Director Steven Spielberg on the set of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." One of the most influential filmmakers working today, the director-producer is responsible for some of Hollywood's most popular films, including "Jaws," "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Jurassic Park," as well as the Oscar-winning dramas "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan." He also co-founded the film studio Dreamworks, and has helped launch the careers of many other successful filmmakers.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
Born in 1946 in Cincinnati, Steven Spielberg grew up in New Jersey and Arizona, where he began making amateur films with his friends, including a World War II drama, "Escape to Nowhere," inspired by his father's war stories. His first "commercial" release, at age 17, was his 2 hour and 20 minute "Firelight" (1964), a science fiction story of UFOs and alien abduction that presaged his later blockbuster "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Filmed in 8mm for $400 using his high school's drama students, "Firelight" was given its premiere at a rented theatre in Phoenix. It augured his future money-making potential, in a way: The director claimed the screening earned him a profit of $1.
Spielberg's student film "Amblin" (1968) became his calling card to Hollywood. Having worked errand jobs on the Universal Studios lot beginning in high school, he worked his way quickly into television production, and at age 22 directed Joan Crawford in a segment of Rod Serling's "Night Gallery" pilot in 1969.
Spielberg drew great attention with his hit ABC TV-movie "Duel" (1971), starring Dennis Weaver as a motorist being terrorized by an unseen truck driver. Cleverly shot, the film made good use of its taut 74-minute running time (not counting commercials, of course). An expanded version was later issued theatrically.
"The Sugarland Express"
Spielberg got his first feature film directing assignment on the premise that veteran producers oversee him and a bankable star be cast. With Richard Zanuck and David Brown producing, and Oscar-winner Goldie Hawn as a desperate mother helping her husband escape from jail, "The Sugarland Express" (1974) was a very promising debut, and not just for the director: screenwriters Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins received the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Spielberg suffered no sophomore jinx with this next feature film, "Jaws" (1975), a gripping thriller about shark attacks that was released in the dead of summer - then considered by Hollywood an unpromising time to market a movie - only to became the biggest moneymaker of all time. "Jaws" (and "Star Wars" two summers later) redefined how the movie industry scheduled and marketed films forever more.
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
Director Steven Spielberg on the set of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," for which he received his first Academy Award nominations, for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
John Belushi in "1941," a manic comedy about paranoia of an invasion on America's West Coast following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"Raiders of the Lost Ark"
Harrison Ford and Karen Allen in a sticky situation, in the conclusion of the action-adventure "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), directed by Steven Spielberg.
"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"
"Raiders" led to three sequels starring Harrison Ford, including "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"
Director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas on the set of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
"E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial"
Steven Spielberg on the set of "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982). The story of an alien who is stranded on Earth and befriended by a young boy who tries to help him return home, "E.T." passed "Star Wars" to become the biggest box office up to that time. It also became that rarity - a science fiction film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.
"E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial"
Steven Spielberg has been acclaimed for the naturalism of the performances he elicits from child actors. Here he confers with Drew Barrymore on the set of "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial."
In addition to directing, Spielberg has served as producer or executive producer for such filmmakers as Joe Dante ("Gremlins"), Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future"), Michael Apted ("Continental Divide") and Barry Levinson ("Young Sherlock Holmes"). He has also overseen several TV series, including the anthology "Amazing Stories."
Left: A scene from the supernatural thriller "Poltergeist" (1982), directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Spielberg.
"Empire of the Sun"
Christian Bale and director Steven Spielberg on the set of "Empire of the Sun," based on J.G. Ballard's autobiography of his internment as a young boy in a Japanese camp during World War II.
Director Steven Spielberg and Dustin Hoffamn on the set of "Hook," a return to Never-Never Land.
Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter in the spectral romance "Always" (1989), a remake of the Spencer Tracy tale "A Guy Named Joe."
"A.I.: Artificial Intelligence"
Director Steven Spielberg and Haley Joel Osment on the set of "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" (2001). Stanley Kubrick originally developed the project with Spielberg but eventually handed it over, believing the story of a boy-robot was closer to Spielberg's sensibilities. The final film was released two years after Kubrick's death.
"The Color Purple"
Spielberg directed the film adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a young African American woman's awakening after years of abuse, "The Color Purple" (1985). Pictured are stars Akosua Busia and Whoopi Goldberg.
The film received 11 Academy Award nominations, but not one for Spielberg (although he received the Directors Guild of America Award).
A scene from Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park." The science fiction adventure based on the Michael Crichton bestseller was a monster hit, and ushered in a new era of visual effects with its revolutionary computer-animated dinosaurs.
Steven Spielberg filming "Schindler's List" (1993), the wrenching Holocaust drama for which he won his first Academy Award as Best Director.
"The Lost World"
Spielberg returned to the prehistoric dangers of "Jurassic Park" in the sequel, "The Lost World." Here he directs a cast member.
