The Evolution of the Spielberg Summer Blockbuster

Lights! Camera! Action! Here, six degrees and more of the master director and his Tinseltown squad.


Once upon a time there was a young filmmaker, his cast and crew, a boat and a mechanical shark. Where the summer blockbuster began: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975).

American actors Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in costume as brother and sister Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy, 1977. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Terry O’Neill/Getty Images)

Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) written and directed by Spielberg’s best buddy, George Lucas.

(PREMIUM, Harrison Ford, 1981)

The two friends collaborated on Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

E.T., (poster art), 1982
E.T., (poster art), 1982

…which Spielberg followed up with one of his most beloved films, E.T. (1982).

BACK TO THE FUTURE, Michael J. Fox, 1985, (c) Universal Pictures / Courtesy: Everett Collection
(Universal Pictures / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

Not content to only direct, Spielberg executive produced mega-hit Back to the Future (1985) and its sequels.

Bob Hoskins is seduced by Jessica Rabbit in a scene from the film 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit', 1988. (Photo by Buena Vista/Getty Images)
(Photo by Buena Vista/Getty Images)

Moving into animation, he also executive produced Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988).

A t-rex in a scene from the film 'Jurassic Park', 1993. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)
(Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

Then he brought dinosaurs to life with Jurassic Park (1993) and also lent his executive producing chops to Men in Black (1997).

Poster for the movie 'Saving Private Ryan (directed by Steven Spielberg), 1998. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
(Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Spielberg turned the definition of summer blockbuster on its head with the Second World War epic and five-time Oscar winner, Saving Private Ryan (1998).

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 16: BB-8 onstage during Star Wars Celebration 2015 on April 16, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Always a mentor, his prolific protege J.J. Abrams directed the blockbusters Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) before turning his lens to Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), the biggest blockbuster of all-time, though not released in the summer.

JURASSIC WORLD, Chris Pratt, 2015. ph: Chuck Zlotnick/�Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection
(Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection)

Handing the T. Rex and directing reins to young-gun Colin Trevorrow, Spielberg oversaw Jurassic World (2015) as executive producer.

In Disney's fantasy-adventure THE BFG, directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Roald Dahl's beloved classic, a precocious 10-year old named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) befriends the BFG (Oscar (TM) winner Mark Rylance), a Big Friendly Giant from Giant Country.

And perhaps this summer’s Spielberg blockbuster, The BFG, which debuted at Cannes in May, will hit theatres on Canada Day.

A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2016 issue with the headline, “Summer of Spielberg,” p. 44-45.