Terry Gilliam Explains The Difference Between Kubrick (Great Filmmaker) and Spielberg (Less So)

Terry Gilliam has never tried to hide his feelings about Hollywood. “It’s an abominable place,” he told The New York Times in 2005. “If there was an Old Testamental God, he would do his job and wipe the place out. The only bad thing is that some really good restaurants would go up as well.”

One thing that bothers Gilliam about Hollywood is the pressure it exerts on filmmakers to resolve their stories into happy endings. In this interesting clip from an interview he did a few years ago with Turner Classic Movies, Gilliam makes his point by comparing the work of Steven Spielberg–perhaps the quintessential Hollywood director–with that of Stanley Kubrick, who, like Gilliam, steered clear of Hollywood and lived a life of exile in England. Kubrick refused to pander to our desire for emotional reassurance. “The great filmmakers,” says Gilliam, “make you go home and think about it.”

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, and Venmo (@openculture). Thanks!

Related Content:

Terry Gilliam (Monty Python) Shows You How to Make Your Own Cutout Animation

Stanley Kubrick’s List of Top 10 Films (The First and Only List He Ever Created)

The Best Animated Films of All Time, According to Terry Gilliam

600 Free Movies Online

by | Permalink | Comments (106) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (106)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Tim H. says:

    Well, first of all, Gilliam isn’t nearly as good a filmmaker as Spielberg (IMHO), so he’s not really in a position to criticize, but I’d also like to point out that Kubrick loved a lot of Spielberg’s movies and that’s why he entrusted him with A.I. (and that film didn’t have an ‘easy’ ending as some people might like to believe). Sometimes it might be easier for a filmmaker to just ‘let the audience figure it out’, rather than giving their own opinion and personal feeling about something. Kubrick is all about intellect, Spielberg is a more emotional filmmaker, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – he’s more humane in many respects. And yes, of course the Holocaust was a huge failure of mankind, but doesn’t everybody kind of know that already? It would be pointless to some extent if you just focussed on the failure of it all without providing anything positive at all to come out with about humanity. That would be just a truly depressing picture that nobody would really enjoy watching.

  • WRec says:

    “Sometimes it might be easier for a filmmaker to just ‘let the audience figure it out’, rather than giving their own opinion and personal feeling about something.”


    “It would be pointless to some extent if you just focussed on the failure of it all without providing anything positive at all to come out with about humanity. That would be just a truly depressing picture that nobody would really enjoy watching.”


  • I agree with this article. I also recommend that people read and watch Jay Weidners analysis of Kubrick. It’s another level to the superior film-making technique of Kurbrick.

  • Danilo A. says:

    Well, I pretty much agree with Terry on this one.

  • Tim H. says:

    @WRec Just saying “Wow” without any real response doesn’t help your case. (And you may enjoy that kind of depressing film, but I know I wouldn’t. Film is film. Life is life. If I really want to know about the Holocaust, I’ll read a history book or see a documentary which is at least different from a fictional film.)
    I pose this question to all of you Spielberg-haters (and by the way, I’m a big Kubrick fan as well, so I’m not trying to diss him): We all know that Spielberg can make (and has made) a Kubrick film–and quite successfully so, in my opinion–but do you actually think Kubrick could ever have made a Spielbergesque film? I seriously doubt it. Isn’t that some indication of Spielberg’s greatness? Not to mention the fact that he has touched and moved millions of people… Just because someone is more successful doesn’t automatically mean he can’t be ‘great’, nor does that mean that because Kubrick was less loved by the general public, he was the greater genius. That’s kind of ridiculous if you ask me; if anything, it should be the other way around. (And no, that doesn’t mean I think Michael Bay is awesome.)

  • Kastor says:

    Tim H. you’re an idiot.

  • Tim H. says:

    Kastor – and your pithy comment makes you out to be a genius on par with Kubrick.
    But seriously folks, if not a one of you can even back up your lame remarks, it only makes you look like the foolish ones. It’s so easy to just say ‘you’re an idiot’. You’re an idiot, Kastor. See? So simple, isn’t it? But the fact is, I don’t know anything about you so I would never say such a silly and meaningless thing.
    It seems to me that Gilliam is just jealous of Spielberg’s success as the majority of his films fail at the box office and recently he hasn’t received a lot of good reviews, either, while Spielberg gets both most of the time.

  • Mike Springer says:

    WRec and Kastor,
    Why not add something intelligent to the conversation? Failing that, why not at least be polite?

  • pkultra says:

    I’m with Kastor on this one. Tim, you’re pretty much an idiot. I don’t have enough space here to explain why you’re wrong. Kubrick make a Spirlbergesque film? He’s from the previous generation. He made Spartacus when Steven was still shitting his pants. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good, not does it make it bad. SS is good at his craft, much like Madonna. But he’s not trying to do anything other than the Hollywood blockbuster., much like Madonna is not going to do anything other than a pop album. Kubrick walked away from that back in the 60’s. He wasn’t interested in catering to popular tastes and social conventions, whereas SS has never strayed from that formula.

  • Tim H. says:

    That’s where you’d be wrong, my friend. He makes both populist films (‘Jurassic Park’) and more serious works about topics that he’s interested in (‘The Color Purple’, ‘Amistad’, ‘Empire of the Sun’, etc.). Those films weren’t trying to be blockbusters, nor was ‘Schindler’s List’, although it turned out to be one. He’s done many films which I would consider to be among the greatest ever made. And what does it matter if Kubrick was from an earlier generation? His films overlapped with Spielberg’s – he was still making them up until the late nineties. And as I said before, Kubrick admired many of Spielberg’s films? If he just totally sucked as you guys seem to assume, then why would a ‘great’ filmmaker like Kubrick respect him so much (even enough to recommend him for A.I., another masterpiece in my book)? Explain that to me, please.

