I’m sure I’ve told the story before, but when I was young I wanted to be a paleontologist. Now, I didn’t actually care (much) about the whole digging up bones and hanging around museums… I assumed I would be more like Indiana Jones, arsing about unknown, long forgotten cities in search of relics and new specimens. I did read as many books about dinosaurs as I could get my hands on and I watched every dinosaur movie I could. As ropy as the effects always were, I was nevertheless enchanted by them and by the notion that these giant beasts ever existed.
In 1993 Spielberg brought tears to my eyes with the breathtaking effects, excellent set pieces, action, stunts, of Jurassic Park. His film broke records and set a new benchmark for special effects, but throw in a brilliant score, non stop traditional Spielberg fun, a great cast, a rip-roaring story and many immediately iconic images and we have one of the most exciting films ever. Speaking of those effects, they were truly revolutionary and many of them still look light years better than those of today which have a habit of appearing too rubbery and fake – in Jurassic Park you assume you are seeing a real dinosaur brought to life while today’s blockbusters make you feel you are staring at an effect.
For years, the esteemed Dr Hammond has been trying to make his dream come true – to bring back the most awesome creatures that have ever walked the earth – dinosaurs. Extinct for millions of years until now, when science has enabled us to bring back that which was once thought to be lost forever. Hammond and his team of experts have succeeded in not only creating life, but reversing extinction. His idea is to create a zoo for the animals which anyone can visit, but as these are wild and extremely dangerous creatures which cannot be trained or tamed, he needs feedback from other scientists and businessmen. He invites Dr Alan (Sam Neill) and Dr Ellie (Laura Dern) – paleontologists, and Jeff Goldblum – part philosopher, part scientist, part comedian. His young nephew and niece also come along, as well as the man who will be financing the park. Hammond shows them how he created the dinosaurs, leading to debates on morality etc but what everyone really wants is a trip around the park. So they go. Of course, things soon go wrong when Dennis, a man working for Hammond, decides to turn off the security in his attempt to steal samples for the black market. Soon the dinosaurs are loose, and the group is fighting for their lives.
Each character is brilliantly drawn, and well acted. The variety of creatures is wide, and they all leap off the screen as if from our imaginations. The action flows fluidly once it starts, and there are many tense and scary moments. The first T-Rex attack has become part of our culture, but the tree descent, Raptor kitchen and chase are all equally spectacular and get your heart racing. I love the idea of splitting the central group, meaning we get to see the relationships between Sam Neill and the kids growing, as well as the banter between Goldblum and Dern. The deaths are pretty gruesome, but hardly over the top, but some parents may find them too scary for kids.
Spielberg wisely keeps the science and morality to a minimum – it’s there, it’s briefly discussed, but we don’t get bogged down in the rhetoric, though the depth is appreciated. What matters is that Spielberg has created another masterpiece, the monster movie he wanted to make years before with Jaws, but didn’t have the budget or technology to do so. Make another one like this Spielberg, come on, we know you can.
Let us know in the comments how you feel Jurassic Park has held up especially in the light of Jurassic World!
Arguably the most important figure in cinema of all time, surely of the later half of the 20th Century, Steven Spielberg has directed and produced some of the most successful movies of all time. The maestro of countless million childhoods, Spielberg’s output in undeniable with several films being inescapable parts of pop culture and of our lives. Love him or hate him, he is a storyteller and visionary of the highest order. Having said all that, when I was checking the list of films he has directed though, i was surprised though that I was actually struggling to find 10 films that i truly loved. I have enjoyed everything he has directed, but quite a few of his films have been good, just not the sort of thing I would tend to include on a top ten list. There are a lot of films that others may rightly include but as my lists tend towards personal taste rather than cultural impact or even how good a film actually is, this list may not be to everyone’s tastes.
