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The Spielberg Moments That Are Quintessentially Spielberg
A film-by-film look at Steven Spielberg's cinematic grace notes

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Everyone remembers the Big Spielberg Set-Pieces — the Mothership landing in Close Encounters, the rolling boulder in Raiders, the bike over the moon in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Yet the thing that often sets Spielberg films apart are the small flashes — the memorable shots, telling details, humorous asides and sublime grace notes — that litter each and every film (even the ones that don’t entirely work). As Lincoln hits cinemas, we survey every Spielberg flick and pull out the magic, privileged moments that have been present and correct over the past 40 years.

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Duel (1971)

Duel (1971)

The moment: Harried suburban salesman David Mann (Dennis Weaver) takes time out in a Laundromat to call his wife.

The magic: Even in this early stage of his career, Spielberg was a huge advocate of the frame within a frame. The simple act of a woman opening a washing machine door to perfectly frame Mann’s phone does numerous things; it adds depth to the shot; it funnels our attention on Mann; and it provides a visual metaphor for a man (Mann) trapped. This may be for TV but Spielberg was always thinking cinematically.

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1 RE: The Spielberg Moments That Are Quintessentially Spielberg
I enjoyed looking through the list - some excellent moments there. Some of the one's i have thought off Jaws Shark pops out of the water and brody retreats to state' We're gonna need a bigger boat' Hooper playing cards 'stop playing with yourself hooper' states robert shaw haha Schindler's List - Girl in red was powerful and moving - excellent shot! Crystal skull - Indy survives nuclear blast through fridge With the crystal skull- it felt speigberg excellence for half the movie - shotgun shells through area 51 etc with George lucas doing the 2nd part from the jungle scene were imo went rubbish More

Posted by Giants14 on Friday February 15, 2013, 11:28

2 War Horse
I thought the riderless horses jumping over the machine gun positions was the most quintessentially Spielberg moment in the whole movie :) More

Posted by tolkienerd on Sunday February 3, 2013, 18:39

3 War Horse
I thought the riderless horses jumping over the machine gun positions was the most quintessentially Spielberg moment in the whole movie :) More

Posted by tolkienerd on Sunday February 3, 2013, 18:30

4 One More Thing...
Oh and the kid in the red coat is the obvious visual to pick from Schindler's List but it's a little too cloying. I preferred the more sublte arrival at Auschwitz scene and the unearthly eerie glow coming in through the slits in the cattle car. A real "oh shit" moment. More

Posted by BenTramer on Saturday February 2, 2013, 14:32

“America and Russia and England all knew about the Holocaust when it was happening, and yet we did nothing about it,." Not exactly a fair comment. The major concentration camps like Auschwitz were in Eastern Europe, the US and UK were coming in from Western Europe, nowhere near them. The Russians denied the Western allies use of their airfields to bomb the camps. Even if they had bombed them, innocent people would've been killed and the survivors sent on a death march to another camp. The only way to stop the Holocaust was to defeat Hitler and the Nazis and that's what they did. More

Posted by BenTramer on Saturday February 2, 2013, 14:23

6 Shooting Stars
Not one mention of the shooting stars that appear in a lot of early films. I know someone always has a critique but it's a pretty big ommission - mabey it was too obvious to include but worth a mention. They sum up magic so easily - i love when they appear - they are like a breath of wonder . Films I remember them in are Jaws, Temple of Doom, I think in Poltergeist... fantastic stuff. There are so many other touches that could be included but the list would never end More

Posted by Duane Barry on Saturday February 2, 2013, 02:22

Directors get far, far too much credit for what is a team effort involving hundreds of people. Give a good director a poor team (Ridley Scott, Speilberg, whoever) and the film is a turkey, which shows just how much the Director actually influences the outcome. More

Posted by warren7355 on Friday February 1, 2013, 09:59

Directors get far, far too much credit for what is a team effort involving hundreds of people. Give a good director a poor team (Ridley Scott, Speilberg, whoever) and the film is a turkey, which shows just how much the Director actually influences the outcome. More

