Every so often someone emerges in a field and manages to not only revolutionize it, but do so several times. Steven Allan Spielberg (born December 18, 1946) is one of those people, with a career that has gone uninterrupted since the mid-'70s. To put it simply, he is one of the most influential powers in Hollywood.
After playing with his father's 8mm camera as a kid, he enrolled in a community college with a small film program and used those connections to get work directing TV episodes (including the first episode of Columbo) and the pilot episode of Night Gallery.note In 1971 he got his big break, a low-budget, cult hit TV film Duel. Duel was an expertly made, taut thriller that was such a hit on TV that he was allowed to shoot more scenes to give it a cinema release in Europe. It got him a lot of attention, enough to be brought on as the director for the film that would launch him into the stratosphere, Jaws, the first summer blockbuster (setting the record for highest grossing movie just before Star Wars: A New Hope came out, pushing the record up even further. It remains one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time).
With basically a blank check, he followed this with benign Alien Invasion Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the 30's serial throwback Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first of the Indiana Jones films; he directed all the sequels as well) and the family favourite E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which became the highest grossing film of all time in its day (his second time achieving that milestone).
In 1985, he branched into directing drama, with his ultra-serious The Color Purple, which was nominated for several Oscars; it would not be his last excursion into this genre.
He is also known for being a collaborator with other very popular films including Poltergeist and The Goonies (a team effort with Richard Donner and Chris Columbus). Even today he is found working in mega-blockbusters like Transformers.
Steven is a long time friend of George Lucas, ever since they met at a film festival when both were in college (Spielberg said he was insanely jealous of Lucas' student film that eventually became THX 1138). While their only official collaborations are Indiana Jones, and to a lesser extent The Land Before Time (Spielberg was supposed to direct Return of the Jedi, issues with the Directors Guild of America stopped that from happening), they frequently spend time together and discuss each other's projects. Spielberg was also a frequent collaborator with Stan Winston, the puppeteer and makeup virtuoso who brought the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and the robots of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence marvelously to life. He's also famously collaborated with John Williams, with the composer providing the scores for virtually all of Spielberg's films.
In 1994, he was a co-founder of the studio DreamWorks SKG alongside Disney studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg and record producer David Geffen. Dreamworks and Spielberg (as producer) would later go on to make the first Medal of Honor video game, widely regarded as the PS1's GoldenEye. He still runs Amblin Entertainment. Now works on a live-action Ghost in the Shell adaptation, a work he has said he is fond of.
Spielberg went on to make Hook in 1991, and Jurassic Park in 1993 (his third time making the most successful movie of all time), which revolutionized the use of CG animation in film. Schindler's List in the same year won the Best Picture Oscar and is treasured all over the world to this day, Saving Private Ryan won a handful of Oscars itself, and the controversial A.I.: Artificial Intelligence saw him taking over directorial reins from his good friend Stanley Kubrick, who died in mid-production. Catch Me If You Can re-teamed him with Tom Hanks from Saving Private Ryan, and became another acclaimed hit.
Spielberg has also done television work. He directed part of the pilot of Rod Serling's Night Gallery as well as a few TV movies in addition to Duel, and has produced television shows such as Amazing Stories, seaQuest DSV, ER, and United States of Tara.
He's also delved into animation. He collaborated with Don Bluth in the 1980's to produce box office successes like An American Tail and The Land Before Time, also starting his own animation studio, Amblimation, which would go on to produce the somewhat less successful We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, and Balto; it and Bluth would be spiritually replaced by Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation (he also had input in DWA's first Shrek movie). He is also known as the executive producer for (and mistakenly believed to have created, thanks to In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It) Warner Bros. Silver Age cartoons Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, Pinky and the Brain, and some lesser known works, such as Histeria!note , Toonsylvania (one of his first animated projects when he created DreamWorks Studios), and the much-reviled Pinky and the Brain spinoff Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain.
On top of everything else, he has also worked extensively with the Universal Studios parks as a creative consultant. He helped oversee the development of both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, as well as many attractions; including E.T. Adventure note , JAWS, Kongfrontation, Back to the Future: The Ride, Jurassic Park River Adventure, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Men in Black: Alien Attack, Transformers: The Ride, and so on.
Has said that his Oscar awards pale in comparison to the honor of being selected as a bearer of the Olympic Flag in the Salt Lake City games of 2002.
