"I dream for a living."

Steven Spielberg: A Life in Movies

A 21-year-old Steven Spielberg sets up a shot on his 1968 short film, Amblin’. Co-star Richard Levin can be seen (left) observing.
A 21-year-old Steven Spielberg sets up a shot on his 1968 short film, Amblin’. Co-star Richard Levin can be seen (left) observing.

1968

Steven Spielberg wrote and directed Amblin’, his first short film on 35mm, while still a college student. The film caught the eye of Universal Vice President Sidney Sheinberg, who would offer Spielberg a seven-year-contract with Universal Television. Spielberg likes to joke that he quit college so fast upon Sheinberg’s offer, he didn’t bother to clean out his locker.†

† He did finish his BA degree later in life for his parents, and to show his own children the importance of education.

THE 1970s

1970-1973

During his tenure as a Universal Television director, Spielberg helmed 11 projects of varying lengths, from the standard 30-minute episodic television fare (Rod Serling’s Night Gallery—Eyes and Make Me Laugh), Marcus Welby, M.D. (The Daredevil Gesture), The Psychiatrist (The Private World of Martin Dalton and Par for the Course), and Owen Marshall Counselor at Law (Eulogy for a Wide Receiver)—to near-feature length television tales including work for Columbo (Murder by the Book) and The Name of the Game (LA 2017)—to a trio of made-for-television movies including his breakthrough Duel, followed by Something Evil and Savage.

The 1971 telefilm Duel was released in theaters in international markets in 1972 and 1973, leading Spielberg out of television and into feature film direction.

A proud young filmmaker, opening his first feature-length movie, on his first time visiting Europe, seen here in Italy in 1972.
A proud young filmmaker, opening his first feature-length movie, on his first time visiting Europe, seen here in Italy in 1972.
While touring Europe with the theatrical edit of "Duel" in 1972, Spielberg had the good fortune to meet with Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, a self-professed admirer of the younger director's film.
2. “Just one last thing…” Spielberg and series star Peter Falk share a laugh on the set of the Columbo episode Murder by the Book.
“Just one last thing…” Spielberg and series star Peter Falk share a laugh on the set of the Columbo episode Murder by the Book.
Setting up a shot from inside one of the modified automobiles used in The Sugarland Express. The brand-new Panavision Panaflex camera, lightweight and much smaller compared to most standard 35mm cameras of the era was used to film the dynamic interior shots featured in the film.
Setting up a shot from inside one of the modified automobiles used in The Sugarland Express. The brand-new Panavision Panaflex camera, lightweight and much smaller compared to most standard 35mm cameras of the era, was used to film the dynamic interior shots featured in the film.
Portrait of a young artist, hard at work in the office.
Portrait of a young artist, hard at work in the office.
He directs, he writes, he produces, he runs the slate. Is there nothing the young Steven Spielberg could not do? On location in South Texas, March 1, 1973, for The Sugarland Express.
He directs, he writes, he produces, he runs the slate. Is there nothing the young Steven Spielberg could not do? On location in South Texas, March 1, 1973, for The Sugarland Express.

1974

Universal releases The Sugarland Express, Spielberg’s first feature film shot specifically for theatrical exhibition, in the Spring of 1974. Concerning the attempts of a young couple of two-bit criminals to get their baby back from foster care, Sugarland is a drama (with plenty moments of levity still) that exemplifies Spielberg’s innate and deft handling of performance, visuals and the complicated mechanics of production while still in his 20s. The film was produced by Richard Zanuck and David Brown and stars Academy Award-winner Goldie Hawn, William Atherton, Michael Sacks, and Ben Johnson. Writing about the film for The New Yorker, critic Pauline Kael proclaimed, “Steven Spielberg could be that rarity among directors, a born entertainer—perhaps a new generation's Howard Hawks. In terms of the pleasure that technical assurance gives an audience, [The Sugarland Express] is one of the most phenomenal debut films in the history of movies.”  Spielberg’s next feature would change everything.

Setting up a shot from the pre-release facility from which Lou Jean breaks Clovis free in the opening of The Sugarland Express
Setting up a shot from the pre-release facility from which Lou Jean breaks Clovis free in the opening of The Sugarland Express
On location in 1974, at sea off of Martha’s Vineyard, holding the cleverly and aptly modified slate for his breakthrough blockbuster, Jaws.
On location in 1974, at sea off of Martha’s Vineyard, holding the cleverly and aptly modified slate for his breakthrough blockbuster, Jaws.

1975

Working once again with producers Zanuck and Brown, Spielberg directs one of the most grueling location shoots in all of cinema history, but lands the big fish and brings back the motion picture Jaws. Based on the best-selling book from author Peter Benchley, the movie burst into theaters on June 20, 1975, and helped redefine what the term “blockbuster” meant as audiences lined up to see the thrilling adventure again and again. The “Summer of the Shark” (as Time magazine dubbed the must-see event movie) rocketed Jaws to breaking the $100 million mark in box-office receipts, making it the most successful movie to date. (It would go on to earn $471 million worldwide.) The movie also garners four Academy Award nominations including one for Best Picture, earning Oscars for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Music for John Williams’ instantly legendary score.

On location, discussing production details with producer Richard Zanuck. Producer David Brown can be seen directly over Spielberg’s right shoulder.
On location, discussing production details with producer Richard Zanuck. Producer David Brown can be seen directly over Spielberg’s right shoulder.
A man on a mission: Steven Spielberg proudly wears the crew t-shirt he had produced for Jaws.
A man on a mission: Steven Spielberg proudly wears the crew t-shirt he had produced for Jaws.
In Wyoming with the legendary French filmmaker Franćois Truffaut, whom Spielberg directed in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In Wyoming with the legendary French filmmaker Franćois Truffaut, whom Spielberg directed in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Discussing with composer John Williams the finer points of marrying the grand sights to the magnificent score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, during recording sessions for the film.
Discussing with composer John Williams the finer points of marrying the grand sights to the magnificent score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, during recording sessions for the film.

1977

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, written and directed by Steven Spielberg, touches down on December 14, 1977. The movie was a project Spielberg had conceived and was pitching to studios before Jaws, and is the first wholly original vision he’d bring to the feature film screen. It won Oscars for Best Cinematography for Vilmos Zsigmond and a special achievement Oscar for sound effects editing by Frank E. Warner. The movie was also nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Melinda Dillon), Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn, in his first collaboration with Spielberg), Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score (John Williams), and Best Director, Spielberg’s first such nomination by the Academy.

Spielberg sits alongside the camera, studying a scene playing out before him on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Spielberg sits alongside the camera, studying a scene playing out before him on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In consultation with his star, Richard Dreyfuss, playing Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In consultation with his star, Richard Dreyfuss, playing Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

1979

Following the one-two punch of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, two of the most successful movies of all time, Spielberg branched out to direct his first comedy feature, the madcap World War II farce 1941, released in theaters on December 14, 1979. Featuring a huge ensemble cast of young and well-seasoned character performers—including such disparate talents as John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Tim Matheson, Treat Williams, Nancy Allen, Eddie Deezen, Warren Oates, Christopher Lee and Toshirô Mifune—and bursting with verbal and visual sight gags and slapstick gleefully conceived by Spielberg and his young co-writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and executed by a top-shelf technical crew, 1941 is a movie of endless comic ideas and moments which earned itself a devoted fan following.

THE 1980s

1980

In what was then a largely unprecedented event, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was re-released in movie theaters on August 1, 1980 as The Special Edition. The new version of the movie included a recut by Spielberg and Michael Kahn, excising select scenes from the original 1977 edit, trimming or expanding moments, and also adding new scenes and sequences including a finale in which audiences follow Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) inside the Mothership. Spielberg further revised the movie in 1998 for a Collectors Edition, feeling the original 1977 was too rushed in post to make it to the November release date, and not being pleased with revealing the inside of the Mothership in this Special Edition edit.

The Satipo Trio makes beautiful music together in the Hovitos temple set on Raiders of the Lost Ark. L: the director, center, the dummy (essaying the role of dead Satipo) right, the actor, Alfred Molina (essaying the role of nearly dead Satipo).
The Satipo Trio makes beautiful music together in the Hovitos temple set on Raiders of the Lost Ark. L: the director, center, the dummy (essaying the role of dead Satipo) right, the actor, Alfred Molina (essaying the role of nearly dead Satipo).
Setting the shot in the temple of the Hovitos for the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Setting the shot in the temple of the Hovitos for the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
A huge location shoot is all about getting the tiny details right. Spielberg pre-plans his shot concepts using a miniature layout and a widescreen eyepiece for framing on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
A huge location shoot is all about getting the tiny details right. Spielberg pre-plans his shot concepts using a miniature layout and a widescreen eyepiece for framing on Raiders of the Lost Ark.

1981

Working for the first time with his close friend George Lucas, whose own star had likewise exploded in film with American Graffiti and Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark saw Spielberg and George looking back to the movies’ past in their loving homage to adventure serials of the 1930-1940s. From Lucas’s initial concept and in collaboration with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (Continental Divide), Spielberg would direct the now legendary movie that brought the name “Indiana Jones” into the zeitgeist, and further cemented Star Wars star Harrison Ford as the era’s greatest screen hero when it was released on June 12, 1981. Raiders of the Lost Ark would go on to spawn three further big-screen adventures from 1984-2008, plus the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-1993). A fifth Indiana Jones movie has been announced and is currently in development at this time.

The year also marked a very important milestone in Spielberg’s professional life as he set out a shingle for his independence as a filmmaker with the creation of Amblin Entertainment, the production company he co-created with Raiders producer Frank Marshall and associate Kathleen Kennedy. The three would go on to produce (and in Spielberg’s case, also direct) some of the most beloved entertainments of the era.