Posted by warren7355 on Friday February 1, 2013, 09:40

9 Jaws
when Schnieder first sees the boy on the lilo getting attack and how the camera zooms in on schineders face and the surroundings bend = genius More

Posted by maxdhart on Thursday January 31, 2013, 00:34

10 So many to choose from.
Spielberg is unquestionably the greatest film director of all-time. The variety of films, genres and ability to channel all human emotions puts him on a different level than those film auteurs who prefer to stick to what they know best. More

Posted by oldstuff on Wednesday January 30, 2013, 20:25

11 Jaws
I'd pick the moment where the Orca (Quint's boat) is leaving Amity Harbour. The view we see from the camera, from Quint's shack goes up to the shark jaw bones perfectly framing the boat between the teeth. More

Posted by danielthompson99 on Wednesday January 30, 2013, 13:52

12 War of the Worlds
This would be a good moment except for the fact that the aliens were supposed to have wiped out all things electronic (watches, cars, TVs, lights, etc). This turns what would be a good moment into a major continuity issue. I guess the aliens were successful in wiping out all electronics with the exception of this video camera and the van that Tom Cruise jump starts to escape. More

Posted by tubagod81 on Tuesday January 29, 2013, 16:48

13 Close Encounters - mountain reveal
The living room shot of Roy beside his mountain model, as the mountain appears on TV is the single greatest shot in cinema history. More

Posted by jrewing1000 on Tuesday January 29, 2013, 12:59

14 Always
"It also includes a kind of Elmer Thudd type hunter, a figure of fun that Spielberg had satirised in early stuff like The Sugarland Express and Jaws." Elmer Thudd? Is that what happens to Elmer Fudd when Bugs Bunny hits him really hard? More

Posted by sagart on Tuesday January 29, 2013, 11:10

15 Well Done - You can copy and paste!
I do love you Empire, but come on!!!!!! Didn't this article appear in your printed magazine a while back (okay IT DID - I just can't remember which one.) Was it 1001 Great Movie Moments or a cool list?! More

Posted by mickybeakes on Tuesday January 29, 2013, 10:19

16 RE: Zemekis
Yessss nice article but of course most of these were thought up by the screenwriter, not designed by the director. I'm a little tired of people confusing the two. More

Posted by dolfinack on Monday January 28, 2013, 23:55

17 Zemekis
Hate to be nitpicky but TECHNICALLY Zemekis came up with the E.T. moment chosen. It is undeniably Spielberg-y but actually...isn't. More

Posted by darthmax1 on Monday January 28, 2013, 16:34

18 better moments
Jurassic Park - Malcolm wiping condensation off a window so he can see the TRex attack Empire of the Sun - the struggle seen in footprints left in talcum powder Hook - Hook amd Smee planning their revenge, while Hook tires to kill himself Terminal - Hanks collects trollies Crystal Skull - Indy is pulled into a car from the bike, has a fight and gets back on bike from the other side More

Posted by zeech1941 on Monday January 28, 2013, 15:08

19 Crystal Skull Moment
Empire clearly struggled to find anything innovative about Hook, Terminal or Crystal Skull. They are Terrible movies with nothing particularly interesting about them. The moment Empire picked out for Crystal Skull was a routine shooting of what the script called for. It's so called "Quintessentially Spielberg Moment" is nothing more than what David Koepp wrote. More

Posted by bnicholson50 on Monday January 28, 2013, 14:14

Mainly excellent choices but I think there are several better quintesential Spielberg moments in Saving Private Ryan than the one you have mentioned. e.g. the soldier who gets shot in the helmet (snigger) and takes it off due to how lucky he is only to be instantly shot again, the build up to the final battle where we here the tank approaching but see nothing at first, that is spine tinglingly tense and my personal favourite Spielberg- esqe moment is during the scene where Caparzzo has been shot the sniper turns his aim to the pile of rubble where Jackson is hiding. We see the sniper's pov and we see a tiny flash of Jackson's muzzle and a bullet takes out the sniper. Its the little details. Good shout for Always, an oft overlooked film, one of the best opening shots of any film More

Posted by Kardom on Monday January 28, 2013, 12:51

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