West Side Story just latest of Spielberg’s gems
If you’ll recall, last year the Golden Globes were finally exposed for the farce they’ve always been. The network canceled the awards ceremony for 2022, prompting the Globe folks to rethink things quite a bit. Despite not having a show this year, the Globes released their list of winners, with Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story winning the Best Comedy or Musical category, making it one of a handful of frontrunners for Best Picture at the Oscars.
So rather than discuss the Globe “winners”, I figured I’d dedicate this week’s column to the career of Steven Spielberg.
Growing up, the first director’s name I learned was … well, if I’m being honest, Spike Lee. But the first one I really looked up and researched was Spielberg, eventually going on to watch every film he ever made.
Maybe it’s not “cool” to like Spielberg, but the guy is undeniably important to cinema, as well as one of the all-time great craftsmen of the trade. He’s produced more films that I care to attempt to count and directed 36 feature-length films, 14 of which I’d argue are classics. A legendary career. If Spielberg retired today, he’d already be in the GOAT convo. (For the sake of clarity, I should note that Spielberg is nowhere near my personal Top 20, but I do have an enormous amount of respect for his career and influence.) So, with that in mind, in classic ScreenTime fashion, I’ve ranked my Top 10 Favorite Spielberg Films. Here we go …
1. Jaws (1975): The movie that made him. A timeless classic. Writing an analysis of this movie, almost 50 years after it was released, is a fool’s errand. I’ll just say this: If it’s not a movie you hold in the highest record, do me a favor and watch it again.
2. Catch Me It You Can (2002): Spielberg had his third classic run during the early 2000s, releasing a handful of stone-cold classics over a five-year period. West Side Story aside, he hasn’t had the magic ever since. Of that batch of films, Catch Me If You Can, an epic chase film starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio (as well as Christopher Walken and Amy Adams), is the best.
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998): Spielberg’s best prestige film, Saving Private Ryan opens with 20 of the most impressive minutes you’ll ever see in a film. Three words: beaches of Normandy. Chances are, you’ve seen this one, right? As major as masterpieces get.
4. Jurassic Park (1993): In the dictionary, under “movie magic,” you won’t see a still from a Marvel film, you’ll see one of Spielberg’s dinosaurs. The effects set the standard and still 100% hold up. I loved it as a kid and love it as an adult. One of the best pieces of big-screen entertainment ever made. An absolute production epic.
5. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001): As the legend goes, A.I. was supposed to be Stanley Kubrick’s next film when he passed away; Spielberg “finished it” for him to great results. Weird, dreamlike, smart and beautiful. Kubrick’s version would have been much more sophisticated but likely would not have been nearly as appealing to common audiences.
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): I’ve never quite been able to explain why I love this film as much as I do. Every time I put it on I do so with hesitation, and every time it ends I’m singing its praises. Seems this one is being lost to time a little bit. Despite being a hit film and considered a classic, Close Encounters is a pretty creative, artsy, and even odd mainstream film.
7. Minority Report (2002): Another classic from his early 2000s run, Minortiy Report saw the biggest director in the world teaming up with the biggest actor (Tom Cruise) in the world for what was, at the time, the most exciting script in the world. A futuristic chase film that’s as well made as any action film … err … ever. I said it. A craftsman at the top of his game.
8. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982): I didn’t want to put this one on my list but I had to. This film shook the world for many years, and still stands as one of the most beloved American films ever made. Every kid sees it, every kid responds to it. A pillar of American filmmaking, even if it is massively cheesy and surface level entertainment.
9. Schindler’s List (1993): Here’s where we see Spielberg directing with passion. He set out to make one of the best films ever and, when it was released, Schindler’s List was welcomed as such. It’s not exactly one of the most rewatchable films ever made, but is one that will be watched and discussed for generations.
10. War of the Worlds (2005): Spielberg and Cruise reunite for some fun in this masterfully crafted sci-fi action remake of one of the greatest stories ever told. The remarkably high degree of entertainment value makes this one, in this writer’s opinion, one of Spielberg’s most essential films.
What an incredible career. And, if you haven’t yet seen it, Spielberg’s West Side Story is excellent. A Best Picture-caliber film? Not in my book. But absolutely worth seeing on the big screen, and very much worth of some technical Oscars.