He has been married to Kate Capshaw since 1991, and was married to Amy Irving from 1985-1989. He has seven children: one son by Irving, two daughters and a son by Capshaw, an adopted son and daughter with Capshaw, and a stepdaughter from Capshaw's previous marriage.
In 2018 he became the first ever director to have his total worldwide box office cross $10 billion.
- Duel (1971 made for TV movie, later released theatrically in Europe)
- Something Evil (1972 Made-for-TV Movie)
- The Sugarland Express (1974)
- Jaws (1975)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
- 1941 (1979)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
- Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983, "Kick The Can" segment)
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
- The Color Purple (1985)
- Empire of the Sun (1987)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
- Always (1989)
- Hook (1991)
- Jurassic Park (1993)
- Schindler's List (1993)
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
- Amistad (1997)
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)
- A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
- Minority Report (2002)
- Catch Me If You Can (2002)
- The Terminal (2004)
- War of the Worlds (2005)
- Munich (2005)
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
- The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
- War Horse (2011)
- Lincoln (2012)
- Bridge of Spies (2015)
- The BFG (2016)
- The Post (2017)
- Ready Player One (2018)
- West Side Story (2020)
- Blackhawk (TBA)
- I Wanna Hold Your Hand
- Back to the Future
- The Goonies
- An American Tail
- The Flintstones
- The Money Pit
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit
- The Land Before Time
- Tiny Toon Adventures
- Joe Versus the Volcano
- Cape Fear
- We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story
- seaQuest DSV
- Pinky and the Brain
- Men in Black
- The Prince of Egypt (uncredited)
- Vanilla Sky
- Band of Brothers
- Shrek (uncredited)
- Road to Perdition (uncredited)
- Star Wars EPISODE III: Revenge of the Sith (uncredited)
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Flags of Our Fathers
- Letters from Iwo Jima
- The Lovely Bones
- United States of Tara
- True Grit
- Super 8
- Cowboys & Aliens
- Terra Nova
- The Wolf of Wall Street (uncredited [co-directed one scene])
- Interstellar (originally slated to direct before Christopher Nolan)
- Spielberg (A documentary of his life and work)
- The Dig (its main premise was originally pitched by him, and the game credits him as such)
- Indiana Jones 5 (2022) (Originally set to direct but later stepped down)
Tropes associated with Spielberg and his filmography.
- Adolf Hitlarious: After applying it in some level on films like 1941 and the first three Indiana Jones movies, he put on record that he swore off ever using this Trope again after filming Schindler's List, thinking that portraying the Nazis as anything else but pure unmockable evil was just in poor taste. This is one of the various Real Life Writes the Plot elements that forced Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to use Communist Russia as the Big Bad.
- Associated Composer: All those leitmotifs you currently have stuck in your head are composed by John Williams, who has scored all but three of Spielberg's films since The Sugarland Express. (The sole exceptions are The Color Purple, which they mutually agreed would be better served with music by Quincy Jones; Bridge of Spies, due to a health issue; Ready Player One, due to time constraints* ; and the upcoming West Side Story, due to the film having a built-in soundtrack from the original musical.)
- Alliterative Name: Steven Spielberg.
- Author Appeal: In most of Spielberg's films, fathers or father-figures are either absent or aloof. Several essays have analyzed this as a manifestation of Steven's childhood getting projected into his art (his own father strongly disapproved of his interest in movies, though he admitted he was wrong after Steven's incredible success).
- Bittersweet Ending: A good chunk of his movies have either this or happy endings, if the hero dies it will be a dignified Heroic Sacrifice or be remembered in the end for what they've done.
- Black-and-White Morality: Unsurprisingly, any of his films that deal with the Third Reich fall squarely into this.
- Central Theme: Spielberg's films touch upon several recurring themes, depending on the film. These films include coming across the extraordinary, faith, and tension of parent-child relationships (especially difficult father-son relationships)
- His family-friendly films often deal with themes of growing up, family, and feelings of wonder and the power of imagination.
- Creator Cameo: Spielberg has a brief cameo at the end of The Blues Brothers, where he plays the Assessor of Cook County, Illinois (i.e. the guy they actually need to pay the $5000 bucks to save the orphanage to). He also has a small appearance in his 1972 Made-for-TV Movie Something Evil (a rare non-Universal TV effort) and in Gremlins as the guy driving the trolley while Billy's dad is on the phone.
- Disappeared Dad: Divorce and absent fathers is a common topic in Spielberg's films, like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and War of the Worlds. Said to have been partially drawn from his parents divorce in his youth.
