I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 15 years.
Two-time winner of the Best Director Oscar, Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical new film, The Fabelmans, co-written with Tony Kushner, will be released Thanksgiving 2022.
Even if you’re not a film fanatic, you know the name Spielberg as he’s probably the most famous director in history. Raiders. E.T. Schindler’s List. Saving Private Ryan. He’s unapologetically made some of the most famous films in the world and continues to churn them out well into his 70s.
This list will rank Spielberg’s five best films since the year 2000 (he’s made 16 as if this writing). Odds are you’ve seen most of them. While you’re waiting for The Fabelmans, let’s recap his top 5. Be sure to vote for your favorite Spielberg film since 2000 at the end of the article.
Steven Spielberg's 5 Best Since 2000
- Munich (2005)
- Minority Report (2002).
- Lincoln (2012)
- A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
- West Side Story (2021)
1) Munich (2005)
Steven Spielberg’s morally ambiguous thriller opens with historical footage of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and ends with a haunting final shot that lingers with you after the credits begin rolling.
For almost three hours (that never feels that long) we’re with a kill squad (including a pre-Bond Daniel Craig) as they exact their revenge on the terrorists. They’re very effective at their jobs, less effective at letting what they’re doing not eat them up inside.
A sequence involving a phone and a little girl is one of the most suspenseful Spielberg has ever shot. By the end you’re as gutted as lead Eric Bana’s Avner. Plays like a procedural as most of the first half of the movie feels episodic as the kill team knocks off their targets.
Some of Spielberg’s best technical work, Munich stays with you as the film questions the point of vengeance and how many ethical lines must be crossed or erased altogether. One of Spielberg’s very best.
2) Minority Report (2002)
Roger Ebert named this the best film of 2002. Works equally well as science fiction and as a crime thriller. Uses Tom Cruise’s star wattage to add layers to a character that might have felt thin on the page.
A sequence in a mall with Cruise and Samantha Morton as a PreCog (“He knows…”) is a masterclass in editing and building suspense. The actual mystery element of the story holds up after repeated viewings. Even if you can figure out the main villain, the “how” of the story remains ingenious.
Some may kvetch at the overly saccharine ending, but Report remains Spielberg’s best entertainment of the 2000s.
3) Lincoln (2012)
A verbally dense historical biopic that covers the final months of Abraham Lincoln’s life (Daniel Day-Lewis, picking up his third Oscar) and the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. It’s fascinating how engrossing Lincoln is considering it’s two and a half hours of old white guys talking and/or yelling at each other.
There’s so much detail in Tony Kushner’s screenplay that I’ll admit to having to see it twice just to connect the dots in my head how everything went down. Day Lewis’ towering performance as Lincoln doesn’t rely of actor histrionics too much.
His Lincoln is a simple (in the best way) soft-spoken man who knows what he needs to do to get slavery abolished, even if it means crossing some legal and possibly moral lines. If you don’t mind the speechifying, Lincoln brings an enthralling piece of history to life.
4) A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Spielberg’s imperfect masterpiece was his first writing credit since Poltergeist. The long gestating collaboration between Spielberg and the late legendary director Stanley Kubrick finally hit the screens two years after Kubrick’s death.
A post-Sixth Sense Haley Joel Osment plays David, a robot who wants to be a real boy. Jude Law steals scenes as the very amorous Gigolo Joe (it’s in the name).
Featuring some of the best and (literally) brightest production design ever in a Spielberg movie by Rick Carter. The Flesh Fair is horrific and fascinating at the same time. Then there’s the ending. It’s been called problematic by some and I can’t disagree. It’s my least favorite part of the movie…and I like the movie a lot.
It tries for emotions it doesn’t quite earn, but that’s easily forgiven within the entirety of the story. A swing for the fences in every way, even if its not entirely successful A. I. remains a movie you have to see at least once.
5) West Side Story (2021)
And I don’t even like musicals…
Spielberg’s remake already one-ups the original by having actual Latinos play Latino characters instead of the brownfacey 1961 original. Considered a box-office failure—partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic—Spielberg’s updates do nothing to distract from the story, as the two and a half hour runtime rarely feels that long.
Unless you already don’t like people breaking into a song. Ariana DeBose owns her scenes as a now-iconic Anita in her Oscar winning role. The rest of the cast fills in their archetypal roles nicely without ever nodding to the audience.
Will this win you over if you hate musicals? Probably not, but it is nice to see Spielberg try something different. It even has tunes you can hum while your (grand)parents sing along.
Before The Fabelmans reaches theaters this Thanksgiving, be sure to watch (or rewatch) Steven Spielberg’s best movies of the newish century.
© 2022 Noel Penaflor