Film production in the heat of the desert is no picnic, but it’s important to stay cool, especially when shooting one of the hottest films ever made like Raiders.
Film production in the heat of the desert is no picnic, but it’s important to stay cool, especially when shooting one of the hottest films ever made like Raiders.
Hollywood’s reigning visionaries, George Lucas (L) and Steven Spielberg (R), crazy creative from the heat of the Tunisian desert shoot on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Hollywood’s reigning visionaries, George Lucas (L) and Steven Spielberg (R), crazy creative from the heat of the Tunisian desert shoot on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
George Lucas (L) and Steven Spielberg (R), in Hawaii with the Hovitos (or at least the fine talents who portrayed them), filming the opening adventure in Raiders. Smile for the camera, fellas!
George Lucas (L) and Steven Spielberg (R), in Hawaii with the Hovitos (or at least the fine talents who portrayed them), filming the opening adventure in Raiders. Smile for the camera, fellas!
An intimate collaboration of hearts and imaginations: Steven Spielberg directing the young Henry Thomas in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, one of the finest performances ever delivered by a child actor and a director known for drawing such work from new talents.
An intimate collaboration of hearts and imaginations: Steven Spielberg directing the young Henry Thomas in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, one of the finest performances ever delivered by a child actor and a director known for drawing such work from new talents.

1982

Dubbed “The Summer of Spielberg” by Time magazine, June of 1982 saw the one-two punch of the fantasies Poltergeist and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial open in theaters a mere week apart. Released on June 4, 1982, Poltergeist—conceived, co-written and produced by Spielberg, along with producer Frank Marshall—took the classic ghost story from Victorian mansions and into the suburbs as poltergeist manifestations haunt the hapless Freeling family. And while Poltergeist represented the dark side of Spielberg’s imagination, he’s said that E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial represented the light side of his dreams. E.T., released on June 11, 1982, tells the tender tale of a lonely young boy, Elliott, a child of divorce who finds friendship and connection with the most unlikely of beings—a lost extra-terrestrial abandoned on Earth. While Poltergeist gave audiences chills, special and visual effect thrills, and gruesomely fun gory grossouts, the gentle heart of E.T. struck a truly deep chord with audiences around the globe, making it the most financially successful movie in all of cinema history, with Spielberg eclipsing his own records with Raiders of the Lost Ark, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws in box office returns. Poltergeist was nominated for three Oscars, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was nominated for nine including for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing, winning for Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Effects Editing.

On location, guiding his cast and crew through production on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
On location, guiding his cast and crew through production on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
E.T. & Me. The boy who dreamed of an extra-terrestrial friend grows up to direct the sweetest of them all in one of the most beloved films of all-time.
E.T. & Me. The boy who dreamed of an extra-terrestrial friend grows up to direct the sweetest of them all in one of the most beloved films of all-time.
A publicity image of the director and his little lost alien, unaware at the time to the heights to which their film would soar with audiences around the world.
A publicity image of the director and his little lost alien, unaware at the time to the heights to which their film would soar with audiences around the world.
“You’ve gotta save him!” Spielberg (along with director of photography Allen Daviau) setting up a shot with actors playing NASA scientists in the make-shift medical lab at the end of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
“You’ve gotta save him!” Spielberg (along with director of photography Allen Daviau) setting up a shot with actors playing NASA scientists in the make-shift medical lab at the end of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

1984

Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford shot around the world—in Sri Lanka, Macau, the UK and the US—to bring Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to audiences on May 23, 1984. The movie, a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, was a great departure from the first picture, giving audiences a wholly original adventure that took Indy, new friends, allies and enemies, into the heart of darkness and the titular temple of an occult sect hellbent on obtaining power. Temple caused a bit of a stir with parents whose children found the movie too intense, and along with Amblin’s Gremlins† that summer, led to Spielberg suggesting to the MPAA that a PG-13 rating might be instituted to differentiate movies for older children, but not quite PG- or R-rated fare.

† Gremlins, which opened in theaters on June 8, 1984, directed by Joe Dante (Twilight Zone The Movie) and executive produced by Spielberg, marked the first Amblin Entertainment release to feature the production company’s logo: that of Elliott and E.T. flying across the moon on their bicycle. The logo is still used on Amblin releases to this day.

No one ever said filmmaking is for the fragile. Even the best of ‘em take their lumps and come back fighting. Spielberg with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom co-star Kate Capshaw.
No one ever said filmmaking is for the fragile. Even the best of ‘em take their lumps and come back fighting. Spielberg with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom co-star Kate Capshaw.

1985

While Spielberg worked hard in the early 1970s to move from television to feature filmmaking, he returned to the small screen in 1985 to bring that Amblin magic to the home audience each and every week with Amazing Stories. The series, an anthology show that offered new short tales featuring top acting and directing talents, premiered on NBC on September 29, 1985, with a story conceived and directed by Spielberg himself, Ghost Train. A second story in the first season, the special hour-long The Mission was also conceived and written by Spielberg. Other notable filmmakers on Amazing Stories included Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Joe Dante, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Danny DeVito, Bob Balaban, Burt Reynolds, Brad Bird, and Tobe Hooper.

Amazing Stories ran for two seasons from 1985-1987 (for 45 episodes). A revival of the show is currently in production by Amblin Television, to premiere on Apple’s upcoming streaming service.

Stepping far outside of his own self-confessed comfort zone as a filmmaker, Spielberg next tackled The Color Purple, an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice walker. The film was indeed a collaboration of the spirits as Walker, producer and composer Quincy Jones, and a powerful cast of actors including Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, Adolph Caesar and, in their feature film debuts, Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg came together with Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and their crew to create a now cherished story of the suffering and strength of African American women at the hands of abusive male relations and the larger society around them. The film opened in the States on December 22, 1985 and went on to receive 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Goldberg. Goldberg won a Golden Globe Award for her performance, while the film also received four other Globe nominations. Spielberg himself won the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures from the Directors Guild of America.

Spielberg also conceived of the story for the beloved kids’ adventure The Goonies, for a screenplay written by Chris Columbus (Gremlins) and directed by Richard Donner. The movie opened in theaters on June 7, 1985. The Goonies, along with that summer’s Back to the Future (executive produced by Spielberg), which opened roughly a month later on July 3, helped further the Amblin Entertainment brand with what’s now considered classic filmed entertainment in which both kids and adults could delight together.

Sharing laughs during a publicity shoot for Back to the Future, from L to R: co-writer/director Robert Zemeckis, actor Michael J. Fox, and executive producers Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall.
Sharing laughs during a publicity shoot for Back to the Future, from L to R: co-writer/director Robert Zemeckis, actor Michael J. Fox, and executive producers Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall.
Laughter leavens the weight of an emotionally difficult scene as Spielberg talks with his talented new star, Whoopi Goldberg.
Laughter leavens the weight of an emotionally difficult scene as Spielberg talks with his talented new star, Whoopi Goldberg.
Steven Spielberg not only notices the color purple in the fields, but he directs with it all around him.
Steven Spielberg not only notices the color purple in the fields, but he directs with it all around him.

1987

Continuing boldly along the new path laid by The Color Purple, Spielberg expanded his storytelling reach into purely dramatic fare with Empire of the Sun, based in part on author JG Ballard’s own life experience as a boy growing up and imprisoned in a Japanese encampment in occupied Shanghai during WWII. The film marked the first time a western production company was granted permission to film within the city of Shanghai, and also introduced the world to a deeply talented and intuitive acting talent in that of 12-year-old Christian Bale. Bale was joined by a sterling cast of international thespians including John Malkovich, Joe Pantoliano, Miranda Richardson, Leslie Phillips and Marsatô Ibu. The film was released in theaters on Christmas Day of 1987. With Bale, Empire, ostensibly about the shocking death of childhood as a boy is forced into adulthood in the most harrowing of circumstances, continued to showcase Spielberg’s extraordinary talent eliciting top-flight performances from young, often untested actors. Regarding Spielberg’s own growth as a filmmaker, he has said that films including Empire of the Sun and The Color Purple led to his feeling he had the tools and insights within himself to direct and produce Schindler’s List (1993) six years after Empire of the Sun.

On location shooting Empire of the Sun, proudly wearing a crew hat for the film while he creates it.
On location shooting Empire of the Sun, proudly wearing a crew hat for the film while he creates it.

1989

Audiences anticipating another Indy adventure following Temple of Doom had to wait a grueling five years until the man with the hat returned for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, released on May 24, 1989. The movie further expanded upon and deepened audiences’ understanding of the Indiana Jones character by introducing a young Indy—played by River Phoenix—and Indy’s father Henry Jones, Sr., played by screen legend Sean Connery.

Spielberg wanted to adapt the 1943 Victor Fleming movie, A Guy Named Joe, for decades, after first seeing it on television as a young boy. His adaptation, Always, is a fantasy love story about a rescue pilot who learns to let go of the love he left behind after an untimely death. The film was in development with Spielberg since 1980, finally flying into theaters on December 22, 1989. The movie stars the winning triumvirate of Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter and John Goodman, and features the final screen performance of cinema legend Audrey Hepburn as Hap, who is, naturally, an angel.

Working out the ins-and-outs of a key action setpiece with his Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade stars Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.
Working out the ins-and-outs of a key action setpiece with his Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade stars Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.

THE 1990s

Spielberg on location sitting with the ailing triceratops, a truly astounding creation brought to screen life by the magicians at Stan Winston’s studio. The poor girl should’ve eaten from the craft services table, alas.
Spielberg on location sitting with the ailing triceratops, a truly astounding creation brought to screen life by the magicians at Stan Winston’s studio. The poor girl should’ve eaten from the craft services table, alas.

1991

Between the releases of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the press took to calling Spielberg a grown “Peter Pan,” that playful spirit who never truly grew up. But in 1991’s Hook, the clever conceit for the movie posed the question, “What if Peter Pan grew up?” Starring Robin Williams as Peter Banning/Pan, Dustin Hoffman and Bob Hoskins as a daffy and dastardly Captain Hook and his sidekick Smee, and Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell, December 11, 1991.

1993

Universal optioned Michael Crichton’s 1990 sci-fi novel Jurassic Park as a property for Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment to develop as a feature film. The sci-fi adventure, about an industrialist genetically engineering prehistoric creatures to populate an island theme park attraction, would prove not only to be a thrilling time at the movies, but a revolution in visual effects that would help lead cinema into the digital age of computer generated imagery with its photorealistic dinosaurs. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough, Jurassic Park was an instant box office sensation, dethroning Spielberg’s own E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial as cinema’s biggest money maker of all time. Considered by many to be Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, Schindler’s List, reignited remembrance and reflection on the events of the Shoah, the Holocaust of World War II. Based on the narrativized true-life novel by Thomas Keneally, the film, about a war profiteer industrialist in occupied Poland who winds up saving his Jewish workforce from the murderous  Nazi machine, stars Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes. Along with inspiring an international dialogue on the Holocaust, the film also made critics sit up and take notice of a Spielberg they’d never seen make a film quite like Schindler’s List—both stylistically and with its intent. It was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, for which it won Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and for the first time in his lauded career, a Best Director Oscar for Steven Spielberg. Most important to Spielberg, his experiences shooting the film and meeting with Holocaust survivors inspired him to create the Survivors of the Shoah Foundation, an audio-visual archive which houses over 55,000 recorded testimonials of victims of genocide that gives voice to survivors in the hopes we may never again forget.

