Steven Spielberg and John Williams are the reason I love the movies

As the survivors of Jurassic Park hurriedly board a helicopter to finally escape the rampaging dinosaurs, everyone finally gets a chance to catch their breath. 

Sam Neill’s Dr. Alan Grant stares out of the window to watch a pair of birds fly across the open sea as the island and the terror recedes away. 

As he looks out, the film’s main theme is played on piano, softly, and almost like a lullaby, reinforcing the sense of safety and echoing the humble beauty of the view. Everyone, audience included, breathes a sigh of relief. 

And as the orchestra begins to swell and the credits roll, I inevitably get misty eyed, bringing to a close another viewing of one of the most breathlessly exciting blockbusters ever made.

Steven Spielberg and John Williams are the reason I love movies. 

For nearly 50 years, the two masters of their craft have collaborated to produce some of the most beloved films and scores of all time. Beginning with The Sugarland Express in 1973 right up to last year’s The Fabelmans, director Spielberg and composer Williams have become synonymous with one another. 

You can count the films Williams hasn’t scored for Spielberg across his storied career on one hand – and of Williams’ whopping 53 Academy Award nominations, 17 of them are for Spielberg films, with his work on The Fabelmans nominated at this year’s Oscars. 

With more discussions about Williams’ potential retirement and the release of The Fabelmans in the UK, the work of this pairing has been playing on my mind more than normal, as I reflect on the impact they have had on me from a very young age. 

I find it hard to think of a time when I didn’t find movies fascinating – my parents often tell me stories of how easy it was to keep me entertained as a kid by just sticking a film on. 

But the ones that seared a love of celluloid into my being were those by Steven Spielberg. 

I can distinctly remember seeing the ominous red glow of ET’s spaceship one Christmas when I was four. 

I will also never forget being as enthralled and awed as Dr Alan Grant by the sight of a Brachiosaurus in Jurassic Park when I was six. And what about meeting the greatest cinematic hero of all time in the form of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones? 

And of course all of these great cinematic moments were all accompanied with music by John Williams. The sound of adventure to me is Indy’s Raiders March. And who can even think about a dinosaur without the Jurassic Park theme immediately springing to mind? When I dream, more often than not, it is scored by John Williams.

From those very first viewings, I began to recognise that these pictures and sounds were coming from the same people, and so I began to explore them further.

Ever the curious eight-year-old, I asked my parents what other films they had made, and they were more than happy to nurture my inquisitiveness.

There was a clear joy in my parents’ faces when Mum told me how she bit through a cardigan while watching Jaws, and Dad recalling fondly how he and his mum had gone to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind on a trip away from home.

It also made complete sense to me when my dad told me that Williams had also composed the music to my other childhood obsession: Star Wars. 

There is something special about the way movies can bridge the gaps between generations and as they hand over these precious memories to you, they might reveal something a bit more personal about your nearest and dearest. 

For me, that’s one of my favourite qualities of cinema; the ability to bring you closer to those you love. 

But they can also expand your mind and take you to a world beyond your doorstep, something Spielberg and Williams undoubtedly did for me.

As I grew up and fully committed to my film fanaticism as a teenager, I read more about Spielberg’s influences and discovered he was part of the ‘movie brat’ generation of filmmakers – including the likes of George Lucas, Brian De Palma and Francis Ford Coppola – all of whom were heralded as being on the cutting edge of new wave Hollywood in the 1970s. 

I would go on to explore the works of all of these great filmmakers, which further introduced me to a wider landscape of movies and influences. 

But arguably it was Williams who I fell more in love with. 

I took up the clarinet – one of his and my mum’s favourite instruments – and leaned into listening to more of his compositions. As my friends were getting into The Killers and Arctic Monkeys, I spent my pocket money on compilations of Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and Ennio Morricone.

The heart and soul of Spielberg and Williams’ work have not only been a foundation for my love of film, but for so many aspects of my life. 

From forging friendships based on a mutual love for their work to launching a podcast  – ‘Ramblin: An Amblin Podcast’ – where guests often share their own stories of the positive effect Spielberg’s movies have had on their lives.  

They are one of the great filmmaking partnerships that movie lovers adore. So, many of us were likely met with a bittersweet feeling when Williams discussed his potential retirement following the release of the fifth Indiana Jones movie this year. 

‘At the moment I’m working on Indiana Jones 5, which Harrison Ford – who’s quite a bit younger than I am – I think has announced will be his last film. So, I thought: If Harrison can do it, then perhaps I can, also,’ he said at the time. 

At 90 years old (he turns 91 in February) Williams has more than earned his retirement, but there’s no doubt that the whole industry will be poorer without him, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss over the mere thought of there never being a new Williams score to look forward to.

That day is always going to come at some point, but thankfully, it might be a bit further off than Williams’ indicated back then. 

Because this month, at an event sponsored by American Cinematheque, he shocked even Steven Speilberg by saying, ‘Well, Steven is a lot of things. He’s a director, he’s a producer, he’s a studio head, he’s a writer, he’s a philanthropist, he’s an educator. One thing he isn’t is a man you can say no to… I had a 90th birthday and I met a woman my age… and she said, “The greatest decade in a person’s life is 90 to 100.” So I’ll stick around for a while… You can’t retire from music. I said earlier, it’s like breathing. It’s your life. It’s my life. And so a day without music is a mistake.’

So, there may be hope yet that we’ll see at least one more collaboration between the pair. 

But should The Fabelmans indeed prove to be their last project together (Spielberg having handed the reins of the final Indiana Jones movie to James Mangold) it would be a fitting end to their 50-year career. 

With the semi-autobiographical tale being so personal to Spielberg, focusing on his parents, who Williams also knew, it would be a swansong that no one could deny them.

They have both more than earned the right to call it a day, and their work would undoubtedly continue to spellbind millions in the generations to come. 

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