Steven Spielberg entered the decade with nothing to prove as a filmmaker. Showing an uncanny sense for picking projects with commercial viability and critical approval, Spielberg directed 17 films between 1974, the year of his first feature-length film, The Sugarland Express, and 1998, the year Saving Private Ryan won Spielberg his second Academy Award for Best Director (Schindler's List five years earlier was his first) out of six nominations (he received his first nod for Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Jaws, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, and Jurassic Park each became the top grossing films of their time. In collaboration with George Lucas (the Star Wars franchise), Spielberg directed all three (later four) films in the popular Indiana Jones franchise.
Any other director would understandably slow down, but between 2001 (Artificial Intelligence: A.I. ) and late 2005 (Munich) Spielberg directed six films, each commercially and critically successful, but none with more resonance than his modern-day adaptation of H.G. Wells' 1898 science-fiction novel, War of the Worlds. Adapted directly once before by producer George Pal in 1953, featuring state-of-the-art visual effects, the War of the Worlds had influenced countless iterations of the alien invasion premise, most recently Independence Day, the big-budget science-fiction-disaster-action film directed by Roland Emmerich in 1996. Could Spielberg bring War of the Worlds up-to-date and make it relevant again? With screenwriters Josh Friedman and David Koepp, and Tom Cruise in the lead role, the answer was (and remains) an emphatic yes.