Steven Spielberg’s 5 Biggest Blockbusters

Steven Spielberg may be 70 (his age has always been the subject of debate), but his productivity has never diminished. In the next six months alone, we’ll see two new movies from the legendary filmmaker: December’s The Post and March’s Ready Player One. While these films are virtually assured critical and commercial success—par for the course when it comes to Spielberg’s directing efforts—even he can’t expect them to soar to the jaw-dropping heights of his early triumphs.

Premiering this weekend, Spielberg is an epic new documentary that details its subject’s rise and… continued rise as a filmmaker over the last 40-plus years. What some younger movie buffs might not realize is just how unprecedented Spielberg’s success was at his peak. A hit-making machine when commercial success was still a marker of quality, Spielberg experienced off the charts success—that has been unfairly diminished by the ravages of inflation. Without even taking into account his many hits as a producer (three of them would have bumped other movies off the list below), here are Spielberg’s five biggest hits as a director, along with their grosses (adjusted for inflation) and all-time box office ranking.


5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind ($497 million, #75 all-time)

By today’s ADD-addled standards, Close Encounters of the Third Kind might be considered slow or even uneventful, but the director’s first foray into science fiction offered images and sensations no one had experienced before.


4. Raiders of the Lost Ark ($787 million, #21 all-time)

The biggest hit of 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark launched the only franchise that Spielberg has remained loyal to as a director. In addition to the two new movies listed above, Spielberg is currently hard at work on his fifth Indiana Jones movie.


3. Jurassic Park ($817 million, #17 all-time)

Now that movies can show us just about anything with convincing detail and clarity, it’s hard to imagine a time when a special effects breakthrough had the power to make headlines and dominate the box office for months. That’s exactly what happened when the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park arrived in 1993, launching a franchise that’s still a dominant force 24 years later.


2. Jaws ($1.14 billion, #7 all-time

After directing a variety of TV shows and TV movies, Spielberg graduated to feature filmmaking with 1974’s unfairly overlooked Sugarland Express. However, his real breakthrough came with Jaws, an industry-shifting mega-hit that permanently expanded the appetites and commercial ambitions of Hollywood.


1. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial ($1.26 billion, #4 all-time)

Based on an idea that sprang from Spielberg’s own imagination—when his parents got divorced, he became best buds with an imaginary alien—E.T. went on to become the biggest of Spielberg’s many blockbusters. By punctuating everyday reality with an occasional splash of the fantastical, the director delivered one of the most down to earth box office behemoths of his (or anyone’s) career.

Spielberg premieres on HBO Canada tomorrow at 8PM. Check out the trailer below.