- Steven Spielberg has created some of the greatest movies of all time.
- Here we rank all 32 of his feature-length movies, from worst to best.
- Movies like “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jurassic Park,” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” all ended up in our ranking.
- Our No. 1 was 1975’s “Jaws.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Spanning more than 40 years, Steven Spielberg’s work boasts an extremely diverse array of stories, characters, and themes.
He’s made whimsical fantasies aimed squarely for children (“E.T.,” “The Adventures of Tintin”), complex morality stories (“Schindler’s List,” “Amistad”), graphically violent dramas (“Munich,” “Saving Private Ryan”), and some of the most successful action franchises of all time (the “Indiana Jones” and “Jurassic Park” movies).
Here we take on the difficult task of ranking from worst to best all 32 of Spielberg’s feature-length movies:
32. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (2008)
Earning its rightful place at the bottom of this list is the fourth entry in Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones” franchise. There are so many problems with this movie, from forcing in the Mutt Williams character (Shia LaBeouf) to its wacky ending.
Spielberg and star Harrison Ford are planning to reunite for a fifth “Indy” movie. Hopefully, it will be a strong rebound for the ageless franchise.
31. “1941” (1979)
This dark comedy that focuses on a panic that ensues in Los Angeles after the attack on Pearl Harbour is one of the biggest flops of Spielberg’s career. After coming off back-to-back colossal hits with “Jaws” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Spielberg likely felt untouchable. And given an all-star cast for this movie that included John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, how could it all go wrong?
But it did. The movie isn’t funny and it has none of the fresh storytelling that makes most of Spielberg’s work stand out.
30. “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997)
Spielberg rushed to deliver a sequel to his 1993 record-breaking box-office smash “Jurassic Park.” In the process, he failed to produce a worthy successor to the groundbreaking original.
He also created a scene in which a little girl uses gymnastics to fight a dinosaur, which may be the worst thing he’s ever done.
29. “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” (2001)
Stanley Kubrick originally intended to direct this project, but Spielberg took it over after Kubrick died in 1999.
While it possesses many solid attributes, such as a superb John Williams score, the marriage of Spielberg’s sensibilities with those of Kubrick results in an uneven mess that hasn’t really improved with repeat viewings.
28. “Hook” (1991)
This movie is much-maligned, even by the most loyal of Spielberg enthusiasts. Though it has wildly impressive production design to bring Neverland to life, the performances by Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman just don’t pop.
27. “Amistad” (1997)
Despite the talky legal proceedings taking up most of the movie’s final hour, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the slave revolt that opens the movie is one of the most intense and powerful scenes Spielberg has ever created.
26. “The BFG” (2016)
The most recent kids’ movie effort from Spielberg is magical and imaginative but doesn’t pack that special punch he’s given us with these kinds of movies in the past. Though the John Williams score is just another great work from the Maestro.
25. “The Colour Purple” (1985)
You can’t deny the visual beauty of “The Colour Purple,” thanks to excellent cinematography from Spielberg’s early go-to cinematographer Allen Daviau, but the movie’s backdrop doesn’t fit with its heartbreaking subject matter.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker that the movie is based on is definitely worth a read, however.
24. “The Sugarland Express” (1974)
Spielberg’s first theatrical feature is a must-see harbinger of the scope and scale that would define the director’s prolific career. Released a year before “Jaws,” it features some incredible car chases and a strong performance by a young Goldie Hawn.
23. “The Terminal” (2004)
This is one of the most underrated entries of Spielberg’s “late” period. It’s a moving story about a foreigner (played by Tom Hanks) stripped of his basic freedoms in George W. Bush’s post-9/11 America.
22. “War of the Worlds” (2005)
Another post-9/11 meditation from Spielberg, this time delivered in a much more crowd-pleasing fashion. Our one gripe with this movie is the casting of Tom Cruise as a down-on-his-luck everyman. What if it had been Tom Hanks instead?
21. “Minority Report” (2002)
Speaking of Tom Cruise, this sci-fi noir doesn’t get enough credit for its cutting-edge visual effects that still hold up after almost two decades.
20. “The Adventures of Tintin” (2011)
Spielberg’s only fully animated feature didn’t connect with American audiences, but it was a big hit overseas, where people are more familiar with the titular comic-strip hero.
The chase sequence involving an elaborate single-take stands out as one of Spielberg’s most ambitious action set pieces.
19. “The Post” (2017)
This dramatic look at the Washington Post releasing the Pentagon Papers isn’t Spielberg’s most riveting dramatic work, but it features top-notch performances by Hanks and Meryl Streep.
18. “Lincoln” (2012)
Amazingly, Spielberg found a way to make the minutiae of 19th-century backroom political dealings extremely entertaining. It also marks the first time that an actor won an Oscar for a performance in a Spielberg movie.
Daniel Day-Lewis took home the Academy Award for his performance as Abraham Lincoln. Three years later, Mark Rylance would become the second when he picked up an Oscar for “Bridge of Spies.”
