August 18, 2015 at 6:03 pm #192082
It feels like Steven Spielberg’s career has evolved over the many years. He’s not dramatically mixing it up like, say, Madonna, but he’s definitely had his distinct eras. What was his best decade?
“Raiders of the Lost Ark”
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”
“The Color Purple”
“Empire of the Sun”
“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”
“The Lost World: Jurassic Park”
“Saving Private Ryan”
“Catch Me if You Can”
“War of the Worlds”
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”
“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Lincoln”August 18, 2015 at 6:07 pm #192084
Personally, I think “Schindler’s List” is by far his best film, and the ’80s and ’90s were probably his most consistently successful stretch (with a few outliers of course), but I’m kinda partial to his 2000s. Mostly the first half of the decade. I didn’t like “The Terminal,” and “War of the Worlds” had major problems (not with his direction I don’t think), but putting out creatively risky things like “A.I.,” “Minority Report,” and “Munich” at a time when he could have coasted made me admire him even more.August 18, 2015 at 6:40 pm #192085
My favourite is by far his 80s work (and I’m obviously quite partial to one film in particular) but he’s had success in every era, and he’s definitely going to go down as one of the greatest directors ever.August 18, 2015 at 6:56 pm #192086
The 1980s definitely feel like the right time for him. Jaws might have put him on the map, but it feels like the decade of Indiana Jones and ET was the one where he shined brightest as the world’s major populist director. I would say that there is a lot to admire about his work in the other decades, but the 1980s don’t quite have things like 1941, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, or Kingdom of the Crystal Skull weighing them down.
That said, Jaws remains my favorite of his, and Catch Me If You Can is probably his most underrated.August 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm #192087
1980’s & 1990’s.August 18, 2015 at 8:29 pm #192088
Barring this current era, he’s had some triumphs and clunkers every decade except the 80’s, where everything ranged from decent/passable to really good. So, I’ll go with the 80’s. I’m suprising myself by putting the ’00’s over the 90’s. Saving Private Ryan is a bit (here comes the dreaded word) overrated. And I admire Schindler’s List more than I believe it’s truly great. Minority Report and Munich are near great. Catch Me If You Can is solid entertainment. AI is an interesting experiment even if it doesn’t nearly reach its potential.August 19, 2015 at 8:00 am #192089
The 80’sAugust 19, 2015 at 8:17 am #192090
This decade isn’t looking as good as his others, my favourites are Jurrasic Park, Schindlers List and Saving Private Ryan so I would say the 90’s was his best decade.
This is an interesting concept and could be applied to other directors who have or had decade spanning career’s like Scorsese or Ridley Scott.August 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm #192091
I would say the 1990’s with Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Amistad, and Saving Private Ryan is his strongest decade. That’s just for the quantity of what I feel are his best films compared to the other decades. It also contains one of his weakest, JP2.
As a director, just about everything Spielberg touches turns to gold. He’s a director with the Midas Touch. The 1970’s was perhaps his weakest simply because Jaws and Close Encounters are the two strong films. Duel and Sugarland Express were very good, more so the latter, but he didn’t hit his stride until Jaws. I have to remind myself that Duel was shot on a small budget with an extremely tight shooting schedule and only a few weeks for editing as a TV movie; additional footage was inserted later for theatrical release in Europe to get the film up to ~90 minutes. The scene in it around the school bus is muddled, and the one in the diner when he calls his wife seems out of place (should have had better groundwork for it earlier as he’s leaving home). Sugarland Express suffers from how much it deviated from the true story on which it was based, and that will always be a cloud hanging over it. Setting that aside, it’s a good action movie with excellent pacing, but doesn’t have the depth and dimension of his later films.
The 1980’s is also strong with E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s dominated by the three Indiana Jones films though, which is why I picked the 1990’s with a greater spectrum of films. Empire of the Sun was underrated by many, including Ebert. Its box office was OK but nothing to brag about. Even so I consider it one of his better movies and a welcome break from Indiana Jones franchise, but not among his greatest when compared to Schindler’s List which has similar themes. Always seems out of place as a Spielberg movie and I thought it drifting toward the lachrymose (might be too strong a characterization but it’s the best word I can think of). The Color Purple was excellent, but in comparing its subject material to Amistad I prefer its historical story and what it says about the politics of slavery in the US in 1839. That in spite of Purple’s bevy of Oscar nominations and heavy emotional impact, and Amistad receiving four of the lesser noms with greater intellectual impact.
The 2000’s has great work with an underrated A.I. that he did as Kubrick-esque as he could in homage to him (it was an unfinished Kubrick project). War of the Worlds was problematic with audiences, perceived primarily as a remake of the 1953 cult classic, and along with Welles’ 1938 radio play (if you haven’t heard it, do so, it’s excellent), yet another adaptation of the H.G. Wells 1897 novel. Did well at the box office but audience review over time are opposite the critical reviews. He discovered remake risk the hard way. Had it not been one I believe it would have fared much better in audience reviews. In addition, a substantial part of the 1953 film’s cult following will always denigrate Spielberg’s movie. Munich was excellent, save for its glaring omission of the Lillehammer Incident in which a waiter mistakenly identified as Salameh is assassinated in Lillehammer, Norway. Six of the fifteen Mossad team are arrested, and five of them are convicted of his murder or crimes associated with the murder. How Spielberg allowed that still puzzles me as it will always cast a shadow over Munich. Given the overall tenor of the film, and how it showed the foiled attempt on Salameh in London, it could have been used to convey some of what he wanted to say about the consequences of blind revenge. Minority Report, IMO, was the strongest of its decade. One of the underlying issues it questions is what can be done about a crime we think or suspect might occur, versus acting on solid proof of a conspiracy to commit one, or pursing one that was already committed. Not as prominent because of the action-thriller aspect akin to a Cruise MI film, but it’s there and IMO that’s what separates it from most other action-adventure-thriller movies. The others were very good, but when stacked together against the 1990’s, it doesn’t stand quite as tall.
Jury is still out half-way through the 2010 decade. I enjoyed Tintin more than War Horse, which was a spectacular production and a heart-warming story but it stretched credulity too much with the extent the horse was anthropomorphized in order to make the plot work. Lincoln was very strong and tells the basics of an important historical story, but it’s a dramatic bio that, like most, suffers from some inaccuracies and over-simplifications. It will always suffer from nit-picking as a result.
Spielberg has become one of the greatest directors of all time, alongside Scorsese, De Palma, Hitchcock, Lean, Kubrick, Welles, Eastwood, Tarantino, Coen Bro’s, Wilder, Lumet, Polanski, Bergman, Fellini, Melville, Truffaut, Godard, Tati, Lang, Kurosawa, . . ., etc. (incomplete list).August 19, 2015 at 2:01 pm #192092
In this order:
His 10 best movies
3) Jurassic Park
4) Raiders of the Lost Ark
5) Schindler’s List
6) The Color Purple
7) Close Encounters
8) Saving Private Ryan
9) Minority Report
10) Catch Me If You Can