Spielberg magic. It's a common phrase that critics and fans alike have become accustomed to when attempting to manifest a description of Spielberg’s filmography. In the last few years though, that dose of magical escapism has been contradictory of Spielberg’s filmography. The master has taken on more essential projects that speak truth to power and allow for powerful moments of self-reflection and emotional investment. Though those movies are exceptional, today we’re talking about the twelve-year-old boy inside of the 71-year-old filmmaker. The boy who granted us more than a few grand moments of escapism and emotionality. Moments like E.T. floating across the moonlit sky, moments like watching a Tyrannosaurus Rex roaring before eyes, or moments like a charming archeologist standing in the dusk of the desert.
All of these moments and more is why Spielberg’s filmography has become our go-to place for escapism. With the land of superheroes and lightsabers seemingly dominating our box office, Spielberg is attempting to squeeze a little more magic out with the release of “Ready Player One.” We at Flick Crave thought what better time than merely hours before our screening of Spielberg’s newest film to discuss the ten most magical movies created by the king of entertainment. This list will be limited to Spielberg as a director, not as a producer because if we went over Spielberg's ventures in producing we would need a listing that is way bigger than 10. Nonetheless, the question has been put forth before us in what are Spielberg’s most magical films, and these are our answers.
10. Minority Report
2002. Tom Cruise, Collin Farrell, Samantha Morton. PG-13 2h. 25 min.
+ Foreign: $226,300,000
= Worldwide: $358,372,926
“Minority Report” may be the most serious story on our list and contain the least amount of reality-escaping moments, but there are many junctures of sheer imagination to be found in the 2002 sleeper hit. Much of the film is crafted like that of an original crime drama in which we watch a plot of complications and enthrallment unravel. Though “War of the Worlds” may have stronger moments of Spielberg magic in that of the basement search and the opening invasion of the aliens, “Minority Report” fabricates a world that is more subtle in certain aspects but more enthralling than that of “War of the Worlds.” The extensive use of bright visuals to that of the intriguing weaponry of the sonic shotgun. Spielberg uses the intertextuality of reality with that of imagination to create a sweepingly beautiful world that acts as a background to an interestingly great story which is one of the many definitions of Spielberg magic.
9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
1989. Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody. PG-13 2h. 7 min.
+ Foreign: $277,000,000
= Worlwide: $474,171,806
Anyone who considers themselves a movie buff knew that Indiana Jones has to show up on a list with Spielberg in the name. As far as ranking that of the Spielberg films by that of magical moments, I have to consider which one of the movies is my favorite to rewatch and why. The Last Crusade is my favorite story of the trilogy, but is admittedly the most realistic and focuses more on an emotional finale than that of the escapism or the action of the first two films. Nonetheless, the magic found in this film is what lends to it finding itself as a part of the top ten. Though it may be snippets of magic, Spielberg still has enough to make this movie as memorable as any.
1991. Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts. PG. 2h. 22 Min.
+ Foreign: $181,200,000
= Worldwide: $300,854,823
One of the most underrated projects of Spielberg’s filmography is that of “Hook.” Is it cheesy? Yes. Is it a bit overrated by fans? Yes. Is it magical? Yes, which is the most important question to answer on this list. From the over the top performance of Dustin Hoffman to the incredibly genius performance from Robin Williams allow for all of the Spielberg hefts of magic to blend in with the scenery and become a fantastical children’s film with vast amounts of escapism. The music is childishly brilliant, the production sets are like that of a Broadway special at times but impressive nonetheless, and the moments of magic in that of Peter taking flight are sensational. Whether it's your favorite Spielberg film or not, “Hook” is a story founded in magic in both a textual and metaphorical fashion. You can’t help but yell “BANGARANG” or “Rufio” with the kids because of Spielberg’s direction which is what makes the film’s magic palpably enthralling.
7. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
1997. Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Pete Postlethwaite. PG-13. 2h. 9 Min.
+ Foreign: $389,552,320
= Worldwide: $618,638,999
One of the most disliked films on our list is that of “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” I am one of the few film enthusiasts who enjoy its shrills and thrills, but I can admit it's flawed in storytelling. Some of Spielberg’s best work can be found in this film though, from the waterfall death scene to the masterfully tense scene of the hanging trailers. The purpose of this list is not to rank Spielberg’s best films in that of quality or storytelling, this is the ranking of movies with the most moments of filmmaking that make us feel that childish imagination again, and there is a significant amount to be found in this film. The visual imagery of a Tyrannosaurus Rex in San Diego and the Raptor attack in the cornfields all lead to a multitude of moments that keep me coming back to this film, despite some of the movie's lackadaisical storytelling.
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
1977. Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr. PG. 2h. 18 Min.
