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Five Up, Five Down: The Definitive Ranking of Steven Spielberg Movies

Steven Spielberg has made movies about dinosaurs, aliens, sharks, archaeologists, soldiers, forgers and many more. Which ones are best and which ones are worst?

Premiere Of Universal Pictures And Amblin Entertainment’s ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ - Red Carpet Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Dinosaurs have been and always will be cool. Their apex of cultural zeitgeist domination came in the 1990s. That was certainly true for a young Phil Neuffer, who had a Toronto Raptors Starter jacket for two reasons: 1) because it looked dope as hell and 2) because dinosaurs are awesome.

All of that dinosaur mania was thanks in large part to Jurassic Park, a franchise that just released its latest installment. The first Jurassic Park was directed by an unknown director getting his big break. His name was Steven Spielberg. I believe he has never made anything since.

*checks notes*

I’m sorry. Actually, he has made a ton of movies since.

*checks notes a second time*

Apparently he made a few movies before Jurassic Park as well.

All kidding aside, Spielberg has been at the helm of a host of excellent films, but his large portfolio means some of them didn’t hit as effectively either. Here are the five best and five worst films of Spielberg’s career. (Note: Only movies that were directed by Spielberg were considered).

The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn - UK Premiere Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images

Clayton’s Five Up

1. Duel (1971)

Had a profound influence on my approach to driving and sandwiches.

2. 1941 (1979)

Plenty of Robert Stack.

3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Featured a pet snake named Reggie.

4. Catch Me if You Can (2002)

That was some mad dash caper that the kid from Growing Pains got himself into.

5. The Adventures of Tintin (2012)

One of the most visually stunning films of all time. The cascade of colors with which Spielberg adorns Herge’s work are worth the price of admission alone.

Studio Artist Rides E.T. Figure To Its New Home In The Film Experience At Madame Tussauds New York For The Anniversary of Universal Studios/Amblin Entertainment’s ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’ Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds

Clayton’s Five Down

1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Too many rats.

2. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

The snake scene at the dinner table ruined pot pies for me.

3. The Crystal Skull One (Not that Long Ago)

Encourages unsafe behavior around refrigerators.

4. Jurassic Anything

Too scary.

5. E.T. (1982)

The video game was terrible.

AMPAS Great To Be Nominated Screening Of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Johnny’s Five Up

1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

If you don’t like this movie, you don’t like movies. It’s fun, it’s self-aware, it’s exciting the 20th time. Popcorn movie that edges out No. 2 because it’s a bit undignified to toss Schindler’s List at the top of a listicle. I can watch this movie any day.

2. Schindler’s List (1993)

I host trivia at a pizza joint in Stowe, Vermont. One of our clues this week was an animated gif of the girl with the red coat. I got choked up. Way to bum me out question writer— Could have picked literally any other black and white movie for that clue.

3. Catch Me if you Can (2002)

Best period piece about the 1960s because it underlines the fact that whiny, shiftless baby-boomers were much more self-involved than the millennials they or their Gen-X kids raised. Also, it shows that not everyone was cool back in the 1960’s. An important lesson for today, when nobody has any chill anymore. It’s just a bunch of Handrattys.

4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

It’s no Band of Brothers or Forrest Gump or Like Water for Chocolate or Species or American Pie or Hidden Figures or Mallrats or Wicker Man but it was OK. Like most folks, I remember the opening scene and the last scene. Nothing else made much of an impact. But for the time, it was visually stunning.

5. Hook (1991)

Ru-Fi-Ohhhhhhhh. Dustin Hoffman was more glorious in his wigs and couture than he was in Tootsie. Robin Williams was in his boring part of his career. I bet if he was alive, Robin Williams could kick my ass. He was kind of a dadbod, but I bet he had ruthless aggression and the will to power.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence Premiere

Johnny’s Five Down

1. Empire of the Sun (1987)

Patrick Batman Bale the Newsy ruins everything, even World War II: The Sequel. Spielberg doesn’t know what to do with kids in speaking roles. They’re either plain (Jack from Hook), unfortunately written (Short Round), or the emotionless robotic shell of Batman here or Darth Vader in the next one. More on this below.

2. A.I. (2001)

N.O. I prefer Meteor Man for a discussion of what will become of the children. Darth Vader gives a performance somewhere between an Oak and a Pine, and Robin Williams was still in the boring part of his career. Nannoo nannoo.

3. Duel (1971)

For a brief time, I based all of my morality off of the questions raised by this movie. Then I stopped menacing people with my truck and started guest writing for a blog a couple weeks back. Results have been mixed.

4. E.T. (1982)

Spaceman from Mars ET meets a boy and then adults forget their guns and point walkie talkies at him. I don’t think that it’s standard Martian operating procedure to leave your ugliest kid behind when you’re abducting Norman Muscarello after he violated the Mann Act. Elliot probably got space rash from ET and now it’s going to be all nasty abscesses everywhere and filled with space pus. Ouch.

5. Jaws (1975)

Too many sequels, too low stakes. Its just a fish. It’s pretty much Charlie Moore fishing with fewer Dropkick Murphys. Roy Schneider probably got fish rash from the fish in the movie. That’ll really ruin your weekend.

Celebrities At ‘Catch Me If You Can’ Press Conference

Phil’s Five Up

1. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

The cast for this movie is insane. Starring Leondaro DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, this flick also features Amy Adams, Christopher Walken, Jennifer Garner, Elizabeth Banks and Martin Sheen, among many others. All that star power would mean nothing without a strong, wll-constructed story. This period piece biopic centered on forger Frank Abagnale has all of that and that’s why its Spielberg’s best.

2. Jurassic Park (1993)

Somehow, the effects in this movie still look pretty great all these years later. In addition, the amount of intensity Spielberg is able to squeeze out of the scene when the raptors are searching the kitchen is incredible. That scene still takes my breath away. Add in the fact that dinosaurs are featured prominently and you’ve got yourself a science fiction masterpiece.

3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Did you know Vin Diesel was in this movie? He plays Private Caparzo, who gets shot by a sniper when the group of soldiers we follow goes through a small town in France. This was three years before the first The Fast and the Furious. That’s wild.

4. Hook (1991)

How does this have a 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes?! That is an outrage. This is the best live-action rendition of the Peter Pan story. I still want to figure out just what that neon colored paste was that the Lost Boys eat during the food fight. RUFIO, RUFIO, RU FEE OOOOOOOO! RIP, sweet prince.

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Harrison Ford has a lot of iconic roles. Indiana Jones is either No. 1 or No. 2, with Han Solo the other. This rollicking adventure has humor, exciting action and Nazis getting their faces melted off. In other words, it has everything.

‘Ready Player One’ European Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Phil’s Five Down

As always, in descending order.

5. E.T. (1982)

This is a beloved film, I know, but the portion of the movie where E.T. is dying and the government brings in all those tents and stuff scarred me permanently.

4. War of the Worlds (2005)

At the end everyone is just fine? Including the annoying son, Robbie? No, sir. That is a bad ending.

3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

I really enjoyed that Karen Allen returned as Marion Ravenwood, but the aliens twist at the end was cringe-worthy.

2. The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Some of the animation was cool, but this just didn’t have the heart I was hoping for.

1. Ready Player One (2018)

Exposition: The Movie.


Disagree with us? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or via a FanPost. Also, if you want us to rank something specific next week, let us know.