In light of some of his more formulaic, sentimental fare, it’s easy to forget that Steven Spielberg stood as a pioneer of revolutionary filmmaking way back in the 1970s, pushing genres to new heights while simultaneously scaring us out of the water and having us fear those mysterious lights blinking in the sky. His prolific career carries a few duds (did anyone really see War Horse?), but even some of his more mainstream movies carved out new paths in suspense, special effects, and action—long before mainstream became a bad word with the rise of the indie scene. Here are five of his best films, along with the right drink to help you subdue all the noise about “auteurs” and just focus on the damn movies.
The movie that cemented Spielberg’s career as one of the best young filmmakers in the ‘70s, Jaws was an instant classic. The iconic music, the oft-quoted lines (“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”), the fact that a generation of filmgoers simultaneously developed an irrational fear of the ocean… The movie still stands as a titan in the suspense/horror genre. Rum feels like the logical beverage of choice, especially given its nautical affiliations. But considering the horrors the three men endure while on the boat, we say go for something strong, like the Redemption High Rye Bourbon. Do a drink every time the shark attacks, and you’ll be ready sing along when the three desperate sailors burst into a drunken rendition of “Show Me the Way to Go Home” near the movie’s conclusion.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
From the oceans to the infinite vastness of space, this sci-fi film garnished loads of now-iconic elements, from sculptures made of mashed potatoes to rounded-head silhouettes of the aliens. Booze, however, doesn’t play a major part in this film, so go with something odd and unexpected like a beer cocktail. We honed in on one with five ingredients, in honor of the five-note song used to communicate with the aliens in the flick. It’s a basil beer mojito. All you need is two slices of jalapeno, three basil leaves, a lime wedge, a session IPA, and some ice.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Even with the flying bikes, fingers that light up, and the undeniable cuteness of it all, E.T. still hits home with Spielberg’s touch of menace and horror, especially when the alien gets quarantined. But before that, it’s pretty much pure joy. Stay on pace by tossing back a six pack of beer to get woozy, just like E.T. did. He had Coors. You can be more discerning.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc (1981)
Shot on location in Tunisia, it’s reported that everyone in the cast and crew got food poisoning at some point—except Spielberg. Perhaps he fortified himself with a few curative spirits. Or maybe he barely ate while in his filmmaking frenzy. Either way, the film is a pulp masterpiece, equal parts roaring action and comedy, and a clear homage to the old Saturday matinees. Look to the film’s introduction of Marion for boozy inspiration, where Indy’s ex (and daughter of his diseased mentor) downs several shots of clear liquid while hanging in a bar in Nepal. Just don’t match her drink for drink because she doesn’t go calmly into that bottle. We suggest a nice floral vodka like Aylesbury Duck from 86 Co. Distillery. And watch out for Nazis with melting faces.
Jurassic Park (1993)
The franchise made a pretty triumphant come-back this summer, blowing out the box office and also making several not-so-subtle references to the earlier films as well as the whole summer blockbuster genre. But the original Jurassic Park helped establish that genre, and it’s still one of the most effective CGI-fueled cinematic events. Big dinosaurs deserve equally big beer. Go with the whole prehistoric theme and pick up a few of Ninkasi Brewing’s Tricerahops. This double IPA weighs in at 8% ABV with big floral hops, but still remains dangerously drinkable.