RANKED: Steven Spielberg (#18 — Amistad)

Photo: DreamWorks SKG

Photo: DreamWorks SKG

Chris Luckett

18. AMISTAD (1997)

Release Date: December 10, 1997

Chronology: After the rampaging dinos of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, before the rampaging Nazis of Saving Private Ryan

Box Office: $44 million ($65 million, adjusted for inflation)

Oscars: 4 nominations, 0 wins

Premise: A legal thriller disguised as a period piece, Amistad re-enacts the pivotal trial of the mutinous crew of slaves about La Amistad, with their freedom hanging in the balance.

Over two hours?: By a long shot

John Williams Score?: Yes

Father Issues?: Just the Founding Fathers

War?: Not directly, although the Supreme Court’s ultimate ruling was instrumental in triggering the Civil War

Aliens?: No

Special Appearances: Djimon Hounsou, Pete Postlethwaite, Stellan Skarsgård, Anna Paquin, and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Fun Fact: Anthony Hopkins delivered his courtroom speech in one take, despite its seven-page length

Best Line: “The only thing John Quincy Adams will be remembered for is his middle name.”

Best Scene: 

Verdict: Like most of Spielberg’s dramas, Amistad is too long for its own good. Even so, everything aside from the runtime is excellent. The large, talented cast leaves few scenes uninteresting. Well-shot with intelligently written dialogue, Amistad is one of Spielberg’s most eloquent movies, even if it’s a little too enamoured with its verbosity.

Rating: 4 stars / 5