The director sits at the feet of what appears to be a 20-foot turkey, the T. rex that would terrify audiences around the globe in the Summer of 1993.
The director sits at the feet of what appears to be a 20-foot turkey, the T. rex that would terrify audiences around the globe in the Summer of 1993.
Framing a shot on the face of conscience in Schindler’s List, Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern.
Framing a shot on the face of conscience in Schindler’s List, Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern.
Riding the rig on set for Jurassic Park.
Riding the rig on set for Jurassic Park.
Posing with his trio of actors at the heart of the struggle in Schindler’s List, (L to R) Ralph Fiennes, Sir Ben Kingsley, Spielberg and Liam Neeson. Spielberg holds a bound edition of the screenplay in hand.
Posing with his trio of actors at the heart of the struggle in Schindler’s List, (L to R) Ralph Fiennes, Sir Ben Kingsley, Spielberg and Liam Neeson. Spielberg holds a bound edition of the screenplay in hand.

1994

After two decades of working for the majority of the film studios in the industry, and over a decade after forming his own production company, Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg joins together with moguls Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen to found DreamWorks SKG, the first full-fledged movie studio to be founded since the Golden Age of Hollywood. The studio quickly found success with its broad roster of films—both live action under the DreamWorks Pictures label and animation under the DreamWorks Animation label. Between 1999 and 2001, DreamWorks films earned three consecutive Academy Awards for Best Picture for American Beauty, Gladiator, and A Beautiful Mind. DreamWorks Animation was spun off as a publicly traded animation company and DreamWorks Pictures has been incorporated as a label under Amblin Partners for our feature films made for more mature audiences.

Partners in the Dream: Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen, in a posed photo at the Hollywood Canteen, shot for Vanity Fair’s April 1995 issue.
Partners in the Dream: Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen, in a posed photo at the Hollywood Canteen, shot for Vanity Fair’s April 1995 issue.
Spielberg sits next to the storyboard for the opening sequence in The Lost World Jurassic Park, his 1997 sequel to the monster hit Jurassic Park.
Spielberg sits next to the storyboard for the opening sequence in The Lost World Jurassic Park, his 1997 sequel to the monster hit Jurassic Park.

1997

It had been four years since Steven Spielberg directed a feature after Schindler’s List, and while he certainly wasn’t resting on his laurels, what with founding the Shoah Foundation and a new film studio, yet it was Universal’s wish that Spielberg produce a sequel to the most successful movie of all time—Jurassic Park—which would get him back in the director’s chair. The Lost World Jurassic Park extended the mythology of Michael Crichton’s original story by sending Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to a mysterious second island on a rescue mission to save his girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore) from more of John Hammond’s genetic creations, dinosaurs on the loose following the site’s destruction by a hurricane. Amistad, based on an episode in American history not well-known before the film’s release, that of the legal battle in American courts over African captives that rose up against their Spanish captors that intended to sell them into slavery. When the ship arrives off the coast of Long Island, the Africans are caught in a legal battle between Spain and multiple factions in the United States including President Martin Van Buren and John Quincy Adams. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Pete Postlethwaite, Matthew McConaughey, and newcomer Djimon Honsou, Amistad, much like Schindler’s List, was released in December after the release of a Jurassic Park film the same summer, exemplify once more Spielberg’s range as an artist. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Hopkins, along with Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Score.

Steven Spielberg commands his troop of performers and crew members through the grueling duty of recreating the Normandy invasion.
Steven Spielberg, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Tom Sizemore and Tom Hanks filming the taking of the Nazi "pillbox" positioned above the Normandy beach.

1998

Saving Private Ryan is released on July 24, 1998, and like Schindler’s List five years before, it inspired an international dialogue about the sacrifices and often formerly unspeakable suffering veterans of World War II faced on the battlefields of the European Theater, specifically the landing on Omaha Beach. The now legendary first-act recreation of that harrowing battle brought to the screen for the first time (according to veterans) as realistic a depiction as had ever been committed to film. Starring Tom Hanks (in his first performance in a film directed by Spielberg), and a large ensemble cast including Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel, and Matt Damon (as the titular Private Ryan), the heart of the film is about a mission to extract the only surviving son of a family who lost all of their other sons to the ravages of the war. The film was a critical, cultural and box office hit, and was honored with 11 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, winning five Oscars for Best Director for Spielberg, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.

The director confers with his cast after taking Normandy by sea.
Directing Private Ryan (Matt Damon) on the fully constructed city of Ramelle (a fictitious location), the site of the final battle in the film.
Directing Private Ryan (Matt Damon) on the fully constructed city of Ramelle (a fictitious location), the site of the final battle in the film.

THE 2000s

2001

Before the esteemed director’s untimely passing in 1999, Stanley Kubrick had made an entreaty to his friend Steven Spielberg to consider taking on a long-gestating project, A.I. Artificial Intelligence. The story, about a mecha (robot) boy on a quest to become a real boy so that he could win the love of a human mother after she abandons him. Based on the Brian Aldiss short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long, Kubrick had been developing the project for some time when he suggested that Spielberg would be much stronger eliciting a performance from a child actor in the central role of the mecha boy, as well as the volume of special and visual effects such a film would need. Rather than let his friend’s wishes for the A.I. fade away after Kubrick’s passing, he, Kubrick’s widow Christiane, and brother-in-law Jan Harlan collaborated with Amblin Entertainment and DreamWorks Pictures to bring a unique collaboration between Kubrick and Spielberg (working as writer, director and producer) to the screen on June 29, 2001. Starring Haley Joel Osment as David, the mecha boy, Jude Law, William Hurt and Frances O’Connor, A.I. marked Spielberg’s first science fiction film set in the future. Its stunning visual effects were nominated for an Academy Award, along with John Williams’ score, while the score, Jude Law’s Supporting Performance as Gigolo Joe and Steven Spielberg’s direction were all nominated for Golden Globes.

A young Haley Joel Osment, who plays the robot boy David, listens intently to his director’s ideas in production on A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
A young Haley Joel Osment, who plays the robot boy David, listens intently to his director’s ideas in production on A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

2002

Following his futuristic sci-fi debut in A.I., Spielberg’s next film remained in a speculative tomorrow world with Minority Report, an adaptation of a short story by noted science fiction author Philip K. Dick. In Minority Report, Tom Cruise stars as a detective working for Precrime, a government organization utilizing precognitive siblings with the power to foresee violent future crimes in order to stop them before they occur. Featuring a paradoxical ethical debate at the center of a murder-mystery adorned with what in 2002 seemed outré technologies and debates over privacy that now seem positively predictive across the decades following the film, Minority Report is that rare science fiction film both action-packed and with something deeper on its mind. Costarring with Cruise are Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton and Max Von Sydow, the film engaged audiences, critics and box office attendance alike.

 Catch Me If You Can re-teamed Spielberg and Tom Hanks, along with Leonardo Di Caprio, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen and a new young actress named Amy Adams, to take audiences back to the 1960s and the real-life story of a teenaged swindler named Frank Abagnale, Jr. who kited over $2.8 million in forged checks while posing as an airline pilot, doctor, lawyer, and other guises to live the high life after running away from a broken home. The film is breezy fun in its recreation of the era, yet has a tender, pained heart beneath all the fun, making for a highly entertaining, often comedic caper with tenderness at its center, Catch Me If You Can caught on with audiences during the holiday season (it was released on Christmas Day), making the film the second of a one-two box office punch for Spielberg in 2002.

Scoping out a shot of a potentially ill-fated affair in Minority Report with director of photography Janusz Kaminski.
Scoping out a shot of a potentially ill-fated affair in Minority Report with director of photography Janusz Kaminski.
In discussion with Minority Report actors Max Von Sydow and Tom Cruise.
In discussion with Minority Report actors Max Von Sydow and Tom Cruise.

2004

It’s been said, both by critics, and also addressed by the filmmaker himself, that the events of 9/11 and subsequent sea changes in American politics and the nation itself lead Spielberg to reflect through his films on the state of the United States, and with the 2004 film The Terminal, Spielberg began to question and ask questions of us all about where we were headed. Concerning a foreigner, Viktor Navorski (played by Tom Hanks) traveling to New York City on a mission of love, only to find himself trapped for months within the John F. Kennedy Airport by the newly formed Transportation Security Agency’s unbending and illogical rules and red tape (in the name of protecting the homeland), The Terminal is both a satire of reactionary bureaucracy that fails to protect the humanity it claims to protect and a light, romantic comedy at once, a melding of Capra and Sturges parable of a man stuck in a sleek and soulless threshold to what has long been called “the land of the free.” Co-starring with Hanks are Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Zoë Saldana, Kumar Pallana and Barry Shabaka Henley in a sweet yet slightly sorrowful and deeply humanistic story of the importance of community and the bonds we have no matter where our original points of departure may lie.

Shooting in an astonishingly realistic, recreated airport set for The Terminal, Spielberg works on a scene in a fully-stocked bookstore where Viktor Navorski finds information about America.
Shooting in an astonishingly realistic, recreated airport set for The Terminal, Spielberg works on a scene in a fully-stocked bookstore where Viktor Navorski finds information about America.

2005

While 2004’s The Terminal had a view of current events through a critical yet still hopeful lens of satire, 2005’s War of the Worlds and Munich brought us views of Spielberg’s deepening frustration and anger with a post-9/11 world, using science fiction and historical events to resonate with reality in both the narratives. War of the Worlds is a contemporary, American retelling of H.G. Wells’ famous thriller about Martians descending (or in the case of Spielberg’s film, ascending buried sleep cells) on Earth to harvest its inhabitants to terraform the planet to their needs. Starring Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto and Dakota Fanning, the extraterrestrial attack serves as a corollary to the attacks on 9/11 and the ongoing “War on Terror” being waged by the current administration in D.C.