  • moebio says:

    Dear Terry, you do not really need to compare a master like Kubrick with a good filmmaker like Spielberg to enhance his greatness.

  • bozo says:

    Spielberg’s are predictable, cheesy, with an unsurprising happy-ending. It is entertainment, just a way for teenagers to kill 1.5 hour. Defo not art (remember movies are suposed to be the 7th art) or the basis for a discussion once the movie is over.

  • Tim H. says:

    bozo: You’re telling me a film like ‘Munich’ or ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is a predictable cheesy happy film just for teenagers to kill time as entertainment? He’s made plenty of films which don’t fit that description. And I would definitely consider many of them to be artistic and worthy of discussion. It’s comments like these that just prove to me how little people really know about Spielberg and how great he really is. As I said before, though, I am a big Kubrick fan as well, I just hate that a lot of folks don’t ‘get’ what Spielberg is trying to do. Why is Gilliam even comparing the two guys in the first place? You might as well compare apples and oranges they are so different. One is more optimistic (Spielberg) while the other is more pessimistic (Kubrick), but they are both great filmmakers in their own way. Why not then compare Kubrick with Alfred Hitchcock or Martin Scorsese? I don’t see the point. In fact, it makes less sense to compare Spielberg with Kubrick because they both liked each other’s work and they liked each other on a personal level as well (ever seen the Spielberg interview on the ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ DVD?). I don’t think either man would think the other as a ‘worse’ filmmaker – it’s just ridiculous. I’ve seen Gilliam criticize Spielberg before, not just here, so it’s obvious that he has something against him but I don’t know where that comes from. And as for Kubrick being ‘against’ commercial success, I’m sure every director wants that to some extent – that more people like their films. After all, he did make ‘The Shining’ based on a book by one of the most populist authors out there, Stephen King. And he recruited two big movie stars (Cruise and Kidman) for his last film.
    At the beginning of the Gilliam interview, he sums it up best: the big difference between Kubrick and Spielberg is that one was more successful than the other. End of story.

  • Lester Hunt says:

    “Steven Spielberg–perhaps the quintessential Hollywood director.” Wow. What a damning statement that is! It gives me the chills.

  • Phil says:

    Spielberg probably couldn’t make a good kubrick movie, but kubrick couldn’t make a good spielberg movie. they’re both great. spielberg’s an easy target. it takes greater courage to admit that you don’t understand a “great” kubrick movie.

  • Chris says:

    @Tim H. With all due respect, “Saving Private Ryan” and “Munich” are poor examples if you hope to point out Spielberg films that aren’t predictable. At any rate, I think you’ll agree it’s fun to compare the two, and even to include Gilliam in the discussion as you did in your first comment, but is it really necessary to place them in competition? (Not that I’m saying you are.) It’s art, not sports. BTW, aside from the weird robot gladiator thing in the middle, I liked “A.I.” a lot, too.

  • Dystopio says:

    “Kubrick is better! No, Spielberg is better!”
    “You´re stupid (but with fancier words)! No, YOU`RE stupid (with equally or slightly less fancy words)”

    Seriously people? Are you really serious?? You´re supposed to be the result of four billion years of successful evoulution.

    Try to act it a little!

  • andrew says:

    SOOOOOOO pretentious.

    Kubrick is my favorite director, but this guy is making blatantly stupid remarks. People like him are the very reason I detest Hollywood, not Speilberg

  • Laurel says:

    @Tim H – Of course Gilliam is in a position to criticize. Everyone, whether it be filmmaker or film enthusiast, who knows the difference between E.T. and 2001 is entitled to have that opinion, or not. It is a valid one.
    Just because you don’t agree with Gilliam, calling him a jealous middle of the road filmmaker doesn’t bring anything to the table, anymore than someone posting that you are an idiot.

  • heather says:

    Well stated, Laurel.

    Tim H, have a look at the foundation of Saving Private Ryan.
    Huge action scene? Check.
    Star-studded cast? Check.
    AMERICANS heroically saving one of their own to preserve the AMERICAN dream? check.

    This is not challenging subject matter for an intelligent audience. But thats not the film that Spielberg makes, or tries to make.

    Spielberg can direct a cast, draw an audience, (HUGE fan base) and get John Williams to make you cry. All on a budget that could end world hunger. But does he really have any interesting shots? Did you leave the theatre and have to use your brain? Of course not. Part of the splendour of watching a SS movie is that you get to enjoy yourself. You’re rarely uncomfortable or challenged as an audience. And I get this. Its why I and a lot of people go to see Will Farrell movies. Because we pay for spectacle; we pay to be entertained, and it takes you away from the monotony of real life.

    Spielberg directs blockbusters. Thats what he does, and he’s really really good at it. So trying to compare Kubrick to Spielberg is apples and oranges. They’ve got completely different endgames.

    Gilliam knows this, he’s just fed up with Hollywood because most movies (especially will farrell ones) are written for audiences with mentalities of 12 year old boys. Spielberg is just an easy target for Gilliam because he’s the first name you think of when you think about Hollywood.

  • Tim H. says:

    Fair enough.. I will make one more comment before I leave this topic: it has been said that in the entertainment field, you can either have commercial success or critical acclaim. Well, Spielberg is one of the few directors that I can think of who has achieved both. And to me, that is the mark of a great filmmaker. (And just because many of his films may be escapist, doesn’t mean they are any less well-made.)