- Emotional Torque: His main motivation in filmmaking.
- Enforced Method Acting: He's renowned for finding creative ways to coax performances out of child actors, most famously in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
- Fanservice: Almost totally averted in Spielberg's works. Sexuality is usually offscreen, nudity is rarely seen, and when nudity is seen it's usually for Fan Disservice, as with a murder scene in Munich or concentration camp prisoners in Schindler's List.
- One of the very rare straight examples (combined with Naked People Are Funny) is actually a parody of a Fan Disservice scene in an earlier Spielberg film. In the opening scene of Jaws, a young woman goes skinny-dipping on a beach in the early hours of the morning, only to be eaten by a shark. In the opening scene of 1941, a young woman goes skinny-dipping on a beach in the early hours of the morning only to be rather surprised by a surfacing Japanese submarine; unlike in the previous scene, she escapes after suffering nothing more than a Naked Freak-Out. Bonus points because it was the same actress in both scenes.
- The Film of the Book: A significant number of his films are actually these, often resulting in cases of Adaptation Displacement.
- First Contact: Spielberg made four films with this theme: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, War of the Worlds, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Only the third one shows the aliens as clear villains.
- Genre Roulette: While often associated with science fiction (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, Ready Player One), he's done monster movies (Jaws, Jurassic Park), action adventure (Indiana Jones), comedy (1941), romance (Always, The Terminal), war epics (Empire of the Sun, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, War Horse), disaster movies (War of the Worlds), fantasy (Hook, The BFG), biopics (Catch Me If You Can, Lincoln), period pieces (The Color Purple), historical drama (Amistad), political thrillers (Munich, Bridge of Spies, The Post), comic book movies (The Adventures of Tintin, Blackhawk), even a musical (West Side Story).
- Gorn: "Gorn" might be too strong a word, but Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and Munich don't shy away from what happens when people suffer violent deaths.
- Grey-and-Gray Morality: More common than his critics who find him too family-friendly would imagine; in particular, his espionage movies.
- Growing Up Sucks: Many of Spielberg's films thrive on innocent, naïve and escapist adventure stories, often shown from a child's point of view. Half of the time they are boyish fantasies. This has lead many movie critics to compare him to a cinematic Peter Pan character, whose films never touch upon real adult issues. Conincidentally Spielberg even made a Peter Pan film, Hook! The criticism has died out a little from the moment Spielberg started making more adult films such as The Color Purple, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich and Lincoln, but even in these serious films you'll find lighthearted and comedic moments. Terry Gilliam once (quite unfairly) criticized Spielberg for always wanted to leave his audience with happy endings and answers to everything.
- Heroic Sacrifice: When good people die in Spielberg's films, they often sacrifice themselves to a greater cause. See Eddie Carr in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Miller in Saving Private Ryan
- Kid Hero: Children are often cast as heroes in Spielberg's films or they are at least deemed very important to the progression of the story.
- Military Super Hero: In Spielberg's work soldiers are always cast as brave ordinary people one should look up to, especially if they are American. They won't be perfect people, but they always live up to their duty and do what is right. There's also a strong theme in his more recent work of joining the army for the greater good. In War of the Worlds and Lincoln a youngster wants to join the army, in both occasions because he wants to do his patriotic duty and help his country out. Needless to say, in both cases the boys survive.
- The Oner: Unlike many other directors, Spielberg's oners are on the short end of the scale (averaging about 1-1:30), and he rarely calls attention to them. Many of them are more "invisible coverage" of a scene, essentially moving around actors, the camera and action to create "separate shots" but without breaking up the action. Some great examples includes Marcus and Indy's dialogue at Indy's home in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1:36) or the dialogue above the ferry in Jaws (1:43).
- His motion capture films like Tintin and Ready Player One all have extensive Oners, however all due in part by what seems to be Spielberg's realization that the limits of a real life cinematographer are missing in the world of animation.
- Odd Friendship:
- With Stanley Kubrick. They were polar opposites in terms of style and tone. However, they deeply respected each others works. They would often collaborate. When Kubrick thought he couldn't deliver the film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence the way he pictured it, he gave Spielberg his blessing to direct it after his death. Spielberg made sure the film was true to Kubrick's style as possible.
- And as a very young man, he hit it off with Joan Crawford after directing her in an episode of Night Gallery. They stayed friends until Crawford's death.
