The Spielberg Influences on Super 8

How much of Steven Spielberg’s early work is referenced in Super 8?

How much of Steven Spielberg’s early work is referenced in Super 8?

If you’ve seen the film you’ll know that writer-director J.J. Abrams draws deeply from the era of Spielbergโ€™s early blockbusters, with the famous director even coming on board as co-creator and producer.

But in terms of specifics, here are a list of Spielberg films that seem to be particular touchstones for Super 8.

JAWS (1975)

Spielberg’s mainstream breakthrough was about a shark terrorising a small town and featured a law enforcement officer (Roy Scheider) struggling to maintain order.

In Super 8 there is also a small town deputy (Kyle Chandler) and although he isn’t the main character, he plays a similar role in uncovering the mysterious goings on in the town.


Perhaps the most influential film on Super 8 is Spielberg’s second blockbuster, which explores what happens to two everyday families who discover that the US military are covering up the existence of UFOs.

The overall plot of Super 8 also involves two families, a military cover-up, a key scene involving a truck by a rail road, and characters empathising with strange forces.

In particular, the presence of the US military plays a big part in each film.

There are other references, which you should consider after watching the film.


Arguably Spielberg’s most famous film, the coming-of-age tale about a young boy (Henry Thomas) who befriends an alien has close parallels with Super 8.

In J.J. Abrams film, the protagonist is also a young boy (Joel Courtney) from a single parent family who grows up in a small town.

Like E.T. the forces of law and order are frequently sinister and are contrasted to other beings in the film.


Although directed by Tobe Hooper, Spielberg was very closely involved with this 1982 horror film as a producer.

So, closely in fact that a rumour persisted for years that Spielberg had indeed directed some of it.

It bore the hallmarks of his early career: threats to a suburban family; fantastical forces and a child at the centre of the drama.

Super 8 certainly ventures into this territory, but for particular references look out for a blonde girl being central to the action and something under the ground being important to the film.


This adventure-comedy was directed by Richard Donner but was another example of Spielberg producing.

The screenplay was adapted from his own story by Chris Columbus (one of his many one proteges in this period) and the basic premise revolves around a group of kids who go on an adventure.

Super 8 has obvious parallels, with a group of young filmmaker friends trying to get to the bottom of a mysterious train crash that they have unwittingly captured on film.

Did you notice any other Spielberg references in Super 8?

> Full review of Super 8
> More on Steven Spielberg at Wikipedia

One reply on “The Spielberg Influences on Super 8”

Great article. In terms of direct scene-for-scene references I’d add that the attack on the police van is pretty similar to the T-Rex attacks on Lex and Tim’s car in Jurassic Park.

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