  • Zompkin says:

    Spielberg and Kubrick have different styles. Gilliam was just using that to make a point about mass-marketing movies and how that hurts artistic vision. The question is: does Spielberg corrupt his genuine artistic vision in order to mass-market his movies?
    What do you want to do with Jurassic Park; make it a art house flick or a popcorn summer escape? Same with Munich: do you want to make that popcorn fun or seriously political?

  • bbmcrae says:

    Kubrick and Spielberg have both made movies I love to watch over and over. I can’t say the same for Gilliam. Yes, Brazil and The Fischer King (incredibly Spielberg-y, happy-ending, cornball, and a crinkly-faced Robin Williams, to boot! Gilliam, you REBEL!).

    All three of them have made awful movies, too. Eyes Wide Shut was laughably bad.

  • Matt says:

    Not to troll but… Kubrick was a great photographer and had a fantastic ability to tell stories visually, but… not a great director. Most of his movies plodded along slowly, in between action scenes or important plot developments. My favorite of his, “The Shining” and “A Clockwork Orange”, both contain long periods of little going on. Spielberg does a good job visually, but most of his talent lies in transitions and tension. “Saving Private Ryan” is a prime example, a very simple story shot in very desaturated color, told thru the words and eyes of the characters.

  • Stephanisat says:

    from Heather: “Tim H, have a look at the foundation of Saving Private Ryan.
    Huge action scene? Check.
    Star-studded cast? Check.
    AMERICANS heroically saving one of their own to preserve the AMERICAN dream? check.

    This is not challenging subject matter for an intelligent audience. But thats not the film that Spielberg makes, or tries to make.”

    If you saw Saving Private Ryan, you would know that was not the point of the film at all. Yes, the plot was to find Private Ryan and return him home safely, but that was not the message. The message was about how he, Private Ryan, lived after Captain Miller sacrificed his own life for him. The question I left the theater with was the same. How am I living my life? What am I doing to honor all of the sacrifices people have made for me? Yes, Spielberg makes blockbusters, but he also includes a thought-provoking message if you just pay attention.

  • Larry says:

    Every single one of Spielberg & Gilliam’s films are shit.

  • cst says:

    I admire Gilliam greatly (more than I do Spielberg OR Kubrick, actually), but it must be noted that he DOES have a personal ax to grind here; Spielberg (who was Universal’s hottest property at the time)refused to use his considerable clout to help Gilliam when he was fighting with the studio over BRAZIL.

  • JHD says:

    Warhorse: a movie about a horse….at war. The end.

  • JHD says:

    I would also like to add: I find it incredibly interesting that Speilberg, for good or ill, owes his whole career to a broken mechanical shark….if Steve had had his druthers, and trusted his instincts, Jaws (still his best film) would have been any other B exploitation film (which is still awesome)…but the big fish breaking forced him to be more economical with the shark, therefor heightening the tension and suspense….the problem with every single film afterwards was that the shark didn’t break.

  • Deb says:

    Spielberg is popular because he appeals to the mainstream; he’s simple, contrite, predicable, and smarmy so naturally everyone loves it. There is absolutely no comparison between Spielberg and Kubrick, it would be like comparing Mitch Albom to William Shakespeare and it’s unfortunate that there’s more people familiar with “Tuesdays with Maurie” than there is “Hamlet”. I totally agree with Gilliam. Hollywood is a vast wasteland of mediocre at best productions. It isn’t artistic jealously, it’s the truth.

  • s says:

    Aren’t we talking apples and oranges here? And what did Gilliam-a great talent himself- think of A.I.?

  • John Gaines says:

    Sorry, Saving Private Ryan is TOTALLY predictable. Mind you much of it is very good, but it’s formulaic and sandwiched between too incredibly stale slices of cheesy bread.

    Spielberg is a good filmmaker, but no he is not a great filmmaker.
    And for those claiming that Gilliam is jealous because his films haven’t been reviewed well or sold out well lately, that’s a foolish criterion.
    Titanic is one of the biggest moneymakers of all time and that film is crap from beginning to end. Hack storytelling, cheesy dialogue, overlong and overwrought. Try an actual standard.

  • TG says:

    I agree with Zompkin; Gilliam may have an axe to grind, but it’s bigger than Spielberg. It’s a film industry that panders to the lowest common denominator, and an audience that mistakes that pandering for art. I see nothing wrong with Speieberg’s style; it is what it is.I DO see something wrong with Hollywood foisting the “happy ending” archetype on everything that crosses its desk. Spielberg is just a focus for his argument, IMHO. I lean toward Kubrick on the style-o-meter, but would probably go batty if Hollywood made him the archetype. Then we’d be complaining about moral ambiguity and unresolved endings, and wishing for good old fashioned storytelilng

  • TG says:

    Come to think of it, I remember reading that exact line several times in reference to Spielberg movie like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when they were first released. Hmmmmm.

  • jfillias says:

    (Im french so m english are not very good)Terry Gilliam sucks, he directed might be some great films (Brazil) but his jugdment about god, that is to say Steven”THE FILMMAKER”Spielberg, are absolutly ridiculous, so little Terry, go fuck yourself in jail!!!

  • jvile says:

    I agree with Gilliam. He’s not criticizing Spielberg’s abilities as a director but his work under a Hollywood system. I love Spielberg movies but Gilliam makes a good point. It makes you wonder how much is a director willing to give up to see their vision come to life in the big screen?

  • Camille says:

    Tim H. has a point!