Based on the Richard Matheson tale, this debut effort from Spielberg packs in a lot of taut action and early flair. Frequently voted as the best TV movie ever made, it is a simple tale of man versus the unknown, a chase film and road movie in one, and a story that shares many similarities with his later work. It’s proof of Spielberg’s ability to create timeless pieces of entertainment as the film still retains a power to shock and thrill today.
9. The Terminal
I’ll probably get some flack for this because it’s schmaltzy Spielberg at its most saccharine. But it works because we’re in the hands of a master and because Tom Hanks is always watchable when playing an offbeat character. You balk in the opening scenes and question why an American actor of his stature was used, but by the end it doesn’t matter as you’re won over by the charm of the performance and story. I skipped seeing this one until recently (last year I think) because it sounded like drivel. I think it’s a simple, heartwarming family film that won’t change anyone’s life but is a nice change of pace for what we have come to expect from the director.
Spielberg’s premier family favourite is one that I hope to re-appreciate as my children get older. I haven’t seen it in many years and if I was to watch it now maybe If wouldn’t feel the same youthful delight as when I was a kid. But I know that my children, like many others when they first see Eliot and his family and his friend, will be enchanted and me along with them.
7. Schindler’s List
A grueling watch which lacks most of the sugar-coating you come to expect from Spielberg, not surprising given the subject matter. Although it is ultimately a story of hope, the film is drenched in the shadow of the Holocaust as we watch hundreds and thousands of innocents march to their deaths under the tyrannical gaze of Ralph Fiennes. Liam Neeson as Schindler is the man trying to make a difference, but we get superb support from Embeth Davidtz, Ben Kingsley and others. A timeless film of great importance it is one that should shake even the most apathetic into action.
Unquestionably one of the greatest cartoons of all time, Spielberg’s touch is all over it. Meta before it was a thing, throwing a hell of a lot of adult humour in, references to past and current stars, movies, politicians, and more, with a massive cast of characters it’s the sketch show to end them all. Endlessly quotable, always hilarious, and with a range and scope unseen in kids cartoons before or since, and of course featuring a superb cast of writers, animators, and voice talent the show flies along at a breakneck speed, never apologizes, and it’s clear that everyone involved must have been having the time of their lives.
5. Saving Private Ryan
A more action packed, yet introspective partner to Schindler’s List, this takes the simple story of a group of soldiers undertaking a single basic mission as a template to discuss the War at length, humanity, senseless violence, futility, honour, duty, and the value of a life. It’s the stellar cast and gripping set pieces which set this apart as one of the great war movies, with the harrowing landing scenes at the start, the light discussions between the men as they march from disaster to disaster, and the sudden intrusion of violence and brutality, and unfairness which ensure that the film will haunt you. The film not only forces you to question the purpose of war and how you would react under certain circumstances, but whether it is possible to move on as a survivor, as a species. The question remains unanswered.
4. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Maybe the best example of Spielberg’s ability to entertain, thrill, scare, to make you laugh all while telling a coherent engaging story with wonderful characters. If that wasn’t enough we get iconic scene after iconic scene, memorable one-liners, and those tiny Spielberg moments that few other directors would ever imagine. Add Harrison Ford, add Karen Allen, add a host of the most vile cartoon villains ever and you have yourself one of the best movies of the 80s.
3. Temple Of Doom
And yet I prefer Temple Of Doom. Obviously it isn’t the best of the series, but it’s the one I saw most growing up and the one I get most enjoyment from. I’d class most of the iconic scenes from this one as just as immense as those from Raiders – the minecart ride, the heart-ripping scene, the rope-bridge battle, and dinner scene – all have varying levels of obscenity, scares, laughs, and excitement and the cast hams it up to eleven. But where’s Dan Akroyd?
The one which nailed Spielberg to the map, becoming the biggest grossing film of all time and effectively creating the notion of a summer blockbuster. Once again it’s that mixture of an extremely talented cast giving their best performances to honour a simple story, all while Spielberg pokes and prods the audience for reactions and tries things no other director would dare. The fact that even today the film works when the effects are so bad is a testament to everyone involved, and to the director for holding it together.
