Steven Spielberg: Top 5

Written by Chris Winterbottom

It’s going to be an interesting year for Steven Spielberg, as his upcoming adaptation of ‘The BFG’ is due to be released to UK audiences on the 22nd July 2016, and I for one am very much looking forward to it. As a child, this Roald Dahl novel about nasty and nice giants was one of my favourites, so it will be interesting to see how Spielberg’s vision fairs. The novel is obviously aimed at younger audiences, yet it also holds a real sinister edge, which I absolutely love.

Spielberg is often criticised for being overly sentimental in his films (War Horse being a near-unbearable example of this), so I do hope Spielberg finds a perfect balance between the dark edge and family-friendly tone of the novel. With this and the recent announcement that Spielberg and Harrison Ford would be re-teaming to create a fifth instalment in the ‘Indiana Jones’ saga, I thought now would be a good to go through my favourite Spielberg films. Here’s my top 5.


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5. Saving Private Ryan

Criticism of this film is levelled at its sentimentality, and its inability to improve on what is one of the most groundbreaking opening sequences in cinema history. The D-Day landings which open the film is as brutal, powerful and moving now as it was upon release in 1998. I agree that the rest of the film does not reach the dizzy heights of the opening, but for me, it remains one of Spielberg’s most accomplished technical achievements. I also agree that its sentimentality becomes a little cloying by the end, but there is no doubting the technical brilliance and moving story at the heart of this film. Also the acting is superb, particularly from Tom Hanks, who delivers one of the most interesting performances of his career. Hollywood’s treatment of battle sequences changed forever after this film and it’s clear that the technical achievements have inspired other filmmakers (Paul Greengrass for example). ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is undoubtedly one of the finest war films ever made.


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4. Minority Report

This film really is an underrated gem. To tell the truth, my first viewing of ‘Minority Report’ left me uninspired; I thought it was just another middle of the road sci-fi movie. But one Christmas, I remember watching it on TV while flicking through the channels. Within seconds I was hooked and I saw a completely different movie than I did the first time around. I think this is one of Tom Cruise’s finest performances; he is so captivating and charismatic in this role it’s hard to think of another film where he is so watchable. Not to mention the beautiful cinematography which adds so much atmosphere. Where the special effects create a unique vision of the future, it is the oppressive light in the background that creates a heady mixture of noir and science fiction. The atmosphere is creepy, claustrophobic and strangely chilling. This overexposed light technique is something Spielberg has used quite often in his modern movies; he even used the technique in the recent ‘Bridge of Spies’ and it is clearly a device he will continue to use. The storytelling is also executed brilliantly and the set pieces are exhilarating.


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3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

A moving and expertly-crafted family story where, once again, Spielberg’s unquenchable thematic exploration of an absent father is at the film’s heart. Of course, it ends on a syrupy-sweet note but there is no doubting the films power and you would be hard pushed not to be swept up in the film’s majesty. This is a film that is as timeless as any, and E.T. himself is one of the most recognisable movie characters in history. A spellbinding performance from Henry Thomas who plays Elliot, Spielberg really did get the best from an incredibly young cast. One of the key quotes from E.T. is “I’ll be right here” and I’m sure he will be for many a year.


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2. Jurassic Park

I personally think this is one of the finest films ever made. It is a rollercoaster ride that has all the thrills and spills you expect, as well as plenty of spectacle. But there are deep philosophical mutterings underneath the still gleaming surface, such as the fear of fatherhood and the morals of genetic engineering. This was a film long in the making for Spielberg; it is ‘Jaws’ on land and has some of the most iconic action sequences in recent cinema; the bloke on the toilet?! Wow. With strong performances throughout and Jeff Goldblum showing why he was one of the coolest actors of the ’90’s, this is one of Spielberg’s finest films and a movie that rewards repeat viewings.


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1. Jaws

Of course Spielberg’s finest film has to be ‘Jaws’. Films like ‘Jurassic Park’ would not have existed if it was not for this work of genius. With the now infamous production problems with the animatronic shark, the film is an example of how financial restrictions often spark the most interesting creativity. With recent big-budget superhero films being released – films which I believe fundamentally lack imagination and creativity – ‘Jaws’ is a lesson in how to stretch a budget and invent filmmaking techniques to achieve your cinematic goal. Not seeing the shark ultimately proved to be the greatest strength of this film, because it somehow amplified the scare-factor and cranked up the claustrophobia. It was also the first film to smash the box-office; word of mouth and large publicity meant this film was sold out for weeks. Now every big-budget blockbuster tries to emulate this feat and to be honest, it works – just look at ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’. Thanks to a carefully moulded marketing campaign, no amount of bad reviews can stop a juggernaut of this scale. It is, by far, Spielberg’s greatest achievement both technically and on a commercial level. The film has inspired so many of his colleagues and even himself in recent years and will continue to do so for many more. 