In Munich, Spielberg collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner and Eric Roth to recreate the 1972 kidnapping and murder of Israeli Olympians by the Palestine Liberation Army, and the secret reprisals by Mossad agents to the brutal deaths of their countrymen. The film is at once a thrilling espionage story, another historical drama in Spielberg’s growing body of such works, an immediate and pertinent (to a post-9/11 world) political statement fraught with tensions, and controversially, an even-handed questioning (itself in the Jewish tradition, as its characters point out) of the nature of political terrorism and reprisals. More simply put, Spielberg has called the film “a prayer for peace.” Munich was nominated for five Academy Awards including for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing.

Spielberg, known for his intuitive direction of child actors, doesn’t talk down to them, but meets them on their terms. Here, he talks with Dakota Fanning about a particularly emotional scene in War of the Worlds.
Spielberg, known for his intuitive direction of child actors, doesn’t talk down to them, but meets them on their terms. Here, he talks with Dakota Fanning about a particularly emotional scene in War of the Worlds.
Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise as Rachel and Ray Ferrier, taking shelter from the strange storms outside as their director takes them through the paces.
Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise as Rachel and Ray Ferrier, taking shelter from the strange storms outside as their director takes them through the paces.
Eric Bana, who plays Mossad agent Avner Kaufman, chats with Spielberg on the set of Munich.
Eric Bana, who plays Mossad agent Avner Kaufman, chats with Spielberg on the set of Munich.

2008

Fans of Indiana Jones long feared they’d seen the last of the most famous archeologist-adventurer when he round off into the sunset nearly two decades previous, but the near-impossible happened when Indy (Harrison Ford) returned to the big screen on May 22, 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. While the original three films were set in the 1930s, Crystal Skull reintroduces us to an older, wiser, world-weary Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. in the 1950s, set on a rescue mission to save former love Marion Ravenwood (with a returning Karen Allen from Raiders of the Lost Ark), mentor Harold Oxley (John Hurt), and a fabled artifact of potentially unearthly origin. Rounding out the cast are Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. The new adventure was a critical hit, along with a box office smash around the globe, Spielberg’s most successful film in the aughts and (unadjusted for inflation) his third highest grossing film of all-time. A fifth Indiana Jones adventure is currently in development.

Two classics in a classic 1932 Ford Roadster: Steven Spielberg in the driver’s seat with his executive producer George Lucas as his copilot.
Two classics in a classic 1932 Ford Roadster: Steven Spielberg in the driver’s seat with his executive producer George Lucas as his copilot.

THE 2010s

The director marshals his cast and crew on the recreated Somme location for War Horse.
The director marshals his cast and crew on the recreated Somme location for War Horse.

2011

Steven Spielberg discovered Belgium artist Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin in the summer of 1981 when numerous European critics would compare the exploits in Raiders of the Lost Ark with that of Hergé’s boy journalist’s adventures. He immediately saw the potential of the Tintin folios for adaptation into a live-action film. After years of development, Spielberg and Amblin set the project aside, only to resurrect it nearly three decades later in collaboration with filmmaker Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings). Together the two filmmakers—with Spielberg directing and Jackson producing—brought Tintin to the International screen using state-of-the-art performance capture and 3D imagery developed and perfected by Jackson’s wizards at WETA Digital. Starring Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Toby Jones, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, and adapted by writers Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, The Adventures of Tintin marks Spielberg’s first animated feature film as a director. The film was released on December 21, 2011. Enchanted by Michael Morpurgo’s book War Horse, and the staged version of Morpurgo’s moving WWI drama about the bonds of a horse, Joey, and Albert Narracott, an English country boy who raises Joey before both are separated and sent into the ravages of battle in the war. War Horse stars newcomer Jeremy Irvine, up-and-coming talents Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, and seasoned performers including Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis and Emily Watson. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including nods for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score. It was released on December 25, 2011, a mere four days after The Adventures of Tintin, giving family audiences a double-feature in cinemas that holiday season.

If war is hell, recreating the misery of one of the harrowing battlefronts in history couldn’t possibly be roses. Spielberg, his cast and crew, are put through their paces approximating battle in WWI for War Horse.
If war is hell, recreating the misery of one of the harrowing battlefronts in history couldn’t possibly be roses. Spielberg, his cast and crew, are put through their paces approximating battle in WWI for War Horse.
The transformative actor Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits the person of Abraham Lincoln for the film about the great President. Spielberg has said he missed working with Mr. Lincoln once the film wrapped.
The transformative actor Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits the person of Abraham Lincoln for the film about the great President. Spielberg has said he missed working with Mr. Lincoln once the film wrapped.

2012

Lincoln, a historical drama that focuses specifically on the years in which President Abraham Lincoln and his country are embroiled in the Civil War, sees Spielberg collaborating once more with Munich screenwriter Tony Kushner and directing an uncanny and Oscar-winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th President of the United States. Joining Day-Lewis is an ensemble cast with Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones, David Straithairn, James Spader, and Hal Holbrook. The film was both a critical and commercial success at the box office, garnering 12 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Picture, Best Supporting Roles for Field and Jones, and the aforementioned win for Day-Lewis. It’s deeply researched and beautiful recreated period design was also honored with an Oscar for Best Production Design for longtime Spielberg collaborator Rick Carter and his crew.

The gentleman from Arizona expresses his vision from the gallery of the Senate in Lincoln.
The gentleman from Arizona expresses his vision from the gallery of the Senate in Lincoln.
On the set of Lincoln.
On the set of Lincoln.
Walking through a snow-swept, miserably cold recreation of a divided Germany in Bridge of Spies.
Walking through a snow-swept, miserably cold recreation of a divided Germany in Bridge of Spies.

2015

Bridge of Spies came to Spielberg as a pitch by writer Matt Charman, and its story, set in the Cold War between the States and the USSR in 1957, struck a personal chord with the director who has recalled how his father Arnold traveled to Russia on business and viewed the downed U-2 spy plane at the crux of the real-life and screen story Spies. After deciding it was his next film to direct, Spielberg brought in the Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen to rewrite Charman’s original script. Tom Hanks was signed to play James B. Donovan, a lawyer who helps broker the exchange of American serviceman Gary Powers (pilot of the down U-2 plane) for his client Rudolf Abel (played in the film in an Oscar-winning supporting performance by Mark Rylance), an embedded Soviet spy caught by the FBI and on trial in New York City. Bridge of Spies added another chapter to Spielberg’s films on historical events retold through film. It was honored with six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Score, the latter composed by Thomas Newman, marking Spielberg’s first time working with a composer other than John Williams since 1985’s The Color Purple.

Spielberg takes the long view of our histories forgotten in films such as Bridge of Spies
Spielberg takes the long view of our histories forgotten in films such as Bridge of Spies

2016

The BFG, an adaptation of the beloved 1982 children’s book by Roald Dahl, found Spielberg back in the gentle fantasy world of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, but where E.T. brought the imaginative to a realistic suburban setting, The BFG is a delight of storybook high fantasy. Starring Oscar-winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) as The BFG, and newcomer Ruby Barnhill as the lonely young orphan girl Sophie, along with a supporting cast of human beans (Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall), and a band of fizzwiggling giants (including Jemaine Clement and Bill Hader), the movie is a razztwizzler of a time for kids of all ages. The BFG was written by and dedicated to Melissa Mathison, writer of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, who passed before the movie’s release on July 1, 2016.

Like two kids in a Wonkaesque candy shop, the dreamweavers Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski get ready to slate a truly big vision in The BFG.
Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski train their lenses on another important chapter of American history in The Post.
Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski train their lenses on another important chapter of American history in The Post.

2017

While in the middle of preparing for the highly technical marvels of Ready Player One (2018), Spielberg quickly mounted and delivered The Post, about the Nixon-era revelations of The Pentagon Papers, and how the nation’s first female daily newspaper publisher and her legendary editor fought to expose a cover-up contained within said documents. Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and an ensemble cast of some of the finest actors working today including Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Carrie Coon, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood—The Post was nominated as Best Motion Picture of the Year by the Academy Awards, along with Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (by first-time feature screenwriter Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (First Man), Best Performance nominations for Streep and Hanks, and Best Original Score. The film opened in select cities on December 22, 2017 before going wide on January 12, 2018.

Discussing a shot with actor Tom Hanks, as legendary news editor Ben Bradlee, in The Post.
Discussing a shot with actor Tom Hanks, as legendary news editor Ben Bradlee, in The Post.

2018

Based on the best-selling sci-fi/fantasy novel by first-time novelist Ernest Cline, Spielberg adapts Ready Player One, a joyful celebration of video gaming, movies, and other pop culture ephemera of the 1980s and this modern era of “geekdom.” The film, released on March 29, 2018, was adapted from his novel by Cline and screenwriter Zak Penn, stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, and once more, Mark Rylance, all in both live-action and motion capture performances. Ready Player One is a wonder of playful futurism fighting oppression, with innovative visual effects work by Industrial Light & Magic and a collective of other VFX houses.

Spielberg describes a scene to his large cast of players in the offices of the OASIS Oologists in Ready Player One.
Spielberg describes a scene to his large cast of players in the offices of the OASIS Oologists in Ready Player One.
Talking with his young cast in the exciting adventure, Ready Player One. On location with Spielberg, Tye Sheridan and Lena Waithe.
Talking with his young cast in the exciting adventure, Ready Player One. On location with Spielberg, Tye Sheridan and Lena Waithe.
Talking Ben Mendelsohn as Sorrento through what he’s seeing in the OASIS as the scene observes from the real world in Ready Player One
Talking Ben Mendelsohn as Sorrento through what he’s seeing in the OASIS as the scene observes from the real world in Ready Player One

2019

West Side Story cast announced in January (following the casting of Ansel Elgort as Tony and the participation of the 1961 film version’s Rita Moreno at the end of 2018), including Broadway veterans Ariana DeBose and David Alvarez, Josh Andrés Rivera and newcomer Rachel Zegler, a talented singer and actor still in high school when she landed the role of Maria. Production is set to commence in the Summer of 2019.