Cameo appearances by director Steven Spielberg: As a bureaucrat who stamps a receipt for "The Blues Brothers" (upper left); as a wheelchair-driver attendee at an inventors' convention in "Gremlins" (upper right); and as himself, telling Mike Myers what he can do with his directing tips, in the opening credit sequence of the comedy "Austin Powers in Goldmember."
Steven Spielberg, Anthony Hopkins and Morgan Freeman on the set of the historical drama "Amistad" (1997).
"Saving Private Ryan"
A scene from the World War II drama "Saving Private Ryan" (1999), starring Tom Hanks. The film's unflinching recreation of the D-Day invasion won Spielberg his second Academy Award for Best Director.
"Saving Private Ryan"
Director Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks filming the assault on Normandy in "Saving Private Ryan."
Steven Spielberg directs Tom Cruise and Samantha Morton in "Minority Report" (2002), a science fiction thriller loosely based on a story by Philip K. Dick.
"Catch Me If You Can"
Actor Leonardo diCaprio and director Steven Spielberg filming "Catch Me If You Can," about a globe-trotting con artist.
Catherine Zeta Jones and director Steven Spielberg on the set of "The Terminal" (2004), a whimsical comedy about a visitor from abroad (played by Tom Hanks) trapped in a New York City airport.
Steven Spielberg is photographed on set of the political thriller "Munich."
"War of the Worlds"
Steven Spielberg with actor Tom Cruise on the set of the science fiction thriller "War of the Worlds."
Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, arrive at the 79th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., Sunday, February 25, 2007. Spielberg was nominated as producer of the Clint Eastwood film "Letters From Iwo Jima."
Steven Spielberg captures the moment for Ellen DeGeneres and Clint Eastwood at the 79th Annual Academy Awards, in Hollywood, Calif., Sunday, February 25, 2007.
Martin Scorsese (second from left), Academy Award-winner for Best Director for "The Departed," poses with presenters, directors Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas at the 79th Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., on Sunday, February 25, 2007.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
Karen Allen, who starred in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," returned to the role of Marion Ravenwood in the sequel, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008). Here she is seen on the set with director Steven Spielberg.
Producer Steven Spielberg and director J.J. Abrams on the set of "Super 8."
"The Adventures of Tintin"
Spielberg ventured into the world of motion capture performance for the animated film "The Adventures of Tintin" (2011), based on Herge's comic books about the intrepid young reporter. Above: Spielberg operates a "camera" on the virtual "set."
Steven Spielberg on location shooting his World War I epic "War Horse" (2011), an adaptation of the Tony Award-winning stage play.
"I see it as a story about, you know, the connections that an animal can make that perhaps only an animal can make in bringing people together and bringing everybody on the same side of an issue, even an issue as large as the Great War," he told Martha Teichner. "Sometimes it takes something as, I guess, primal as a magnificent horse to let everybody share a common goal, which is this: Rescue it. And I think that's where the story came down emotionally for me."
A scene from Steven Spielberg's "War Horse," which was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
"Lincoln" (2012) reveals the drama of President Abraham Lincoln's final days in office. Starring Oscar-winner Daniel Day Lewis, the film examines the president's moral courage during the closing days of the Civil War and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery.
Spielberg told Lesley Stahl of "60 Minutes" that he always wanted to tell the story of America's 16th president, and took more than 10 years to research. The director of such period films as "Schindler's List," "Amistad" and "The Color Purple" says "Lincoln" is like no other film he has ever done.
Spielberg tells Stahl that in Lincoln he "saw a paternal father figure, someone who was completely, stubbornly committed to his ideals, his vision. I think the film is very relevant for today. It's about leadership. ...
"I think there's a sense of darkness [with] him," he said of Lincoln. "He was living with two agendas, both of which had to do with healing ... first, to abolish slavery, end the war. But he also had his personal life and I think there's darkness in there."
"Bridge of Spies"
In the real-life Cold War thriller, "Bridge of Spies" (2015), Tom Hanks stars as a private attorney (whose specialty is insurance cases) who is asked to broker a spy exchange in East Berlin between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. -- captured U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers, for convicted Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. Mark Rylance received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Abel.
Appearing with Spielberg regular Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep worked with the director for the first time in "The Post" (2017), portraying Washington Post owner Kathryn Graham, who in the early 1970s committed her newspaper to publishing the Pentagon Papers - pitting herself against the Nixon administration over releasing government secrets about the Vietnam War.
"Ready Player One"
Based on Ernest Cline's bestselling 2011 novel, "Ready Player One" (2018) follows a game enthusiast whose search for a hidden Easter Egg within a virtual reality universe known as the OASIS pits him against multitudes of pop culture avatars in the VR world, and flesh-and-blood corporate villains in the real one.