Steven Spielberg’s unprecedented five-decade stint at the pinnacle of Hollywood owes as much to his versatility as it does to his cinematic talent. Since he burst onto the scene with “The Sugarland Express” in 1974, the director has proven himself capable of working in nearly every genre imaginable, often in the same year.
After helping create the modern summer blockbuster with early hits like “Jaws” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Spielberg has never rested on his laurels. He spent the ’80s alternating between family hits like “ET the Extra-Terrestrial” and more dramatic tracks like “The Color Purple,” while still finding time to direct the original “Indiana Jones” trilogy.
The most legendary example of Spielberg’s omnivorous approach to filmmaking came in 1993, when he managed to release “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” in the same year. The summer dinosaur movie became a cultural phenomenon and introduced the world to the miracles that could be accomplished with CGI technology. “Schindler’s List” couldn’t have been more different, shedding light on the horrors of the Holocaust with Spielberg’s signature cinematic perspective. That film brought Spielberg the last major cinematic achievement that had eluded him up to that point: a win for the Academy Award for Best Director.
For the next 30 years, Spielberg continued to surprise audiences with his directorial choices. He has worked on everything from war epics (“Saving Private Ryan”) to heist films (“Catch Me If You Can”) to animated blockbusters (“The Adventures of Tintin”) and musicals (“West Side Story”) . He also found time to write and direct his own biopic when he made “The Fabelmans” in 2021.
The list of movies that he Almost direct is just as eclectic. Spielberg came close to making films about many of America’s most beloved intellectual properties and historical figures that never materialized for a variety of reasons. Some of his ideas never made it to the big screen due to disputes over film rights, and at other times he gave his projects to other directors while continuing to supervise them as a producer. His impact on pop culture has been so great that reading about his unrealized projects feels like a walk through an alternative film industry that would have existed had he made a few different choices.
Read on for a list of ten movies Spielberg developed but never directed. Also check out IndieWire’s guide to Spielberg’s 25 Favorite Movies.