E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial [AKA E.T.] (1982, dir. Steven Spielberg)

A boy befriends a stranded alien. Still-powerful Christ allegory dressed up as a child-friendly sci-fi comedy. Works in all kinds of ways, and is technically astounding throughout. What shines is the quiet confidence on display, and Spielberg’s ability to tell story through character moments and shot composition. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, dir. Steven Spielberg)

A suburban dad is drawn to a Wyoming mountain after a close encounter with an unidentified flying object. Still hugely-effective blend of heart and smarts: perhaps Spielberg’s most complete film, mixing technical excellence with quest narratives, hard SF and senses of innocence and wonder.

Here’s the trailer.

Jaws (1975, dir. Steven Spielberg)

A coastal resort is threatened by a predatory great white shark. Peerless proto-blockbuster and inventor of the summer event movie, Jaws retains its ability to thrill and impress. Character, action, location shooting, direction and a semi-improvised approach to dialogue are counterpointed by a terrific score. Sequels of diminishing quality followed.

Here’s the trailer.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984, dir. Steven Spielberg)

An archaeologist and a nightclub singer find themselves facing an ancient occult evil. Though this prequel starts and finishes well, it’s hampered by an absence of narrative causality, two annoying sidekicks, and unfortunate treatment of gender and ethnicity throughout. Some great stuff remains, but this is too awkward too often.

Ready Player One (2018, dir. Steven Spielberg)

A teenager battles an evil corporation in a quest to control a virtual reality game-world. Sporadically spectacular but narratively dull SF adventure which improves on the source novel but still lapses into pop-culture reference tickbox territory at its lamest.

The Post (2017, dir. Steven Spielberg)

The Washington Post battles to source and then publish revelations about the Vietnam War. Effective journalistic thriller, which works as a prequel to All The President’s Men and as a contemporary allegory. Good performances all round, especially from Streep.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997, dir, Steven Spielberg)

A rescue mission to a second island – where the original film’s dinosaurs were engineered – goes awry. Patchy sequel to the original, stronger on set-pieces than on logic or story, with borrowings from a dozen monster movies.

The Terminal (2004, dir. Steven Spielberg)

After a bureaucratic foul-up leaves him stateless, a man is forced to live in an airport terminal. Well-directed comedy-drama which starts brilliantly and then gets bogged down in sub-plots and a shift from existential malaise to schmaltz.

Always (1989, dir. Steven Spielberg)

A dead pilot returns to allow his former partner to move on with her life. A patchy and sentimental piece (remaking 1943’s A Guy Named Joe), happier in its flying, comic and firefighting action sequences than with the emotional scenes; some pleasures to be had, tho.

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989, dir. Steven Spielberg)

Jones goes in search of his lost father, and the Holy Grail. The third Jones adventure is a sparkling comedy with heaps of good set-pieces and a tongue-in-cheek sensibility. Some iffy early CG and plotting aside, this is rip-roaring stuff, though the lightest in the series.