DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Worst Moments in the Spielberg Canon

Monday 12 April 2010

Worst Moments in the Spielberg Canon

You’re watching a Steven Spielberg movie, one of the cinema’s greatest filmmakers and you’re enjoying the picture, and suddenly you double-take, ‘oh no, did I just see that?’ You rewind the DVD, or VHS cassette and watch some a bunch of costumed children skateboarding through conveniently placed ramps around the Peter Pan neverland set. This is one of those moments where Spielberg ‘goes wrong’ – a momentary lapse in judgment which against, the mostly magnificence of his body of work, sticks out like amateur hour.

His filmography is peppered these moments, which makes it worth compiling and discussing.


There's a few cringe moments in the latest Indiana Jones film, but none more awful than the moment Shia Lebeouf's character, during a hectic chase sequence through the jungle, starts swinging on vines like Tarzan to catch up to the baddies.

Gymnastics Routine in THE LOST WORLD (1997)

I could have put the moment in “The Lost World” – in general, the unfairly trounced Jurassic sequel – when we first see Dr. Malcolm’s adopted child emerge rambunctiously into the picture and run into his arms. I think there was a collective groan by everyone – throwing a child into the situation inevitably invites childish scenes. Indeed we get it at the end when Spielberg completes Kelly Malcolm’s (played by Vanessa Lee Chester) character arc by having her use her failed gymnastic skills on a conveniently placed high bar to kick out the oncoming velociraptor out of the shack.

Going Inside the Mothership in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

The story behind the multiple editions of Close Encounters is well known. Despite the enormous success of the film in 1977, Spielberg felt rushed and that he didn’t get his ‘director’s cut’. Spielberg managed to convince Columbia to give him money to shoot an additional scene inside the big ol’ mothership as an added bonus to get people into the theatres again. Even Spielberg admitted, it was a wrong decision, a scene which extends and essentially ruins the flow of the majestic otherworldly and spiritual finale.

“I am free!!” – AMISTAD

Who could forgot the moment in the final act court room trial when Djimon Honsou stands up so dramatically from his bench and loudly proclaims in broken English, ‘I am Free! I am Free!’


'Empire of the Sun' had the makings of a great movie. For two thirds, the journey of Jim Graham (based on author JG Ballard’s real experiences) from the upper class British privilege to Japanese war prisoner is a remarkable film, with some of Spielberg best scenes and characters. Until the third act… throughout Spielberg shows us a parallel story of a Japanese youth of similar age who like Jim is smitten with airplanes and thus recruited into the air force. After a failed Kamikaze mission Jim tries to revive the boy life’s from death resulting some awful over-the-top melodrama.

Skateboarding Lost Boys in HOOK

Easily Spielberg’s worst movie, a shameless attempt to rekindle the childhood ‘magic’ some had claimed he had lost while he was making more mature films in the 80’s. The introduction of his version of the JM Barrie’s lost boys just proves how out of touch his sensibilities were with the youth of then.

Alien/Robots in AI: Artificial Intelligence

You’d think he would have learned from his mistakes on Close Encounters, yet when he came to write and direct AI, Spielberg essentially ruined one of his best films by needlessly extending a fine two hour film by another 20mins. After Gigilo Joe is captured by the corporate robotmakers, David is left in the helicopter, which subsequently crashed into the water and floats to the bottom. If the film ended there Spielberg had a decent and profound revelation of David’s self-acknowledgement as a robot. The 4th act set years into the future with hyper-intelligent robots and David’s revived memories of his mother which only last one day is contrived nonsense.


T.J. Hawke said...

I don't think anything in a movie has made me so angry as when I saw Shia The Beouf channel Tarzan. I was with a dozen friends and we were all in shock at what we had just seen.

I managed to recover, only to be furious again once the aliens showed up at the end. Obviously all the Indiana movies had ridiculous endings but having aliens enter the canon crossed the line

Alan Bacchus said...

I actually didn't mind the aliens, since the franchise moved into the 50's it seemed a natural place to go. But for me, by then, the film and the franchise had lost its lustre and was thus a throwaway picture which few of us would remember or care about.

T.J. Hawke said...

For me I never LOVED the franchise the way some did. (I would say one loves the franchise if they defend the dreadfully boring, Temple of Doom).

If the Tarzan thing never happened, I could have tolerated the aliens just like I tolerated the other endings. However, the stupidity of both scenes right on top of each other (along with "24"ish twist of Ray WInstone switching sides 300 times) left a really sour taste in my mouth.

Glen said...

Oh, I think the part at the end of Schindler's List where Oskar Schindler drops his gold nazi pin, crawls around searching for it, weeping "one more, with this pin I could have saved one more" is one of my biggest Spielberg cringe moments.

T.J. Hawke said...


I wouldn't say I necessarily cringed, but I found that scene somewhat weird. It seemed out of place at the very least.

One could also argue that a cringe moment was the very last scene with all of the real "Schindler's Jews." I thought that scene was kind of hokey as well

Alan Bacchus said...

Glen - yes, good call!

Alan Bacchus said...

I always hated the bookending of Schindler too. Same with Saving Private Ryan - the old man at the cemetary I hated. But neither made me cringe or ruin either movie.

T.J. Hawke said...

Idea for a future column

Best Moments in the Michael Bay Canon

Probably harder to write than this one!

Blair Stewart said...

"Best Moments in
the Michael Bay Canon

Probably harder to write than this one!"

That's easy-whenever the end
credits scrolled upwards.

Gina B said...

Personally, I LOVE the fast forward future scene of A.I. And those aliens freaked me right out (in a good way). I think A.I came out the same time Radiohead's Kid A & Amnesiac did and those albums highlighted A.I's feel for me - the poetry of a cold future. I thought the aliens wanting to learn more about people & grant this robot some closure was interesting because they saw value in his plight where humans had not. Not a cringe moment at all to me. AWESOMENESS!!!!