1. Jurassic Park
If the likes of Hook and Empire Of The Sun showed that the director was possibly past crafting another mega hit, this one brought him roaring back into the limelight as a director. Coming hot on the heels of T2 as a special effects extravaganza the film succeeds on all fronts – the effects are still superior to many we see today, the story is again simple, yet based on a wonderful concept, the performances are each wonderful, those iconic moments are so iconic that I don’t need to mention them, Williams provides another epic score, and perhaps most important is the sense of awe and childlike wonder which was, and still is evoked. It’s this combination that each of the sequels have failed to re-ignite and while they are each watchable and exciting in their own right, they don’t come close to matching the joy this one gives.
Have I missed any of your favourite Spielberg films? There are plenty that I have not covered so let us know in the comments what you think his best work is!
It’s back! The series that opens the manhole cover of my mind to let my most fanatical followers get a glimpse of my truest loves, has returned. Please enjoy these exclusives!
21. Jaws. (1975, Spielberg): Everyone’s favourite film about sharks eating children, Jaws is undoubtedly timeless. Everyone has their favourite moment, and everyone has their favourite piece of dialogue. For such a momentous film, the dialogue is not something which gets a lot of respect, aside from the famous ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’. Much of the dialogue is delivered in such a way that it doesn’t sound scripted, which may be reason enough for why there aren’t many memorable one-liners. My personal favourite then will likely be a favourite of others, and due to its length, I won’t re-post it here; Quint’s Indianapolis speech is flawless – stunningly delivered, powerfully written, and the most chilling moment in the film, all the more so as it doesn’t really have a lot to do with the plot.
22. Assault on Precinct 13. (1976, Carpenter): It took quite some time for this film to get the recognition it deserves. Even after the recent John Carpenter resurgence, thanks to a raft of remakes (including one for this), Carpenter’s second film is still something of a cult gem. Brimming with pulp dialogue, the focus is most definitely on cool, on making a memorable impact with each word. Each character is almost defined entirely by their one-liners meaning that the almost mute father character fades into the background, but opposingly, the voiceless bad guys lack of speech makes them all the more menacing. The main group each have their moments, but the best bits go to one of the greatest anti-heroes of them all – Napoleon Wilson. Even his simple refrain ‘Got a smoke?’ becomes gold, but I’m especially partial to his ‘I was born out of time’ line. For such a tense film, Wells provides some brilliant comedy moment, particularly with his save-ass plan: ‘I got this plan. It’s called “Save Ass”. And the way it works is this – I slip outta one of these windows and I run like a bastard!’
23. Big Trouble in Little China. (1986, Carpenter): From one Carpenter classic to another, and from one anti-hero to another. Jack Burton is the 80s Napoleon Wilson, born out of time, always in the wrong place at the wrong time, always ready with a bullet and a quip. This movie has more quips than a stand-up comedian forced to make a deaf, dumb, and blind man laugh or be killed, whatever that means, and the dialogue comes thick, fast, and hammy. It also has a guy with the best/worst sunglasses ever (insert pic) but then again, it also has this (insert freak monster pic). While Wilson was born out of time, Burton was ‘born ready’ and has plenty of inspirational sayings like ‘it’s all in the reflexes’, whatever that means, but it’s when he is panicking that the real gold bubbles to the surface: ‘Tall guy, weird clothes. First you see him, then you don’t.