  • David says:

    I love Kubrick.
    I love Spielberg.
    I love Gilliam.

    Every time I see one of these discussions, it’s always one pitted against the other against the other. Why is this? Am I the only one who feels that all three are genuine masters of their craft in entirely different ways? Are they really so fundamentally different from one another? Honestly, I’m not so sure.

  • nolanknightscorsesegoodfellas says:

    Fuck gilliam and fuck kubrick

  • Steven says:

    I think Gilliam is spot on here. Spielberg is an immensely talented filmmaker, from a technical standpoint, but he doesn’t make great films because he lacks in artistic vision and creativity. Kubrick was a much better artist than Spielberg, as Gilliam is. Brazil is more creative and intellectually challenging than any film Spielberg has ever made. Spielberg is an entertainer and Gilliam and Kubrick are artists, for the most part. Saving Private Ryan is the perfect film for me to make an entertainment vs art comparison. The Thin Red Line came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan. Saving Private Ryan is entertainment and The Thin Red Line is art. One must only watch the two to easily discover the difference. I sense that Gilliam vastly prefers The Thin Red Line and that Kubrick probably did to.

  • dwayne pumblechook says:

    Terry Gilliam doesnt have a mirror in his house.Forget his critique of SS and SK.As an director/artiste he does in public what adolescent children do in the privacy of their bedrooms without the mess.His films are unwatchable drivvle.

  • Jamie says:

    E.T. is the greatest movie anyone has ever made. Period.

  • Gregorian Chant says:

    True art is angsty. Everyone knows that.

  • srm1138 says:

    Spielberg is good, but formulaic. Disney for adults.

  • Geoff Swenson says:

    I have seen Spielberg pictures that were good fun but I still thought they were low art. His more serious pictures are somehow unwatchable, I’ve turned them off. I never felt like I wanted to see all the struggle and violence just to see Private Ryan get Saved.

    But I have seen most of Terry Gilliam’s pictures, and I enjoyed them all. He may be a bit more of an entertainer than Kubrick, but there is something deeply interesting about his best movies.

    I didn’t even know if I liked Time Bandits the first time I saw it, but then I ended up seeing it several more times and grew to love the movie and its strange ending.

    Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey was a groundbreaking film in subject, beautiful cinematography, and has an ending that leaves you thinking. I was too young when I saw it the first time, but years later as an adult it still is a thoughtful, beautiful film.

    Whereas Spielberg is mostly an entertainer. He isn’t into making you think deeply, even in his more serious films, which is probably why I turn them off they are just too SERIOUS, and don’t have that deft touch that let you come to your own conclusions about the point of the movie.

  • Noah says:

    It would be so nice if people were allowed to enjoy both Titanic, and 2001, and both E.T., and Barry Lyndon, and this and that and so on and so forth. It really would. But, I suppose not. We are forced to have to enjoy one while calling the other side crap.

  • mr goat says:

    truth! how can people argue? they are not even film-makers. Sorry IPhones don’t cut it kiddies.

    But people do go away from Speilbergy movies with discussion, only about Technical things – CGI, action sequences, camera shots ect.

    You could do that with Kubrick, but there is that profound humane dark element that makes people talk that is OBVIOUSLY missing from Speilberg. Even in Jaws.

  • Chris says:

    In the end, my primitive brain that always separates good from bad, and has fewer (but more awesome) friends is usually right. To argue on this subject is like comparing Journey to Sonic Youth. Either way, the equation goes something like this: Spielberg=Gay, Kubrick=Cool. ( I mean Disney Gay, not West Hollywood Gay) You either get it or you don’t. Carry on, now.

  • Chris says:

    In “2001:Filming the Future” Kubrick was quoted as saying (in response to a comment made to him by the actor/comedian Jerry Lewis) “…Actually you can (polish a turd)…if you freeze it.”
    So there you have it.

  • Kit says:

    “People don’t Boo nobodies” and I’m hearing a lot of Boo’ing…

  • chariotdrvr14 says:

    I also think Tim H. is all wet.
    Spielberg is a master at what he does…to a point. He relies heavily on the formula…the arc of highs and lows. He never really deviates from it and he’s very schmaltzy and heavy handed.
    I always thought with ‘Schindler’s List’ that it had three separate endings. Everytime he was at a point where he could’ve left it short and poignant…he went further with it.
    Kubrick on the other hand was always very economical and subtle. Some of his most powerful film moments were carefully and lightly played, but would haunt the viewer endlessly.
    Spielberg goes for quick obvious reactions while Kubrick wants his story to roll around inside your brain for a long time.
    But, people like the different approaches… they need different film experiences at different times. So, of course opinions will always be split on this.

    • Robin E. Simmons says:

      Spielberg has an Aspergers-like gift of being able to mimic movie genres. He’s not an artist nor are his works truly original. His “serious” films are the worst. Whether the holocaust porn of Schindler’s List or the tedium of Lincoln.

  • Sarah Umel says:

    Oh Terry Gilliam, please read the Drillmaster of Valley Forge. Baron Von Steuben is so damn close to Baron Von Munchausen; and a pretty interesting person too.

  • Schmeng says:

    The difference is about Art vs Entertainment.

    People consume Entertainment and it doesn’t require much of them because it provides everything. They don’t have to invest their imagination very much because the answers are given to them.

    Art requires you to interpret it. It requires you to do some work to understand it.

    Spielberg makes Entertaining movies Kubrick makes Art movies.

    Most people like Entertainment because most people don’t have the patience or the ability to deal with serious Art.

