For a boy born in the 80’s like me, there is no way to underestimate just how much of an influence Steven Spielberg had on me growing up. The man is synonymous with blockbuster populist filmmaking and it is shocking to think that in an industry that prizes new things in favour of the old all the time that he has remained a relevant force for five decades. He is perhaps the first director who came into that profession as an unabashed fan of movies which may be why he remains one of the major gateways into film for new cinema fans everywhere.
His directorial filmography boasts Jaws, E.T., Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park. His producer credits meanwhile reads like a highlight reel of the 80s with Poltergeist, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Land Before Time, and Gremlins amongst many others. In fact, sans Star Wars and Disney movies, that above list looks like a scarily accurate representation of my VHS collection growing up. And we haven’t even gotten to the fact that he is also one of the co-founders of DreamWorks Studios to underscore just how large a impact he has left (and is still leaving) on our pop culture landscape.
But beyond his enormous cultural imprint, a glance at his filmography reveals the breadth of subject matter that he has tackled over the years. He has made pure entertainment vehicles like E.T. and Indiana Jones. He has also embraced sobering and weighty subject matters (like his award-winning Schindler’s List). His more recent output reveals him to be a populist expositor of recent history (Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, The Post). His embrace of science fiction has ranged from pure entertainment (Jurassic Park, E.T.) to a hard sci-fi (A.I., Close Encounters of the Third Kind). He has made movies for adults (Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List) and movies geared for children (Hook, The BFG, The Adventures of Tintin). I cannot think of another director during the entire period that he has been active that has been nearly as versatile.
While the enormous quantity of movies he has directed doesn’t automatically grant him the title of best living director, the quality and consistency of his work certainly makes him a strong contender. He is almost a throwback to the studio system directors of classic Hollywood, and it is a testament to his work that he is one of the few directors left who can get people to the theatres on the strength of his name alone. So it seems appropriate then to (as I am wont to do) take a look at his entire filmography and definitively rank them all. And if running through this list has taught me anything, it is that Spielberg’s hit-to-miss ratio is almost impossibly high.
32. 1941 (1979)
By my count, this is the single dud in Spielberg’s entire directorial filmography. It is also his only attempt at an out-and-out comedy. Made during the early years of his career, the movie feels more like an attempt to prove his directing chops than a movie in its own right. Tonally it is all over the place as the movie can’t decide if it wants to be a Porky’s-style farce or something a little bit more clever. Spielberg has publicly mused that he should have made this movie a musical, which certainly would’ve helped smooth over the changes in tone but I doubt it would help turn it into a hit. In any case thanks to the movie we now have a definitive answer of how soon is too soon to make a farcical comedy about the aftermath of Pearl Harbor starring Jim Belushi.
31. HOOK (1991)
My pre-teen self would punch my current self in the mouth for putting Hook so low on this list. But my pre-teen self also thought that Home Alone, D2: The Mighty Ducks, and Cool Runnings was the peak of cinema so I’m going to let this stand. Hook is fine as a disposable children’s drama that finds a life as a staple on basic cable alongside those other children’s movies that I just mentioned. But as something that comes from the mind of Steven Spielberg and starring an luminous cast with the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, and Bob Hoskins among them, it is clear that the movie falls desperately short of expectations. Never mind that the disengaged father was already a tired 90’s trope in 1991 and that Peter Pan marrying Wendy’s granddaughter is unbelievably creepy, but the biggest problem of this movie is that it fails to get out of auto-pilot.
30. THE BFG (2016)
I have tried really hard in recent years not to be that guy (or girl) who has to point out that “the book was soooo much better” but unfortunately this is undoubtedly the case with Spielberg’s adaptation of The BFG. Roald Dahl’s children’s book is filled to the brim with macabre and sardonic humour as it details the life of a friendly giant and the girl he kidnaps as they live in the midst of a group of murderous, cannibalistic, and bigger giants. Unfortunately Spielberg and Disney smooth out the rough edges of the book, sanitizing the story for a more PG-rated audience. And in doing that the movie also gets rid of anything that made Dahl’s book interesting and delightful in the first place.
29. INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)
I realize most of you will think that I put this movie so low because of the ludicrous notion that Indy survived a nuclear explosion by hiding in a refrigerator. Or the fact that the central plot is about aliens. Or Shia LaBeouf’s presence. But you’d be wrong because I am actually fine with all of those developments. Indiana Jones is always supposed to be a little bit silly and so realism is the least fair of the criticisms to level against it (and LaBeouf is fine). The larger problem of the movie is that it has been green-screened to death with painfully fake looking CGI. Some scenes looking more dated and less believable than the original movies which is remarkable given the nearly twenty year gap between this movie and The Last Crusade.
28. THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (1997)
In The Lost World Steven Spielberg shockingly commits the cardinal sin of sequels: repeating the same beats that made the first film work but trying to make everything bigger (in the vain hope that bigger will mean better). The movie provides us with not one, but THREE T-Rexes! And where there was just three velociraptors before, we now have a whole PACK of them! There is also slew of other CGI created dinosaurs that were most definitely not included for its toy selling potential. Also, more death and more carnage! And to top it all of, the movie’s climax is going to try and outdo King Kong by having a T-Rex run rampant through the streets of San Diego! The whole thing reeks of a cynical cash-grab with the only thing keeping the movie afloat being the very professional performances put in by Jeff Goldblum and Julianne Moore. Did I also mention that this is the movie that tried to turn Vince Vaughn into an action movie star?
27. THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974)
Spielberg’s first theatrical release is remarkable for just how much it doesn’t look and feel like a Spielberg movie. When Lou Jean Poplin (Goldie Hawn) is forced to turn over her two-year old to foster care, she hatches a madcap and foolish plan to spring her husband out of jail in order to get her child back. By the time they have taken a police officer hostage and about 200 other police vehicles are tailing them it becomes obvious to all (except maybe Poplin) that the endeavour is doomed. But much like Billy Wilder’s Ace In The Hole, Spielberg is less concerned with their particular plight than with the way American celebrity is born, swells, and is quickly discarded in ways that are completely self-serving and exploitative. Unfortunately because Spielberg is also a man interested in spectacle himself, the movie similarly holds the couple in question at an arms length for our presumed entertainment.
26. THE TERMINAL (2004)
The full-size replica of an airport terminal that this movie uses is spectacular in that it never occurs to anyone watching that the movie wasn’t shot on location in a real airport. Unfortunately that meticulous attention to detail, where the airport set even had fully functional retail stores, begins and ends with the set. The actual plot of this movie, about a traveller who gets stranded in an airport when his country descends into civil war, is paper thin and is not helped by the similar plethora of one-dimensional characters who populate the movie. Tom Hanks does just enough in his role as the stranded Viktor Navorski to keep the movie interesting during its runtime but there is hardly anything to make it memorable after the movie ends.
25. ALWAYS (1989)
John Goodman’s character in this move at one point barks at Richard Dreyfuss’ character, a reckless aerial firefighter, that “There ain’t no war here. And this is why you’re not exactly a hero for the chances you take.” And this is a perfect summation for why this romantic drama does not entirely work. Unlike the movies it so desperately tries to evoke like Wings, Twelve O’Clock High, or A Guy Named Joe (of which this movie is a direct remake) the stakes are just not nearly high enough to make us care as deeply about these characters. The aerial firefighters angle will always seem slight when compared to being a combat pilot in World War II and the movie never is able to bridge that gap in the stakes involved. As a result despite the best efforts of Dreyfuss, Goodman, and Holly Hunter the movie can’t help but be merely good but forgettable.
24. AMISTAD (1997)
As far as a historical retelling of a terrible period in American history goes Amistad is fine. It is also a film that straddles two of Spielberg’s general inclinations, his brutal honesty in movies like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List and his more sentimental bent in dramas like The Color Purple. As a result it does neither bent as well as he tries to recount the plight of a group of slaves who overcome their captors, take control of their ship, and find themselves being tried for mutiny and murder. The scenes that show the particular injustices of slavers against slaves are easily the most affecting ones of this movie, even as the courtroom scenes provide most of the emotion. The end result is a movie that is useful for schoolrooms teaching history, but little else.