A 21-year-old Steven Spielberg sets up a shot on his 1968 short film, Amblin’. Co-star Richard Levin can be seen (left) observing.
A 21-year-old Steven Spielberg sets up a shot on his 1968 short film, Amblin’. Co-star Richard Levin can be seen (left) observing.

THE 1970s

2. “Just one last thing…” Spielberg and series star Peter Falk share a laugh on the set of the Columbo episode Murder by the Book.
“Just one last thing…” Spielberg and series star Peter Falk share a laugh on the set of the Columbo episode Murder by the Book.
Portrait of a young artist, hard at work in the office.
Portrait of a young artist, hard at work in the office.

1974

Universal releases The Sugarland Express, Spielberg’s first feature film shot specifically for theatrical exhibition, in the Spring of 1974. Concerning the attempts of a young couple of two-bit criminals to get their baby back from foster care, Sugarland is a drama (with plenty moments of levity still) that exemplifies Spielberg’s innate and deft handling of performance, visuals and the complicated mechanics of production while still in his 20s. The film was produced by Richard Zanuck and David Brown and stars Academy Award-winner Goldie Hawn, William Atherton, Michael Sacks, and Ben Johnson. Writing about the film for The New Yorker, critic Pauline Kael proclaimed, “Steven Spielberg could be that rarity among directors, a born entertainer—perhaps a new generation's Howard Hawks. In terms of the pleasure that technical assurance gives an audience, [The Sugarland Express] is one of the most phenomenal debut films in the history of movies.”  Spielberg’s next feature would change everything.

On location in 1974, at sea off of Martha’s Vineyard, holding the cleverly and aptly modified slate for his breakthrough blockbuster, Jaws.
On location in 1974, at sea off of Martha’s Vineyard, holding the cleverly and aptly modified slate for his breakthrough blockbuster, Jaws.
A man on a mission: Steven Spielberg proudly wears the crew t-shirt he had produced for Jaws.
A man on a mission: Steven Spielberg proudly wears the crew t-shirt he had produced for Jaws.

1977

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, written and directed by Steven Spielberg, touches down on December 14, 1977. The movie was a project Spielberg had conceived and was pitching to studios before Jaws, and is the first wholly original vision he’d bring to the feature film screen. It won Oscars for Best Cinematography for Vilmos Zsigmond and a special achievement Oscar for sound effects editing by Frank E. Warner. The movie was also nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Melinda Dillon), Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn, in his first collaboration with Spielberg), Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score (John Williams), and Best Director, Spielberg’s first such nomination by the Academy.

In consultation with his star, Richard Dreyfuss, playing Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In consultation with his star, Richard Dreyfuss, playing Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The Satipo Trio makes beautiful music together in the Hovitos temple set on Raiders of the Lost Ark. L: the director, center, the dummy (essaying the role of dead Satipo) right, the actor, Alfred Molina (essaying the role of nearly dead Satipo).
The Satipo Trio makes beautiful music together in the Hovitos temple set on Raiders of the Lost Ark. L: the director, center, the dummy (essaying the role of dead Satipo) right, the actor, Alfred Molina (essaying the role of nearly dead Satipo).

1981

Working for the first time with his close friend George Lucas, whose own star had likewise exploded in film with American Graffiti and Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark saw Spielberg and George looking back to the movies’ past in their loving homage to adventure serials of the 1930-1940s. From Lucas’s initial concept and in collaboration with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (Continental Divide), Spielberg would direct the now legendary movie that brought the name “Indiana Jones” into the zeitgeist, and further cemented Star Wars star Harrison Ford as the era’s greatest screen hero when it was released on June 12, 1981. Raiders of the Lost Ark would go on to spawn three further big-screen adventures from 1984-2008, plus the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-1993). A fifth Indiana Jones movie has been announced and is currently in development at this time.

The year also marked a very important milestone in Spielberg’s professional life as he set out a shingle for his independence as a filmmaker with the creation of Amblin Entertainment, the production company he co-created with Raiders producer Frank Marshall and associate Kathleen Kennedy. The three would go on to produce (and in Spielberg’s case, also direct) some of the most beloved entertainments of the era.

Hollywood’s reigning visionaries, George Lucas (L) and Steven Spielberg (R), crazy creative from the heat of the Tunisian desert shoot on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Hollywood’s reigning visionaries, George Lucas (L) and Steven Spielberg (R), crazy creative from the heat of the Tunisian desert shoot on Raiders of the Lost Ark.

1982

Dubbed “The Summer of Spielberg” by Time magazine, June of 1982 saw the one-two punch of the fantasies Poltergeist and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial open in theaters a mere week apart. Released on June 4, 1982, Poltergeist—conceived, co-written and produced by Spielberg, along with producer Frank Marshall—took the classic ghost story from Victorian mansions and into the suburbs as poltergeist manifestations haunt the hapless Freeling family. And while Poltergeist represented the dark side of Spielberg’s imagination, he’s said that E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial represented the light side of his dreams. E.T., released on June 11, 1982, tells the tender tale of a lonely young boy, Elliott, a child of divorce who finds friendship and connection with the most unlikely of beings—a lost extra-terrestrial abandoned on Earth. While Poltergeist gave audiences chills, special and visual effect thrills, and gruesomely fun gory grossouts, the gentle heart of E.T. struck a truly deep chord with audiences around the globe, making it the most financially successful movie in all of cinema history, with Spielberg eclipsing his own records with Raiders of the Lost Ark, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws in box office returns. Poltergeist was nominated for three Oscars, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was nominated for nine including for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing, winning for Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Effects Editing.

A publicity image of the director and his little lost alien, unaware at the time to the heights to which their film would soar with audiences around the world.
A publicity image of the director and his little lost alien, unaware at the time to the heights to which their film would soar with audiences around the world.

1984

Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford shot around the world—in Sri Lanka, Macau, the UK and the US—to bring Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to audiences on May 23, 1984. The movie, a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, was a great departure from the first picture, giving audiences a wholly original adventure that took Indy, new friends, allies and enemies, into the heart of darkness and the titular temple of an occult sect hellbent on obtaining power. Temple caused a bit of a stir with parents whose children found the movie too intense, and along with Amblin’s Gremlins† that summer, led to Spielberg suggesting to the MPAA that a PG-13 rating might be instituted to differentiate movies for older children, but not quite PG- or R-rated fare.

† Gremlins, which opened in theaters on June 8, 1984, directed by Joe Dante (Twilight Zone The Movie) and executive produced by Spielberg, marked the first Amblin Entertainment release to feature the production company’s logo: that of Elliott and E.T. flying across the moon on their bicycle. The logo is still used on Amblin releases to this day.

Sharing laughs during a publicity shoot for Back to the Future, from L to R: co-writer/director Robert Zemeckis, actor Michael J. Fox, and executive producers Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall.
Sharing laughs during a publicity shoot for Back to the Future, from L to R: co-writer/director Robert Zemeckis, actor Michael J. Fox, and executive producers Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall.
Laughter leavens the weight of an emotionally difficult scene as Spielberg talks with his talented new star, Whoopi Goldberg.
Laughter leavens the weight of an emotionally difficult scene as Spielberg talks with his talented new star, Whoopi Goldberg.

1987

Continuing boldly along the new path laid by The Color Purple, Spielberg expanded his storytelling reach into purely dramatic fare with Empire of the Sun, based in part on author JG Ballard’s own life experience as a boy growing up and imprisoned in a Japanese encampment in occupied Shanghai during WWII. The film marked the first time a western production company was granted permission to film within the city of Shanghai, and also introduced the world to a deeply talented and intuitive acting talent in that of 12-year-old Christian Bale. Bale was joined by a sterling cast of international thespians including John Malkovich, Joe Pantoliano, Miranda Richardson, Leslie Phillips and Marsatô Ibu. The film was released in theaters on Christmas Day of 1987. With Bale, Empire, ostensibly about the shocking death of childhood as a boy is forced into adulthood in the most harrowing of circumstances, continued to showcase Spielberg’s extraordinary talent eliciting top-flight performances from young, often untested actors. Regarding Spielberg’s own growth as a filmmaker, he has said that films including Empire of the Sun and The Color Purple led to his feeling he had the tools and insights within himself to direct and produce Schindler’s List (1993) six years after Empire of the Sun.

Working out the ins-and-outs of a key action setpiece with his Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade stars Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.
Working out the ins-and-outs of a key action setpiece with his Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade stars Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.

1991

Between the releases of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the press took to calling Spielberg a grown “Peter Pan,” that playful spirit who never truly grew up. But in 1991’s Hook, the clever conceit for the movie posed the question, “What if Peter Pan grew up?” Starring Robin Williams as Peter Banning/Pan, Dustin Hoffman and Bob Hoskins as a daffy and dastardly Captain Hook and his sidekick Smee, and Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell, December 11, 1991.

The director sits at the feet of what appears to be a 20-foot turkey, the T. rex that would terrify audiences around the globe in the Summer of 1993.
The director sits at the feet of what appears to be a 20-foot turkey, the T. rex that would terrify audiences around the globe in the Summer of 1993.
Riding the rig on set for Jurassic Park.
Riding the rig on set for Jurassic Park.
Partners in the Dream: Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen, in a posed photo at the Hollywood Canteen, shot for Vanity Fair’s April 1995 issue.
Partners in the Dream: Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen, in a posed photo at the Hollywood Canteen, shot for Vanity Fair’s April 1995 issue.
Spielberg sits next to the storyboard for the opening sequence in The Lost World Jurassic Park, his 1997 sequel to the monster hit Jurassic Park.
Spielberg sits next to the storyboard for the opening sequence in The Lost World Jurassic Park, his 1997 sequel to the monster hit Jurassic Park.

1998

Saving Private Ryan is released on July 24, 1998, and like Schindler’s List five years before, it inspired an international dialogue about the sacrifices and often formerly unspeakable suffering veterans of World War II faced on the battlefields of the European Theater, specifically the landing on Omaha Beach. The now legendary first-act recreation of that harrowing battle brought to the screen for the first time (according to veterans) as realistic a depiction as had ever been committed to film. Starring Tom Hanks (in his first performance in a film directed by Spielberg), and a large ensemble cast including Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel, and Matt Damon (as the titular Private Ryan), the heart of the film is about a mission to extract the only surviving son of a family who lost all of their other sons to the ravages of the war. The film was a critical, cultural and box office hit, and was honored with 11 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, winning five Oscars for Best Director for Spielberg, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.

