This was originally published at The Edge SUSU on August 27th.
You don’t have to look too hard on the internet to find one of the numerous countdowns listing the greatest films helmed by renowned director Steven Spielberg. Said lists will dutifully point to the usual suspects of the film-makers expansive catalogue: Jaws, E.T, Schindler’s List, Raiders of the Lost Ark – same old, same old. Yet, whilst this topic has been exhaustively mined, it does not account for the full impact the affectionately named “Beard” has had upon the film industry. Being as busy as he is, Spielberg has often had to resort to producing on projects that have taken his interest. Some still bare his personal stamp. Others illicit a surprised “ohh” when you venture onto his imdb page and discover his involvement. So let’s count down, not the top 10 films directed by Steven Spielberg, but the top 10 produced by him. It should go without saying, but any films that he produced and directed will not qualify.
10) Young Sherlock Holmes
Often dismissed as an Indiana Jones rip-off, this re-imagining of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books may not stay faithful to its source material, but is a lot of fun. Trivia fact: it also features the first fully realized 3D CGI character in a feature film (from Pixar no less), in the Stain-Glass Knight, proving that Spielberg knows how to pioneer in the realm of technology (as Jurassic Park will later spectacularly prove).
9) The Goonies
Surely expected to be higher on the list, there’s no doubting that The Goonies is a film looked upon favourably by many. And whist it does have an innocent, endearing quality to it, this is an uncharacteristically overrated film in the Spielberg canon (and this is a Spielberg film, whether he directed it or not). There is something vaguely dull, and almost bland about this offering, nonetheless it’s still a generally good film and earns some recognition.
8) True Grit
The Coen Brother’s Oscar nominee is often cited as one of the best remakes of all time. Featuring excellent performances from Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld and a rich, deep screenplay that successfully translates the source material’s complex content over to the screen, it’s easy to see why. Spielberg backed a winner here.
7) The Land Before Time
Contrastingly to The Goonies, this comes under the underrated pile. It may not play quite as well with adults as it does with younger viewers, but this animated dinosaur adventure at the very least, contains one of the most heartbreaking moments in children’s cinema.
Despite going un-credited, Spielberg did indeed have a hand in the creation of this often imitated Dreamworks animation. Reportedly, it was Spielberg who encouraged the team to reanimate the film and allow for Mike Myers to redo his voicework creating the voice which we now associate with the lovable green ogre. The extent of Spielberg’s involvement on this front is disputed and some say he merely thanked Myers for re-recording.
5) Men in Black
Ignore the sequels and just try to remember for a second, how good the first Men in Black is. With a charismatic central performance from Will Smith and a variety of crazy alien designs, the first installment in the now tired series is everything its sequels weren’t: fresh, fun and witty.
Confusing mythology aside (just when exactly does “after midnight” end?) this Joe Dante directed family-adventure-horror… thing is a Christmas favourite, balancing humour and thrills in equal measure. It may be sentimental as heck in places, but therein lies its (and Spielberg’s) charm.
3) Back to the Future
Needs no introduction! Curiously Spielberg has publicly expressed his preference for the third installment of the franchise and whilst that does have its own appeal, it’s the first film in the series which makes its way onto our list. Filled with memorable characters, iconic moments and loaded with a certain magic, this is the quintessential 80’s blockbuster.
2) Super 8
J.J Abrams’ tribute to E.T and Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a nostalgic dream. Both a hearkening back to old school methods of storytelling and also to the wonders of childhood, this may be Abrams’ baby, but it’s one that wouldn’t exist without Spielberg’s influence. It also features one of the greatest train sequences ever.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Whilst it may not have the same treasured place in film history as Back to the Future, the Goonies or even Gremlins, Poltergeist really is something rather special. The closest you can find to a family-friendly horror film (rather than a family film that displays horror movie tropes à la Coraline) the film manages to blend inventive scares, likable characters and real, genuine warmth. The credit really belongs to Spielberg in this case, whose fingerprints are all over it. Not only did he write the screenplay but clearly injected the film with his sensibility from the producer’s chair (he was busy making E.T at the time). After all, director Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame isn’t know for his softer side.
Spielberg’s influence over the cinematic landscape doesn’t end at his directorial contributions. Having produced an abundance of material, mentioning them all was impossible, however these 10 represent some of the finest.