18. The Color Purple (1985)
At the beginning of the 1980's, Steven Spielberg seemed to have it all. He began the decade directing three of the most successful films of all-time, one of which was a sequel to his first success of the decade. In 1985, he decided to be daring. When the legendary music producer Quincy Jones had retained the film rights to Alice Walker's Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, he wanted the best to direct it. He brought the idea to Spielberg and what resulted was one of Spielberg's finest films (and his most underrated). Ms. Walker's story tells the tale of Celie (Whoopi Goldberg in a brilliant film debut), a southern black woman who is mistreated and abused by everyone around her, especially her vicious husband Albert (dynamically played by Danny Glover). The one person Celie loves, her sister Nettie (Akosua Busia), is sent away by Albert in a frantic rage. Celie then feels that she is committed to this dreaded existence until she meets Shug Avery (played by Margaret Avery), a boozy jazz-club singer who shows her that everyone is beautiful in their way. Spielberg gets amazing performances from his cast, especially his leads. The film also features Oprah Winfrey in a scene-stealing role as Sofia, Albert's strong and opinonated daughter-in-law. There are some phenomenal scenes that have Spielberg's magic touch including the scenes dealing with Nettie's journey in Africa. The film, like the novel, is absolutely touching and moving especially in some of its scenes towards the end (like the powerful Easter dinner scene, Shug's rousing gospel song in the church and the emotional final sequence). While it was a great box-office success and many critics loved it, the movie never got the full respect from the Awards circuit as it notoriously lost all 11 of the Oscars it was nominated for and Spielberg, himself, was specifically NOT nominated by the Academy for it. And when you don't win the awards, it becomes harder for audiences to remember a good movie like this. It is an underrated classic that is one of Spielberg's most heartwarming films.
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