Directing Private Ryan (Matt Damon) on the fully constructed city of Ramelle (a fictitious location), the site of the final battle in the film.
Directing Private Ryan (Matt Damon) on the fully constructed city of Ramelle (a fictitious location), the site of the final battle in the film.
A young Haley Joel Osment, who plays the robot boy David, listens intently to his director’s ideas in production on A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
A young Haley Joel Osment, who plays the robot boy David, listens intently to his director’s ideas in production on A.I. Artificial Intelligence.
In discussion with Minority Report actors Max Von Sydow and Tom Cruise.
In discussion with Minority Report actors Max Von Sydow and Tom Cruise.
Shooting in an astonishingly realistic, recreated airport set for The Terminal, Spielberg works on a scene in a fully-stocked bookstore where Viktor Navorski finds information about America.
Shooting in an astonishingly realistic, recreated airport set for The Terminal, Spielberg works on a scene in a fully-stocked bookstore where Viktor Navorski finds information about America.

2005

While 2004’s The Terminal had a view of current events through a critical yet still hopeful lens of satire, 2005’s War of the Worlds and Munich brought us views of Spielberg’s deepening frustration and anger with a post-9/11 world, using science fiction and historical events to resonate with reality in both the narratives. War of the Worlds is a contemporary, American retelling of H.G. Wells’ famous thriller about Martians descending (or in the case of Spielberg’s film, ascending buried sleep cells) on Earth to harvest its inhabitants to terraform the planet to their needs. Starring Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto and Dakota Fanning, the extraterrestrial attack serves as a corollary to the attacks on 9/11 and the ongoing “War on Terror” being waged by the current administration in D.C.

In Munich, Spielberg collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner and Eric Roth to recreate the 1972 kidnapping and murder of Israeli Olympians by the Palestine Liberation Army, and the secret reprisals by Mossad agents to the brutal deaths of their countrymen. The film is at once a thrilling espionage story, another historical drama in Spielberg’s growing body of such works, an immediate and pertinent (to a post-9/11 world) political statement fraught with tensions, and controversially, an even-handed questioning (itself in the Jewish tradition, as its characters point out) of the nature of political terrorism and reprisals. More simply put, Spielberg has called the film “a prayer for peace.” Munich was nominated for five Academy Awards including for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing.

2008

Fans of Indiana Jones long feared they’d seen the last of the most famous archeologist-adventurer when he round off into the sunset nearly two decades previous, but the near-impossible happened when Indy (Harrison Ford) returned to the big screen on May 22, 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. While the original three films were set in the 1930s, Crystal Skull reintroduces us to an older, wiser, world-weary Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. in the 1950s, set on a rescue mission to save former love Marion Ravenwood (with a returning Karen Allen from Raiders of the Lost Ark), mentor Harold Oxley (John Hurt), and a fabled artifact of potentially unearthly origin. Rounding out the cast are Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. The new adventure was a critical hit, along with a box office smash around the globe, Spielberg’s most successful film in the aughts and (unadjusted for inflation) his third highest grossing film of all-time. A fifth Indiana Jones adventure is currently in development.

THE 2010s

If war is hell, recreating the misery of one of the harrowing battlefronts in history couldn’t possibly be roses. Spielberg, his cast and crew, are put through their paces approximating battle in WWI for War Horse.
If war is hell, recreating the misery of one of the harrowing battlefronts in history couldn’t possibly be roses. Spielberg, his cast and crew, are put through their paces approximating battle in WWI for War Horse.

2012

Lincoln, a historical drama that focuses specifically on the years in which President Abraham Lincoln and his country are embroiled in the Civil War, sees Spielberg collaborating once more with Munich screenwriter Tony Kushner and directing an uncanny and Oscar-winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th President of the United States. Joining Day-Lewis is an ensemble cast with Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones, David Straithairn, James Spader, and Hal Holbrook. The film was both a critical and commercial success at the box office, garnering 12 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Picture, Best Supporting Roles for Field and Jones, and the aforementioned win for Day-Lewis. It’s deeply researched and beautiful recreated period design was also honored with an Oscar for Best Production Design for longtime Spielberg collaborator Rick Carter and his crew.

On the set of Lincoln.
On the set of Lincoln.
Spielberg takes the long view of our histories forgotten in films such as Bridge of Spies
Spielberg takes the long view of our histories forgotten in films such as Bridge of Spies

2016

The BFG, an adaptation of the beloved 1982 children’s book by Roald Dahl, found Spielberg back in the gentle fantasy world of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, but where E.T. brought the imaginative to a realistic suburban setting, The BFG is a delight of storybook high fantasy. Starring Oscar-winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) as The BFG, and newcomer Ruby Barnhill as the lonely young orphan girl Sophie, along with a supporting cast of human beans (Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall), and a band of fizzwiggling giants (including Jemaine Clement and Bill Hader), the movie is a razztwizzler of a time for kids of all ages. The BFG was written by and dedicated to Melissa Mathison, writer of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, who passed before the movie’s release on July 1, 2016.

Discussing a shot with actor Tom Hanks, as legendary news editor Ben Bradlee, in The Post.
Discussing a shot with actor Tom Hanks, as legendary news editor Ben Bradlee, in The Post.

2018

Based on the best-selling sci-fi/fantasy novel by first-time novelist Ernest Cline, Spielberg adapts Ready Player One, a joyful celebration of video gaming, movies, and other pop culture ephemera of the 1980s and this modern era of “geekdom.” The film, released on March 29, 2018, was adapted from his novel by Cline and screenwriter Zak Penn, stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg, and once more, Mark Rylance, all in both live-action and motion capture performances. Ready Player One is a wonder of playful futurism fighting oppression, with innovative visual effects work by Industrial Light & Magic and a collective of other VFX houses.

Talking with his young cast in the exciting adventure, Ready Player One. On location with Spielberg, Tye Sheridan and Lena Waithe.
Talking with his young cast in the exciting adventure, Ready Player One. On location with Spielberg, Tye Sheridan and Lena Waithe.

1968

Steven Spielberg wrote and directed Amblin’, his first short film on 35mm, while still a college student. The film caught the eye of Universal Vice President Sidney Sheinberg, who would offer Spielberg a seven-year-contract with Universal Television. Spielberg likes to joke that he quit college so fast upon Sheinberg’s offer, he didn’t bother to clean out his locker.†

† He did finish his BA degree later in life for his parents, and to show his own children the importance of education.

1970-1973

During his tenure as a Universal Television director, Spielberg helmed 11 projects of varying lengths, from the standard 30-minute episodic television fare (Rod Serling’s Night Gallery—Eyes and Make Me Laugh), Marcus Welby, M.D. (The Daredevil Gesture), The Psychiatrist (The Private World of Martin Dalton and Par for the Course), and Owen Marshall Counselor at Law (Eulogy for a Wide Receiver)—to near-feature length television tales including work for Columbo (Murder by the Book) and The Name of the Game (LA 2017)—to a trio of made-for-television movies including his breakthrough Duel, followed by Something Evil and Savage.

The 1971 telefilm Duel was released in theaters in international markets in 1972 and 1973, leading Spielberg out of television and into feature film direction.

A proud young filmmaker, opening his first feature-length movie, on his first time visiting Europe, seen here in Italy in 1972.
A proud young filmmaker, opening his first feature-length movie, on his first time visiting Europe, seen here in Italy in 1972.
While touring Europe with the theatrical edit of "Duel" in 1972, Spielberg had the good fortune to meet with Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, a self-professed admirer of the younger director's film.
Setting up a shot from inside one of the modified automobiles used in The Sugarland Express. The brand-new Panavision Panaflex camera, lightweight and much smaller compared to most standard 35mm cameras of the era was used to film the dynamic interior shots featured in the film.
Setting up a shot from inside one of the modified automobiles used in The Sugarland Express. The brand-new Panavision Panaflex camera, lightweight and much smaller compared to most standard 35mm cameras of the era, was used to film the dynamic interior shots featured in the film.
He directs, he writes, he produces, he runs the slate. Is there nothing the young Steven Spielberg could not do? On location in South Texas, March 1, 1973, for The Sugarland Express.
He directs, he writes, he produces, he runs the slate. Is there nothing the young Steven Spielberg could not do? On location in South Texas, March 1, 1973, for The Sugarland Express.
Setting up a shot from the pre-release facility from which Lou Jean breaks Clovis free in the opening of The Sugarland Express
Setting up a shot from the pre-release facility from which Lou Jean breaks Clovis free in the opening of The Sugarland Express

1975

Working once again with producers Zanuck and Brown, Spielberg directs one of the most grueling location shoots in all of cinema history, but lands the big fish and brings back the motion picture Jaws. Based on the best-selling book from author Peter Benchley, the movie burst into theaters on June 20, 1975, and helped redefine what the term “blockbuster” meant as audiences lined up to see the thrilling adventure again and again. The “Summer of the Shark” (as Time magazine dubbed the must-see event movie) rocketed Jaws to breaking the $100 million mark in box-office receipts, making it the most successful movie to date. (It would go on to earn $471 million worldwide.) The movie also garners four Academy Award nominations including one for Best Picture, earning Oscars for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Music for John Williams’ instantly legendary score.

On location, discussing production details with producer Richard Zanuck. Producer David Brown can be seen directly over Spielberg’s right shoulder.
On location, discussing production details with producer Richard Zanuck. Producer David Brown can be seen directly over Spielberg’s right shoulder.
In Wyoming with the legendary French filmmaker Franćois Truffaut, whom Spielberg directed in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In Wyoming with the legendary French filmmaker Franćois Truffaut, whom Spielberg directed in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Discussing with composer John Williams the finer points of marrying the grand sights to the magnificent score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, during recording sessions for the film.
Discussing with composer John Williams the finer points of marrying the grand sights to the magnificent score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, during recording sessions for the film.
Spielberg sits alongside the camera, studying a scene playing out before him on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Spielberg sits alongside the camera, studying a scene playing out before him on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

1979

Following the one-two punch of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, two of the most successful movies of all time, Spielberg branched out to direct his first comedy feature, the madcap World War II farce 1941, released in theaters on December 14, 1979. Featuring a huge ensemble cast of young and well-seasoned character performers—including such disparate talents as John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Tim Matheson, Treat Williams, Nancy Allen, Eddie Deezen, Warren Oates, Christopher Lee and Toshirô Mifune—and bursting with verbal and visual sight gags and slapstick gleefully conceived by Spielberg and his young co-writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and executed by a top-shelf technical crew, 1941 is a movie of endless comic ideas and moments which earned itself a devoted fan following.

