Steven Spielberg is considered one of the most commercially successful and influential directors of all time. He has directed blockbuster hits like Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, and many others.
However, despite his enormous success, Spielberg has also attracted a fair share of critics and detractors over the years. Here are some of the main reasons why some people dislike or even hate the famous director.
Why Do Some People Dislike Spielberg’s Films?
Sentimentality and Emotional Manipulation
One of the most common criticisms of Spielberg is that his films are overly sentimental, sappy, and emotionally manipulative.
Many accuse him of relying too much on feel-good stories, happy endings, and tearjerker moments intended to tug at the heartstrings of audiences. Films like E.T., Hook, Saving Private Ryan, and War Horse have been criticized for being too sentimental.
Style Over Substance
Related to the sentimentality criticism is the argument that Spielberg prioritizes style and emotion over nuanced storytelling and substantive themes.
Some argue that he uses slick techniques like sweeping camera moves, lush music, and majestic settings to mask or compensate for stories and characters that lack depth and complexity. His detractors say he manipulates audiences by dazzling their senses rather than challenging their minds.
Lack of Character Development
Spielberg has also been accused of populating his films with one-dimensional characters that lack interiority, nuance, and growth. The argument is that his protagonists are often binary heroes or villains without psychological depth or moral ambiguity.
The flashy style and plot machinery take center stage while complex characterization falls by the wayside.
Spielberg’s films are also critiqued for being escapist fantasies rather than realistic or thought-provoking stories.
His adventure films, science fiction tales, and historical dramas have been faulted for glossing over harsh realities and uncomfortable truths in favor of uplifting fables and crowd-pleasing spectacle.
Rehashing Common Tropes and Themes
Many criticize Spielberg for relying on familiar Hollywood tropes and themes throughout his career like the absent father, the importance of childlike wonder, the patriotic American hero, and the valor of common men in difficult circumstances.
His detractors argue he keeps going back to the same storytelling wells rather than innovating and evolving as an artist.
Displays of Sentimentality in Popular Spielberg Films
|Sentimental Scenes / Themes
|E.T. and Elliot’s friendship, E.T.’s illness and subsequent revival
|Saving Private Ryan
|Opening D-Day battle scene, protagonists sacrificing lives to save Private Ryan
|Young Albert’s relationship with his horse Joey, their eventual reunion
|The Color Purple
|Celie and Nettie’s sisterly bond, Celie overcoming abuse and finding happiness
Why Do Some Dislike Spielberg Personally?
Some critics argue that Spielberg is overrated and overhyped as a director. They feel his commercial success and pop culture influence have elevated him to untouchable status in the film industry and public consciousness beyond what is justified by his talent and skills alone.
Lacks Artistic Credibility
Relatedly, some cinephiles and film snobs feel Spielberg’s filmography lacks true artistic credibility compared to more serious “auteur” directors. They view his accessible, populist movies as inferior to more challenging, avant-garde films that stretch the medium.
Represents Corporate Hollywood
Spielberg’s big-budget blockbusters and company (Amblin Entertainment) are seen by some as representing everything wrong with the Hollywood studio system and corporate filmmaking machine. His popularity and close relationships with major studios like Universal and Disney make him seem part of the establishment.
Spielberg’s enormous success may also breed professional jealousy and resentment from less successful directors, writers and film personalities who think he gets too much credit and attention. His influence, awards recognition, and wealth likely provokes envy in some industry peers.
Rumors About His Personality
Despite his public persona, rumors and stories suggesting Spielberg has an oversized ego, is difficult to work with, or takes too much credit on set have circulated for years. Though unverified, these notions about his character have colored some people’s opinion.
Reasons Some Audiences Connect With Spielberg’s Films:
- Appeal to emotion and human relationships
- Heroic, uplifting themes about goodness and redemption
- Dynamic visual storytelling style
- Childlike sense of wonder and imagination
- Nostalgia for childhood and classic Hollywood
- Technical mastery and innovative techniques
- Ability to craft riveting set pieces (e.g. opening of Saving Private Ryan)
- Universally relatable stories about family, adventure, friendship
- Ability to evoke awe and terror (Jaws, Jurassic Park)
In the end, many of the reasons people dislike Spielberg come down to highly subjective matters of taste and preference. His unabashed sentimentality, emotional manipulation, and escapist fantasy rub some audiences the wrong way while others are moved by these same techniques.
Critics can make valid points about Spielberg’s flaws and limitations as a director – the saccharine quality of some films, repetitive themes and tropes, flashes of style over substance. But reducing his skills and immense contributions to Hollywood cinema down to just these critiques is unfair to his talents.
Ultimately, Spielberg’s phenomenal commercial and critical success over decades suggest his storytelling instincts resonate widely, whatever high-minded cinephiles and contrarians may argue. The emotional power and technical mastery of films like Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Minority Report indicate he is far more than just a pulp filmmaker.
Perhaps the most valid criticism is not that Spielberg’s films are too sentimental or escapist, but that he has set such a high bar for emotionally thrilling, cinematically immersive popular entertainment that his rare missteps tend to disappoint.
When Spielberg stumbles, his films can feel like manipulative, trope-laden treacle. But at his best, few directors can match his ability to enrapture audiences while displaying complete command of the cinematic arts.
Frequently Asked Questions about Why People Dislike Steven Spielberg
Has Spielberg lost popularity in recent years?
Spielberg remains one of Hollywood’s most popular and respected directors, but some argue his films have declined in both commercial and critical success in the 2000s and 2010s compared to the height of his career in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Recent films like The BFG, War Horse and Ready Player One were not hits on par with his earlier work.
Do any famous directors dislike Spielberg?
Though one of Hollywood’s most beloved figures, Spielberg has occasionally received criticism from directors like Spike Lee, who accused him of not doing enough for black filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino has poked fun at some Spielberg films for being cheesy.
What do people think is Spielberg’s worst film?
Spielberg has made some memorably disappointing films later in his career, including Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, War Horse and Hook. But the 2001 film A.I. Artificial Intelligence is often cited as his biggest misfire.
Has Spielberg ever responded to criticisms of sentimentality?
Yes, Spielberg has commented how he consciously avoids going too over-the-top with sentimentality, saying “I really do look for legitimate emotional endings that don’t feel manipulated.” He has described himself as sentimental in life, but not necessarily in his films.
Do Spielberg’s colleagues enjoy working with him?
Most actors and crew who have worked under Spielberg describe him as very collaborative, kind and focused. However, some reports have painted him as egocentric and taking too much credit on set. His temperamental behavior while making Poltergeist and Schindler’s List has been documented.