24. Jurassic Park. (1993, Spielberg): You would think a film about dinosaurs wouldn’t have all that much dialogue in it betwixt all the ROOARRGGHHs and SKKKEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAARRKs and chewing of flesh, but you’d be wrong. Jurassic Park contains several hundred words, and an all-round dialogue filled script, although clearly the focus was on the thunder lizards at release. This was one of the last old-school Spielberg romps and as such we can expect a particular eye for detail and script flourishes. Much of the dialogue does not feel rehearsed, seeming improvised instead, and most of the best moments fall on Jeff Goldblum’s leather clad shoulders. Actually, now that I think about it, this movie would have been so much better if the dinosaurs had had all the lines. Just imagine it from their perspective – Violently ripped from the eternal peace of extinction, a collection of dinosaurs must face off against a horde or white Americans, Santa Claus, and Samuel L Jackson. Classic moments include a husband and wife tag team of raptors attempting to snare a meal of snivelling kids to stave off starvation; a single, sexually tormented T-Rex must resort to eating from a toilet in order to survive; a spittysaurus tries to make friends with an obese man but instead tries to romance him in the back of a jeep. As for dialogue, I find myself shouting ‘Hold onto your butts’ at inappropriate, non-dinosaur related social events.
25. Leon. (1994, Besson): Luc Besson is a French guy who looked at Hollywood and thought ‘Hmm, ze films are not bon anymore, ze need some le garlic, le baguette, and le Johavich’ and lo, Leon was born. Besson already had made a decent career back in gay Paris with a string of hits, including the excellent Subway (which tells of Christoper Lambert’s immortal quest to find the perfect sandwich) and the breakthrough smash Nikita. Leon is an almost perfect movie, with career best performances from all the main stars. Gary Oldman is a baddie, Jean Reno is a baddie too, but because he’s nice and cuddly we’ll forgive him for being a cold-blooeded killer, and Natalie Portman is a little girl whose hateful parents are blasted into oblivion. It’s a thinking man’s action movie, which is unfortunate as thinking men do not typically watch action movies. The film has rightly earned a following over the years, and will soon be remade as ‘Cody’ starring Bieber as the lovable rapist/killer Cody, Emma Whatersface as Natalie Portman, and Ben Kingsly as Baddie, the bad man who wants revenge on Bieber for being the little freak that he is. I’ll let young Miss Portman get the final say here, with a child’s apt view of revenge: ‘Forget? After I’ve seen the outline of my brother’s body on the floor, you expect me to forget? I wanna kill those sons of bitches, and blow their fucking heads off!’
26. Commando. (1985, Lester): Growing up in the 80s and 90s was a wonderful time for movie geeks and those who lurk in everyday water-cooler conversations, waiting for the perfect moment to inexplicably drop a one-liner from a movie no-one else involved in the conversation has seen. If you grew up in the 80s you are action an action movie fan, or a woman. And for action movie fans who love to mix up their mundane daily speech routines with some spicy zingers, you need look no further than any Arnie movie. Commando is probably the most genuine cult movie of his repertoire, as most of his other films from that era are no regarded as classics or worse than drunken sex in a toilet with what you assumed to be a superstar but turned out to be a mushed collection of soiled bog roll. Camp characters with names better than Biceps McTouchem and Napoleon Bonerhard, approximately 14 thousand on screens kills, (and a zinger for each), actors and actresses with either past or future soft-core porn careers, guns, knifes, bombs, and the single greatest ‘preparing for war’ moment in movie history, Commando could be a contender for best movie ever. Roll a few of these around your laughing gear – ‘I eat Green Beret’s for breakfast’, ‘He’s dead tired’, ‘I lied’, ‘Let off some steam, Bennett’, ‘Wrong!’, ‘I’m not going to shoot you between the eyes, I’m going to shoot you between the balls’, and my personal favourite – ‘Fuck you, asshole….Fuck YOU, asshole!’
