It has been revealed this week that world-renowned and legendary film director, Mr Steven Spielberg is the first film director to have grossed over $10billion across his career, easily beating the likes of James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Michael Bay by nearly $4billion.
In honour of this tremendous feat, we take a look back at the filmmaker’s career and the films which have placed him at the top spot.
Some will be surprised to know that the blockbuster that many of us have come to love and/or hate was in fact invented, unwittingly, by Spielberg.
The 1970s aquatic thriller, Jaws, was the first movie in history to gross over $100 million at the box office, which may not seem that much in the current movie market, but adjusted for inflation, the film’s earnings total almost $2billion.
It was the highest grossing movie ever made until Star Wars came along and is widely perceived to be the first ever blockbuster. It is a film that has also withstood the test of time, and is still thrilling audiences today due to its timelessness and wide appeal. It has become an absolute classic of cinema and is probably when people realised that Spielberg meant serious business.
Probably the biggest blockbuster franchise to come from Spielberg is the adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel, Jurassic Park. This film was a huge success and continues to be so, with the fifth instalment released in June 2018. Fans can’t get enough of the intense action and thrilling dinosaur scenes, and the ground-breaking technology used in bringing the dinosaurs to life.
A FAMILY FAVOURITE
Much of Spielberg’s success and many of his film credits can be attributed to family-friendly favourites. A true master of creating on-screen magic and adventure, his films are the cultural backdrop to the childhoods of many.
Firstly we have Indiana Jones, a fantastic adventure film franchise (until the 4th one at least, but let’s not talk about that one) which introduced the world to one of cinema’s most iconic characters.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is widely considered up there as one of the best films ever made thanks to its complete originality, fantastical set pieces and fun action that it offers. With Harrison Ford also being one of the most bankable stars of the time, it was a sure success – and teaming up with George Lucas added a touch of magic to make it the start of one of the most beloved series of movies ever made.
One of Spielberg’s most culturally renowned and iconic films has to be E.T., a film about a little boy who befriends an extra-terrestrial whilst helping him find his way back to his home planet. A staple in almost everyone’s childhood and a constant reference point for pop culture even today, over 30 years after its release, it is full of fun and magical moments that never fail to fill everyone’s bellies with that warm and fuzzy feeling.
The imagery of E.T. lives on in our daily lives more than we may know, with Spielberg’s own production company, Amblin Entertainment, using the famous bicycle-in-front-of-the-moon silhouette as its company logo. However, it is in fact named after his first commercially released film, Amblin’, a short independent film. It was presented to Universal in 1968 by Spielberg and in turn won him many more directorial roles with the studio, making him the youngest director ever signed to a long-term deal.
Amblin Entertainment is now a subsidiary of Universal and has continued to helm many of Spielberg’s own movies together with other family favourites such as The Little Rascals, the Men in Black trilogy, and the more recent Jurassic Park sequels.
Amongst these huge pieces of cinematic history, Spielberg also brought us childhood favourites including Hook, The Adventures of Tintin, and The BFG.
Where many of Spielberg’s most memorable films have been the big, family friendly blockbusters, Spielberg does not shy away from taking on more complex projects. Some of his most critically acclaimed works are the films more suitable for a more mature audience, often focusing on a certain point in history – these include Schindler’s List, Lincoln, and most recently, The Post.
The first of this type of film for Spielberg was the much-debated The Color Purple. Where many applauded it for its stark portrayal of race in America, others said it stereotyped black people and were not agreeable to the idea of a white man telling a black person’s story. Perhaps a mistake that was buried in the ignorance of the time, with it being released in 1985, many still praised it and its dark storyline. It clearly showed that Spielberg wasn’t just a big budget movie-maker, he was someone that could tell complex and hard-hitting stories that had a deeper purpose than just fun escapism. The Color Purple still managed huge success at the awards and Spielberg gained his first Academy Award for Best Director.
13 years later, Spielberg managed to combine his big budget clout with a harrowing war storyline to bring his magnum opus to screen, the incomparable Saving Private Ryan. It’s iconic opening scene of the troops landing on Omaha Beach is one of the most revered in cinema history, being an intense, harrowing and unrelenting half-hour introduction into the world of combat that doesn’t shy away from the violence and emotions involved.
This epic would come to influence many other war-themed big hitters such as Band of Brothers, Inglorious Basterds and Dunkirk, and also earned him his third and most recent Academy Award for Best Director (the second being for Schindler’s List).
MASTER OF ALL GENRES
Never one to be boxed in, Spielberg has managed to branch out across a variety of genres throughout his career. As well as being able to cover thrillers, family films, adventure, war epics, gritty dramas and crime capers, he also delved into the world of science-fiction, and unsurprisingly helmed some of the most lauded films of the genre in doing so.
Honourable picks from his sci-fi repertoire include films such as Minority Report, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and War of the Worlds. However, one of his best sci-fi films, and probably one of his most underrated, is A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, which tells the story of an android “child” who has been programmed to feel love. A film originally started by the legendary Stanley Kubrick, but was passed to Spielberg and completed following Kubrick’s death in 1999, it combined Kubrick’s unique vision and Spielberg’s usual warm sentimentality to create a film like no other. Many criticised this amalgamation of styles, but many believe it to be an underrated masterpiece that was misunderstood at the time of its release.
Spielberg’s most recent project, Ready Player One, is the film which has taken him over the $10 billion mark in terms of his film’s earnings. Though maybe overshadowed by a year of ridiculously successful blockbusters including Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player One was still praised by many as a film that has perfected the art of nostalgia. Here, Spielberg has combined all of his past experience in to one film to create something new for the technological age we live in today (it takes place mostly in a virtual world), drawing upon his family friendly adventures, top of the line special effects and his masterful skill with sci-fi.
KING OF HOLLYWOOD
Looking at his back catalogue, it is no surprise that Steven Spielberg has been the first director to reach the $10 billion mark. He has managed to cement his work into cinema history and popular culture like no other filmmaker, but is also able to delve into different areas, making him one of the more versatile directors around.
Now at the ripe age of 72, you’d be forgiven for thinking Spielberg would be starting to slow down – but he’s showing no signs of it just yet. He has numerous projects in the pipeline, one of those being the fifth instalment of Indiana Jones. So, it looks like we have lots more to enjoy yet from one of the best, most prolific directors of all time.
What’s your favourite Spielberg movie? Let us know in the comments!