Sentimental Spielberg: How the Great Director Depicts Humanity

Steven Spielberg has put together some truly epic action scenes in his career, but it's in the subtle, emotional moments of his films where his craftsmanship truly shines.

Yeah, scenes like Elliott flying across the moon in E.T. and Indiana Jones running from a rolling boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark are pretty spectacular, and his use of animatronic sharks and CGI dinosaurs are cinematic feats that brought filmmaking to new heights. However, Spielberg is not only a master of big, flashy set pieces, but of tender moments where the audience are really able to connect to his characters in a very real way.

In this video by Andrew Saladino, we get to take a deeper look into these types of scenes, ones that, though they may be considered overly sentimental at times, manage to capture the essence of our delicate humanity.

There's definitely a fine line between an honest, empathetic scene and a super saccharine, honey-dripping one. You can probably name a few that, after you watched it, you were like, "Ugh...I need something to cleanse my palate of all of this sweetness." However, I bet you can name ones that moved you in ways no other films ever have.

In other words, it's not the scene from Hook where Peter accepts his true identity as the Pan that creates more of this humanity, it's the one where Pocket pulls on his face and discovers it for himself. It's not the final scene in Jurassic park where Alan, Ellie, and the kids escape in the helicopter, it's when Alan pretends to get shocked by the electric fence to scare them. 

Of course, this is all based on opinion, but I think these scenes are about characters reconnecting with who they are, who they always have been. And I'm with Saladino; the dinner scene in Jaws where Brody's son copies him has to be one of my favorites, too. It's raw. It's authentic. It's honest.

It's Brody, having been confronted by a woman who just lost her boy to a Great White, feeling guilty about not taking care of the shark problem. And there's his son, mimicking his movements. It's me taking a break from a long day of writing articles to have a meal with my family, only to be stuck in a 1000-yard stare. And there's my daughter, bringing me back into the moment, saying, "Mama, how far did you go?" It's Brody telling his son to kiss him because—he needs it. It's me telling my daughter, "Too far."

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I always wonder why people complain about Spielberg's sentimentality? I for one love all his movies. But as for his sentimentality in his films, maybe he's just a sentimental guy. David Fincher has said he believes we are perverts so his films reflect that. Spielberg is probably a really sentimental guy so his films reflect that. I love that about the different films, you can really see the director's personality in the films that way.

May 25, 2016 at 7:43AM


This is something that I really miss in a lot of modern filmmaking. These days it often feels like there's nothing but fever pitched action or intense emotional drama. We rarely get to see kids just being kids, or people just talking about ordinary things. Sure those things aren't the most exciting, but they're the normal day to day things that allow us to identify with the characters. Just spend a little bit of time portraying authentic, ordinary moments and the dramatic action becomes that much more powerful.

May 25, 2016 at 12:19PM, Edited May 25, 12:19PM

Nathan Taylor
Jack of all trades, master of none

I might get shouted down by trolls, but I think the best moments in the Marvel comic book movies are the ... quiet moments ... where the characters reveal a glimpse of humanity. It's an art, revealing character at the same time the world/universe/multiverse is in the process of being destroyed. Doesn't always work. But my recent favorite was in the new Captain America film. The Winter Soldier in the back seat of a VW bug, asking Falcon, "Can you move your seat up?" That's something we can all relate to.

May 27, 2016 at 11:45AM