The world would be a much sadder place without Steven Spielberg's films. From tales of lovable, wayward aliens to Nazi-punching archaeologists to lawyer-eating T-Rex's, Spielberg's stories remind us why we go to the theater. But which movie ranks as his best ever? Click on to find out.
32. 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' (2008)
We all wanted a fourth "Indiana Jones" movie, but not like this. It would have been better to let Dr. Jones retire gracefully than drag him kicking and screaming into a movie full of bad Soviet villains, an annoying teen sidekick and lame alien mythology. We can only hope the next sequel will redeem this once venerable franchise.
31. 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park' (1997)
Ian Malcolm goes from likable supporting player to kind of irritating lead in this dark and sometimes dull money grab from Summer '97. Spielberg is hit and miss when it comes to sequels, and this one fell way short of the first film.
30. 'The Terminal' (2004)
The only real takeaway from "The Terminal" is that even the normally dependable Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks team-up can fall flat. Sure, Hanks is charming as a displaced traveler forced to live his life trapped inside an airport, but the film is far too simplistic and saccharine for a director of Spielberg's talents.
29. '1941' (1979)
Considering the cast of comedic legends that headline this film, there's no reason "1941" should be so mediocre. It wound up being the first big misstep of Spielberg's career at the time, though the eventual director's cut version did help "1941" find some shred of redemption on the home video market. The movie was so damaging, that it forced Spielberg to course-correct his approach to filmmaking, leading him to make "Raiders of the Lost Ark" as a way to challenge himself to see if we can make a movie without going over budget and schedule like he did on "1941."
28. 'The Adventures of Tintin' (2011)
We had high hopes for this CG-animated adventure and the opportunity for Spielberg to delve back into Indiana Jones-style adventure. Sadly, the final product wasn't everything we hoped. "The Adventures of Tintin" doesn't do full justice to the source material, and the stylized yet photo-realistic animation style is too awkward for its own good. Though the film boasts an amazing chase sequence all in one-take, further solidifying Spielberg's action bonafides.
27. 'Hook' (1991)
"Hook" isn't a particularly great film, but it's one that still manages to hold a place in the hearts of "Peter Pan" lovers. Basically, it helps a lot if you're watching this through very nostalgic glasses. For everyone else, it's mainly Dustin Hoffman's manic Captain Hook that makes this one watchable.
26. 'Ready Player One' (2017)
Another expensive, noble misfire from the Beard, "Ready Player One" is a CG blitz of Easter Eggs fueled by an aggressive need to scratch every possible nostalgic itch you can possibly have instead of wanting to do so with characters or a story worth truly investing in. The story itself is derivative, taking several chapters from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" to unspool a messy, soulless film from the one filmmaker best known for giving his movies beating hearts. It feels like "anyone" could have directed this movie -- "A Film By Competently-Executed Pre Viz" feels like a more apt credit. And no one should walk into a Spielberg effort feeling anyone could have been at the helm but him.
25. 'The BFG' (2016)
"The BFG" saw Spielberg return to a story he does incredibly well, telling the tale of an ordinary, lonely child and her over-sized friend making their way in the world. The film is a technical powerhouse, but without the darker elements of the original book in play, it's basically just "E.T. Lite."
24. 'Always' (1989)
This comedic melodrama, a remake of the 1943 film "A Guy Named Joe," has impressive aerial sequences and performances as it tells the tale of an aerial firefighter (Richard Dreyfuss) who dies and comes back to see the woman he loves one last time. Romance isn't Spielberg's strong suit, and it shows in this box-office misfire.
23. 'The Sugarland Express' (1974)
One of Spielberg's earliest feature films, "The Sugarland Express" is mainly notable for being his first collaboration with composer John Williams. It's a solid effort from a budding director, but one that revisits ground already covered by better films like "Easy Rider."
22. 'War Horse' (2011)
It seems odd to call a movie that made $177 million worldwide overlooked, and yet you seldom hear "War Horse" mentioned in the same breath as Spielberg's other war dramas -- or at all. Which is too bad, since his adaptation of the popular novel and play set during World War I is as vivid, bleak, sentimental, and sweeping as any of the director's epics about WWII.
21. 'Amistad' (1997)
While the weakest of Spielberg's three films about slavery and race relations in America, "Amistad" still offers a gripping depiction of a mutiny aboard a slave ship and the ensuing legal battle. And if nothing else, it's a film that helped further Matthew McConaughey as a strong dramatic lead.
20. 'The Color Purple' (1985)
Yes, "The Color Purple" is a little too sappy and sentimental for its own good. But the film manages to offer a captivating story of an African American woman's struggle in the early 20th Century, one that's both daring and also banks heavily on Spielberg's crowd-pleasing sensibilities. It's also the film that helped turn Whoopi Goldberg into a star.
19. 'Lincoln' (2012)
"Lincoln" could be viewed as the final part in a loose trilogy that also includes "The Color Purple" and "Amistad." It's also the best of the three, thanks in no small part to Daniel Day-Lewis' electrifying performance as the titular President. But to his credit, Spielberg crafted a political drama that's as hilarious as it is engaging.
18. 'Bridge of Spies' (2015)
For a story that's more about negotiations than action, "Bridge of Spies" manages to be a very exciting Cold War thriller. We're also thankful this film managed to redeem the Spielberg/Tom Hanks partnership after the disappointing "The Terminal."
Director Steven Spielberg seemed especially fascinated with historical dramas and true crime in the early 2000's. This film is based on George Jonas' book "Vengeance," which details the Israeli government's Operation Wrath of God, a massive retaliation against the Palestine Liberation Organization following the 1972 terror attacks at the Summer Olympics.