27. Beauty And The Beast. (1991, Trousdale, Wise): I was an ugly child. I am an ugly man. It is no wonder that this is one of my favourite movies ever, as it speaks to the beautiful, tortured romantic inside me, and the hairy, fanged creature on the outside. Actually, that’s not true, I was a cute kid, and I’m currently sexier than Liz Vicious wrestling with Ivana Fukalot in a giant tub of Hoi Sin sauce (which needs to be a scene in the next Bond movie. Or else). I was, and still am to an extent, a socially awkward buffoon who resorted to fantasy, movies, books, games, music, writing, anything that would shatter the reality of me being a hopeless-with-women bloke. Like all kids I liked a good Disney animation, but it wasn’t until I saw Beauty And The Beast that I truly appreciated the art, and uncovered the truth and cliché that sometimes the underdog can find love – you just need to kidnap a woman and/or her father to get it. Unfortunately, ladies, countless rewatches has turned me into a weirdo as I hold Belle up as the most perfect figure of womanhood who ever had life breathed into her, and you just can’t live up to her. Contemplate that before sending me a sexy Private Message. As for lovely dialogue, hows about the one that most frequently slips from my lips as I hide outside toilets – ‘Zut Alors! She has emerged!’
28. Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s dead. (1991, Herek): If you know anything worth knowing (and the fact that you’re reading this tells me that, sadly, you don’t), you’ll know that 1991 messers Cobain,Grohl, and Novelisc made a wee album called Nevermind, which is named by man as single-handedly putting the 80s to bed, and gently placing a pillow over its face. Music was changed forever, almost overnight it now seems. Movies changed too, but at a more leisurely pace, and in 1991 we got one of the last great cheesy rock movies. The touch of Geffin is all over it, reeking of MTV, 80s cool, and a mix of heavy metal, cock, rock, and cheese. I loved this at the time, but it wasn’t until much later when I revisited it again, and realised what a great script it has, filled with unexpectedly strong humour, one-liners, and satirical twists on The American Dream. So, as much as I like to say ‘The dishes are DONE!’ after cleaning up, and shouting about the ‘buttcrack of dawn’ when I get up, and although Kenny gets the best lines, my favourite line, and joke, in the movie is ”No, I’ve never been to Santa Barbara’.
29. Night of the Living Dead. (1968, Romero): The original modern indie, made by a bunch of amateurs, friends, and family, and going on to being one of the most well-renowned horror movies ever made. The strength of the dialogue is in its realism – everyone is on guard, everyone is constantly in a panic, nobody trusts anyone, and the words coming out of mouths are exactly what I would expect people to say in such a dire situation. I love that it is so cold and, like this article, contains zero humour. Although there are few typical one-liners aside from the obvious ‘Hey Barbara, I’m gonna get ye!’ you would be hard pushed to find a stronger realistic script in the decade. We have to go to the Sheriff to get my favourite lines, classics such as ‘They’re dead, they’re all messed up’ and ‘Beat ’em or burn ’em, they go up pretty easy’.
30. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (1984, Spielberg): Until Spielberg and Lucas decide to resurrect Dr Jones in the ill-fated ‘Indiana Jones and the Magical Fridge’ (alternative title – Indiana Jones and the load of shite), Temple Of Doom was the least liked in the series. Naturally, this means it has always been my favourite. Sure Raiders has melting Nazis and Crusade has….I can’t remember, but Doom has Short-Round, cliffhanging fights, rope-bridge stand-offs, booby traps, Donkey Kong inspiring races, lava pits, blood drinking, heart-ripping – everything that every kids movie should have. As someone who loved those type of Haggard/Doyle/Verne/Burroughs movies which always featured sinking sand, giant spiders, and always ended with a volcano erupting, this was the epitome. It was a fantasy, but set in a realistic world. It was just real enough to make me think that some wacky priest could crawl out of my toilet and whisk me away to some underground slave trade, but thanks to short-round made me think that I could probably beat my way through thousands of baddies and get home safe. My most quoted line – especially when I run out of ANYTHING? ‘No more parachutes!’
Please share your pearls of wise-assdom in the comments!
As a fan of the more extreme side of cinema, I ask you to join me, as I explore the history of Cinema's most extreme movies with all the sex, violence and symbolism intact. I'm here to reflect on the extreme movies that have come and gone to see what they mean, see what makes them so extreme, and of course, see if they're any good.