While many film students boast that their favorite director is Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, or Tim Burton, my loyalties lie with perhaps a more conventional choice: the critical and commercial success that is Steven Spielberg.
A master filmmaker, inventor of the summer blockbuster, and king of some of the best franchises we’ve ever had – it’s hard to argue that Steven Spielberg isn’t one of the greatest film directors of all time.
While he may not have the distinct and artful style of Wes Anderson or be considered to have a cult following as Quentin Tarantino once did (I’m not counting his now massive fan army as a cult following), Spielberg has wowed audiences for decades with his escapist films and historical dramas. The former might include “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” and “Jurassic Park,” which fill viewers with a childlike wonder that can only come with well-directed stories about a friendly alien and a park full of dinosaurs, and who doesn’t love “Raiders of the Lost Ark”?
The latter though, is probably what changed many Hollywood doubters’ minds as to Spielberg’s genius and control over his craft. When in the 1980s the director announced his intent to bring Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Color Purple” to the big screen, after establishing himself as a blockbuster filmmaker of lighter fare, many were skeptical of his ability to do anything darker and more serious. After the film was released, however, the skeptics were set straight as Spielberg’s venture into dramas was a huge success, both at the box office and among critics.
This is probably my favorite thing about Spielberg’s films – not necessarily that they made money, but that regular moviegoing audiences in addition to critics and cinephiles are able to enjoy the medium. He makes movies that are accessible to everyone, and while there are definitely some film snobs out there who believe that not everyone can understand and enjoy good cinema, I think they’re wrong.
I think that, like me, the greater moviegoing universe appreciates a good story that is well told. They like good characters, who are real and relatable, but also heroes who are stronger and braver than they’ll ever be. They like a good villain, whose dark backstory makes them sympathetic despite their intentions to take over the world, or what have you. They like the costumes, the makeup and hair, the escape from the everyday. That is what Spielberg does best: he creates movie magic.
He makes history a cinematic and affecting experience – “Amistad,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Schindler’s List” are but a few examples, and brings out our inner child, full of imagination and innocence, thanks to action-adventure films like the Indiana Jones movies, “E.T.,” and “The Adventures of Tintin.”
Maybe I’m unoriginal for calling him my favorite, but I’ll take his movie magic and wide-eyed wonder any day.