Steven Spielberg may be the busiest man in Hollywood, with countless movies in development and perpetual producing credits. He’s been a staple of the industry for decades. He established the summer blockbuster with Jaws, and gave multiple generations a magical childhood. But that level of success is innately accompanied by an enormous set of expectations.
Over time, Spielberg’s tone has somewhat evolved, making his newer works slightly more divisive amongst longtime fans. And yet, there is still no shortage of brilliance, and his tastes have remained the same. This makes any comparison to the prolific artist’s famous blockbusters both fun and distinct. So, here’s how IMDb users have rated the director’s most recent hits.
10 Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull - 6.1
This is likely the most controversial film on the list. If only because of the reverence that audiences still hold for the original Indiana Jones trilogy. A dream team of filmmakers captured a spirit of adventure with an indelible, relatable, and charismatic hero. To risk revisiting a concluded franchise is rather bold. And unfortunately, most audiences didn’t respond to radical change.
Still, there’s more to enjoy than most might think. John Williams remains iconic as ever. Karen Allen’s return was most welcome, and the incorporation of family makes perfect sense for Spielberg. The extraterrestrial angle is rather harshly maligned, given the precedent of murderous spirits and ageless knights. But the CGI here wasn’t ready, and its freedoms only enabled a wavering tone.
9 The BFG - 6.4
Roald Dahl has given us some of the most treasured, off-beat children’s stories. And its film adaptations have resulted in varied success. Dahl’s compelling magical realism always makes it difficult to maintain a balanced tone. It was enough of a miracle that Dahl ever managed it to begin with.
The visual effects of Spielberg’s film are remarkable, and Mark Rylance turns in a suitable performance. It’s something of an underrated movie, perhaps for maintaining such a kid-friendly tone and simplicity despite the story’s fidelity. The plot is somewhat meandering, and the stakes feel consistently low. But the film still has plenty of charm, and seems to be judged mostly by its preceding expectations.
8 War Of The Worlds - 6.5
H.G. Wells offered numerous classics, a high bar for science-fiction with relentless imagination. His iconic alien invasion has been with audiences for so long, in many forms. Its unprecedented plausibility caused a legitimate panic by radio. And the 1953 film is still regarded as a gem. So, Spielberg’s adaptation has arguably been quite underrated by comparison. John Williams’ booming score is incredible, and the effects are stunning.
Spielberg’s imagery is potent, and the escalating, evolving mystery is gripping throughout. Tom Cruise was a strange choice, but largely sells his role. Dakota Fanning may scream a lot, but her talent is undeniable. This is a pure blockbuster that may not sell plausibility so much as unbridled rollercoaster fun. But it’s crucially willing to explore the flaws of humans in addition to our alien antagonists.
7 The Post - 7.2
If there’s one thing people can’t stand, it’s politics imposing on their entertainment. However, politics imposes on our daily life, and artists generally can’t help but respond. This has resulted in some very divisive entertainment. Here, Spielberg prefers to explore that battle between truth and suppression, and audiences’ relationship with the news industry.
While on paper, the cast and subject material sound like manufactured Oscar bait, the film subverts that expectation. There is clearly a distinct enthusiasm here on Spielberg’s part, with relatively brisk pacing and sharp commentary. It may be uncomfortable for some viewers, but it’s a composed review of true events, and an important discussion for any decade.
6 War Horse - 7.2
This is a more subdued and nuanced story, though it revisits Spielberg’s trademark interest in war stories. It also leans into a young person’s crucial friendship, once again. But instead of an alien or a friendly giant, this is a tangible animal. This makes the effects of war far more distinct, for younger audiences.
Spielberg’s familiarity allows him to capture the stark atmosphere even without the uncompromising bloodshed he has previously shown. While the film’s sentimentality and extensive runtime may dissuade some viewers, it can be worth the investment for others. It’s a middling film, but when it works, too effective to ignore.
5 The Adventures Of Tintin - 7.3
Surprisingly enough, this is a better throwback to classic Indy than the franchise itself could muster. The visuals can be off-putting, or an incredible revelation to behold. But either way, the story itself is a rollicking adventure with an appealing, oddball sense of humor.
The animation allows Spielberg to get away with a certain hyperbole that he’s otherwise been denied. His style is perfectly suited to the source material, crafting elaborate and memorable chases with cute comedy. The performances are solid, and the well-paced mystery somehow transcends its tired interest in treasure.
4 Lincoln - 7.3
This is a slow, tasteful portrait from a turbulent place in history. The glacial pace may be frustrating for some viewers, but nothing feels superfluous in retrospect. It’s an opportunity to spend more time with a famous, intelligent historical figure and ground him in reality. The second half of the film particularly succeeds in this regard, and allows characters to take action.
Textbooks can feel stale, so disparate from reality if recounted events do not reflect the presents. Films like this breathe life into such history by positioning tumult via a fascinating frame of reference. And Daniel Day Lewis delivers an impeccable performance to keep viewers engaged throughout.
3 Munich - 7.5
The embracing authenticity of the violence alone is staggering. Thematically sophisticated, this is quite unlike most of Spielberg’s filmography. It entertains no regard for flair or saccharine ingredients, yet retains its poignancy through a measured, confident approach. The conversation about mercy, vengeance, and violence has always been complicated.
The film takes these grandiose discussions and grounds them with an unsettling level of intimacy. The cast is astonishing, the suspense biting, and its basis in fact is utterly disturbing. And while the runtime may be quite lengthy, never once does the story feel wandering. It absolutely soars, handling a delicate subject matter with utmost taste.
2 Ready Player One - 7.5
Gamers are not to be underestimated, nor fans of Spielberg in classic mode. This kid-friendly fantasy adventure is a treasure hunt that can bridge generations. It boasts a strong understanding of pop culture and the very nostalgia it shamelessly wields. The abundant pop culture is relentless, with something for everyone in the manner of Wreck-It Ralph.
The story enables rose-colored glasses, by deliberately applying a vast monetary value to nostalgia itself. But the action is dazzling, with Spielberg unleashed by virtual reality. There’s a degree of refreshing silly fun the director hadn’t indulged in years. Casual viewers may be lost in the minutiae, but that brimming detail is also the core appeal.
1 Bridge Of Spies - 7.6
This film traverses familiar territory on the shoulders of strong performances and keen artistry. While some have been dismayed by the slow-burn approach, that very tool allows the story to transcend its plot. The escalating pressure feels ground into every square inch by the denouement. Further, the methodical pacing allows the protagonist’s determination to avoid feeling forced.
That’s a feat in and of itself, and the powerful cast heavily contributes to that. Blatant proclamations dig the grave for any message, as no one wants to be force-fed. Particularly regarding broad notions like xenophobia and the law. This spy story always feels utterly rooted in reality, and is thoroughly lifted by its nuanced attitude.