Watch This Space: August 10 – 16

Welcome to your weekly go-to-guide – WatchThisSpace – where we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

Guy Ritchie makes his directing return this week with ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’, and it certainly looks like it will be a successful return. Action-comedy is a genre that’s difficult to get right, but with Henry Cavill, Alicia Vikander, Armie Hammer and Hugh Grant involved, it looks like this latest effort could be a hit. Expect laughs and thrills in equal measure. 

Audiences in America have been able to enjoy ‘Trainwreck’ for a while now, and we brought UK readers an exclusive review a few weeks back. Now the time has come for audiences here to see Amy Schumer’s big break on the silver screen, in what could be the comedy film of the summer.

Finally, we issue a public warning NOT to waste your time and money on another Adam Sandler led pile of crap. There can be no doubt that ‘Pixels’ is just another in a long line of flops from the moronic actor in his hunt for the next inflated pay cheque.

ON TELEVISION

Wednesday 21:00 GMT: Tune in to ITV2 to see the cult comedy ‘21 Jump Street’. The sequel may only have been slightly better than average, but the original will have you laughing out loud. 

Thursday 21:00 GMT: See how the ‘Alien’ franchise came to pass with modern prequel ‘Prometheus’ on Film4. You don’t need to have seen any of the original ‘Alien’ films in order to enjoy this, so we recommend this as your weekly dose of mind-boggling Sci-Fi, directed by Ridley Scott. If you like this film, you’ll be pleased to know that a second film has been announced.  

Friday 21:00 GMT: Our second recommended comedy of the week comes in the form of ‘Bridesmaids’ on Film4. We said that ’21 Jump Street’ is funny, but this is on a whole different level. One of our favourite comedies here at JumpCut UK, ‘Bridesmaids’ is utterly brilliant and well worth staying in on a Friday night for. 

Saturday 18:15 GMT: Our family film for the weekend is slightly more action-driven than normal, but it’s still a great film to sit down and enjoy together. ‘Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade’ is the third film in the iconic Indiana Jones series (don’t worry, you don’t have to have seen the others). Indiana Jones is as good as film characters get, and that is official after he came top in Empire magazine’s list. Sit back and enjoy on BBC 1

Sunday 21:00 GMT: The 9pm Sunday slot has some fantastic films vying for our attention this week. ‘Minority Report’ and ‘Casino Royale’ are on BBC3 and ITV2 respectively, but we’re going to recommend that you watch the Oscar-winning, war drama ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ on Channel4. The film follows the search for Osama Bin Laden, and is as dark as you would expect. This is the film that catapulted Jessica Chastain to Hollywood stardom and it’s easy to see why.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

Adventureland: It was a mixed week for Fox Studios last week, after the disastrous reaction to the ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot, but luckily the release of a ‘Deadpool’ trailer managed to salvage some street-cred. Ryan Reynolds may be best known for his infamous ‘Green Lantern’ role, but let’s not hold that against him, because it looks like he’s going to smash it this time around. He’s also pretty great in a supporting role in the underrated, comedy-drama ‘Adventureland’.

American Hustle: Jennifer Lawrence turns 24 on Saturday, and we can’t believe the catalogue of great acting roles she has already put together in such a short space of time. Amongst J-Law’s array of fantastic performances, the one which most stands out has to be her portrayal of the unpredictable, volatile Rosalyn Rosenfeld in ‘American Hustle’. With an all-star cast, top director and a multitude of Academy Award nominations, this film gives a perfect balance of crime and comedy.

Starred Up: You may have missed it, but last week also saw the release of the global trailer for upcoming action film ‘Hitman Agent 47’. Rupert Friend takes the lead role in this video game adaptation, and whilst we aren’t exactly sold on this one, we really enjoyed Friend’s role in prison drama ‘Starred Up’. Gritty as hell, with an equal serving of tense action scenes and poignant, emotional moments, this Brit flick is one of our favourite films from 2014. With rising star Jack O’Connell taking centre stage, and a strong supporting cast, it’s hard to pick fault with this choice.

Gone Girl: We literally cannot avoid talk of Batfleck lately – not that we would want to – and last week was no different. Rumour has it, a select few from the upper echelons of the Warner Bros. society were treated to a work-in-progress screening of ‘Batman v Superman’. Ben Affleck’s performance has been heralded as “the definitive Batman” by these big-wigs, but for now we recommend taking a look at him in action in last year’s dark and twisted ‘Gone Girl’; a film not to be missed, most notably for the stunning performance of Rosamund Pike.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal