Steven Spielberg has had several runs of great movies but he has one of the most untouchable runs from his breakout movie in Jaws and the Best Picture nominated E.T. You could make an argument that Spielberg’s classic era lasts even longer than this. I love Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom but I know a lot of other people find it two be the weakest of the first 3 films. The Color Purple was an important movie at the time, but it doesn’t seem to have the passionate following these days.
I watched an HBO documentary called Spielberg, that aired at one point last year and it was one of the most impressive I’ve seen. Most of the film focused on this era although there was a lot of time dedicated to some of his later films like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.
Spielberg had already worked on a lot of television and had one full length theatrically released film called The Sugarland Express before Jaws in 1975. The film is now credited with being the start of the blockbuster movie, a film that Spielberg would continue to popularize over his career. It was a huge feat considering that the production surrounding the film was brutal.
He followed up his first success with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Spielberg was given the sole credit for the screenplay and the idea for the film had existed long before he was ever a professional filmmaker. A short film that Spielberg created called Firelight was a primary influence on the finished film.
1941, one of Spielberg’s only comedies is his one blunder during this time. Years later he blamed the disappointing results of the film on his arrogance after two huge hits. 1941 was still a success financially, but a disappointment to the fan base that Spielberg had built very quickly.
Spielberg was a part of a circle of filmmakers that all had their own followings and rose to prominence during the 1970s. The documentary I watched really got descriptive about the directors involved in this group while also talking about the rivalry that developed between them. This group included Speilberg, Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather), Brian de Palma (Carrie), Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver) and George Lucas (Star Wars). After the huge success that was Star Wars (the highest grossing movie of all time at the time) Lucas convinced his friend to take on a new character he had developed in the mid 1970s called Indiana Smith. The characters last name was later changed to Jones. At the time Spielberg had expressed interest in directing a James Bond movie, but Lucas felt he had created a character that was better. Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first Indiana Jones adventure and is now considered to be one of the greatest films ever made and one of the definitive movies in the action genre. The film was nominated for Best Picture and Spielberg got his second nomination for directing.
Following another huge success Spielberg began work on ET: The Extra Terrestrial which is possibly his most personal film to date. The film focused on a family that had been broken by divorce just like Spielberg’s own family had been in the 1960s. The film surpassed Star Wars and became the highest grossing movie of all time and also got nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.
Spielberg still had lots of definitive films that came out in the years after 1982, but I feel like most people feel like this is the era where he was the most imaginative and the most influential. Spielberg fans’ favorite movie tends to come from this stretch. He would win his first Oscar for Schinder’s List and his second shortly after for Saving Private Ryan.
What is your favorite Steven Spielberg film?