He is one of our greatest filmmakers, and yet he is constantly dismissed for one ever-present and undeniable fact: no one has been more successful as a director than Steven Spielberg. From his career defining work in Jaws to his latter day triumphs of dramatics and depth, he has been unfairly criticized for being more populist than exclusive, working in genres that don’t typically define “art” and avoiding the risk and the experiment to play in more common, commercial territory. He is the very definition of the mainstream, a moviemaker who has understood what the public wants in each of the five decades he has sat behind the lens. Sure, there have been some flops (Always, 1941) and some less than special triumphs (Hook, Catch Me If You Can), but there is one thing that even critics cannot deny—when it comes to the Summer movie season, nobody is a better perennial poster boy.
Looking over his vast catalog, it’s interesting to note how many of this biggest triumphs ended up as part of the May to August rush. A few classics—Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Schnidler’s List, Munich—came out during what it usually considered Awards Season, but for the most part, Spielberg is a sunbeam and lemonade film fixture. His muse is specifically set to combine fireworks and emotion into a heady stew of movie magic. It’s with this in mind—and the arrival of the obvious homage Super 8—that we narrow down his oeuvre into the Top 10 Spielberg Summer Blockbusters of all time. Without him, the popcorn season would never have been the same. With him, the entire landscape of the modern movie industry was changed forever. It’s a imprint that continues on to this day (doesn’t it, J.J. Abrams???):