white, but here and there mixing the black and white cinematography with hints of color, like a little girls read coat, or the flame of a candle, which in turn creates some of the most artistic images I have ever seen in a movie. Also Spielberg uses his direction skills to create this horrifying environment so perfectly realistic that it won him his very first Best Director Oscar. This whole film is phenomenal, from how it looks, to the direction, performances, fantastic screenplay, the amazing music once again by John Williams, this whole movie is so phenomenal, and is definitely Steven Spielberg’s best film.

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