10 Best Movies Produced But Not Directed by Steven Spielberg, Ranked


Director Steven Spielberg changed the film industry forever with his work across many genres. Spielberg’s films Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark gave birth to the modern “blockbuster,” inspiring countless classic summer movie seasons. Although Spielberg was often penned as a strictly commercial filmmaker, he began to reveal his more artistic sensibilities in the later half of his career. Spielberg combines expert storytelling with historical insights to deconstruct critical historical events with films like Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, Bridge of Spies, and The Post. Most recently, Spielberg plunged into his own personal history with his self-autobiographical film The Fabelmans. In addition to exploring his love of filmmaking, the film examined Spielberg’s complicated history with his Jewish upbringing and faith.

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Spielberg’s work as a director would be enough to earn him a grand cinematic legacy. However, Spielberg has been just as active as a producer. Spielberg’s work as a producer shows how generous he is as a storyteller, as he has been able to spotlight other rising artists. Many veteran filmmakers earned the careers they have today because of the assistance that Spielberg provided them with. Every great filmmaker has someone that they admire; for Spielberg, it was his cinematic mentor John Ford. It’s safe to say that Spielberg’s many collaborators will continue to look at him as a source of inspiration as he continues to produce exciting new projects. Here are the ten best films that Steven Spielberg produced, but didn’t direct, ranked.

10 ‘Innerspace’ (1987)

Directed by Joe Dante

Spielberg is often not given enough credit for how funny he can be. While his films 1941 and The BFG don’t necessarily rank among his finest, Spielberg has produced many creative comedies that blend different genres. Spieberg helped to spotlight director Joe Dante with his outrageous 1987 science fiction film Innerspace. In addition to its game changing visual effects work, Innerspace provided breakout roles for future stars Martin Short, Meg Ryan, and Dennis Quaid.

Like Spielberg, Dante is a filmmaker that isn’t confined by just one genre. He ironically started off his career with horror films like The Howling and Piranha before Innerspace revealed how funny he could be.

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9 ‘The Mask of Zorro’ (1998)

Directed by Martin Campbell

Anthony Hopkins as Diego de la Vega and Antonio Banderas as Alejandro Murrieta in 'The Mask of Zorro'
Image via TriStar Pictures

The masked vigilante known as “Zorro” is one of the many cinematic characters that belongs to the public domain; similar to heroes like King Arthur, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, or The Three Musketeers, Zorro does not belong to just one studio that owns the rights. As a result there’s been a lot of Zorro films that vary in quality. However, Martin Campbell’s 1998 action-adventure film The Mask of Zorro shows the origin story of the infamous outlaw. Antonio Banderas and Sir Anthony Hopkins star as two different men that take on the “Zorro” persona as they protect California from political conspirators.

The Mask of Zorro works have both the moral value of a great superhero film and the epic swashbuckling action of a great western. Satisfying both genres was no easy task, but Campbell pulled from Zorro’s fictional history to create a fresh, modern interpretation of the character.

The Mask of Zorro
Release Date
July 16, 1998

Director
Martin Campbell

Cast
Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher, Tony Amendola

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
136

Watch on Amazon Prime

8 ‘Maestro’ (2023)

Directed by Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan as Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre in Maestro
Image via Netflix

Maestro is the second directorial effort from director Bradley Cooper after his 2018 remake of A Star is Born became a smash hit. Cooper certainly has an aptitude for creating memorable musical sequences as a filmmaker. Maestro examines the life and career of the legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. Cooper uses the music from legendary Bernstein musicals, such as West Side Story and On The Town, to blur the line between Bernstein’s life and artistry. Cooper pulled triple duties on the film, as he also served as its writer and starred in the lead role.

At one point, Spielberg had considered directing Maestro himself before stepping in to serve as a producer. He’s not without great company, as fellow directing legend Martin Scorsese also produced the film.

Maestro
Release Date
December 20, 2023

Director
Bradley Cooper

Cast
Carey Mulligan, Bradley Cooper, Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, Sarah Silverman, Michael Urie, Gideon Glick, Miriam Shor, Alexa Swinton

Rating
R

Runtime
129 minutes

Watch on Netflix

7 ‘Super 8’ (2011)

Directed by J.J. Abrams

super-8-movie-image-kyle-chandler-01 (1)
Bad Robot Productions

Super 8 is a homage to Spielberg’s films that just so happened to be produced by Spielberg himself. The film focuses on a group of young heroes that work together to prevent an alien invasion from disrupting their hometown; there are many allusions to Spielberg classics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Super 8 holds such nostalgic power because it is actually set during the late 1970s; the film’s homages to classic filmmaking felt like a precursor to Stranger Things and the 2017 reboot of It.

Although director J.J. Abrams was at one point considered to be “the next Spielberg,” the comparison isn’t necessarily a good one. Abrams has rarely directed any original projects, as he’s instead focused his efforts on reworking the Star Wars, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible franchises. Super 8 is the only original film that Abrams ever directed; unsurprisingly, it’s also his best.

