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The Magic of Steven Spielberg

Everybody knows who Steven Spielberg is and you are guaranteed to love at least one of his movies. So, with his latest movie The Fablemans coming out soon, we thought now was a good time to briefly look into Spielberg’s background and countdown his five best films.

Spielberg’s Bio

Steven Allan Spielberg was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on 18th December 1946. From a young age, Spielberg loved to make home movies with his father’s camera and go to the cinema. After several relocations and his parent’s divorce Spielberg began studying English at California State University. Having been rejected from Southern California’s film school.

While studying, he produced Amblin’. This short impressed Universal’s vice-president Sidney Sheinberg and he offered Spielberg a TV directing job. After directing several TV projects he directed the TV movie Duel. Which attained cinema distribution overseas and widespread critical acclaim. Spielberg then made his feature debut with Sugarland Express. Which marked his first collaboration with composer John Williams. His next film, Jaws, was the first film to gross over $100 million, was the highest-grossing film ever at the time and was Spielberg’s first film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Close Encounters of the Third Kind followed and earned Spielberg his first Best Director nomination.

In the 80s Spielberg continued directing hit movies. He also founded Amblin Entertainment with Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy in 1981. The company produced many of Spielberg’s movies as well as many other classic films. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Spielberg also began making adult-focused stories. Such as The Colour Purple, Schindler’s List (which won the best picture oscar) and Saving Private Ryan, among others. The prior two won him Best Director Oscars. Additionally, in 1993 his film Jurassic Park revolutionised CGI implementation in movies. And he created DreamWorks Pictures in 1994 with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.

2001 saw Spielberg release A.I. Artificial Intelligence in tribute to his friend Stanley Kubrick. And, at the time of writing, since 2002 he has directed 14 critically acclaimed films in varying genres. All this work has made him the most financially successful director of all time.

 Spielberg’s Style

Several recurring themes and cinematic techniques have become trademarks of Spielberg’s filmography. His stories often showcase ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. And often focuses on how parents, affect their children and sometimes themselves. These elements make his films feel more grounded and relatable.

Spielberg also loves moving his camera. Whether it’s a smooth dolly shot, shaky cam or sweeping long takes Spielberg’s films use active cameras to make the audience feel more involved. Spielberg also uses the camera to express a character’s perspective. Either directly, through POV shots, or through perspective shots designed to elicit a feeling in the audience similar to what the characters are feeling. His films also often have reflections as a thematic/dramatic element and feature bright colours and light to draw the audience’s attention to a specific point and emphasise something mysterious.

Spielberg’s Best

So what are Spielberg’s best films?

Duel

A tight thriller with effective simple characterisation and masterfully tense direction.

Duel really showed what Spielberg could do // Credit: Universal
Duel really showed what Spielberg could do // Credit: Universal

Jaws

A horror masterpiece elevated by John Williams’ terrifying score, brilliant camerawork, and Roy Scheider’s, Richard Dreyfuss’ and Robert Shaw’s fantastic performances.

Jaws is Spielberg's first masterpiece // Credit: Universal
Jaws is Spielberg’s first masterpiece // Credit: Universal

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Harrison Ford is a perfect hero, the plot is fun, the score iconic and it features some of cinema’s best moments.

It's impossible not to love Indiana Jones // Credit: Paramount
It’s impossible not to love Indiana Jones // Credit: Paramount

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

A touching story, great child performances, brilliant effects and a beautiful score. E.T. is cinematic magic.

The film that everyone thinks of when they mention Steven Spielberg // Credit: Universal
The film that everyone thinks of when they mention Steven Spielberg // Credit: Universal

Catch Me If You Can

A brilliant character study and the perfect amalgamation of escapist fantasy and grounded adult storytelling.

pielberg's underrated classic // Credit: DreamWorks Pictures
Spielberg’s underrated classic // Credit: DreamWorks Pictures

Also Read: Quentin Tarantino Directing A Star Trek Film? Here’s What It Would’ve Been Like

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Posted by
Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker from Chesterfield. I have a masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.