    So Entertainment films make more money. Which is “better”? Well Entertainment films are more popular and make money, but Art films make you think and can affect your outlook on life. They deal with the real human questions in a serious way and actually make you consider the profound aspects of life. Entertainment films don’t. Though sometimes they pretend they do… :P

  • Gabriel says:

    I like cheese!

  • Nilbud says:

    So glad to see that imbecile Tim H has failed in life as much as he failed at comprehension and wit.

  • David R. says:

    Interesting fact: A Clockwork Orange the book had a more positive last chapter where Alex got bored with violence and destruction and wanted to create, but Kubrick rejected it because it went against his worldview and themes of his movies.

  • Thorsten Stier says:

    Gee, that “discussion” reminds me of inmature schoolars swearing and yelling at each other ” my fav Band is better” – ” no my fav Band is the best” and so on…!?
    You are grownups!?
    Have you not realized yet that taste is something you can´t discuss!?
    I love Gilliam, mostly for his Work with the Pythons and some of his films, but he made some huge crap too, like spielberg and Kubrick did – so what!?
    They are artist but also human beeings, with all their ego-issues and ability to fail……
    Just leave it alone….

  • AJ says:

    Yup, its all about taste. For those who argue differently, you obviously feel a need to justify your own taste, for whatever reason. Perhaps to feel superior, or to feel like you picked the winner, or what have you. I personally find value in all three directors. In a way, they are on a continuom of Art vs. Entertainment, with Terry Gilliam being more in the middle (don’t tell me Time Bandits and Baron Munchhausen were deep, though they had deep elements in them) and with Kubrick being strongly in the Art camp and Spielberg being largely an entertainer. I tend to run in the middle myself, which is why Gilliam is my favorite of the three. I like ’em just deep enough to make me think a bit, but still entertaining enough to feel good at the end. For those who adore Kubrick, I can see why. But I find my lessons in life itself, and in books, documentaries and in the people I meet. My primary purpose of film is to be entertained. I can see why Spielberg is appreciated too, though I find that his work is a bit too simplistic for my taste. He is still a top notch director. You can be great at what you do and still be ENTIRELY different than another director.

  • Nuno Jacinto says:

    I love Spielberg’s work and Kubrick’s work. But Terry Gilliam has a point, Spielberg is a great director for the masses, but Kulbrick is a great director’s director. Period.

    Martin Scorcese used to say: “a year without a movie form Kulbrick, is an unrepairable loss to the history of cinema”

  • Rosebud says:

    Why is it that when you ask anyone around the world about SPR, they all say the same thing, ‘that opening scene was great’ and with 2001 ‘what does the end mean’, that should be the benchmark to understand the differences between the two filmmakers.

    Furthermore, the defensive nature of a certain poster here, doesn’t seem to know the history or workings of the film business.

    Steven Spielberg’s name was mentioned to Kubrick when he was toying with the idea of making AI himself, as the person who could get it off the ground and finished quickly without much studio hiccup, or difficulty financing, that’s all, and like a grandmaster of knowing how to move pieces, he used that posthumously to get AI made, but would Kubrick approve of AI, he’s still break dancing in his grave over that one!

    Consequently, if you watch that film, you can see a boy trying to be a man, Spielberg is so out of his depth, he realizes he is bored with trying to construct intellectual stimulus as concentration (not his style) and decides it would be best to hand the reigns over to Joel Schumacher for the rest of the film, and upon the frightening realization that Joel may take the credit for this connection to Kubrick, he returns to give us his smaltzy ‘let me explain everything to the audience who I have always looked down on in my work’ as being too thick to understand anything for themselves, but that’s ok as a lot of people are happy to be fodder, some actually really need it.

    The real exposure of Spielberg’s inner thinking is that he doesn’t trust himself, his only work of idea as depth personally, or artful, was Close Encounters and post that he retreated away from following through, as he felt naked making it, he is a coward in that way.

    As for Schindler’s List, it was his need to be appeased by his peers that had him make that and even then, he had to sign on for JP: Lost (empty filmmaking at its best) World before being allowed to do it.

    Subsequently, he thought now that I am respected I will make Amistad which got nowhere, Schindler’s appeased the Jews who run Hollywood, no room for Black history ala The Colour Purple, and as George Lucas found out with Red Tails and as many a films sales agent will tell you, are not worth their time selling.

    Sylvester Stallone came to discover how a person is viewed when he did Copland, he said no one in the industry was welcoming towards him for that, and the second he went back to action, he was welcomed back with open arms.

    All the serious films Spielberg attempts find their notary standing because they can be backslapped by a certain movement or wave, Lincoln and SPR are two that fit that idea, Munich required some careful Bill Clinton consultation as to not offend anyone in Israel.

    Spielberg was also deemed shallow by of all people George Lucas in their student days and again as action has thus provided, Indiana Jones is really GL, Spielberg is who he ‘hired’ to make it, Spielberg has always wanted to be GL, and with Dreamworks he tried but ultimately failed.

    I am also at a loss too what the word art means, if art is not expansive or popular it serves no purpose, if it is not for everyone it is for no one, then you are dealing with elitism and snobbery. Cinema is like a faith with an open door, every one is invited to listen to a sermon no matter what their beliefs and whatnots are, this is its universal power.

    A Kubrick sermon never looks down on its audience, it only and continues to look up at them, I never have found myself leaving a cinema thinking of any ideas raised when I watch a Spielberg film, I always will with a Kubrick film, and that’s the difference between them, and also the difference that unites them, one we go to see as a fairground ride… Jaws, Raiders, E.T. MR, we have our thrills and spills and go home, the other 2001, CW, EWS, is a probing of deepness, that goes on to become timeless thought when you leave the cinema, and that’s what you take from both.

