HitFix ranks the legend's greatest films to date
22. '1941' (1979)
The best and worst things about "1941" are the same: It's one of the most madcap, chaotic jumbles of a movie ever made. There are moments when Spielberg feels astoundingly in control of the chaos. The Dance Hall Brawl, for example, achieves the level of Looney Tunes-style audacity that the director is aiming for. You can watch that scene and analyze it in the context of Spielberg's best action beats. It could also be argued that John Williams' score is one of his very best and that if the movie had been a success, it would be recognized as a true classic [town marching bands around the country think it already is]. But boy oh boy is "1941" a tonal disaster at times. Drama or comedy, every line of clunky dialogue is shouted at full volume at all times and all nuance and shading gets lost in the cacophony. Only a genius could have made a movie that's as messy and frequently disastrous as "1941," so it's easy to acknowledge both the movie's long-standing reputation as Spielberg's biggest flop, while also seeing some validity in its revisionist niche cult embrace.
- Daniel Fienberg