+ Foreign: $171,700,000
= Worldwide: $306,889,114
Moving right along with the early years of Spielberg’s career in which we find a follow up to “Jaws” being a masterfully inclusive sci-fi drama. Does this film have the most moments that make me feel like a kid again? Yes and no, there are more moments of blockbuster imagery in a few of the films above this one, but “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” makes up for what it lacks in supply with the capacity of these moments. Incredible moments of childlike imagination like the racing lights through the mountains or the abduction of Barry being just a few of them. In addition to those flashes of fantasy you have the encounter of two races being connected by the universal language of music which is nothing short of extraordinary, and one of the few moments that only five other movies can surpass.
5. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
1984. Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan. PG. 1h. 58 Min.
+ Foreign: $153,237,000
= Worldwide: $333,107,271
“Temple of Doom” is easily the most action-packed of the trilogy, as well as the most unoriginal in that it shares a lot of story beats with that of its predecessor. But those beats are completely ignored because like that of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2,” I could care less if the band is playing a cover I am here to see the band play. “Temple of Doom” does that with a vast array of magic in building upon the mythos of our hero. The final battle though is what places “Temple of Doom” in a league of its own in which we’re enthralled from the train track escape which has been homaged countlessly throughout cinema, and the riddled bridge fight that acts as our final stage for a powerful climax. “Temple of Doom” may not be the most imaginative with its storytelling, but the moments crafted but Spielberg can’t be described as anything else but magical.
1975. Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Teri Garr. PG. 2h. 4 Min.
+ Foreign: $210,653,000
= Worldwide: $470,653,000
“Jaws” has to be on this list. The rest of this list may share that same proclamation as they are particularly obvious in their legacy in the cinema. “Jaws” is a part of that class in which any list ranking Spielberg’s best has to include the film that began it all. The film that has created an everlasting impact upon the cinema that invented the blockbuster term. Though John Williams has to be given substantial credit for this film’s majesty, Spielberg was able to create a masterpiece despite the number of blockades standing in his way. The broken shark, the drunken Robert Shaw, and the rest of these well-known stories were the walls standing in front of Spielberg’s masterpiece. Spielberg tore through those walls and created moments of blood swarming, iconic, and tension-filled moments that can only be outdone by the three films ahead that lie in front of its fourth-place ranking.
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark
1981. Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman. PG. 1h. 55 Min.
+ Foreign: $141,766,000
= Worldwide: $389,925,971
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” is not only one of Spielberg’s most magical films, but it's one of the most magical films ever to grace the cinema. We live in a day and age of adapted screenplays taking hold of the silver screen with that of comic books being the biggest and best. Even Spielberg has ventured into this land of adaptation with “Ready Player One,” but he already created an original hero with that of Dr. Jones. The hero that was immortalized through the dusk imagery of the desert, the Nazi antagonists, the melting of the villains, and the enthralling moments of Jones punching his way through it all. Even the opening sequence has become immortalized, which is just a testament to the greatness of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” which was one of the last original heroes to grace our silver screen.
2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestial
1982. Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote. PG. 1h. 55 min.
+ Foreign: $357,800,000
= Worldwide: $792,910,554
How can you discuss Spielberg magic without discussing “E.T.” A childhood favorite for many of us flick cravers, and one of cinema’s greatest additions to it's enveloping library. The master-fullness of direction to be found is just a testament of the genius that is “E.T.” The practicality of E.T. provides the film with a nostalgic and reality-evading tone in cooperation with that of Mr. Williams score. Include moments like that of Elliot and E.T.’s bond to that of the immortal sequence of E.T. streaking across the moon in the basket of Elliot's bicycle, a moment that became the logo for Spielberg’s production company. Immortalized through a single painting of the canvas by Mr. Spielberg, which is one of the many reasons to place it so high on our countdown of Spielberg’s most magical films which leaves us to answer the question of which is the most magical movie.
1. Jurassic Park
1993. Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum. PG-13. 2 h. 7 min.
+ Foreign: $626,700,000
= Worldwide: $1,029,153,882
Highest Grossing? Yes. History-making? Yes. Award Winning? Yes. Are any of those the reason for its ranking? Nope, because “Jurassic Park” finds itself a top of the rest for its sheer array of escapism. This was my “Star Wars” as a child. I grew up beneveloizing dinosaurs to a fault; I even owned an encyclopedia that held the name of every Dinosaur recorded at the time. I knew that dinosaurs were extinct, but when I saw the Brachiosaurus walk through the trees as Williams’ purely magical score enveloped the screen, I was transported to a place where Dinosaurs walked the earth once more. The rain poured interaction with the Tyrannosaurus Rex was something of pure horror and pure magic for me as a child. In addition to both of those is the tension-filled kitchen sequence with the Velociraptors which is purely the icing on the cake for yet another masterpiece from one of the many kings of filmmaking. This is Spielberg magic at it's best, and knowing that later that same year we witnessed Spielberg’s “Mona Lisa” in that of “Schindler’s List.” It was an astonishing year for the infamous filmmaker, and I hope we can see more moments of his young imagination in years to come. For us Cravers, those moments come sooner rather than later with “Ready Player One.” Will we receive something as magical as “Jurassic Park” or as magical “Minority Report,” or something in the middle? I guess we’ll find out in a matter of hours.