Every Steven Spielberg Best Director Nomination, Ranked By IMDb

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The iconic Steven Spielberg is currently the most commercially successful director of all time. Since his debut in the 1960s, Steven Spielberg has participated in at least 150 films by writing, directing, producing or consulting on some aspect of the creative process.

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Spielberg has received numerous accolades for his films, including eight Academy Award nominations for Best Director. His most recent film West Side Story was nominated for Best Director at the 94th Academy Awards, and although Jane Campion received the Oscar for her work on The power of the dog, Spielberg’s film was a worthy contender. But where does it rank among all the other Steven Spielberg films nominated for Best Director?

8 Lincoln (2012) – 7.3

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Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln sitting while it's raining behind him.

Steven Spielberg has directed several great historical dramas. lincoln was nominated for a total of 12 Oscars in 2013, winning two, which goes to show just how awesome it was.

The film was based on the 2005 book Rivals Team by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which is a biographical look at part of Abraham Lincoln’s career. While some were disappointed that the film was more of a look at Abraham Lincoln’s push for the 13th Amendment rather than a biography of the man himself, many agree that the film was excellent. lincoln is gritty but remarkably beautiful, critically acclaimed. Spielberg did not receive the Oscar for best director, but his work on lincoln is widely believed to be the reason for the film’s success.

7 West Side Story (2021) – 7.4

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Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler in West Side Story 2020

West Side Story was Spielberg’s most recent nomination for Best Director. The musical received seven Oscar nominations this year and won one for Best Supporting Actress. West Side Story was Steven Spielberg’s first musical and was overall a big hit.

The film is the second film adaptation of the 1957 musical of the same name. Many were worried about Steven Spielberg directing a musical, even more so when they found out it was a remake of an already popular film adaptation. Despite the trepidation, Spielberg delivered a great coming-of-age musical with beautiful visuals and classic Broadway musical feel.


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6 Munich (2005) – 7.5

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Movie poster image for Munich.

The historical drama of 2005 Munich is often considered Speilberg’s best since Save Private Ryan. Munich is also considered one of Steven Spielberg’s best films of the 21st century. The film was generally well received and was nominated for five Academy Awards.

The film is based on the book revenge by George Jonas, detailing the Israeli assassination campaign after the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. This film received mixed reviews due to the film’s overall coldness as well as the ending. Spielberg is keen on not concluding the story with a happy ending and for some that was a mistake, but for many that’s what makes this story so compelling.


5 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – 7.6

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The Great of Science Fiction Dating of the Third Kind came out the same year as George Lucas’ star wars, help push the resurgence of the genre in the film industry. The film won two Oscars and was nominated for seven more.

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Spielberg brings the curiosity behind UFOs and aliens to the screen through two close encounter stories. While many agree that the film starts off rather slow, the climax leaves viewers hooked and doesn’t disappoint. Although it was released in the 1970s, the visual effects surpass many films of the same period, and overall the film is stunning.


4 ET The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – 7.9

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Elliott rides a bike with ET.

The genre of science fiction films slowed down sharply in the 1960s, but following the success of star wars in the 1970s it made a resurgence in the film industry. Steven Spielberg was no stranger to science fiction and jumped on the bandwagon in 1982, creating one of the most remarkable films of all time: AND the extra-terrestrial.

The film received a total of nine Oscar nominations, accepting four wins. Although Spielberg did not receive the Best Director Oscar for this film, HEY is still one of the greatest films of all time and has received a number of other accolades. The balance of heartwarming friendship and well-placed jokes makes it stand the test of time.


3 Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – 8.4

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The Raiders of the Lost Ark

The Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first film in the Indiana Jones franchise. It currently has four films, with a fifth in the works, which will be the first in the franchise to be produced by Spielberg and not directed by him. The action-adventure film won five Oscars and was nominated for four more.

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The action-packed adventure is the highest ranked Indiana Jones franchise on IMDb and has received the most accolades. Indiana Jones fans watch the movies to be perched on the edge of their seat as Indy escapes deadly traps and battles fearsome enemies. Spielberg delivers the thrills Indiana Jones fans love, winning an immediate and loyal following.


2 Saving Private Ryan (1998) – 8.6

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The opening scene of D-Day in Saving Private Ryan

1998 brought a Steven Spielberg war drama. Saving Private Ryan was nominated for a total of 11 Oscars in 1999, winning five of them including Best Director.

Following critical acclaim for his previous war drama, Spielberg used those skills to Saving Private Ryan to harness the raw emotion that made Schindler’s list so powerful. Steven Spielberg’s historical epic is brutal and gruesome, but that’s what made it gripping for so many. Spielberg didn’t hold back the blood and violence of war, and while those things aren’t for everyone, they made the movie all the more compelling.




1 Schindler’s List (1993) – 9.0

Rent on Vudu


Topping the list is Steven Spielberg’s 1993 historical drama Schindler’s listwho was nominated for a total of 12 Oscars in 1994, winning seven of them, including Best Director.

The legendary Schindler’s list is a heartbreaking period drama based on the novel Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. With a subject such as the Holocaust, the film came as a surprise when it crossed paths with Steven Spielberg as his previous work was a lot of action and sci-fi. A film with such heavy subject matter was new to Spielberg, but the critical acclaim the film received proved that Spielberg is an excellent director in more than a few genres.

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