Without any conscious planning, it seems that last Friday’s Weekend Roundtable turned into something of a referendum against Steven Spielberg. Perhaps that’s not fair, but for a man who’s supposed to be one of America’s greatest living filmmakers, Spielberg sure has directed a lot of crap. For today’s poll, let’s get right to the heart of the matter and decide which is his worst film of all.
If I wanted to be even-handed about this, I probably should have set up two polls, one for Spielberg’s best film and one for his worst. But with so many movies to his credit, I think that would make this post a little too unwieldy. Also, I’m in a cranky mood, so we’re just going to focus on the negative today.
I’ve included all of the feature films that Spielberg has directed in the poll. (‘Duel’ may be arguable, but it did play theatrically in some countries.) I’ve left out films for which he was only a contributor (like ‘Twilight Zone: The Movie’) or those he produced without directing. There’s some debate about how much of ‘Poltergeist’ Spielberg directed, but Tobe Hooper remains the credited director on that one, so I’ve left it out.
If I had to guess, I’d say that ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull‘ will probably lead the voting here, with ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park’ and ‘War of the Worlds’ not far behind. Personally, I went into ‘Crystal Skull’ with such rock-bottom low expectations that I didn’t wind up hating it as much as everyone else seems to. It’s easily the weakest of the Indy movies, but honestly it’s not that much worse than ‘Temple of Doom’. ‘The Lost World’ and ‘War of the Worlds’ I just found disappointingly mediocre, but not outright terrible.
My vote goes to ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence‘. Few movies ever made have infuriated me more. That film had so much potential (Stanley Kubrick spent almost two decades developing the project before his death), and it has a few moments of brilliance, but on the whole Spielberg made a terrible hash job of it. The last scene in that movie is the single worst ending to any movie that has ever been made, or likely ever will be made. Blech.
With that said, ‘The Terminal’ is pretty much unwatchable. ‘Hook’ is really lousy. ‘1941’ is a mess. ‘Always’ is sickeningly schmaltzy. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is vastly overrated. Even some of his best films, like ‘Close Encounters’ and (yeah, I’m going to say it) ‘Schindler’s List’, have moments of dunder-headed awfulness in them. (Don’t get me wrong; ‘Schindler’s List’ is a masterpiece overall, but that last scene goes really overboard.)
What would you pick as Steven Spielberg’s worst film?