Spielberg is arguably the most financially successful motion picture director of all time. He has helmed an astounding number of feature films that have become enormous box-office hits, and this has given him incomparable influence in Hollywood. As of 2003, he has been listed in Premiere and other magazines as the most "powerful" and influential figure in the motion picture industry. As of 2003, he is seen as a figure who has the influence, financial resources, and acceptance of Hollywood studio authorities to make literally any movie he wants to make, whether it's a mainstream action-adventure movie (Jurassic Park)or a three-hour-long black and white drama about a controversial historical subject (Schindler's List) — a position that certainly makes many other filmmakers envious.
His considerable success, as well as his tendency to make films with wide mainstream and commercial appeal, also subjected him to disdain in critical circles for much of his career. Despite their enormous appeal, few film scholars and critics place such Spielberg films as Raiders of the Lost Ark or E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in the same class as The Godfather, Citizen Kane, or many other classics of the cinema. Several of Spielberg's more "serious" works, such as Empire of the Sun and The Color Purple, have been seen as attempts to cast himself as a legitimate maker of "serious" motion pictures. Spielberg finally won the critical acclaim he had long sought when he made Schindler's List in 1993.
Spielberg is known by film historians as one of the famous "movie brats" of the 1970s: along with fellow filmmakers (and personal friends) George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Brian De Palma, Spielberg grew up making movies. He was making amateur 8mm "adventure" movies with his friends as a teenager (scenes from these amateur films have been included on the DVD edition of Saving Private Ryan), and he made his first short film for theatrical release, Amblin', in 1968 at the age of eighteen. (Spielberg's own production company, Amblin Entertainment, was named after this short film.) After directing episodes of various TV shows, including Night Gallery and one of the early Columbo TV movies, Spielberg directed his first well-known feature with a 1971 TV movie entitled Duel. This film has become a cult classic, having been released on video several times over the years. Spielberg's debut feature film, The Sugarland Express, won him critical praise and enough studio backing to be chosen as the director of a summer movie that would secure him a place in the history of motion pictures: Jaws.
As of 2001, he had won two Academy Awards for Best Director, one for Schindler's List and another for Saving Private Ryan. In 1986, the Academy gave him The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. The most famous films he directed:
He is one of the co-founders of Dreamworks Studios (Dreamworks SKG, with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen providing the other letters in the company name), which has released all of his movies since The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997.
Following the critical and box office success of Schindler's List in 1993, Spielberg founded and continues to finance the Shoah Project: a non-profit organization with the goal of providing an archive for the filmed testimony of as many survivors of the Holocaust as possible, so that their stories will not be lost in the future.