Often considered one of the biggest directors in cinema history, Steven Spielberg has created a complex filmography through five decades.
In that time, he has tried all kinds of genres, from drama to horror, proving that he is one of the very few directors that can take any project he wants and turn it into a big hit. Sure, a couple of them didn’t turn out well, but several of his works have become great classics.
While some people may call him “overrated”, it’s undeniable that Spielberg created a big impact in the film industry, either by creating cult characters, revolutionizing techniques, or reimagining genres.
Therefore, here we present you 10 Steven Spielberg films you should watch.
10. Munich (2005)
Based on the “Operation Wrath of God”, a secret Israeli retaliation against the Palestine Liberation Organization after the massacre at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, this historical drama-action film might be one of the most underrated films in Spielberg’s career.
While at that point, Spielberg had already proven that he could direct action and drama, “Munich” happens to combine both elements to create a powerful suspense-filled film that only gets more disturbing, as audiences know that it’s inspired by real events.
While “Munich” is one of the lowest-grossing films by Spielberg, it received five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. It’s a serious, breathtaking and disturbing action-drama film, featuring great performances from Eric Bana, Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush, and could easily be one of Spielberg’s best recent works.
9. Empire of the Sun (1987)
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by J.G. Ballard, this coming-of-age drama was Spielberg’s first attempt to make a film about World War II. It doesn’t take place in Europe, but in Shanghai during the Japanese invasion of China, which makes the film explore a different angle of the war.
In this case, it follows the story of a young British boy (perfectly played by an 12-year-old Christian Bale) who becomes a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp.
The film came at a time when Spielberg tried to make more serious films (having previously directed “The Color Purple”), so the film continued to show Spielberg’s ability to explore serious subjects, creating an touching film with powerful performances from the young Bale, John Malkovich and Miranda Richardson.
8. The Color Purple (1985)
Starring Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover, this was Spielberg’s first attempt to make a major dramatic film. Prior to this, most of his works were action-adventure, science fiction or horror.
But with “The Color Purple”, Spielberg decided to break new ground, exploring the difficult life of African-American women in the first decades of the 20th century. It was a subject that created some controversy, but it undoubtedly proved Spielberg’s talent beyond just blockbusters.
The film received 11 Oscar nominations, though it didn’t win any, and it helped launch Goldberg’s career (who at that point had made only one film); it also allowed Spielberg to go into different projects.
7. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, this crime comedy-drama set in the 1960s follows the real story of Frank Abagnale Jr., who, before his 19th birthday, became one of the biggest impostors the world had ever seen.
As with every Spielberg film, it’s a detailed piece of work that includes great performances from its two major stars, as well as supporting roles from Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, and a pre-fame Amy Adams.
Though it didn’t get many big Oscar nominations (with the exception of Walken for Best Supporting Actor, and John Williams for Best Original Score), the film was well received, with even the real Frank Abagnale Jr. approving it.
However, the reason why it could be considered one of Spielberg’s best works is because of its charm. It’s not just any comedy, it’s not only smart, but it feels personal and the combination of the performances, the catchy soundtrack, and the 1960s’ setting makes it an delightful film, different than any other film by Spielberg.
6. Jaws (1975)
Spielberg’s second film was definitely messy to make, but it turned out to be one of the greatest films not only from his career, but from the horror genre in general. It’s not even necessary to explain what the film is about. There is no other film about a man-eating shark that is like “Jaws”.
It has an iconic score by John Williams, and great performances from Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. But its major highlight is no other than the smart suspense that it delivers. For most of the film, the shark is not even seen, not even when attacking or eating people, and it still freaks out the audiences.
There is a big debate regarding whether this idea came from Spielberg or the film’s editor, Verna Fields. However, the pair didn’t work together, since Spielberg wanted to prove that the success of “Jaws” was because of the direction and not the editing.
Whatever the case may be, the film is one of the greatest classics in its genre and it helped Spielberg pick major projects in the future.