Forty years ago this week, Universal Pictures released the film adaptation of a pulpy bestseller and watched as it became a hit beyond their wildest dreams — breaking box office records, changing the movie business forever, and turning its director from a promising young hotshot into one of the most bankable filmmakers in the business. The film, as you’ve probably guessed, was Jaws, and the director was Steven Spielberg, who used that film as a launching pad into one of the most lauded (and profitable) careers in movie history. So on this anniversary of Spielberg’s ascension into the stratosphere, we look back at that career, stacking up all of his feature films (aside from his two TV-only efforts, Something Evil and Savage, which are respectively difficult and impossible to find) to date.
29. War Horse
To put you at ease: this is not one of those down-is-up rankings that sets out to provocatively boost the unloved and take down the beloved; I can assure you that the top five or so are probably exactly what you think they’ll be, though perhaps not in your particular order. And yes, I’m aware that War Horse was a well-reviewed Best Picture nominee. But everyone has their particular Spielberg kryptonite, and this is mine; it’s handsomely mounted but utterly sappy, undone left and right by its goofy solemnity and an overstuffed John Williams score that all but sits on your head and yells at you to cry. When Spielberg’s detractors talk about how cloying and maudlin and manipulative his work is, this is what they’re talking about.