8. 'Lincoln' (2012)
At times, this portrait of our nation's 16th President (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he attempts to pass the 13th Amendment in the waning days of the Civil War feels like the least Spielberg-ian of the director's films. Certainly, its insularity, its single-minded focus on process, and its reams of dialogue are a far cry from the epic sweep of his other historical movies. But there's a master class going on here. Look at the use of space – how he portrays the White House as a ghostly mansion haunted by images of war and slavery, slowly becoming suffused with light as Lincoln gets closer to his goal. Look at the contrasts in the POTUS' personality, perfectly captured by Day-Lewis: the avuncular, chatty leader who also happens to be a ruthless, calculating practitioner of realpolitik. Look at the way that Honest Abe, halfway towards becoming a myth, has to use the majesty of his office and position to reach a series of mundane compromises to achieve historic goals. This is one of Spielberg's most deceptively complex films, and the rare movie that effectively shows history at work.