10. Steven Spielberg (1946 – )
The “blockbuster” originated in 1976, when Steven Spielberg’s Jaws packed a record number of moviegoers into theaters around the country. Ever since, studios have been scrambling to one up each other for bragging rights at the box office.
More than 25 years after Jaws, Spielberg continues to deliver more big-budget successes than any other
director, remaining prolific and popular at the same time. Probably the most bankable moviemaker working today, of the five highest grossing films of all time, two bear his directorial stamp. But success does have a price tag. For Spielberg, it’s the pressure of appealing to the largest possible audience, which occasionally means having to compromise. Though his Schindler’s List is no doubt one of cinema’s most powerful documents, films like the Indiana Jones series and Jurassic Park exemplify “entertainment” in its purest form.
Says MM’s Rustin Thompson: “It’s unfortunate that the blockbuster mentality that has gripped the movie industry since the summer of Jaws has superseded the influence of Spielberg’s talents. His craft has always been deft and elegant, but in recent years, buoyed by the knowledge that he can get away with just about anything, his films have been self-indulgent, lazy and sentimental. None of his post-’70s work bears up under scrutiny; none of it has the exuberant economy of Duel, The Sugarland Express, Jaws or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s sad to realize that the very freedoms that allowed him to make those films have been bigfooted by today’s box office myopia. His influence cannot not be found in a director’s homage to classic Spielberg manipulations of light and off-screen space in Close Encounters, his precocious use of foreground in Duel, nor in the precise editing of the beach scenes in Jaws. Instead, one need only look at the ads for the latest dumb, must-see, comic-book extravaganza to realize the monster—much more voracious than a great white—that Spielberg quite unintentionally created.”