Director Deep Dive – Steven Spielberg
Throughout his career as a film director, Steven Spielberg has produced some legendary films. Well, today I will cover these titles, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and West Side Story, why they are worthy of being described as timeless classics, what awards they have won as a result of their qualities, and who Spielberg is.
Spielberg was born in 1946 in Cincinnati and someone who has been creating and directing films since around the age of 13 his first title being called The Last Gun, which he made and directed while at Boy Scouts because he did not have a camera made for photography but instead a film camera. As a result of this decision between a young Spielberg and the leader of his Boy Scouts group, the moviemaking badge was made as an alternative to people who only have a camera made for recording films instead of one for the photography badge. To add to this, if it was not for this limitation, some of the most notable films in the industry may not have reached their current greatness.
Over his time as a film director, Spielberg has won a total of 209 awards and has been nominated for another 325 awards. Three of these wins were Oscars, four were Emmys, and one was a BAFTA film award. From this, he has become an established, well-known director in the film industry.
Although Spielberg’s first film was not a classic or a well-known film as a matter of fact, his early years in the industry produced a megahit in 1975 with Jaws, a film about a menacing great white shark that terrorises the Cape Cod beach community. To this day, Jaws still holds up as the great film that it was back in the mid-1970s, being the perfect film to watch if you are interested in watching older horror films that had a great deal of influence on the film industry and a film that inspired the creators of Alien to produce their classic film in 1979.
After the release of this action-packed feature, the film went on to win a total of 15 awards and 20 nominations, including 3 Oscars at the 1976 Academy Awards. Well, what a way to start your career of directing in the world of films produced on high budgets, considering many big-budget films directed by upcoming directors have flopped.
Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)
In 1981, Indiana Jones, the recognisable adventurer played by Harrison Ford, was introduced to the world with Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of five main films relating to Indiana Jones, directed by Spielberg. One part of this debut film that makes the series so recognisable is the 12-foot boulder chasing Jones down the cave in a tense, well-executed scene near the beginning of the film which has been parodied in popular video games like Crash Bandicoot, TV shows like The Simpsons, and other movies such as Toy Story. Speaking of the film’s influence on different forms of media, the film itself has led to the creation of video games and films with similar plots, including Tomb Raider, The Mummy, and Uncharted; all of which are also great pieces of media.
Following the successful release of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which grossed a total of roughly 390 million dollars at the box office, it earnt 38 awards and 24 nominations, including 4 Oscars and a BAFTA film award, while also breaking a Guinness World Record for the highest box-office gross for a screenwriter, that person being the legendary George Lucas!
Jurassic Park (1993)
The first of two classics released in 1993, under the direction of a skilful Steven Spielberg, was Jurassic Park, a film adored by many dinosaur fans. The plot of this film is about a power failure at a Central American theme park which causes cloned dinosaurs to run rampant, terrorising the park’s visitors, leading to a palaeontologist protecting a group of children from the antagonistic velociraptors. An element of this film which makes it so special is some scenes which are performed to a high standard, such as when the T-Rex attacks the park’s Jeep Wrangler, which would be nothing but terrifying to anyone in a real event, which shines when a young Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello act the scene out as their Lex and Tim characters.
Although the film does not revolve around an original plot, being based on a novel by the famous Michael Crichton, the film was such a huge success that it, with the help of the novel, spawned an entire franchise, including two trilogies, video games, and even real attractions at Universal theme parks in Orlando and Hollywood. On top of that, the 1993 dinosaur-themed feature won 44 awards and 27 nominations, including 3 Oscar awards and a BAFTA!
Schindler’s List (1993)
During the last month of 1993, a film about the heroic Oskar Schindler was released under the name “Schindler’s List.” A great thing about this film is how well it presents the true story of Schindler, a businessman who was concerned about how Jews were treated during the Nazi’s reign over Germany and the Holocaust in concentration camps, and how he saved over a thousand Jews from being deported to Auschwitz, Nazi Germany’s biggest camp of this kind.
During the production of this film, Spielberg believed that the film should be in black and white as there is no colour without an abundance of life and the lack of colour would show how lethal the Holocaust was and how much death was caused, making the tone of this film even more serious. I believe he made the right decision to have the feature filmed in black and white up until the end as when the time period of the film rolls over to the present day, the colour returns as it resembles the lives that were saved by the late Oskar Schindler and the lack of death in the current day, which is something that needs to stay the same; an important message made by the filming process alone.
After the premiere of this important and impactful film, it went on to earn 91 awards and 49 nominations across several film award events, both major and minor; most notably 7 Oscar awards and 6 BAFTAs!
Men In Black (1997)
Men In Black, a film based on the comic book series by Marvel Comics and released in 1997, combines genres such as action, sci-fi, and comedy into one film to entertain anyone with an interest in any of these genres. This was further helped by a young Will Smith, who was already notable for his work in comedies, such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the quality of his acting. This also prompted Smith to produce his own song due to his involvement in the production of the first Men In Black film, which was a success on its own, boosting the success of the film with it.
Later on, the Men In Black movie became a trilogy of films and a reboot in 2019 with completely different main characters. However, the first film was the most successful out of four, earning 22 awards and 39 nominations, including an Oscar.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A year later, Spielberg directed one of the best war films to this day, Saving Private Ryan, based on the events of the invasion of Normandy during the Second World War. From the story that the movie told to the acting quality of each character, the film never disappoints the audience, touching the hearts and feelings of the people who watched the film at the cinema, especially the war veterans who experienced the horrors of the invasion. This is shown from the experiences of someone who went to watch the film at their local cinema in 1998 and later told their experience in a YouTube comment on this video. A snippet of this comment reads “After the movie finished, my uncle went to the bathroom and found an old man in there sobbing. Turns out he was a war veteran, and that he’d been there on that beach.” This highlights how well-produced this film was.
This feature is deservedly very well received by fans, critics, and film award boards alike, winning a total of 79 awards and 75 nominations, 5 of those being Oscar awards and 2 being BAFTAs, while also being rated as the 24th best film on IMDb!
West Side Story (2021)
Closer to the present day, West Side Story, a film based on the 1957 musical, looks at the topic of love that is opposed by figures outside of the romantic relationship and is very similar to Romeo and Juliet in terms of the story that the movie tells. In case you are a fan of musicals, I would recommend this crime drama film to you, much like people would recommend watching the original musical in theatres. Along with that, the acting is incredible. Why did Spielberg choose to direct this film though? Well, when he was just 10 years old, he listened to the West Side Story album, which he thought of when he looked at directing a film based on musicals. The film is also dedicated to his late father, Arnold Spielberg, who sadly passed away in the year before its release.
After West Side Story was remade in 2021, the film was given 71 awards and 291 nominations, including an Oscar, 2 BAFTAs, and 3 Golden Globes. What an achievement!
To conclude the story of Steven Spielberg’s successful career as a director, I would like to say that he has achieved so much and influenced many figures in the film industry or those that can relate to filming, from his first film produced at Boy Scouts to the present day; he is certainly someone to look at for inspiration. Thank you for reading!
Written by Mark Murphy Director