These Are the Best Steven Spielberg Films, Ranked

Jaws, Raiders of the Lost ArkJurassic Park, ET, and Saving Private Ryan are some of the most iconic films ever made, and just a few productions in director Steven Spielberg‘s legendary career in the film industry. Spielberg was born in Ohio and raised as an Orthodox Jew; in school, he was constantly bullied by anti-Semetic thugs. As an outlet for his imagination, the future director made amateur movies using his father’s old movie camera, lighting the fuse in him to become a filmmaker.

When applying for colleges, he decided to set his sights on the University of Southern California, but was soon afterwards rejected because of his lackluster grades; the University would later surely regret their decision in the coming years. Spielberg ended up attending California State University, Long Beach and, after procuring a job with Universal Studios, was able to make a short film called Amblin. The rest is a blur of cinema and history, each bleeding into the other.

Understanding that this director has such a knack for filmmaking makes it a gift and a privilege to witness his work unfurl on the silver screen. Here are the best Steven Spielberg films, ranked.

11 Catch Me if you Can

Catch Me if You Can
DreamWorks Pictures

What happens when you cross Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio on opposite sides of the law? Evidently, you get the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can. This story sees DiCaprio playing Frank Abagnale, an intelligent, young con artist who tip-toes through various roles and professions that, in reality, he never worked a day in his life in. Abagnale begins as a young boy who is dismayed by the notion of his parents getting a divorce, and runs away living out a life of petty crime and habitual conning, until becoming one of the most iconic con-men in history.

This Spielberg film is sleeker and more slender than his other epics. Its slick crime-investigation narrative is bolstered by the contentious chemistry of DiCaprio and Hanks, which makes it simple enough to enjoy as a feel-good Spielberg movie.

10 War Horse


Horses may not be able to fly, but this film certainly soared. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse tells the timeless tale of a horse named Joey that is sold to British WWI veterans. Joey lands himself in a variety of different locales during the war throughout the journey to find his way back home. What remains so wholesome about this movie is that people see it through the eyes of the horse. The audience is shown the horrors of war but, at the same time, slight glimmers of beauty and hope shine through with a beautifully painted canvas in this Spielberg classic.

9 Lincoln

Daniel Day Lewis is Lincoln
Dreamworks Pictures

Lincoln is a war picture and biographical drama set during the ambivalent time of the Civil War when the North and South were at each other’s throats. Of course, the nation’s sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln oversaw the country being torn apart while he did his best to free the slaves. Led by an incomparable performance from Daniel Day-Lewis and remarkable direction from the master, this biopic has been a standout in Spielberg’s career, further cementing his ability to take on big stories with even bigger characters.

8 Jaws

Universal Pictures

The terrifying two notes of John Williams’ score have struck fear into the hearts of viewers since 1975. In the iconic Jaws, a shark is on the loose at a quiet beach-side community, and a trio of unlikely men team up to hunt down and kill the wicked beast. Admittedly, the shark is more memorable than the people in the film, but Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw all give excellent performances, demonstrating how gifted a way Spielberg has had with actors since the beginning. The director’s subtle technique for realism makes the film that much more frightening, and while his use of the animatronic shark may not be as terrifying to modern audiences as it was then, CGI was not a thing back in 1975, and the film’s practical effects were actually pretty advanced for the time. Using practical effects like these certainly outweighs any computer trickery fans would most likely get from a reboot. The consideration and care the director puts into his special effects just highlights the genius and ingenuity of Spielberg even further.

Related: These Movies Will Make You Second Guess Ever Getting on a Boat

7 Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters Re-Release Trailer: The Classic Is Returning to Theaters
Sony Pictures

Close Encounters of the Third Kind brings back Richard Dreyfuss for an alien film that piqued the public’s interest in extraterrestrials even further. The movie follows a series of UFO sightings that snagged a group of pilots from Earth, something which later becomes an obsession of a blue-collared worker (Richard Dreyfuss). The combination of the utterly fantastical with the ordinary and mundane is a hallmark for Spielberg, adn he uses it to great effect here. The film is yet another sci-fi Spielberg epic that certainly isn’t short on thrills or unique, thought-provoking ideas and characters. It’s a blast to watch, with a great musical score and a grand performance from Dreyfuss.

6 The Color Purple

Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple Returns to Theaters for Its 35th Anniversary in February
Warner Bros.

Based on the book by Alice Walker, The Color Purple is the story of Celie Harris (Whoopi Goldberg) who is subject to unthinkable abuse and domestic torture from her father and husband (Danny Glover). She learns how to stand up for herself and be independent as the film goes on. Spielberg’s beautifully crafted direction shows throughout each frame of the picture, and his intricate ability to weave each character into a beautiful strand helps ensure that no character is left unexplored in the The Color Purple.

5 Saving Private Ryan

DreamWorks Pictures

Who knew that Spielberg and war movies with great action sequences would blend so well together? A squad of soldiers attempts to locate Private James Francis Ryan, the only one of his brothers to survive, in the epic Saving Private Ryan. With a magnificent ensemble cast and brutally realistic photography, the director gives a more heavy-handed approach to World War II and uses the gritty aesthetic of the genre to transcend traditional war films and make a magnificent and bloody tale of honor and friendship.

Related: Top 10 Opening Scenes Of All Time, Ranked

4 Raiders of the Lost Ark

Paramount Pictures

One can only imagine what the world would be like without Indiana Jones roaming around in his fedora. Raiders of the Lost Ark launched the character into impressive heights on the silver screen and elevated action / adventure movies above nearly anything else at that time. Spielberg helped create a gold mine with this film, and used his wit and propensity for grandiose and elaborate sets to bring to life a legend on screen.

3 Jurassic Park

Universal Pictures

Who did not love dinosaurs as a kid? This Spielberg film wondered what would happen if dinosaurs were brought back to the modern day and got reanimated into society; that could be fun for the kids, but terrifying for the rest of us. Spielberg has stunned our imagination in more ways than one with this visually arresting miracle of a film that spawned a franchise that is still going strong this year. It revolutionized visual effects and put the director on the map of holding down giant behemoths such as this. Jurassic Park was one of the greatest films of the ’90s, and showed Hollywood what a special effects action show should look like.

Universal Pictures

Who hasn’t seen this movie, or at least heard of it? ET sees a young boy named Elliot befriending a harmless alien from another world, and the two embark upon a heartfelt adventure that warmed the hearts of millions. Spielberg’s classic is easily one of the greatest films of the 1980s and definitely one of the best films of the century, combining the typical Spielbergian sense of childhood wonder with a retro ’80s style that would go on to influence show like Stranger Things. It’s a beautiful, compassionate film that helps audiences be better people.

1 Schindler’s List

The little girl in red in Schindler's List
Universal Pictures

Schindler’s List tells the altruistic tale of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who saved the lives of 1,200 Jewish lives during the holocaust. The film’s majesty and grace is only truly encapsulated when the backdrop of its hopeless themes are finally lifted by the climax. It is considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, and won Spielberg his first Oscar for Best Director. Its dialogue cuts like a knife, and its message reads like poetry.

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