US film director and producer, the most commercially successful director of all time.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he made amateur films while still as school and subsequently worked on television productions with Universal Pictures. The most successful of these television movies was Duel (1971), in which a motorist is terrorized by an enormous heavy goods vehicle: it won several European awards and launched Spielberg's career in mainstream cinema. His second feature film, Jaws (1975), about a man-eating white shark, became the cinema's most successful film to date and established its director's reputation as a brilliant populist. Spielberg continued to concentrate on the sensational and fantastic themes that appealed to mass audiences with Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), about UFOs, Poltergeist (1982), a supernatural thriller which he co-wrote and produced, and E.T. (1982), an extraordinarily successful space fantasy about a creature from space, which he directed and produced. There followed a series of adventure films starring Harrison Ford, beginning with Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and continuing with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). As well as producing such box-office hits as Gremlins (1984), Back to the Future (1986), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), he expanded his range as a director with two more serious films, The Color Purple (1985) and Empire of the Sun (1988). Neither was particularly successful at the box office, and Hook (1991), an expensive reworking of Peter Pan, proved a massive failure.
However, any thought that Spielberg might have lost his touch was dispelled by the two very different films he released in 1993 – Jurassic Park, a spectactular adventure story featuring computer-animated dinosaurs, and Schindler's List, a sober and harrowing story of the Holocaust. The former broke all previous box-office records (and spawned a successful 1997 sequel, Jurassic Park: The Lost World), while the latter earned Spielberg the Academy Awards (for best picture and best director) that had always previously eluded him. In 1998 Spielberg enjoyed another huge hit with Saving Private Ryan, a World-War-II story notable mainly for its battle footage, which was widely acclaimed as the most realistic (and sickening) ever filmed.