He’s been entertaining audiences for nearly fifty years now, ever since his first professional gig directing an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. in 1970. Since then he’s become the world’s most successful director, his movies earning a combined total of over four billion dollars. But which of Steven Spielberg’s movies have attracted the biggest audiences and earned the most at the international box office? Read on to find out.
10 – Minority Report (2002) – $358,372,926
“Everybody runs…” stated the tagline, and audiences flocked to see Spielberg’s adaptation of a short story by Philip K. Dick, with its clever, cerebral murder mystery and crunching action sequences. It also marked the first of two collaborations with Tom Cruise, and showed that, once again, Spielberg was more than capable of creating a believable vision of the future.
9 – The Adventures of Tintin (2011) – $373,993,951
Spielberg takes on motion capture with mixed results, in a movie that translates Hergé’s tenacious young detective from page to screen in a way that provides some stunning visuals but which also forgets to make the story more involving than it is. The Bearded One has a ball, and this is perhaps Spielberg’s loosest, most carefree movie since 1941 (1979).
8 – Jaws (1975) – $470,653,000
The movie that made Spielberg a household name, Jaws still has the power to unnerve successive generations of audiences, and persuade viewers that staying out of the water is still a pretty good option. A rollercoaster ride that never lets up, Spielberg pulls out all the stops, makes Peter Benchley’s source novel seem better than it is, and elicits a trio of terrific performances from Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss.
7 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) – $474,171,806
What should have been the last in the series sees Spielberg make up for the darker excesses of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and regain the sense of fun that made Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) so appealing. The inclusion of Sean Connery is, of course, a stroke of genius, but the movie’s highlight is that tank chase, a marvellous exercise in thrills, perfectly timed stuntwork, and breezy humour that still impresses today.
6 – Saving Private Ryan (1998) – $481,840,909
After pulling no punches in his examination of the Holocaust in Schindler’s List (1993), Spielberg brought home the true horror of the D-Day landings by thrusting his audience into the thick of it all for twenty of the most gruelling, gut-wrenching minutes in cinema history. The search for Private Ryan and the events that follow lack that initial visceral intensity, but this is still Spielberg operating at a level that few other directors can match.
5 – War of the Worlds (2005) – $591,745,540
Spielberg’s second collaboration with Tom Cruise was a box office success but lost its way in the final third, leaving critics and audiences alike wondering how Spielberg and screenwriter David Koepp could have failed to maintain the movie’s pace and energy from its stunning opening, and gripping central section. Whatever your view, this is easily one of the best, most effective alien invasion movies ever made, and all because the characters and not the spectacle are the focus.
4 – The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) – $618,638,999
Not one of Spielberg’s best thanks to an erratic screenplay courtesy of the normally reliable David Koepp, this inevitable sequel sees Spielberg struggling to repeat the sense of wonder he brought to the original. It’s overlong as well, and there are only a few instances where Spielberg finds his groove, but this took as much as it did at the box office because nobody else was able to come close to making dinosaurs look this impressive.
3 – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) – $786,636,033
A prime example of one too many trips to the well, what was until recently Indiana Jones’s swansong movie – a fifth entry is due in 2019 (when Harrison Ford will be seventy-seven) – this sees Spielberg aiming to restore the last-gasp, derring-do atmosphere of Ark and Crusade, while being undermined by a script that loses sight of what made those movies so enjoyable in the first place.
2 – E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – $792,910,554
Spielberg’s ode to childhood and miracles can still invoke a wide variety of emotions including wonder. It also provides all the evidence needed to remind audiences that Spielberg is a director who has such a deep connection to the child in all of us, that he can make us wish we were that young again. Forget the minor changes he made in the 20th anniversary re-release, this remains one of the most powerful, and emotional, fantasy movies ever made.
1 – Jurassic Park (1993) – $1,029,153,822
Dinosaurs. ‘Nuff said.