In honor of Raider’s 40th anniversary, here’s our top-10 Spielberg movies

In+honor+of+Raider%27s+40th+anniversary%2C+here%27s+our+top-10+Spielberg+movies

Way back in 1959, Steven Spielberg made his directorial debut with a short film called “The Last Gun.” He was 13 years old at the time. Sometimes, you just know what life has set out for you; your job is to seize the moment and avoid dropping the ball. Over the next 55+ directing jobs he has taken over the decades since the 1960’s were born, Spielberg has proven to be one of the most adept, compassionate, and intelligent filmmakers of our time.

So, let’s do the hard work and decide which ten films stand out the most. No honorable mentions or “almost” selections, either. Get your coffee, find a comfy spot in that chair, and let’s get to it before the heat settles in.

“Munich” (2005)

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This is the film that many other movies following its release tried to be, and failed. A diabolical account of the five Israeli agents who were dispatched to track down and kill the participants in the Black September assassination of the Israeli athletes at the Olympics. Quite honestly Eric Bana’s finest performance as well as an early look at the magnetic presence of Daniel Craig, the Tony Kushner/Eric Roth-penned script is one of the best in a Spielberg film. He didn’t just show us the vengeance, but the cost of it all in the end. (Available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video.)

“Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade” (1989)

The best Indy adventure for my money brought the late, great Sean Connery into the fold, creating one of the best father-son adventure films of all time. Harrison Ford and Connery were hilarious, heartbreaking, and inspiring all at once in a classic adventure tale. The film’s raucous pace still holds up well, and you’ll be screaming “Junior” after you finish the film. A crowd-pleaser. (Available on Amazon Prime for free with premium subscription.)

“The Terminal” (2004)

One of the list’s surprises for sure, this was one of the lesser critically-acclaimed movies from his career (it only scored a 55 on Metascore). However, Tom Hanks dials back the heroism usually required in a Spielberg joint, bringing out the charm and vulnerability in a man displaced from his own country and locked inside an airport while his hometown is at war. In handling an issue that has stricken several thousand real life Eastern European travelers, the director made a light romantic comedy that was a little bit too much on the nose at times, but is comfortably rewatchable. Stanley Tucci, Catherine Zeta Jones, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, and Zoe Saldana fill out an impressive cast. You’ll find yourself rooting for Hanks’ Viktor Novarski. (Available on Amazon Prime for free with premium subscription.)

“Jaws” (1975)

What list is complete without this one? It was the movie that taught us about needing bigger boats, Robert Shaw’s fearlessness, and Roy Schneider’s spellbinding stare. Richard Dreyfus completed the trio, pitting three humans against the great white shark that was terrorizing the beaches. Made for $9 million and showcasing the very early days of limited special effects (they didn’t have the VFX abilities of “The Meg”), Spielberg crafted a premium thriller that still holds up and makes us fear the big water a little extra. (Available for $3.99 on Amazon.)

“Lincoln” (2012)

Daniel Day Lewis. A remarkable cast. The best cinematic retelling of the Emancipation of Slavery with an unreal lead performance from one of film’s all-time greats. This is the kind of movie you know will be good when you see the talent gathered, but the power of the final 30 minutes still blew me away. They’ll never do it better than Spielberg did here. Every kid in high school should watch this film. A vivid history lesson. (Available for free on HBO Max and Amazon Prime.)

“Minority Report” (2002)

One of Tom Cruise’s most underrated and complete performances, playing a police officer framed for murder in a futuristic society where “special police” track down and arrest criminals before they actually commit the crime. This is a science fiction tale that was as relatable as an otherworldly flick could be, bringing in Cruise’s emotionally-wounded yet agile lawman and setting him off on a mission to clear his name against his technology he helped enforce. Hard to dislike this one, especially with Samantha Morton’s performance. Oh, and has Max von Sydow ever been more cunning??! (Available on Amazon Prime with premium subscription.)

“Catch Me If You Can” (2002)

This was arguably Spielberg’s finest year as a director. Along with “Minority Report,” he reunited with his career-long muse in Hanks for a classic caper about the youngest man to ever make America’s Most Wanted List (Leonardo DiCaprio’s Frank Abagnale Jr.), and the F.B.I. ‘s pursuit of him. Christopher Walken’s work as his father was tremendous, as was the entire cast–Martin Sheen, Jennifer Garner, and a young Amy Adams among them. But this film’s clock ran on Hanks/Leo time, pitting two esteemed actors against each other in a cinematic relationship that carried father/son threads. Abagnale Jr. forged his way into becoming a pilot, doctor, and lawyer-before Hanks’ agent went after him. At PG-13, this is a great one for mom and dad to watch with their “older” kids. True story. (Available to rent on Amazon.)

“Bridge of Spies” (2015)

This was Hanks and Spielberg in their element: A war crisis overseas. Playing a lawyer placed into untenable circumstances-negotiating with the Russians for the exchange of two spies during the Cold War-Hanks does his usual strong everyman work. Imagine a couple countries staring each other down with possible nuclear warheads, and the fate of the world resting on a lawyer staying alive long enough to execute a peaceful exchange of assets. This was thrilling and powerful.  (Available to rent on Amazon.)

“The Post” (2017)

One of the best journalism movies ever with one of Spielberg’s most decorated casts. Meryl Streep as Katherine Graham, the first female publisher of an American newspaper, who raced against time-and the New York Times-in publishing the coveted yet dangerous Vietnam Papers, standing up to President’s Nixon’s wrath. Tom Hanks as the hard-charging editor, Ben Bradbury. Bob Odenkirk, Carrie Coon, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, and so many more. Movies like this remind you the power is in the people and not the government. It doesn’t get much better than this, except when the subject is Normandy. (Available for free on Hulu, for rent on Amazon.)

“Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

If the list has a real top film, it’s this World War II opus. No matter how many times I watch the opening 25 minutes, it’s still startling, shocking, and exhausting. I don’t have to list the cast members because by now you know Spielberg doesn’t recruit “decent” actors. He brings in the best. Tom Sizemore in his 90’s prominence, Edward Burns in one of his best roles and of course, Hanks. Playing the Captain that his whole team wanted to know the backstory of, he was as marvelous as ever. “Earn this,” he tells a young Matt Damon.

If any filmmaker has earned the audience’s time, it’s Steven Spielberg.