2. 'Jaws' (1975)
Despite his reputation in the 1980s as a director (and patron-saint producer) of cuddly, kid-friendly adventures, Spielberg's first blockbuster was this terrifying, often gory adaptation of Peter Benchley's shark thriller. It's been endlessly imitated, in terms of its influence and as an easy target for parody (think of how many times John Williams' deceivingly simple, undeniably ominous theme music has been used as a punchline), and has been accused of being everything from a trumped-up B picture to the catalyst for the bottom-line-and-blockbuster-obsessed industry that we're dealing with today. Yet the film has lost none of its power after all these years, in part because of its ruthlessness: In Spielberg's hands, the shark becomes not just a great movie monster, but also an existential fact – consuming its victims with little care for who they are. That unhinged, anything-goes quality, enhanced by an almost mathematical deployment of scares, still keeps us riveted and shocked, even after multiple viewings. It's a magic trick like very few others in film history.