    Ultimately the choice of what you see and enjoy and what you don’t is a cultural and political reflection of who you are, and in that, no one wants to confront and that’s the power of the artist.

    What else is new?


  • Alex says:

    Gilliam is an artist. Kubrick is an artist.
    Spielberg is not an artist. I suppose it comes down to what one values more.

  • hrhliz says:

    Mentioned on ‘Dangerous Minds’ page on Facebook. :-)

  • Randomx6 says:

    Rosebud, (Spoiler alert)

    You are a sled. Also a borderline person of the Paula Deen category (Appease the Jews in Hollywood? Really. By chance are you aware of Mr Spielberg’s religion and how committed to it he is?)
    Quoting George Lucas on who is shallow (Jar Jar Binks anyone)? I know, your point is look how the shallow man thinks this guy is shallow but I don’t trust a child’s critique and George has the film making abilities of a child with the tech abilities of a genius.

  • Nicholas says:

    I don’t want to get involved in any political/religious arguments, but I have always felt opened up by Kubrick’s films (and VERY opened up by Gilliam’s films) and Spielberg’s films make me feel like there’s no room for interpretation of his work.


  • Dominic Jacobson says:

    I’d have to say that I agree with Terry Gilliam. If you read books like ‘Raging Bulls and Easy Riders’ you have an understanding that Spielberg was always a numbers man, always looking at film grosses and very much in line with the thinking of the Hollywood machine. I think this attitude was reflected in his filmmaking. For me there is a sense of transferred narcissism in many of Spielberg’s films which isn’t so apparent in Kubrick’s. We all want to be that hero who does the right thing in so many of Spielberg’s films and many of us generally want simple answers laid out on a plate for us. For me these simple notions are at the heart of a successful Hollowwood film. Even films like ‘The Colour Purple’ and ‘Amistad’ ,for me, have a lachrymose sentimentality that I find hard to swallow. There is a formula to this kind of filmmaking which doesn’t necessarily mean that Spielberg’s films are bad but I’m uncertain as to whether these kind of films can be great art.
    Being financially successful doesn’t always make you great and I think film history will favour Kubrick over Spielberg.

  • Dominic Jacobson says:

    As an addendum I’d like to point out that, for me ,seeking success in the artistic domain is ultimately narcissistic. If you want success you want people to see or hear or feel your work and for people to understand it and love it and love you because you touched their lives and had impact. Success in this sense seems to require the validation of others and in very large numbers.
    I think a true artist doesn’t necessarily concern his or herself with that kind of pursuit, which is maybe why Spielberg ingratiated himself with the Hollywood mafia and why Kubrick lived like a hermit in the Hertfordshire countryside.

  • Paolo Maroote says:

    Giovani Ribisi’s scene (reflecting on his childhood) in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is as powerful and profound as anything Kubrick has ever done.Kubrick, Spielberg, and Gilliam are great artists all human and therefore flawed.Just like what you like.

  • david k says:

    I can’t remember where it was, but I think it was in the Kubrick documentary, “A Life in Pictures” where Spielberg says that Kubrick gave the film “AI” to him because it was more designed for his “sensibilities.” Spielberg said this in a way which made it seem like it was a somewhat negative thing to say.

  • Kurt says:

    Boy do I feel late to this party.

    1) Why I love to read comments:
    “the problem with every single film afterwards was that the shark didn’t break”
    More genius in that statement than anything else I read here.

    2) ‘Duel’ was Spielberg’s best film. ‘Jaws’ pales by comparison.

    3) I have to take issue with the statement:
    “A Clockwork Orange the book had a more positive last chapter where Alex got bored with violence and destruction and wanted to create”
    Alex went into politics – he just destroyed on a broader scale and a more sanitized way. And that would have fit Kubrick’s point perfectly. But Kubrick, as we know from ‘The Shining’ (successfully) and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (not successfully) loved to change written works, sometimes to surprise the viewer who, having read the book before seeing the movie, had a preconceived knowledge of what would happen. I still remember being in the audience in the theater (spolier alert) when Scatman gets the ax… the screams and gasps completely drowned out the movie for well over a minute afterwards. And that is brilliant filmmaking. I have no idea if e ‘kubrickified’ ‘Barry Lyndon’ – probably not, as the book was too dull to read and the movie was only saved by the cinematography.

    4) While all three directors are flavors to be liked, loved or hated I do think that they are a good study of the production of art by people inside the system, outside the system but accepted, and hayed by the system.

    5) Neither Kubrick nor Spielberg has done anything as good as ‘Tideland’. Spielberg has never done anything as bad as ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (and it wasn’t JUST ‘Tom’s fault’ – but a lot of it was).

    I could say more but I’ve said enough… for now at least. Hate appreciated; love taken for granted.

  • Brian C says:

    Have to agree with Gilliam on this. Spielberg blockbusters are reliable, solid entertainment. “Serious” Spielberg is cheesy, over-the-top, and emotionally manipulative. Kubrick is just brilliant all around. His movies are entertaining, thought-provoking, and artistically transformative.

  • Easywriter says:

    Anyone ever see ‘Eyes Wide Shut’? :o)

  • jescoelvis says:

    This discussion underwritten by the armchair re-upholsterers union.

