6. Goldfinger (1963)
We all know “Indiana Jones” was inspired by B-Adventure movies Spielberg and Lucas grew up watching in the 40’s and 50’s. But just as important to establishing the mythos of Indiana Jones is James Bond, a man who finds himself in inescapable situations all the time but still manages to escape them. Which is why in what could only be described as the perfect casting the original James Bond himself, Sean Connery, played Indiana Jones’ father in “Last Crusade”. But another thing established in “Goldfinger”, arguably the best Bond film of them all, is the self-aware presentation of its own style.
Of course, the events of the scenarios that unfold are far fetched and ridiculous, but the film never allows this to be a handicap but rather a strength. It’s a fine example of world building that follows its own rules and doesn’t limit itself to the laws of reality. Spielberg’s greatest films use this same template, creating their own identity and world in which everything runs. And along the way brings us along with action, adventure, and a damn good sense of humor.
7. Playtime (1967)
I mentioned in another article I wrote that Spielberg’s 2004 film “The Terminal” was an unfairly hated film, and I stand by that. It’s definitely not one of his greatest, but it does have a very specific production and presentation that owes itself to French comedies which Spielberg studied while putting it together. One in particular is Jacques Tati’s “Playtime”. Like what Spielberg did with “The Terminal”, Tati created a highly elaborate, gigantic set in which a starkly modernistic setting is the basis for futuristic Paris.
The purpose for this was to criticize the blandness of at-the-time contemporary society, characters rebelling against the invisible prison this high-rise society has created for them. Likewise, Spielberg transforms the starkly modern airport into a prison in which a man is trapped inside, never being allowed to leave due to visa issues. But more specifically, Spielberg has gradually tampered with the idea of a mental prison for some time now. From films like “Minority Report”, and even to “Ready Player One”. This concept Tati explored has sadly become truthful in modern society, and Spielberg hasn’t lost his touch for telling us about it.
8. Whale Rider (2002)
And now we’re getting to the Spielberg-esque films that have come after his time. The first of which is a highly underrated New Zealand-German film “Whale Rider”. It’s just like what Roger Ebert said, “There’s a big difference between movies for 12-year-old girls and movies about 12-year-old girls”, “Whale Rider” proves this. Pai grows up in New Zealand under the love and care of her grandparents Koro and Nanny, her father leaves New Zealand and only visits every now and then. Koro is the chief of these people, and with Pai’s father having no interest of returning home, Pai feels she would be the ideal next step in line. Her grandparents love her but strongly resent this, not realizing how much they’re hurting her emotionally.
Spielberg had a great understanding of kids, best personified in films like “E.T.”, and “Jurassic Park”. They might be adolescent, but they still have experiences worth examining that can be highly adult. And just like his best works, this weaves all these powerful emotions together into one complete package that delivers a gut punch of a finale that takes us on a journey like none other.
9. The Saddest Music in the World (2004)
One of Spielberg’s greatest achievements in recent years is his ability to transport us to another time period. Many movies transport us to other worlds but very rarely are these worlds ones we’ve never experienced before. Guy Maddin’s “The Saddest Music in the World” takes us to a place and time that’s we’ve probably seen but never fully experienced, at least not in the way this one experiences it.
Transporting us back to Winnipeg, Canada during the Great Depression where a contest is held to find the saddest music in the world and the winner will get $25,000 and musicians from around the world come around to compete and win the grand prize.
Maddin brings a style that’s like an old film from decades ago being resurrected, it’s entirely black and white and looks like someone took old film reels and blew them up with a grainy and scratched up look that brings back memories from a distant past. The effect is strange yet delightful, watching this is like watching a fantastical past that never existed but we dreamed about. If you’re a fan of movies and you’ve seen a great many of them than this is something you’re going to find a great deal of joy in.
10. Midnight Special (2016)
When “Midnight Special” came out, there were a lot of comparisons being made to the likes of “Starman” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. But make no mistake, in no way is this a carbon copy of those films. This is a welcome throwback to the mystery of what science fiction is supposed to bring us, combining elements of mystery and suspense into its other worldly story.
But like what’s felt in the family dynamics of Spielberg’s films, we similarly get a sense of parenting and family bonds with this film. A boy has mysterious powers that aren’t easily explained, and the whole journey we go through is one of supreme dedication and protection in which his father will stop at nothing to protect him from people who want to use him wrongfully.
Just like what we saw in Spielberg’s films, there’s a heavy contrast of stakes at hand. Stakes for humanity, centered around a mysterious government agency with the intentions to humanity in general. Opposing the family stakes, one in which this journey is a personal issue and not a governmental one. It’s a secretive, heartfelt, and fascinating film through and through and leaves one with a sense of nostalgia for what true science fiction is.