I suppose my criteria consists of 1) box office haul, 2) awards and accolades, 3) how well-received and iconic the movies that he's made are, and 4) how much they have influenced culture over the years. For those of you who don't know too much about Steven Spielberg, a rundown of his film credits off the top of my head include the following (in no particular order):
2) Close Encounters of the Third Kind
4) Schindler's List
5) Raiders of the Lost Ark
6) The Color Purple
7) Jurassic Park
8) Minority Report
9) Saving Private Ryan
And even his box office bombs have some entertainment value to them. For example, in War of the Worlds I love seeing the scene where the train goes flying by and every cabin is on fire. That's a pretty emotionally packed scene. And then there's the scene in The Lost World where Julianne Moore falls onto some glass and it starts to crack. That scene sends chills through me every time I watch it. It's even better with surround sound.
One quote that Steven Spielberg said that stuck with me ever since I read it was, "Why pay a dollar for a bookmark? Why not use your dollar as a bookmark?" It's very simple, but it's a kind of window into his mind. He has a knack for looking at the obvious and then showing it to people in a way that most had never thought of, and maybe that's one reason (or one measure) of how we could arrive at the correct answer of someone being labeled "The Greatest of All Time."
Can they look beyond the obvious to find myriad ways and angles and flavors and perspectives to an old story?
Do you legitimately enjoy the directing? It's a good question, right? I mean...how cool was it in Jurassic Park when the impact tremor of the T-Rex made the water on the dashboard of the jeep begin to shimmer and jump? That was pure Spielberg.
And he's also the master of the long take (a single scene that's all in one shot that follows its actors around), which is a trick he uses that's virtually undetectable because he wants it to be that way. The effect is that he teleports you into another world. He didn't invent the shot, but it's fantastic for what it does for storytelling.
Look, for a guy that's seventy years old and has spent his entire career of 40 years making movies, I think that his resume kind of speaks for itself. A lot of his films are timeless. They've infused pop culture to ridiculous levels. I can think of half a dozen places where the bicycle in front of the moon (or something in front of the moon) has been copied. Jaws influences are everywhere from "Bad Hat Harry" film productions to "We need a bigger boat." Raiders of the Lost Ark has influenced everything from The Librarians to Tomb Raider.
The first season of Stranger Things was a love letter of sorts to Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter.
So is Steven Spielberg the Greatest of all Time? Is he the G.O.A.T.? I think he is. I'm curious as to what you think.