War of the Worlds
Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is one scary bastard. This is a movie that starts taunting you soon after its beginning, and it never stops. Once the “tripods” of H.G. Wells’ seminal science-fiction story start zapping anything that moves, the film’s vibe is that of utter doom, and it’s downright mean—even vicious. This is the harshest, most terrifying film in Spielberg’s canon, and this is the guy who made Jaws. When irresponsible divorced dad Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) invites his little girl, Rachel (Dakota Fanning), into the backyard to take in an electrical storm, he thinks it’s just a dramatic start to a few restful days with his son (Justin Chatwin) and daughter. He makes a few observations (“The wind is blowing toward the storm”) and tells his kid to quit worrying, stay put and enjoy the show. When the lightning strikes hit too close to home, Ray winds up under the table cowering with Rachel, and we’re right there with them. What follows is a tense nail-biter that represents Spielberg at his big-movie best.