- Parental Issues: In Spielberg's work a lot of troubled father-son relations can be found or adults who don't like children. These two tropes keep reappearing in almost every film he makes.
- Patriotic Fervor: Spielberg is quite proud of his home country and likes to show it in his work, especially when American soldiers fight Nazis. However he is also critical of blind patriotism as in 1941, racism (Amistad, The Color Purple, Lincoln), the Red Scare (Bridge of Spies), anti-immigrant attitudes (The Terminal), and also corruption (The Post).
- He also took a small jab at imperialism in War of the Worlds with a character commenting "occupations never work", referencing the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
- Production Posse:
- Often works with producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. Starting with Bridge of Spies he has also begun working with Kristie Macosko Krieger.
- John Williams has composed the scores to all but three of his movies; The Color Purple was scored by Quincy Jones, Bridge of Spies which was scored by Thomas Newman, and Ready Player One which was scored by Alan Silvestri.
- Editor Michael Kahn, Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and Production Designer Rick Carter have worked on nearly all of Spielberg's movies since the 90s.
- Spielberg has worked with writer David Koepp five times, and Tony Kushner three times.
- Tom Hanks has worked with Spielberg five times, Harrison Ford will have worked with him five times (six if you count his Deleted Role in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), and Mark Rylance is set to work with him four times.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Heavily on the idealistic, often whimsical side. Even in his films portraying the harsh realities of war, there's a certain lever of optimism and wonder.
- Summer Blockbuster: He invented and popularized the genre after Jaws became the best-selling film of all time in 1975. He broke his own record twice with the release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Jurassic Park (1993).
- Special Effects: Spielberg's films are known for their technical achievements in the fields of special effects, most notably in E.T. and Jurassic Park. However, they always complimented the stories and the characters instead of the other way around.
- Tear Jerker: Despite being a special effects innovator Spielberg is known for his emotional depth in his stories and has a great sense of Character Development, though sometimes he is accused of taking it to over-the-top levels.
- Tom Hanks Syndrome: Since Schindler's List most of the films he has directed have been serious (often historical) dramas, rather than action-adventure blockbusters and he has been criticized for this.
- Of course, Spielberg would point out that most of his early films were on the serious side: Duel was a dark bleak thriller with a relentless humourless tone and a not especially likable hero, The Sugarland Express was a bleak New Hollywood take about a working-class Outlaw Couple with a sad ending, while Close Encounters of the Third Kind was far more critical of nuclear family values than E.T.. From the very beginning, he had always been a film-maker who could shift between genres and not be tied to doing "one" kind of film.
- Likewise in The '80s, he made The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun and in The Noughties, he made genre films like A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, War of the Worlds with only Munich qualifying as a "serious film". Incidentally, two of the films he made with Tom Hanks, (Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal) are comedies.
- What Could Have Been:
- George Lucas wanted him to direct Return of the Jedi, but the Director's Guild of America wouldn't allow it because Lucas was no longer a member of the Guild.
- He always wanted to direct a James Bond movie, but Albert R. Broccoli rejected him twice. The first time, early in his career, Broccoli turned him down because he was young, inexperienced, and unknown. He approached Broccoli again after directing Jaws, but Broccoli wouldn't hire him because he was afraid he'd demand too much money.
- Being a big fan of Mortal Kombat, he was originally going to have a cameo in the film adaptation of the games, where he'd be directing one of Johnny Cage's movies, but scheduling conflicts forced him to drop out at the last minute.
- He was attached to direct the first Harry Potter movie but backed out for a few reasons. One is that he wanted to make the film animated but Warner Bros. and J. K. Rowling weren't sold on the idea. Two was that he didn't have much experience working with kids or making movies for kids at that point, which is why Chris Columbus was eventually picked to direct. Another is that he considered it too much of a built-in slam dunk and wanted something he saw as more "challenging" to make work.
- He was going to have a small cameo in Casper that was actually filmed, but later cut for pacing.
- Interstellar was written for him to direct. Many have noted that a certain plot twist near the end would fit far better into a Spielberg film than a Christopher Nolan one.
- He has always expressed an intention to direct a musical. He once noted that 1941 was planned as one but changed during its chaotic production. Later he was attached to a project about opera divas but that was shelved. The closest he came was the opening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
- His dream has come true, however, as he has since begun working on a new adaptation of West Side Story.
- The Wiki Rule: The Spielberg Wiki.