23. READY PLAYER ONE (2018)
As the first pure entertainment blockbuster that Spielberg has produced in a decade, it is a welcome return for the master. The dexterity with which Spielberg displays here, where he still manages to capture the zeitgeist of youth culture even in his fifth decade in the business, is astounding. Yet the problem with this movie is that it is so chock-full of pop culture references of other great moments in movie, TV, and video game history that the movie struggles to stand on its own merits. The action sequences keep the movie eminently watchable, and your mileage on the pop culture references will directly correlate with your enjoyment of the film. But it is ultimately a vapid viewing experience.
22. THE COLOR PURPLE (1983)
On the one hand, there is a strong case to be made that Spielberg butchers the source material of this movie as he focuses on the sunnier side of Celie’s (Whoopi Goldberg) story. On the other hand the movie still contains rape, incest, the death of a child at birth, and domestic violence while shining a light on racism, sexism, poverty, and misogyny so nobody can accuse the movie of being “light” either. But it is the imperceptible shifts between lighter moments and grave material that ultimately makes this a disjointed viewing experience. Of course this is not to say that the performances involved are not extremely powerful, or that it isn’t a huge injustice that the movie went 0-for-11 at the Academy Awards (losing a big chunk of it to the turgid Out of Africa).
21. DUEL (1971)
The premise of this TV-movie is razor-thin: a travelling businessman manages to enrage the driver of a eighteen wheeler while on the road and is caught in a terrifying game of cat and mouse as the truck driver stalks said businessman through the backroads of the Californian countryside. That’s it. It’s seventy-four minutes of the businessman looking nervously over his shoulder as he tries to put distance between him and the truck. But the remarkable thing is that the movie works. True, it barely works and stretches the concept to its absolute limit. But this movie serves as an intellectual exercise in which Spielberg proves himself more than adept to imitate Alfred Hitchcock as being the modern master of suspense. And as his first full length feature, it is also the evidence that Spielberg arrived on the film scene just about fully formed.
20. INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984)
The Temple of Doom is famous in that it inspired the creation of the PG-13 rating as a result of its darker themes and violence. This prequel suffers from being a much more cynical and less carefree journey than the original movie while also being by far the worst offender of first-world exoticizing and caricaturing of a non-white culture. Toss in a love interest that doesn’t hold a candle to Raiders’ Karen Allen and a MacGuffin that isn’t as immediately arresting as the Ark of the Covenant, and the movie can’t help but feel like a slightly less great version of the original. Of course, that isn’t to say the film isn’t fun in its own right as Indy being Indy will always be entertaining no matter how many inferior pieces you surround him with.
19. THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (2011)
Admittedly, adapting a comic book series by a Belgian artist made popular in Europe in the 50s that never gaining much traction in the United States was always a risky move. And those who were not well-versed in Tintin lore were suitably a little bit confused as to why Spielberg had decided to make a children’s version of Indiana Jones. But any of us who have grown up on the adventures of Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock and the cavalcade of characters that follow them will immediately recognize just how spot-on Spielberg manages to capture the madcap and kinetic nature of those comics. It is also the classic example of how deep Spielberg’s bench is as it is one of his oft-forgotten works but is a whole lot of fun for anyone who stumbles upon it.
18. EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987)
Much like Amistad, this movie suffers from not being able to determine exactly what kind of story to tell. Is it a brutal depiction of life under Japanese occupation told through the lens of a child? Or is Spielberg more interested in a kid-centric movie in which the occupation merely becomes a backdrop for an adventure story? Spielberg never reconciles these two disparate trends resulting in a film with weighty material that feels slight. This is made all the more worse by the fact that a mere year later Isao Takahata would release the devastating Grave of the Fireflies which takes a harrowing look at World War II through the eyes of children. Still, at least Empire of the Sun features a breakout role for a young Christian Bale whose poise belies his youthful appearance in this movie.
17. WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)
If there is a valid criticism of Spielberg’s work it is that he is sometimes prone to sentimentality over honesty when dealing with darker material. And nowhere is that more evident than in his adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The source material is a suitably bleak imagining of a world collapsing under the relentless assault of an alien force. And for almost all of the runtime, Spielberg goes against his usual instincts to provide us a story that is somehow even darker than the source material. In his hands the movie becomes a modern fable that mourns and reflects on a post-9/11 America and the trauma and paranoia that accompanies it. In Tom Cruise, he has the perfect actor to embody that trauma and paranoia as Cruise manages to put in a great (if underrated) performance. The movie has all the makings of being one of Spielberg’s best and then right at the end, Spielberg makes an almost unforgivable swerve to the sentimental that almost completely ruins all the good work he had established before. Still if you are able to forgive that, then you are still left with the best adaptation of Wells work ever put to screen.
16. WAR HORSE (2011)
Of all of Spielberg’s historical movies, War Horse might be his most unusual if only because it is not readily apparent exactly why he became interested in the subject matter. In all his other historical movies it is fairly easy to draw a line between the subject matter and Spielberg’s personal interests so by comparison War Horse seems strangely impersonal. Of course just because I cannot discern Spielberg’s personal connection does not mean that the movie is not made with superb artistry. It is an old fashioned war epic that is simultaneously enormous in scale and yet at its heart intimately about one boy and his horse and their desperate plight to be reunited amidst a hellish landscape. That they do meet might strike some as sentimentally miraculous, but perhaps sentimental miracles are the only way to make a story about the unusually cruel Great War bearable.
15. THE POST (2017)
The Post is paradoxically both helped and hindered by its close correlationto the political climate of 2017. It is helped because a movie about the integrity of the press as an independent institution in the United States with a mandate to tell the truth even at the detriment of governing powers is undoubtedly on brand with everything that was happening politically in 2017. But it is hurt because it is so completely on-the-nose to those wider stories that it is an open question if The Post is able to stand up on its own. Fans of newspaper procedurals (a criminally underused genre) will find plenty to like in this competently told story with typically good-to-great performances from Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks about the release of the Pentagon Papers in Nixon’s America even as it cannot hold a candle to the best of that genre (All The President’s Men and Spotlight).
14. BRIDGE OF SPIES (2015)
If there is one thing that characterizes Spielberg’s historical movies in recent years, it is the supreme confidence with which he explores the subject matter and this is certainly the case with his Cold War movie Bridge of Spies. In a little bit of a departure from his usual work, Bridge of Spies is less of a tense and adventure-filled thriller and more of an introspective and immersive character study into the a period of the life of James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) who has to choose between his calling to uphold the law at all costs and the wishes of his fellow countrymen. In this way the movie is much more of an opaque spy thriller in the vein of John La Carre. As is common with latter Spielberg movies, there is also a decidedly old-fashioned feel to Spielberg’s storytelling here, which in this case feels like an entertaining throwback that works rather than something dated.
13. INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989)
Threequels are diabolically hard things to pull off. Spielberg succeeds in this third outing of Indiana Jones by not trying to make a movie that ties a neat bow on the franchise and instead is simply yet another fantastical romp with the badass archaeologist. This time around he is on the trail again for a holy relic (The Holy Grail) while punching up Nazis but they toss him into an odd couple-like relationship with his estranged father (Sean Connery) which turns the movie into the warmest and funniest movie on the list. True, the movie barely covers any new ground outside of the father-son dynamic, but what does that matter when everyone involved looks like they’re having this much fun?
12. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002)
Thanks to his incredible resume, Spielberg has been privileged to work with some of the best acting talents of our generation. In this case, his one and only collaboration (so far) with Leonardo DiCaprio and his umpteenth collaboration with America’s sweetheart Tom Hanks produces a light, breezy, and effortless tale about a con artist and the man tasked with catching him. Apart from the irony that in a movie whose chief subject is someone who lies for his own profit gain the only real relationship he has is with his pursuer, the movie has no larger goal than to be entertaining. And unlike in his previous pure entertainment vehicles, Spielberg does not dive into his usual bag of visual tricks and instead hands it over to his two stars and they perform excellently in it. Of course, you may accuse me of putting this movie this high on the back of its amazing title sequence and John William’s jazzy score. You would not be wrong.