THE 1980s

1980

In what was then a largely unprecedented event, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was re-released in movie theaters on August 1, 1980 as The Special Edition. The new version of the movie included a recut by Spielberg and Michael Kahn, excising select scenes from the original 1977 edit, trimming or expanding moments, and also adding new scenes and sequences including a finale in which audiences follow Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) inside the Mothership. Spielberg further revised the movie in 1998 for a Collectors Edition, feeling the original 1977 was too rushed in post to make it to the November release date, and not being pleased with revealing the inside of the Mothership in this Special Edition edit.

Setting the shot in the temple of the Hovitos for the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Setting the shot in the temple of the Hovitos for the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
A huge location shoot is all about getting the tiny details right. Spielberg pre-plans his shot concepts using a miniature layout and a widescreen eyepiece for framing on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
A huge location shoot is all about getting the tiny details right. Spielberg pre-plans his shot concepts using a miniature layout and a widescreen eyepiece for framing on Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Film production in the heat of the desert is no picnic, but it’s important to stay cool, especially when shooting one of the hottest films ever made like Raiders.
Film production in the heat of the desert is no picnic, but it’s important to stay cool, especially when shooting one of the hottest films ever made like Raiders.
George Lucas (L) and Steven Spielberg (R), in Hawaii with the Hovitos (or at least the fine talents who portrayed them), filming the opening adventure in Raiders. Smile for the camera, fellas!
George Lucas (L) and Steven Spielberg (R), in Hawaii with the Hovitos (or at least the fine talents who portrayed them), filming the opening adventure in Raiders. Smile for the camera, fellas!
An intimate collaboration of hearts and imaginations: Steven Spielberg directing the young Henry Thomas in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, one of the finest performances ever delivered by a child actor and a director known for drawing such work from new talents.
An intimate collaboration of hearts and imaginations: Steven Spielberg directing the young Henry Thomas in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, one of the finest performances ever delivered by a child actor and a director known for drawing such work from new talents.
On location, guiding his cast and crew through production on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
On location, guiding his cast and crew through production on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
E.T. & Me. The boy who dreamed of an extra-terrestrial friend grows up to direct the sweetest of them all in one of the most beloved films of all-time.
E.T. & Me. The boy who dreamed of an extra-terrestrial friend grows up to direct the sweetest of them all in one of the most beloved films of all-time.
“You’ve gotta save him!” Spielberg (along with director of photography Allen Daviau) setting up a shot with actors playing NASA scientists in the make-shift medical lab at the end of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
“You’ve gotta save him!” Spielberg (along with director of photography Allen Daviau) setting up a shot with actors playing NASA scientists in the make-shift medical lab at the end of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
No one ever said filmmaking is for the fragile. Even the best of ‘em take their lumps and come back fighting. Spielberg with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom co-star Kate Capshaw.
No one ever said filmmaking is for the fragile. Even the best of ‘em take their lumps and come back fighting. Spielberg with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom co-star Kate Capshaw.

1985

While Spielberg worked hard in the early 1970s to move from television to feature filmmaking, he returned to the small screen in 1985 to bring that Amblin magic to the home audience each and every week with Amazing Stories. The series, an anthology show that offered new short tales featuring top acting and directing talents, premiered on NBC on September 29, 1985, with a story conceived and directed by Spielberg himself, Ghost Train. A second story in the first season, the special hour-long The Mission was also conceived and written by Spielberg. Other notable filmmakers on Amazing Stories included Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Joe Dante, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, Danny DeVito, Bob Balaban, Burt Reynolds, Brad Bird, and Tobe Hooper.

Amazing Stories ran for two seasons from 1985-1987 (for 45 episodes). A revival of the show is currently in production by Amblin Television, to premiere on Apple’s upcoming streaming service.

Stepping far outside of his own self-confessed comfort zone as a filmmaker, Spielberg next tackled The Color Purple, an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice walker. The film was indeed a collaboration of the spirits as Walker, producer and composer Quincy Jones, and a powerful cast of actors including Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, Adolph Caesar and, in their feature film debuts, Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg came together with Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and their crew to create a now cherished story of the suffering and strength of African American women at the hands of abusive male relations and the larger society around them. The film opened in the States on December 22, 1985 and went on to receive 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Goldberg. Goldberg won a Golden Globe Award for her performance, while the film also received four other Globe nominations. Spielberg himself won the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures from the Directors Guild of America.

Spielberg also conceived of the story for the beloved kids’ adventure The Goonies, for a screenplay written by Chris Columbus (Gremlins) and directed by Richard Donner. The movie opened in theaters on June 7, 1985. The Goonies, along with that summer’s Back to the Future (executive produced by Spielberg), which opened roughly a month later on July 3, helped further the Amblin Entertainment brand with what’s now considered classic filmed entertainment in which both kids and adults could delight together.

Steven Spielberg not only notices the color purple in the fields, but he directs with it all around him.
Steven Spielberg not only notices the color purple in the fields, but he directs with it all around him.
On location shooting Empire of the Sun, proudly wearing a crew hat for the film while he creates it.
On location shooting Empire of the Sun, proudly wearing a crew hat for the film while he creates it.

1989

Audiences anticipating another Indy adventure following Temple of Doom had to wait a grueling five years until the man with the hat returned for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, released on May 24, 1989. The movie further expanded upon and deepened audiences’ understanding of the Indiana Jones character by introducing a young Indy—played by River Phoenix—and Indy’s father Henry Jones, Sr., played by screen legend Sean Connery.

Spielberg wanted to adapt the 1943 Victor Fleming movie, A Guy Named Joe, for decades, after first seeing it on television as a young boy. His adaptation, Always, is a fantasy love story about a rescue pilot who learns to let go of the love he left behind after an untimely death. The film was in development with Spielberg since 1980, finally flying into theaters on December 22, 1989. The movie stars the winning triumvirate of Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter and John Goodman, and features the final screen performance of cinema legend Audrey Hepburn as Hap, who is, naturally, an angel.

THE 1990s

Spielberg on location sitting with the ailing triceratops, a truly astounding creation brought to screen life by the magicians at Stan Winston’s studio. The poor girl should’ve eaten from the craft services table, alas.
Spielberg on location sitting with the ailing triceratops, a truly astounding creation brought to screen life by the magicians at Stan Winston’s studio. The poor girl should’ve eaten from the craft services table, alas.

1993

Universal optioned Michael Crichton’s 1990 sci-fi novel Jurassic Park as a property for Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment to develop as a feature film. The sci-fi adventure, about an industrialist genetically engineering prehistoric creatures to populate an island theme park attraction, would prove not only to be a thrilling time at the movies, but a revolution in visual effects that would help lead cinema into the digital age of computer generated imagery with its photorealistic dinosaurs. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough, Jurassic Park was an instant box office sensation, dethroning Spielberg’s own E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial as cinema’s biggest money maker of all time. Considered by many to be Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, Schindler’s List, reignited remembrance and reflection on the events of the Shoah, the Holocaust of World War II. Based on the narrativized true-life novel by Thomas Keneally, the film, about a war profiteer industrialist in occupied Poland who winds up saving his Jewish workforce from the murderous  Nazi machine, stars Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes. Along with inspiring an international dialogue on the Holocaust, the film also made critics sit up and take notice of a Spielberg they’d never seen make a film quite like Schindler’s List—both stylistically and with its intent. It was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, for which it won Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and for the first time in his lauded career, a Best Director Oscar for Steven Spielberg. Most important to Spielberg, his experiences shooting the film and meeting with Holocaust survivors inspired him to create the Survivors of the Shoah Foundation, an audio-visual archive which houses over 55,000 recorded testimonials of victims of genocide that gives voice to survivors in the hopes we may never again forget.

Framing a shot on the face of conscience in Schindler’s List, Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern.
Framing a shot on the face of conscience in Schindler’s List, Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern.
Posing with his trio of actors at the heart of the struggle in Schindler’s List, (L to R) Ralph Fiennes, Sir Ben Kingsley, Spielberg and Liam Neeson. Spielberg holds a bound edition of the screenplay in hand.
Posing with his trio of actors at the heart of the struggle in Schindler’s List, (L to R) Ralph Fiennes, Sir Ben Kingsley, Spielberg and Liam Neeson. Spielberg holds a bound edition of the screenplay in hand.

1994

After two decades of working for the majority of the film studios in the industry, and over a decade after forming his own production company, Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg joins together with moguls Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen to found DreamWorks SKG, the first full-fledged movie studio to be founded since the Golden Age of Hollywood. The studio quickly found success with its broad roster of films—both live action under the DreamWorks Pictures label and animation under the DreamWorks Animation label. Between 1999 and 2001, DreamWorks films earned three consecutive Academy Awards for Best Picture for American Beauty, Gladiator, and A Beautiful Mind. DreamWorks Animation was spun off as a publicly traded animation company and DreamWorks Pictures has been incorporated as a label under Amblin Partners for our feature films made for more mature audiences.

1997

It had been four years since Steven Spielberg directed a feature after Schindler’s List, and while he certainly wasn’t resting on his laurels, what with founding the Shoah Foundation and a new film studio, yet it was Universal’s wish that Spielberg produce a sequel to the most successful movie of all time—Jurassic Park—which would get him back in the director’s chair. The Lost World Jurassic Park extended the mythology of Michael Crichton’s original story by sending Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to a mysterious second island on a rescue mission to save his girlfriend Sarah (Julianne Moore) from more of John Hammond’s genetic creations, dinosaurs on the loose following the site’s destruction by a hurricane. Amistad, based on an episode in American history not well-known before the film’s release, that of the legal battle in American courts over African captives that rose up against their Spanish captors that intended to sell them into slavery. When the ship arrives off the coast of Long Island, the Africans are caught in a legal battle between Spain and multiple factions in the United States including President Martin Van Buren and John Quincy Adams. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Pete Postlethwaite, Matthew McConaughey, and newcomer Djimon Honsou, Amistad, much like Schindler’s List, was released in December after the release of a Jurassic Park film the same summer, exemplify once more Spielberg’s range as an artist. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Hopkins, along with Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Score.

