Steven Spielberg came back with a bang recently, directing the excellent 2021 adaptation of the classic musical romance West Side Story (which just misses out on making this list, incidentally).
His filmography and legacy is right up there with the greatest icons in cinematic history, as he’s directed and produced some of the finest movies ever made.
In this piece, we’ll be taking you through the 10 best movies he’s directed and linking you to the places you can watch them online.
While you’re here, you should definitely check out our list of the best Martin Scorsese movies.
10. Bridge Of Spies (2015)
Bridge of Spies is a historical drama with a terrific cast that includes Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan and Alan Alda.
It’s set during the Cold War and tells the story of lawyer James B. Donovan. Donovan is entrusted with negotiating the release of Francis Gary Powers – a pilot in the U.S. Air Force whose spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 – in exchange for the release of convicted Soviet KGB spy Rudolf Abel, whom Donovan represented at trial.
A brilliant character study, this eloquent thriller is like old-school Hollywood at its absolute best.
9. Minority Report (2002)
Watch on: Amazon Prime (rental/AMC + subscription)
Loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s 1956 short story “The Minority Report”, it’s set in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia in the year 2054. There, Precrime – a special department of the police – apprehends criminals before they commit crimes, thanks to the help of three “precogs”.
This is an action-packed and visceral movie that’s as exciting as it is thought-provoking. Cruise at his very best combined with Spielberg’s sharp directing ensures it’s gripping from start to finish.
Minority Report stars Tom Cruise alongside an incredible supporting cast that includes Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton and Max von Sydow.
8. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
A biographical crime movie, Catch Me If You Can is based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale (the truth of which remains questionable to this day) who, before his 19th birthday, allegedly successfully carried out a series of cons by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor and a Louisiana parish prosecutor, resulting in him earning millions of dollars.
This is one very stylish (and surprisingly sweet and charming) movie, aided by a brilliant performance from DiCaprio.
7. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind tells the story of Dreyfuss’ Roy Neary, an everyday blue-collar worker in Indiana – whose life changes after an encounter with an unidentified flying object. He begins seeing strange visions and ultimately meets the alien beings behind them.
A wonderful movie that’s teeming with adventure, fantasy and mystery, Close Encounters of the Third Kind boasts a flawless performance from Richard Dreyfuss. It is a little slow in its pacing, but very suspenseful as a result – and the climax is well worth the wait, as it’s one of the finest in movie history.
6. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
The first installment in the iconic Indiana Jones franchise, Raiders of the Lost Ark, it follows Harrison Ford’s Jones – a globe-trotting archaeologist – in 1936, as he competes with Nazi Germany’s forces to find the long-lost Ark of the Covenant, a relic said to make an army invincible. He teams up with Allen’s Marion Ravenwood – his tough ex-lover – to stop rival archaeologist Dr. René Belloq from finding the Ark and giving its power to the Nazis.
An epic movie that’s full of thrills, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the finest of its kind ever made. Ford is simply outstanding.
5. Jurassic Park (1993)
A Spielberg epic, Jurassic Park may just be the quintessential summer blockbuster. Based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel of the same name, it has an all-star cast that includes Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough.
Set on the fictional island of Isla Nublar, near Costa Rica, a wealthy businessman and a team of genetic scientists have used ancient DNA to create a wildlife park filled with dinosaurs. But it all goes predictably wrong and a small group of visitors – along with Hammond’s grandchildren – struggle to survive against the escaped beasts.
Despite its obvious scientific inaccuracies, Jurassic Park is magnificent. With some terrifying, spectacular and awe-inspiring sequences, it’s edge-of-your-seat stuff for almost the entire duration of the movie.
4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Another Spielberg offering starring Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan is an epic war movie that follows United States Army Rangers (Tom Hanks’ Captain John H. Miller and his squad) as they search for a paratrooper – Matt Damon’s Private First Class James Francis Ryan – who’s the last surviving brother of four, after the three other brothers were killed in action.
Known for its brilliant and graphic portrayal of combat – and for not glorifying it – Saving Private Ryan is one of the greatest war movies ever made. With several fantastic performances (Hanks especially), it’s teeming with action and packs an extremely powerful emotional punch.
3. Schindler’s List (1993)
Schindler’s List is a historical drama based on the 1982 non-fiction novel Schindler’s Ark by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally. It’s about Neeson’s Oskar Schindler – a German industrialist who saved more than a thousand refugees (mainly Polish-Jewish) from the horror of the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II.
While this is a hard watch and far from what you’d call an entertaining movie (it’s not one you’ll want to watch more than once), it’s a bona fide masterpiece. Combining the appalling events of the Holocaust with the tender humanism Spielberg is known for, it’s cinema at its absolute best – and Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are superb.
2. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a sci-fi movie about a 10-year-old boy called Elliott who befriends an alien (the titular E.T.) that’s become stranded on Earth. Along with his friends and family, Elliott must find a way to help E.T. return to his home planet while avoiding the government, who want to capture the creature for nefarious purposes.
For eleven years, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was the highest-grossing movie of all time – and with good reason. A heart-warming, touching and charming movie, it’s a technical marvel that taps into viewers’ imaginations and provides a real feeling of magic – especially for younger viewers (although it’s definitely one for people of all ages).
1. Jaws (1975)
An iconic horror thriller, Jaws has one of the most incredible core casts in cinema history – the wonderful trio of Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss. It’s based on the 1974 novel of the same name by Peter Benchley.
It’s about a man-eating great white shark attacking beachgoers at the summer resort town of Amity Island, New England, which prompts Scheider’s police chief Martin Brody to hunt it with the help of Dreyfuss’ young marine biologist Matt Hooper and Shaw’s grizzled professional shark hunter Quint.
Accompanied by one of the most recognizable musical themes in movie history – in the form of John Williams’ ominous and minimalist tuba piece – Jaws is a genuine masterpiece. It has a great story, is suspenseful and genuinely scary, causing millions of movie-goers to avoid the sea ever since its release.