11. JURASSIC PARK (1993)
While this movie’s place on this list obviously means that there are better Spielberg movies than this, I doubt that there is a movie that best exemplifies a typical Spielberg blockbuster better than Jurassic Park. In addition to the quasi sci-fi concept (dinosaurs come back because of mosquito DNA?), the movie boasts spectacular practical effects being married perfectly to some of the earliest uses of CGI, while the human population is a cavalcade of Spielberg tropes from the “Indiana Jones”-type (Sam Neill), a sexier Richard Dreyfuss-type (Jeff Goldblum), a spunky if surprisingly feminine woman (Laura Dern), and two precocious kids to round out the cast. And of course because this is a story about human hubris going against nature, we get dinosaurs kicking some butt. A quarter of a century later its clear we still can’t get enough of dinosaurs wrecking carnage on the human population, but the plethora of sequels have been unable to top the sheer childlike joy of the original.
10. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)
The impact of this movie is readily apparent: Before Saving Private Ryan came out, war films were mostly known for their epic scale and their band-of-brothers type camaraderie with action that may have been intense at times, but never truly horrifying. Spielberg’s blows the myth of war as entertainment with his on-the-ground approach that plunges viewers into the heart of the war zone in which blood, grit, and gore intermingle with heroes. The end result is a truly visceral watching experience beginning with the hellish landing on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day all the way to the movie’s end. Somewhere along the way there is a story about bringing Matt Damon’s character home, but what lingers is the nightmarish and realistic vision of war Spielberg brought into our lives. And as a result, every war movie since has had to reckon with this film and our ability to enjoy war movies as entertainment has diminished, even if our respect for the ones who fight may has grown.
9. LINCOLN (2012)
The movie is a creaky, dusty, and old-fashioned political drama that spends more time discussing congressional rules and procedures than it does illuminating the greatness of Abraham Lincoln. But that is also precisely what makes the movie a great entry in Spielberg’s filmography. By focusing solely on a specific period in Lincoln’s life, Spielberg avoids most of the pitfalls of the biopic and its tendency to deify its subjects. Instead we get a much more ordinary and gritty view of the man as he navigates the most momentous period of his life in abolishing slavery. The fact that most of the major beats happen without his direct involvement paradoxically helps makes his accomplishment, and his life by extension, seem all the more amazing. Also it helps when you get someone like Daniel Day-Lewis to take on the American icon.
8. MUNICH (2005)
Munich is possibly Spielberg’s only amoral film, in which a group of Mossad covert operatives travel around the world to hunt down and kill all those responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics. The movie’s thrills come from the series of expertly staged assassination sequences with one scene in particular involving a child being amongst the most tense scenes Spielberg has ever shot. But the great power of this movie is that with each killing the satisfaction for revenge becomes more and more hollow, as the Mossad crew become increasingly dehumanized by their never-ending quest for vengeance. While Spielberg is decidedly not on the side of the Palestinians who killed the Olympic athletes, he nonetheless also paints a fairly damning picture of the Israeli role in the conflict in this meditation on the perpetuity of violence and vengeance begetting more violence and vengeance.
7. MINORITY REPORT (2002)
Perhaps what makes Spielberg so unique as a director is that he is wedded to a decidedly old-fashioned form of filmmaking that has changed little since he began even as filmic language shifted to a much more frantic style. But at the same time, he is also a director who has his eyes firmly on the future. And nowhere is his vision of the future seemingly more prescient and bleak than in Minority Report in which he imagines a world in which privacy is eradicated and people are judged for crimes they intend to, but have not actually, commit. The movie is a paronoia-induced noir that functions well as an out-and-out action thriller in its own right thanks to the human stunt machine Tom Cruise as the PreCrime division captain, but is also a much more terrifying story once you take a moment to dive beneath its admittedly impressive surface.
6. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
In recent years a certain CBS sitcom has exposed the truth of Raiders of the Lost Ark that Indiana Jones is entirely circumstantial to the plot of the movie. Yet it is without a doubt a testament of how great this movie is that it took the general public over thirty years to figure that point out. And that is because Raiders of the Lost Ark is from beginning-to-end a masterclass in action movie storytelling. The movie is filled with iconic action sequences like the opening escape from the tomb in Peru, the bar room brawl in the Himalayas, Indy’s first encounter with snakes, to say nothing of the as the breathtaking road chase between Indy and the Nazis that is a showcase of old-fashioned stuntmaking. The movie is a thrill-a-minute ride that never lets up long enough for you to notice stupid little things like how Indy doesn’t actually do anything to stop the Nazis.
5. SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)
Schindler’s List is the classic definition of a movie you only watch once. Spielberg, the consummate entertainer faced a daunting task in trying to peel back the curtain on the absolute horror that was the Holocaust. There are some corners that criticize Spielberg for being a little too sentimental in his retelling by focusing on the few that survived rather than the millions that died but I feel that this is his true masterstroke in the movie. That is because the subject matter is so harrowing that the only way he could shine a light on the depths of depravity that the Nazis inflicted upon the Jews is by giving us just enough of a sense of hope to keep us around to watch the whole film. As it is, even with his “sentimental” approach there are scenes of true horror and despair from this movie that are seared into my mind and sunk deep within my bones. While it is a movie that can only be watched once, it is definitely a movie you should watch at least once.
4. A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001)
Spielberg’s taking over the production of A.I. from Stanley Kubrick should have been a disaster as Spielberg’s sentimental style seems an unnatural fit for Kubrick’s colder storytelling. Yet their unlikely marriage produces a truly dark story in which Haley Joel Osmont’s android David, like Pinocchio before him, longs to be a real boy but faces a harsh and cruel world that refuses to grant him that wish. Spielberg’s sentimentality weds us to David’s plight which makes every rejection he faces in the more Kubrickian world he lives in devastating. It is all the more heartbreaking because no matter how much we want to be sympathetic to David’s plight, the truth is that we owe no allegiance to David because he is a machine. And unlike in movie’s past, Spielberg does not allow David a true respite from that reality making it one of his darkest and most fascinating movies.
3. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)
Spielberg has famously declared that had he made this movie later in his career he would not have let Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) irresponsibly leave his wife and children behind to pursue his obsessive search for alien life. Yet it is precisely this simultaneously admirable and abhorrent obsession that makes Close Encounters of the Third Kind so intriguing. As the only film that Spielberg also wrote, it is possibly also his most personal as well (hence his probably guilt about Neary’s abandonment) as it chronicles his own pursuit of artistic perfection to the cost of all those around him. But beyond this autobiographical element, the film also best personifies in a pure distilled form the quality of wonder and the way that miracles, extra-terrestrial or otherwise, have the disarming and invigorating power to shift the ground underneath our feet.
2. E.T. EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)
Even though anybody who watches E.T. today will immediately peg it as a movie of the 80’s, there is an effervescent timelessness to the movie. And I think this is because Spielberg knew (and probably still does) exactly how the mind of a child works. Elliot’s plight to get E.T. home is so moving precisely because he approaches the task with the idealism and innocence of a child. And this makes it all the more frustrating and infuriating when the stupid adults just don’t get it. It makes it all the more exhilarating when the other kids do get it, and the camaraderie of “us against the world” is built. And it makes it all the more mournful when we see Elliot’s heart-breaking encounter with death. The child-like nature of this movie is what makes returning to it exhilarating even as each revisit only reemphasizes just how much further away we are from the simple joys, hopes, and fears of being a child again.
1. JAWS (1975)
Putting the movie that created the blockbuster genre at the top of the list might seem simultaneously obvious and misplaced. It will seem obvious because its status in the larger film canon is iconic for its historical impact on the industry. It will seem misplaced because the term “blockbuster” at best evokes a slightly ambivalent posture in most cinephiles. But every time I revisit this film, my appreciation for it simply grows. Thanks to the legendary problems that Spielberg had trying to get his mechanical shark to work we have a movie that is from beginning to end a masterclass in sustained tension that is so patient in its build up that it makes every single one of the shark’s appearance an act of pure terror. Toss into the mix Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss, each of them providing a different perspective of masculinity and each of them finding that masculinity challenged by the shark and you have a surprisingly complex and introspective story that belittles its status as a mere “monster” movie blockbuster. The movie helped launch Spielberg’s illustrious career where his experience and clout allowed him never to get tangled up in the notorious production issues that plagued Jaws ever again. But it is somewhat appropriate that despite that, he never bettered his film with that infernal mechanical shark.