  • klipso says:

    I think the point Gilliam tries to make in reference to Schindler’s List is that the actual historical event was such an abomination that to attempt to take something life-affirming away from it just concedes too much to the Nazis – it doesn’t do justice to the true desperate nature of the event. It’s not possible for a filmmaker to capture that level of tragedy in a dramatic setting, and any attempt to do so is to essentially imply that the cruelty and brutality of the Nazis was not as great as it really was; that it can be reimagined and portrayed accurately, which it cannot be – to claim that it can be would be an injustice to the victims, just as Gilliam claims trying to take something positive from the event is a kind of injustice to the victims as well as some form of exoneration for allowing 6 million people to be killed. This is why Kubrick never made a movie about this subject, as well as why some say the only way a portrayal of the Holocaust can work is in a comic setting. Obviously this does not mean one makes fun of the victims, but more in the vein of Life is Beautiful (which also makes the mistake of attempting to take something life-affirming from the event). The tragedy of the situation was at such a level that we, looking back, cannot really grasp it unless we do so through a lens which focuses more on the absurd aspect of life in the camps than the tragic one.

  • FilmStudent90 says:

    I think the thing that Gilliam seems to be forgetting is SCHINDLER’S LIST isn’t the only story about the Shoah. It is, as Spielberg puts it, “only a minor little hole-in-the-wall that you can put one eye through and get a 2-D look at the Holocaust through our interpretation of it, through survivor’s stories.” Not only that, SCHINDLER’S LIST is about Oskar Schindler, mainly, and the wonderful thing that he did.

  • Donald says:

    Kubrick was a great filmmaker who always tried something different and exciting. Spielberg is a great filmmaker who especially excels at light entertainment. Gilliam, on the other hand, is a pretentious, mediocre director who has made some interesting films and some very bad ones. So this is a false dichotomy. I think schindlers list is every bit as good a film as the pianist. By the way, read kubrick’s list of ten greatest films. They are not all “serious,” but they are all great.

  • Jonas Planck says:

    This explains why A.I. was such a disturbingly schizophrenic mess of a movie.

    • James says:

      A.I. is just a fairytale, but for some reason one of my favourite movies, maybe just because it is meandering and schizo :)

  • HAL9000point5 says:

    Eyes Wide Shut forgiven? What was its sin? That it didn’t pander to the thesis of Gilliam’s rant, that it didn’t have a clear and cut plot; blatant exposition; contrived dialog; clear delineations between fantasy and reality; unambiguous protagonists/antagonists? nnnThe biggest compliment I ever heard about “Eyes Wide Shut” was when, asked of its opinion, a viewer said he’d need a few days to process what he had seen.

    • Steve says:

      Dude, compared to other philosophical pieces from Kubrick. Eyes wide shut looks like an orphan. It’s a mixture of all of his film most notably films including: a clock work orange, the shinning, BARRY Lyndon and even 2001! traces of all of these films are seen within eyes wide shut. That’s why this film is never as chilling as the shinning nor artful as Barry Lyndon nor as complex as clock work orange and also lacked the depth of 2001. Sorry guys but Eyes Wide Shut never was even close to masterpieces which were filmed before it. While watching it, I kind of feel that even kubrick was himself lost during script writing. Plus, eyes wide shut significantly fails to gain momentum of its master shots during film and is also one layer film another reason why the film lacks depth, while other kubrick films are best at doing so, Eyes wide shut is wrongly finished leaving us with a question whether what we had just seen had been a fantasy or reality which is incomparable to deep philosophical endings of a clock work orange and 2001.

      Sorry Stanley but this time u failed

  • Robin E. Simmons says:

    Tin Tin is arguably Spielberg’s best directed film. By far.

  • god says:

    Spielberg is a joke. If someone shot him it would be good. Die you Zionist shill shit sucker. Death to Spielberg and co.

  • Historygirl says:

    Why is it a crime for a filmmaker to make a film accessible to a mass audience? The horror of the Holocaust is too big for the mind to comprehend, but Spielberg provided a small window into a part of it through “Schindler’s List”. To me, the most devastating scene is when the camera, like Schindler’s eyes, follows the little girl in red during the liquidation of the ghetto. The camera follows the small child as she wanders the streets, looking for sanctuary as bullets fly around her. She eventually enters a building and the last time we see her, is when her battered, bloody little body is being pushed in a wheelbarrow for disposal. There is nothing trivial about it, or the crushing realization that hits Schindler at the end, when he realizes that he could have done more. Spielberg’s greater contribution, however, is the Shoah Project, which records the testimony of the survivors, because they & their liberators are passing into history & the holocaust deniers must never be allowed to re-write history. Yes, I have enjoyed Kubrick’s & Gilliam’s works & they ARE more intellectually stimulating. But Spielberg is a master story-teller & civilization needs that too.

  • Ol' Dice says:

    Sometimes I think the difference between 2 artists is whether or not they are truly searching for the truth, the actual truth of the subject. In my opinion some Spielberg films are more concerned with the cinematic ending or audience pleasing moment than the truth of the piece. This is something you could never accuse Gilliam or Kubrick and that is what I think terry is talking about.

  • Quint says:

    Spielberg has no interesting shots? Have you seen Jaws or Schindlers List? Now I happen to be a big fan of both Spielberg and Kubrick. But both are different filmakers not better or worse than each other, just different. A lot of people on here are trying to come across as intellectual but actually seem like ill informed asses!

  • Kevin Scanlan says:

    After reading and contemplating the above comments,( with the exception
    of the asinine remarks demonstrating a total lack of respect and dignity )
    concerning three fine filmmakers Kubrick, Spielberg, and Gilliam who,
    due to their imperfections judged by the respondents, be they good or bad,
    has brought me to one conclusion. And that is, one should be wise enough to
    take the good from all, and leave the bad to none.