16. 'Duel' (1971)
If you want to know how someone could make a film as great as "Jaws" at such a young age, look at his TV movie, "Duel." Spielberg's first feature-length project plays out like a rough prototype of "Jaws." It tells a simple, streamlined story of an ordinary driver fighting for his life against a crazed trucker that we never see, and the same "less is more" approach that makes the shark in "Jaws" so terrifying is played to equally strong effect here.
15. 'Empire of the Sun' (1987)
Christian Bale made his first big splash as a pubescent prisoner of war in this elegant adaptation of J.G. Ballard's book. The movie offers unique angles on several of Spielberg's favorite obsessions (broken families, coming-of-age, World War II) and deserves a wider audience than it received in theaters.
14. 'A.I.: Artificial Intelligence' (2001)
Spielberg inherited the late Stanley Kubrick's long-gestating project about an android boy struggling to find his place in a world drowning in melted polar ice caps. The two filmmakers' storytelling sensibilities clash more often than they shake hands -- but when they do mesh, the episodic attains an almost tragic quality that tugs on the heartstrings and makes you think. And yes, that much-debated "happy ending"/fourth act is -- contrary to what you heard -- all Kubrick.
13. 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' (1984)
We pine for the days when this was considered to be the worst "Indiana Jones" movie. "Temple of Doom" is a little weirder than its siblings, and it's weighed down by one of the most annoying female sidekick characters in movie history, but it still delivers that classic Indy adventure we love so much.
12. 'War of the Worlds' (2005)
When extremely hostile beasties invade, Tom Cruise and his estranged son and daughter struggle to survive not only the aliens, but their fellow earthlings in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic. It comes undone in the third act with an eye-roller of an ending, but the first intense two thirds are pure polish for the director.
11. 'The Post' (2017)
Spielberg's latest awards contender couldn't be more relevant, as it chronicles the struggle to protect the freedom of speech from the very government charged with enforcing it that now wants to encroach upon it. Oscar-winners Hanks and Streep are obviously scary-good at their jobs, and the film achieves several moments of greatness despite falling just shy of being called a totally "Great" film.
10. 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' (1989)
James Bond and Indiana Jones deserve each other, especially when the former plays the latter's dad. Sean Connery steals the show as Indy's father, thanks to his effortless comic timing and chemistry with Harrison Ford. This threequel is many a fan's favorite, as it boasts some of the series' best action set pieces -- on top of just being a damn fun time at the movies.
'Catch Me If You Can' (2002)
"Catch Me If You Can" may be too lighthearted a film to truly qualify as a thriller, but it certainly knows how to keep viewers invested in the strange saga of con artist Frank Abagnale. That fact that the whole film is based on real events and that the real Abagnale really did manage to pass himself off as a surgeon and an airline pilot while cashing millions of dollars of fake checks makes the film that much more engrossing.
8. 'Jurassic Park' (1993)
"Jurassic Park" would be a career-defining effort for almost any other director, so the fact that it "only" ranks at #8 here shows just how great Spielberg's career has been. More than 20 years since its blockbuster release, we never get tired of making that trip back to Isla Nublar and watching what happens when dinosaurs decide it's time they ruled the earth again.
7. 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977)
This sci-fi classic, about mankind's first contact with UFO-borne aliens, earned praise for its then-visionary effects and for bringing a sense of spiritual awe to what could have been a standard sci-fi tale. But it's also an intense family drama about the nature of obsession, the distrust of authority, and the search for truth. Spielberg makes fine use of Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon, and French filmmaker Francois Truffaut in order to bring this cosmic tale down to human scale.
6. 'Minority Report' (2002)
You wouldn't necessarily think of Spielberg as the director to realize Philip K. Dick's paranoid vision of a future where cop Tom Cruise arrests murderers before they kill, until he himself becomes the suspect in a pending homicide. But Spielberg turns out to be thoroughly at home in this gritty sci-fi noir, full of moral dilemmas and hair's-breadth escapes. This movie solidifies Spielberg as the best action movie director alive.
5. 'E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial' (1982)
Spielberg received a UN Peace Medal for this movie, so you know he did something right here. "E.T." is both one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made and the quintessential film about friendship and childhood innocence. It's also one that only gets better with age. Even more so than when it was first released, it's the perfect antidote to our troubled times.
4. 'Saving Private Ryan' (1998)
The opening D-Day invasion sequence is generally considered the finest, most realistic, most horrific combat sequence ever filmed. But the rest of "Saving Private Ryan" is a quietly gripping epic, a thoughtful meditation on loyalty, sacrifice, and humanity amid overwhelming bloodshed.
3. 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (1981)
Indy has seen his ups and downs over the years, but nothing will ever top the original "Raiders of the Lost Ark." A wonderful throwback to the adventure serials of yesteryear, "Raiders" also ensured that star Harrison Ford earned a second spot in the pop culture hall of fame.
2. 'Schindler's List' (1993)
"Schindler's List" differs from all other Holocaust dramas, not because it's utterly unflinching in its depiction of evil, but because it's more fascinated with the mystery of goodness. In the face of implacable evil, what made Oskar Schindler -- a not especially heroic man at first -- risk everything to do good? The film doesn't really offer an answer, but intensely felt performances by Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes (in his star-making role) illuminate the issue.
1. 'Jaws' (1975)
The first blockbuster ever made serves as a template for all that came after: Intense thrills and spectacle all told at human height. Spielberg grounds his shark-hunting thriller on the backs of very relatable, very likable characters -- every victory they have or panicked breath they take feels like one of our own. So no surprise that, after 40 years, we're still afraid to go in the water.