/Answers: The Best Steven Spielberg Scenes

/Answers: The Best Steven Spielberg Scenes

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. Tying in with the upcoming re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, this week’s edition asks “What is your favorite scene from a Steven Spielberg movie?”

Hoai-Tran Bui: The Flying Bicycle Scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

There’s no scene that better captures Steven Spielberg’s particular brand of childhood wonder than the flying bikes scene in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg has always been a master craftsman, but you can truly feel the affection he has for the coming-of-age drama — with a sci-fi twist, of course.

The scene is fairly straightforward: Elliott and his friends are being chased by police and government officials as they try to get E.T. back to his spaceship. After a brief flirtation with victory, they suddenly find themselves surrounded on all sides as their bikes hurtle toward two police cars blocking the road. A moment later, E.T. enacts his magic and all five kids are flying through the air, leading to the iconic image of the five of them against the setting sun (the one of Elliott against the moon is just as magical). Coupled with John Williams’ sweeping score, the scene gains an air of euphoria, as the wiles of a couple kids beat back the Man once again. Watching it again, it has not become any cheesier or lost any of the wonder that it first instilled in me when I saw the film as a kid. Spielberg’s capacity for imagination, and his understanding of the fanciful mindset of kids was encapsulated in this scene. And while Stranger Things offered a great homage, nothing beats the original.

Ben Pearson: The Three Trials in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Steven Spielberg’s filmography is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dramatic, thrilling, and moving scenes, but I have to choose one from my favorite Spielberg hero, Indiana Jones. Near the end of Last Crusade, the Nazis force Indy’s hand by shooting his father (Sean Connery) near the final resting place of the holy grail, leaving Jones with no choice but to retrieve it – and quickly. There are so many great moments in this section of the movie alone, but I’ll narrow my focus to the portion in which Indy conquers three trials in order to reach the grail room.

These moments showcase everything I love about the character all boiled down into just a few minutes. As Jones reads from his father’s journal (further cementing the bond between them, as now their lives are fully in each other’s hands), he must rely on his wits, his physicality, and the groundwork his father did in order to make it through the three challenges. Spielberg perfectly intercuts Connery’s reactions with Indy’s attempts (note the subtle dolly zoom at 3:48, highlighting the importance of faith) and though the two characters can’t hear each other, there’s a dialogue between them as Indy traverses these treacherous trials. Not only is each one exciting in its own way, but the scene is thematically rich as well: Indy is achieving his father’s life-long dream, something Connery’s Dr. Jones Sr. would have attempted himself had he not been the recipient of a Nazi bullet. This isn’t just any old adventure for these characters, either: this is a payoff from all the way back in Indy’s childhood, which gives the scene even more weight. A ticking clock, daring exploits, unexpected twists, and perfect execution: what more could you want from one of history’s greatest directors?

Matt Donato: Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan

June 6th, 1944. Historically speaking, one day in a long war that cost too many good people their lives. For Steven Spielberg, it’s the iconic D-Day opening to his WWII drama Saving Private Ryan.

Cue Tom Hanks and his platoon storming the Omaha Beach area of Normandy, France (under German control). Nothing but kids floating towards inevitable death packed into glorified armored bowls, “hardened soldiers” puking and praying the whole way. Even Hanks’ hand quivers, knowing what dangers await. Then the transport boat’s ramp is lowered and a blanket of gunfire covers one of the most infamous cinematic beginnings of all time.

You all know the sequence by heart. Allied soldiers must traverse a stretch of sandy devastation that’s littered with German defensive fire. Gun nests rain bullets, artillery explosions leave massive craters, medics must decipher which living, mangled soldiers still have a shot at life and which are already dismembered corpses – war, in every sense, is hell. Spielberg’s scene appropriately conveys such hell. From the nauseating gore effects to barbaric attitudes (“Don’t shoot, let ‘em burn!” shouts a commanding officer while Germans are ignited via flamethrower). From an unstoppable parade of death to the film’s tinkering with sound both above and below water. It’s an ungodly immersion no viewer can escape.

Spielberg’s catalog is filled with award-worth examples, but Saving Private Ryan’s first twenty minutes remains a crowning achievement. Non-stop historical reflection with cinematic devastation on a massive, scorched-earth scale. WWII boiled down to one tragic, triumphant siege in to one of the greatest war movies ever made.

Peter Sciretta: The T-Rex Attack in Jurassic Park

This is a strange pick because Steven Spielberg, for me, tends to be more about the more magic and wonder of his adventure stories. But running through all of my favorite moments from Steven Spielberg-directed films, the one that came on top was the T-rex attack from the original Jurassic Park. I vividly remember watching this scene take place for the first time in the now torn down General Cinemas theater in Shoppers World in Framingham, Massachusetts. It was in the biggest and best theater, the one that was THX certified and has Dolby 5.1 surround sound. I remember the T-Rex’s footsteps shaking the theater. The bass must have been turned up to 10.

The sequence is so masterfully shot as it traps our heroes in a Jeep after the power in the park has been shut down…and in the middle of a horrible storm…and then a T-rex breaks free. Experiencing this encounter from the protagonist’s point of view was both thrilling and scary. I often imagine how this scene would have been filmed by other directors and I can’t image it being constructed any better than it is.

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