    Mark Twain once said, and I quote:

    The trade of critics, in literature, music, and the drama,is the most degraded of all trades.

    Remember folks, movies………… are just movies.
    Life and Death outside the theatres, is where the true scenes of this world and beyond reside.


  • Soltan Gris says:

    I have seen two Spielberg movies that I think are good: Duel (his first flick) and Saving Private Ryan… I’ve never watched E.T. and intend never to do so… And Hook has to be one of the worst pieces of crap I have ever had the misfortune to experience…

    Terry Gilliam? He deserves credit for his part in the career of Monty Python, but almost everything he has done since has been an incoherent mess – though good in parts.

    Kubrick is better than the both of them put together – Dr. Strangelove, 2001, The Shining, etc.

    But movies are way over-rated as an “art” in any case. I like watching films but if I never saw another one again, it wouldn’t particularly bother me. Much the same as I feel about sport: a lot of hot air expended over nothing much.

  • Kim Morgan says:

    Terry Gilliam is one of the most imaginative and underrated film directors, but for many snobby reviewers he hasn’t broken the shackles of Monty Python.
    Brazil is still his masterpiece with The Fisher King and 12 Monkeys high up there.
    Steven Spielberg’s movies have become since Jaws and Close Encounters, ( I omit the horrendously overrated ET) very much directed by numbers jobs, Lincoln although boasting a very fine performance from Daniel Day Lewis was a spectacularly dull film.
    He is too American establishment!

  • Kim Morgan says:

    Terry Gilliam is one of the most imaginative and underrated film directors, but for many snobby reviewers he hasn’t broken the shackles of Monty Python.
    Brazil is still his masterpiece with The Fisher King and 12 Monkeys high up there.
    Steven Spielberg’s movies have become since Jaws and Close Encounters, ( I omit the horrendously overrated ET) very much directed by numbers jobs, Lincoln although boasting a very fine performance from Daniel Day Lewis was a spectacularly dull film.
    He is too American establishment!

  • Kevin says:

    To Tim:

    I was about to say precisely what you said

  • Andrew says:

    So films are all meant to be about enjoyment? What a monotone world you inhabit. Much like Spielberg in fact whose world is all homely, apple pie Americana.

    No thanks.

  • AB says:

    IMO people who dislike Kubrick aren’t “incapable” or don’t have the capacity to think for themselves. Art film lovers aren’t superior to Entertainment lovers, which is what some of you would like to believe. This is why I disliked English class, mostly because of hidden meanings inside a boring story that ultimately doesn’t contribute to society at all or teaches you a way to overcome something (Kubrick). He has a lot of meaning but doesn’t seem to care about improving society and acts like a pretentious douche. Apparently that’s art. Entertaining movies or stories with better plots can have just as much art while expressing views on society. Much of William Blake’s work does so. Kubrick’s work may have different meanings but it really does nothing for society if we’re still debating 30 years later of what his films meant.

  • Brian Carnell says:


  • mart says:

    Gilliam is way better than Spielberg. Spielberg makes kid’s movies that nobody has to think about.

  • martin says:

    Making people think about things doesn’t improve society?? are you serious?
    Shakespeare made people think. That is the essence of humanism and the Renaissance.
    Speilberg just projects his viewpoint – there is no thinking – just his view and propaganda (actually he made a lot movies that were blatant lies about history)

  • Billy Bob says:

    Well, first of all, Tim H. isn’t nearly as good a filmmaker as Gilliam (IMHO), so he’s not really in a position to criticize

  • MVM says:

    Terry Gilliam (personal filmmaker)

    Steven Spielberg (1/2 personal filmmaker, 1/2 money motivated filmmaker)

    Both are great directors, but Gilliam’s films get better and better everytime i view them over the course of my lifetime. Spielberg’s films remain the same and even worse, seem dull over time. Douglas Slocombe was the real reason why the Indiana Jones Films worked.. And yet anyone who loves that series, does not even know who Douglas Slocombe is.. Probably one of the best cinematographers that ever lived.

  • Marc at NYC says:

    Gilliam is spot on!

  • Wolf.W says:

    Look at Donald Trump’s insanely faux-optimistic coronavirus press briefings, and there you have the secret to Steven Spielberg’s success: Americans are addicted to artificial happy endings and will insist all is well even as they are circling down the drain. “Wow them in the end, and you’ll have a hit,” as the advice goes… except life does not wow you in the end; it kills you. What children my fellow Americans can be, longing for escapism instead of confronting life as it is. Take your Spielberg then, if you must. In fact, take him and keep him. The 20th re-watch of a Kubrick film is infinitely more pleasurable than the fresh viewing of whatever latest Spielberg nonsense lands on screen.

    SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, my nominee for most overrated and worst war film ever, ought to be proof enough that Spielberg is a hack: Hollow characters whom no one in the audience could possibly care about; predictable Tom Hanks quips and monologues with perfect timing and all the right answers; the cowardly American Upham finally being motivated by the red-white-and-blue and killing that backstabbing Kraut… Great film making? More like a Hallmark card to the pre-MAGA crowd. No thanks. Give me GO TELL THE SPARTANS and PLATOON and FULL METAL JACKET any day.

  • Kamal Ahmed says:

    In fairness,how else would you make SCHINDLER’S LIST? Why would anyone subject themselves to a horror story like that without some glimmer of hope?

  • Frankwhite1970 says:

    Really? Shows just how uneducated and limiting you are. Your afraid of everything that challenges you.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.