Directors Who Dominate: Steven Spielberg
Since last fall’s revamping of Flickchart‘s global ranking system (see the official announcement about that here), many films have found themselves moved around on the global charts. But one thing remains consistent: the Directors Who Dominate continue to do so. Previously covered in this series, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino remain at the top of the charts (with their highest-ranked films at #1 and #4, respectively.) But the biggest change is that their newest efforts (Inception and Inglourious Basterds) have a much stronger presence on the chart, where they now appear at #2 and #13. And this brings us to another director who continually dominates, the man who is widely regarded (for good or ill) as the father of the modern blockbuster: Steven Spielberg.
It started in 1975, when Spielberg released his third film as a director: Jaws (global rank: #98). The horror movie starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw and a malfunctioning mechanical monstrosity of a shark nicknamed Bruce (who even has his own Facebook page) grabbed audiences by the throats, and went on to become the first true blockbuster, the first film in history to gross over $100 million at the box office.
And Spielberg wasn’t done there. Excepting the critical and box office dud 1941 (#2806), he began alternating with George Lucas‘s iconic Star Wars trilogy in creating the then-highest-grossing films of all time. Next for Spielberg was the sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind (#257), but the movie world might not have been quite prepared for what followed.
Apparently always wanting to have directed a James Bond film, in 1981, Spielberg collaborated with his friend Lucas and created “something better”. What they did was introduce the world to their ultimate hero, archaeologist Indiana Jones, and create what is still Spielberg’s highest-ranked film, Raiders of the Lost Ark (#9). Featuring an iconic performance from Harrison Ford, Raiders gave us one of the most recognized movie characters of all time, and solidified Spielberg’s position as one of the greatest popcorn filmmakers ever to create for the screen.
Spielberg rounded out the ’80s with blockbuster after blockbuster. Next was another sci-fi classic, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (#178). And then in 1984, Spielberg once again became instrumental in changing the business of the blockbuster. His next film as a director, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (#102)–prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark–and Gremlins (which Spielberg executive produced) were both initially saddled with R ratings, until appealed. And they then led to the creation of the intermediate PG-13 rating–now the rating that every tentpole movie strives for to reach the widest possible audience.
More serious fare followed for Spielberg with The Color Purple (#1028) and Empire of the Sun (#584). And he rounded out the decade by completing a trilogy and making his second-highest-ranked film on Flickchart, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (#26).
The Steven Spielberg of the ’90s was a different animal. Some might say the director who gave us the childlike wonder of E.T. and his first film of the new decade, Hook (#1296), had grown up a little. Perhaps the greatest achievement of his career came in 1993, when Spielberg delivered both the mega-blockbuster Jurassic Park (#77) and the powerful war drama Schindler’s List (#46) in the same year. His dinosaurs chewed up the box office, while Schindler netted Spielberg Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. (Schindler was also his first collaboration with now-longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.) Not only that, Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park are the two highest-ranked films from 1993 on Flickchart. He followed this up with the JP sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (#1817) and more thought-provoking drama in Amistad (#1623).
Then Spielberg unleashed Saving Private Ryan (#35) on an unsuspecting world. Opening with possibly the most graphic and uncompromising depiction of war violence ever filmed, the powerful drama inexplicably lost the Best Picture Oscar to Shakespeare in Love. But it did earn Spielberg his second statue for Best Director.
The first years of the new century saw a more prolific Spielberg, as he cranked out six films between 2001 and 2005. It also saw a somewhat darker Spielberg, as even his more “popcorn”-type flicks were a little edgier, a little grittier. We saw his sci-fi collaborations with Tom Cruise, Minority Report (#300) and War of the Worlds (#2288). He gave us his tribute to his late friend, Stanley Kubrick, in the form of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (#1701). And he garnered the Academy’s respect again with the hard-hitting Munich (#476), earning Best Picture and Director nods again. On the gentler side, Spielberg presented a sweet fable in the form of The Terminal (#1511), featuring his Private Ryan star, Tom Hanks. But his highest-ranked film of the decade is clearly his most fun: the zippy little true-life caper, Catch Me If You Can (#175) (featuring Hanks again, and a wonderful Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead).
Steven Spielberg has made some wonderful and highly-respected films, so it is unfortunate that his most recent effort is one that is so reviled by many; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was supposed to be a triumphant return to the iconic trilogy of the ’80s, but–despite pulling in the box office numbers–it fizzled and left audiences cold, and is Spielberg’s lowest-ranked film on Flickchart, at #3154.
Still, there’s no denying that Steven Spielberg remains a dominating and influential director. (Filmmaker J.J. Abrams, the director of 2009‘s hit Star Trek, has called his next film, the upcoming Super 8, a tribute to him; Spielberg is serving as executive producer.) On Flickchart, Spielberg has one film in the global Top 10; four in the global Top 50; seven in the Top 100; and nine in the Top 250. Only five of his 25 films rank below #2000 in Flickchart’s database of over 19,000 films. (And even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has its fans, with 1739 users having it in their Top 20.)
What’s next from this living legend? Never mind all the projects Spielberg has always had his hands in as a producer over the decades; up next as a director, he will release War Horse, a drama about a young man and his horse in World War I, and the big-budget motion-capture adventure The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Both are slated for release in December, apparently being timed to bait the Academy again (in obviously different categories). The latter film, a big collaboration with Peter “The Lord of the Rings” Jackson, should help Spielberg dominate the box office yet again. The only question remains: Can he continue to dominate the charts? That remains to be seen, but considering that Spielberg’s career is far more prolific and varied than other Directors Who Dominate, it’s certain that he is a force to be reckoned with every time.