Once upon a time, in the condition that Warner Bros. utilize a cast primarily from the UK and Ireland, J. K. Rowling agreed to sell the movie film rights for the first four of her Harry Potter books. Steven Spielberg was one name thrown into the magical ring to potentially direct the first film, but anticipating the obvious billion dollar success it would be, he fancied a greater challenge.
Spielberg would go on to complete a sci-fi fantasy once in the hands of the late, great Stanley Kubrick. A film in hindsight may well have over-achieved in this very ranking, sitting above some of the movies I suspect many fans would want to see higher. Let’s jump straight into the next five (before we enter the big 10):
15. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
I have fond childhood memories of this one. Whatever you say about the role played by Kate Capshaw (Spielberg’s future wife), she is without doubt one of the most unlikeliest movie heroines, and difficult to forget. Spielberg halts the breaks somewhat on the more refined style used in Raiders – this is a far more action-jumble affair, making light of all manner of mini adventures, be it huge bugs crawling through your hair, monkey brains for dinner, falling rope bridges, diamonds, sacred stones, pits of fire – I could go on. Spielberg at his ridiculous peak, which is a very good thing.
14. Lincoln (2012)
Executing so intricately a small, but hugely significant part of American history, Spielberg returns to completely-straight format. With the help of the super-talented Tony Kushner on screenwriting duties, Lincoln is a marvel of story-telling. And top to bottom excels in all areas technical, and, of course, with the acting on display. I mean, this is quite the ensemble. Not for everyone for sure, given the pacing, and apparently not as good as Argo, but with Lincoln, Spielberg adds yet another finely crafted motion picture to his already unmatchable filmography.
13. Minority Report (2002)
Another delayed production given Spielberg’s enduring shoot on A.I., this follow-up sci-fi motion picture was a vast improvement. In fact, Minority Report is strangely dark film, utilizing some flashy visual effects and photography to feed out fear of the unknown future. Only here, the synopsis centers on capturing murderers before they commit the act, and soon morphs into a man-on-the-run thriller. Another double year for Spielberg, you have to hand it to a filmmaker than send this into orbit in the same year as a film like Catch Me If You Can.
12. The Color Purple (1985)
The rather unfortunate Oscars record aside, The Color Purple remains one of Spielberg’s most adored, most ambitious of his films. A far cry from sci-fi, Spielberg took Alice Walker’s acclaimed book to the screen, in spite of some dubious hums around Hollywood. Some argue he was one of the only directors that could make a film of this nature, but more importantly, a filmmaker that genuinely wanted to – and did so. The production took its toll on Spielberg, but I am certain the picture holds a special place in his heart and those of his fans.
11. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
I will try not to take the personal approach with the height of this film’s place in these rankings, except to say it is certainly not one of my favorites. Ticking pretty much the majority of the Spielbergesque boxes – abandoned children, magical characters, sense of adventure, a crucial journey, science fiction platform – A.I. is accomplished in many of its technical areas, the film looks stunning in parts. Only, for once, the execution of story and the depiction of heart appears to fall short. I say fall short, given the unbelievable high bar set by Spielberg many, many times previous.