17. “Always” (1989)
Often written off as overly sentimental, this remake of the 1943 Spencer Tracy movie “A Guy Named Joe” deserves a lot more credit.
Richard Dreyfuss delivers two exceptional monologues to Holly Hunter’s character (who can’t see or hear him because he’s a ghost) that in retrospect should have earned him some Oscar consideration.
16. “Ready Player One” (2018)
Spielberg’s most recent directing effort is one of his most entertaining movies in over a decade. And in many ways it’s a celebration of the wonderful characters he’s helped bring to the big screen over his career (from the T-Rex in “Jurassic Park” to the DeLorean in “Back to the Future,” a movie he was a producer on).
But at its core, it’s a story that he’s told his whole career – someone seeking acceptance.
15. “Bridge of Spies” (2015)
This political drama inspired by true events didn’t do very well at the box office, only bringing in around $US77 million in the United States. That’s a shame because it shows Spielberg at his very best.
Mark Rylance deservedly won the best-supporting actor Oscar in this underrated gem that includes a performance by Tom Hanks that should have been more praised.
14. “Munich” (2005)
“Munich” joins “The Terminal” and “War of the Worlds” to round out Spielberg’s unofficial post-9/11 trilogy.
This Christmas 2005 release definitely underperformed at the box office, perhaps because audiences didn’t want to spend their holidays watching a movie with so many gruesome deaths. But it’s one of the director’s most unique and thrilling efforts.
13. “War Horse” (2011)
We’re still completely baffled by how audiences largely ignored this delightful, family-friendly epic. Excellence is on display here and you should definitely seek it out. And watch out for a great supporting performance by Tom Hiddleston.
12. “Duel” (1971)
The movie that started it all. Spielberg made this as a TV movie for ABC. It was distributed theatrically in Europe, and it quickly made a name for Spielberg who, up to that point, had only directed episodic television.
Right out of the gate, Spielberg established himself as a master of action and suspense.
11. “Catch Me If You Can” (2002)
After a string of very serious projects like “Amistad,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “A.I.,” and “Minority Report,” Spielberg finally gave us a fun one.
Teaming Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in a true-life cat-and-mouse story between a slick forger (DiCaprio) and FBI agent (Hanks) turned out to be perfection. And John Williams, again, tops it with the perfect score.
10. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989)
This is the last good “Indiana Jones” movie. And it is really good. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery have incredible comedic chemistry. It could have been the perfect ending to a perfect trilogy.
9. “Empire of the Sun” (1987)
This World War II epic doesn’t get mentioned enough when the great war movies are celebrated, but it should. The scene in which the POW camp is liberated by an American fighter squadron is one of Spielberg’s best sequences.
His action choreography, combined with John Williams’ score and Christian Bale’s frighteningly intense acting, result in a truly transcendent movie moment.
8. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984)
This is a Spielberg movie that has grown in acceptance over the decades. It’s just as wild and fun to watch now as it was when it opened 36 years ago.
Fun fact: This movie was responsible for the decision to invent the PG-13 rating.
7. “Jurassic Park” (1993)
This is the movie responsible for Hollywood’s love for CGI. It’s pure fun from beginning to end. It’s wild that Spielberg came out with this and “Schindler’s List” in the same year.
6. “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)
Perhaps “Empire of the Sun” doesn’t get more credit because Spielberg also made this one. Many war movies had been made before it, but this transcended all of them in terms of how it portrayed combat.
The opening scene showing the landing at Omaha Beach remains one of the greatest standalone sequences in movie history.
5. “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)
Now we’re getting to the point where any of these movies could easily fall into the top spot.
Spielberg redefined the action-adventure genre with “Raiders,” which gets better with every viewing.
4. “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” (1982)
A year after “Raiders” opened he topped himself with this imaginative sci-fi classic. It was the highest-grossing Spielberg movie until “Jurassic Park” came along over a decade later.
3. “Schindler’s List” (1993)
To this day, it’s one of Spielberg’s towering achievements. His use of black-and-white photography is not only emotionally powerful – it’s also one of his most impressive visual efforts, marking the beginning of his collaboration with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who has worked as the director of photography on every Spielberg movie since.
And then there’s the movie’s unforgiving story, which finally made the public see him more than a blockbuster filmmaker: he was now an auteur.
2. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)
After the success of “Jaws” in 1975, Spielberg earned the power to make whatever movie he wanted, and this is what he gave us. With the moving story and dazzling special effects, this is one of the greatest science-fiction movies of all time.
1. “Jaws” (1975)
It’s hard to pick a favourite Spielberg movie, but seeing we have to, we’re going with his 1975 classic. It changed the movie business forever. Studios quickly shifted their focus toward summer blockbusters. And with that Spielberg was able to go on and make the rest of the groundbreaking movies that are on this list.
Want to go a step further? Without the success of “Jaws,” no studio would have taken a chance on George Lucas with “Star Wars.”