Super 8
Release Date
June 8, 2011

Director
J.J. Abrams

Cast
Joel Courtney, Jessica Tuck, Joel McKinnon Miller, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Riley Griffiths

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
112

Watch on Paramount+

6 ‘First Man’ (2018)

Directed by Damien Chazelle

Ryan Gosling in First Man
Image via Universal Studios 

First Man was a change of pace for director Damien Chazelle. While Chazelle’s first two films, Whiplash and La La Land, had been set in the world of music, First Man examined the groundbreaking work done by NASA in preparation for the Apollo 11 mission to reach the lunar surface. Space often feels wondrous in films, but First Man was unafraid to look at how dangerous the mission was at the time. Between the unreliable technology and the extreme parameters of the trip, the success of the Apollo 11 mission was less than guaranteed.

Although the scope and scale of First Man is massive, the film is an intimate study of how Neil Armstrong dealt with the tragedies within his life. Prior to being recruited to lead the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong was mourning the death of his young child. In Chazelle’s interpretation of history, Ryan Gosling’s version of Armstrong uses the trip to the lunar surface as a way of coping with his loneliness.

First Man
Release Date
October 11, 2018

Director
Damien Chazelle

Cast
Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Pablo Schreiber, Christopher Abbott, Ciarán Hinds, Kyle Chandler

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
138

Watch on Apple TV

5 ‘Gremlins’ (1984)

Directed by Joe Dante

Zach Galligan as Billy and Howie Mandel as Gizmo in 'Gremlins'
Image via Warner Bros.

Spielberg’s early films are hallmarked by their inventive use of practical effects and makeup. This is a quality that he shared with Joe Dante, who used some of the most brilliant puppetry effects ever conceived for film in his 1984 monster film Gremlins. Gremlins feels unique because of how hard it is to pin to just one genre. Is Gremlins a family film? Sort of. Is it a horror movie? Technically. Is it a comedy? By the strictest definition, yes. Could it be considered a Christmas movie? Why not!

Gremlins is such a wild mishmash of influences that it feels like something that only Spielberg could have produced. As fun as the first film is, its 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch is even weirder and wilder.

Gremlins
Release Date
June 7, 1984

Director
Joe Dante

Cast
Hoyt Axton, John Louie, Keye Luke, Don Steele, Susan Burgess, Scott Brady

Rating
PG

Runtime
102

Watch on Apple TV

4 ‘Poltergeist’ (1982)

Directed by Tobe Hooper

Poltergeist-Clown
Image Via MGM/UA Entertainment Co. 

Spielberg has an interesting relationship with the horror genre. While he hasn’t helmed a straight up horror film since 1975’s Jaws, Spielberg has produced many films by legendary horror filmmakers. Although director Tobe Hooper’s 1982 horror classic Poltergeist centers on a family, it’s not exactly a “family friendly” film by any stretch of the imagination. Poltergeist features a terrifying clown that puts Pennywise from the It films to shame.

Poltergeist was inspired by a script for a science fiction horror film called Night Skiesthat Spielberg had considered directing. Although Night Skies was never made, elements of its story were worked into both Poltergeist and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.

Poltergeist
Release Date
June 4, 1982

Director
Tobe Hooper

Cast
Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins, Heather O’Rourke

Rating
PG

Runtime
114

Watch on Max

3 ‘Men in Black’ (1997)

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

The Men in Black
Image via Sony Pictures

Despite how disappointing some of its sequels were, it’s easy to forget just how good the original Men in Black is. Barry Sonnenfeld’s science fiction classic asked a question that everyone has asked themselves every once in a while- what would aliens do if they were living on Earth? Although Men in Black owes a lot to its inventive makeup and visual effects, the film succeeds thanks to the excellent chemistry between Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.

Men in Black examined society’s willingness to buy into assumed truths about alien life. The film features many camoes by celebrities as “aliens” that have been observed by the Men in Black, including one from Spielberg himself!

Men In Black
Release Date
July 2, 1997

Director
Barry Sonnenfeld

Cast
Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
98

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2 ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ (1988)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a landmark achievement in visual effects; prior to Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 classic, no film had been able to synthesize live-action and animated characters together so fluidly. However, it’s not the technology that made Who Framed Roger Rabbit a classic, but the characters. Zemeckis actually made it seem believable that Bob Hoskins had chemistry with a cartoon rabbit.

Rumors about a sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit have lingered ever since the film’s release. Perhaps it’s best to let the film stand on its own, as it would be hard for a follow up to ever top the first film’s achievements.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Release Date
June 21, 1988

Director
Robert Zemeckis

Cast
Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, Alan Tilvern

Rating
PG

Runtime
103

Watch on Disney+

1 ‘Back to the Future’ (1985)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Marty McFly with his parents and Biff at the end of 'Back to the Future'
Image via Universal Pictures

There isn’t much to be said about Back to the Future that hasn’t been said already. It’s one of the most rewatchable films ever made, and gifted films fans everywhere with the duo of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Ironically, a film that primarily takes place in the 1950s evokes more nostalgia for the 1980s than anything else.

Spileberg helped produce both of Back to the Future’s sequels, which were released in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Back to the Future is an outlier compared to other film franchises. It managed to conclude on its own terms in a satisfying way.

Back to the Future
Release Date
July 3, 1985

Director
Robert Zemeckis

Cast
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells

Rating
PG

Runtime
116

Watch on Peacock

NEXT: The 10 Best Movies Produced But Not Directed By Martin Scorsese, Ranked

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