Steven Spielberg commands his troop of performers and crew members through the grueling duty of recreating the Normandy invasion.
Steven Spielberg, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Tom Sizemore and Tom Hanks filming the taking of the Nazi "pillbox" positioned above the Normandy beach.
The director confers with his cast after taking Normandy by sea.

THE 2000s

2001

Before the esteemed director’s untimely passing in 1999, Stanley Kubrick had made an entreaty to his friend Steven Spielberg to consider taking on a long-gestating project, A.I. Artificial Intelligence. The story, about a mecha (robot) boy on a quest to become a real boy so that he could win the love of a human mother after she abandons him. Based on the Brian Aldiss short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long, Kubrick had been developing the project for some time when he suggested that Spielberg would be much stronger eliciting a performance from a child actor in the central role of the mecha boy, as well as the volume of special and visual effects such a film would need. Rather than let his friend’s wishes for the A.I. fade away after Kubrick’s passing, he, Kubrick’s widow Christiane, and brother-in-law Jan Harlan collaborated with Amblin Entertainment and DreamWorks Pictures to bring a unique collaboration between Kubrick and Spielberg (working as writer, director and producer) to the screen on June 29, 2001. Starring Haley Joel Osment as David, the mecha boy, Jude Law, William Hurt and Frances O’Connor, A.I. marked Spielberg’s first science fiction film set in the future. Its stunning visual effects were nominated for an Academy Award, along with John Williams’ score, while the score, Jude Law’s Supporting Performance as Gigolo Joe and Steven Spielberg’s direction were all nominated for Golden Globes.

2002

Following his futuristic sci-fi debut in A.I., Spielberg’s next film remained in a speculative tomorrow world with Minority Report, an adaptation of a short story by noted science fiction author Philip K. Dick. In Minority Report, Tom Cruise stars as a detective working for Precrime, a government organization utilizing precognitive siblings with the power to foresee violent future crimes in order to stop them before they occur. Featuring a paradoxical ethical debate at the center of a murder-mystery adorned with what in 2002 seemed outré technologies and debates over privacy that now seem positively predictive across the decades following the film, Minority Report is that rare science fiction film both action-packed and with something deeper on its mind. Costarring with Cruise are Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton and Max Von Sydow, the film engaged audiences, critics and box office attendance alike.

 Catch Me If You Can re-teamed Spielberg and Tom Hanks, along with Leonardo Di Caprio, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen and a new young actress named Amy Adams, to take audiences back to the 1960s and the real-life story of a teenaged swindler named Frank Abagnale, Jr. who kited over $2.8 million in forged checks while posing as an airline pilot, doctor, lawyer, and other guises to live the high life after running away from a broken home. The film is breezy fun in its recreation of the era, yet has a tender, pained heart beneath all the fun, making for a highly entertaining, often comedic caper with tenderness at its center, Catch Me If You Can caught on with audiences during the holiday season (it was released on Christmas Day), making the film the second of a one-two box office punch for Spielberg in 2002.

Scoping out a shot of a potentially ill-fated affair in Minority Report with director of photography Janusz Kaminski.
Scoping out a shot of a potentially ill-fated affair in Minority Report with director of photography Janusz Kaminski.

2004

It’s been said, both by critics, and also addressed by the filmmaker himself, that the events of 9/11 and subsequent sea changes in American politics and the nation itself lead Spielberg to reflect through his films on the state of the United States, and with the 2004 film The Terminal, Spielberg began to question and ask questions of us all about where we were headed. Concerning a foreigner, Viktor Navorski (played by Tom Hanks) traveling to New York City on a mission of love, only to find himself trapped for months within the John F. Kennedy Airport by the newly formed Transportation Security Agency’s unbending and illogical rules and red tape (in the name of protecting the homeland), The Terminal is both a satire of reactionary bureaucracy that fails to protect the humanity it claims to protect and a light, romantic comedy at once, a melding of Capra and Sturges parable of a man stuck in a sleek and soulless threshold to what has long been called “the land of the free.” Co-starring with Hanks are Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stanley Tucci, Chi McBride, Diego Luna, Zoë Saldana, Kumar Pallana and Barry Shabaka Henley in a sweet yet slightly sorrowful and deeply humanistic story of the importance of community and the bonds we have no matter where our original points of departure may lie.

Spielberg, known for his intuitive direction of child actors, doesn’t talk down to them, but meets them on their terms. Here, he talks with Dakota Fanning about a particularly emotional scene in War of the Worlds.
Spielberg, known for his intuitive direction of child actors, doesn’t talk down to them, but meets them on their terms. Here, he talks with Dakota Fanning about a particularly emotional scene in War of the Worlds.
Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise as Rachel and Ray Ferrier, taking shelter from the strange storms outside as their director takes them through the paces.
Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise as Rachel and Ray Ferrier, taking shelter from the strange storms outside as their director takes them through the paces.
Eric Bana, who plays Mossad agent Avner Kaufman, chats with Spielberg on the set of Munich.
Eric Bana, who plays Mossad agent Avner Kaufman, chats with Spielberg on the set of Munich.
Two classics in a classic 1932 Ford Roadster: Steven Spielberg in the driver’s seat with his executive producer George Lucas as his copilot.
Two classics in a classic 1932 Ford Roadster: Steven Spielberg in the driver’s seat with his executive producer George Lucas as his copilot.
The director marshals his cast and crew on the recreated Somme location for War Horse.
The director marshals his cast and crew on the recreated Somme location for War Horse.

2011

Steven Spielberg discovered Belgium artist Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin in the summer of 1981 when numerous European critics would compare the exploits in Raiders of the Lost Ark with that of Hergé’s boy journalist’s adventures. He immediately saw the potential of the Tintin folios for adaptation into a live-action film. After years of development, Spielberg and Amblin set the project aside, only to resurrect it nearly three decades later in collaboration with filmmaker Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings). Together the two filmmakers—with Spielberg directing and Jackson producing—brought Tintin to the International screen using state-of-the-art performance capture and 3D imagery developed and perfected by Jackson’s wizards at WETA Digital. Starring Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Toby Jones, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, and adapted by writers Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, The Adventures of Tintin marks Spielberg’s first animated feature film as a director. The film was released on December 21, 2011. Enchanted by Michael Morpurgo’s book War Horse, and the staged version of Morpurgo’s moving WWI drama about the bonds of a horse, Joey, and Albert Narracott, an English country boy who raises Joey before both are separated and sent into the ravages of battle in the war. War Horse stars newcomer Jeremy Irvine, up-and-coming talents Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, and seasoned performers including Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis and Emily Watson. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including nods for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score. It was released on December 25, 2011, a mere four days after The Adventures of Tintin, giving family audiences a double-feature in cinemas that holiday season.

The transformative actor Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits the person of Abraham Lincoln for the film about the great President. Spielberg has said he missed working with Mr. Lincoln once the film wrapped.
The transformative actor Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits the person of Abraham Lincoln for the film about the great President. Spielberg has said he missed working with Mr. Lincoln once the film wrapped.
The gentleman from Arizona expresses his vision from the gallery of the Senate in Lincoln.
The gentleman from Arizona expresses his vision from the gallery of the Senate in Lincoln.
Walking through a snow-swept, miserably cold recreation of a divided Germany in Bridge of Spies.
Walking through a snow-swept, miserably cold recreation of a divided Germany in Bridge of Spies.

2015

Bridge of Spies came to Spielberg as a pitch by writer Matt Charman, and its story, set in the Cold War between the States and the USSR in 1957, struck a personal chord with the director who has recalled how his father Arnold traveled to Russia on business and viewed the downed U-2 spy plane at the crux of the real-life and screen story Spies. After deciding it was his next film to direct, Spielberg brought in the Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen to rewrite Charman’s original script. Tom Hanks was signed to play James B. Donovan, a lawyer who helps broker the exchange of American serviceman Gary Powers (pilot of the down U-2 plane) for his client Rudolf Abel (played in the film in an Oscar-winning supporting performance by Mark Rylance), an embedded Soviet spy caught by the FBI and on trial in New York City. Bridge of Spies added another chapter to Spielberg’s films on historical events retold through film. It was honored with six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Score, the latter composed by Thomas Newman, marking Spielberg’s first time working with a composer other than John Williams since 1985’s The Color Purple.

Like two kids in a Wonkaesque candy shop, the dreamweavers Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski get ready to slate a truly big vision in The BFG.
Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski train their lenses on another important chapter of American history in The Post.
Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski train their lenses on another important chapter of American history in The Post.

2017

While in the middle of preparing for the highly technical marvels of Ready Player One (2018), Spielberg quickly mounted and delivered The Post, about the Nixon-era revelations of The Pentagon Papers, and how the nation’s first female daily newspaper publisher and her legendary editor fought to expose a cover-up contained within said documents. Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and an ensemble cast of some of the finest actors working today including Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, Carrie Coon, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood—The Post was nominated as Best Motion Picture of the Year by the Academy Awards, along with Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (by first-time feature screenwriter Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (First Man), Best Performance nominations for Streep and Hanks, and Best Original Score. The film opened in select cities on December 22, 2017 before going wide on January 12, 2018.

Spielberg describes a scene to his large cast of players in the offices of the OASIS Oologists in Ready Player One.
Spielberg describes a scene to his large cast of players in the offices of the OASIS Oologists in Ready Player One.
Talking Ben Mendelsohn as Sorrento through what he’s seeing in the OASIS as the scene observes from the real world in Ready Player One
Talking Ben Mendelsohn as Sorrento through what he’s seeing in the OASIS as the scene observes from the real world in Ready Player One

2019

West Side Story cast announced in January (following the casting of Ansel Elgort as Tony and the participation of the 1961 film version’s Rita Moreno at the end of 2018), including Broadway veterans Ariana DeBose and David Alvarez, Josh Andrés Rivera and newcomer Rachel Zegler, a talented singer and actor still in high school when she landed the role of Maria. Production is set to commence in the Summer of 2019.