What Are Steven Spielberg’s Best Movies of All Time?

Steven Spielberg is possibly the most popular film director of all time. He’s directed critically acclaimed films in numerous genres, from horror films to comedies to war films to science fiction movies. Narrowing down his best movies is difficult because he has made so many great films. But here are his five best.

Jaws poster | LMPC via Getty Images

5. ‘Indiana Jones the Last Crusade’

All of the Indiana Jones movies have moments of greatness, but this is the only film in the franchise with a real emotional core. Although it’s about a treasure hunt, it’s really about the relationship between Indiana Jones and his father. The friction and reconciliation between father and son give the film a human element most adventure films wish they had.

 4. ‘Jaws’

Jaws is a masterclass in the thriller genre. The film combines the adventure of the high seas, humor, male bonding, and Hitchcockian suspense into one effective package. There’s a reason why every other scene in this film has been referenced in popular culture over and over again – it’s because the film is so great. Spielberg and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb turned a flawed potboiler into one of the definitive summer blockbusters. Nearing its fiftieth birthday, but it’s simple and effectively told story has made it timeless.

3. ‘Jurassic Park’

After Jurassic Park inspired several subpar sequels and rip-offs, it can be difficult to look back and remember what a shot in the arm it was to science fiction at the time. Like all the best science fiction stories from Frankenstein to Brave New World, Jurassic Park has a premise which is just grounded enough to be immediate but fantastical enough to be escapist. The film is perfectly cast down to the tiniest role, from Jeff Goldblum as arrogant scientist Ian Malcolm to Wayne Knight as the greedy Dennis Nedry.

2. ‘E.T.’

Waxwork of E.T. | Berk Ozkan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A child’s coming-of-age somehow feels more real in E.T., a science-fiction extravaganza, that it does in most children’s films. Although audiences were attracted to the film because of its groundbreaking special effects, the reason why it became a classic is because it accurately captures the confusion and magic of being a child in a world meant for adults.

The film also precedes The Matrix trilogy and James Cameron’s Avatar in its combination of science fiction and religious elements. When the film was first released, many commentators felt that it was a Christ allegory with E.T. as Jesus and his friend Elliott as John the Apostle. Even if this wasn’t the filmmakers’ intentions, the film’s resemblance to the life of Christ helped it to connect to many viewers on a deep level.

1. ‘Lincoln’

Daniel Day-Lewis and director Steven Spielberg arrive at the Lincoln premiere | Kevin Winter/Getty Images For AFI

President Abraham Lincoln might be revered across the world, but his memory mostly lives on through history books, statues, and the $5 bill. Spielberg managed to bring the beloved president to life in a way that no previous filmmaker had. Other films about Lincoln have an overly sentimental bent. Here, Spielberg manages to capture both the warmth and humor of the president as well as the tremendous struggles of his life.