Steven Spielberg has been in the game for a good 45 years, and in that time he has managed to win 3 Oscars, establish the archetype for Hollywood blockbusters, and direct 30 feature-length films.
That's right, Spielberg's films are to cinema what apple pie is to America — and not just because of the stories and characters alone, though that's what he's known for. Working with talented DPs like Janusz Kamiński, he has managed to capture some of the most iconic images ever put up on the big screen, and this video by Jacob T. Swinney celebrates one from each of his 30 films. Enjoy!
When we think of Spielberg we typically don't think of cinematography. His style, if you can call it that, is incredibly subtle, invisible, and refuses to call attention to itself. He does, however, have cinematographic trademarks, like the long take (or oner), tracking shots, as well as several others.
So, how has Spielberg managed to create some of the most recognizable images ever shown on a movie screen? I mean, granted, that shot in E.T. where Elliott and E.T. are silhouetted against the moon as they pedal towards freedom is pretty epic (it became the logo for Amblin, Spielberg's production company), but what about the others?
Indiana Jones about to do the ol' sandbag switcheroo in Raiders of the Lost Ark? Ripples in a plastic cup? A worm's-eye-view of a woman swimming in the ocean? Why are these shots so memorable?
Maybe the answer lies in the fact that Spielberg, at least earlier on in his career, brought the necessary ingredients to the table: great story, great characters, and great cinematography. So, in other words, it wasn't just the shots themselves that were iconic, but rather the combination of all of these elements together.
The shots are like fond memories that bring us back to a time we hold dear, or remind us of an experience we once had. Spielberg did this particularly well — and with just one single shot.