Steven Spielberg Praises Holocaust Film As Good As Schindler’s List

By Jeffrey Rapaport | Published

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  • There’s a new film out about the Holocaust, and Schindler’s List director Steven Spielberg says it’s the best film on the subject since his own.
  • Spielberg said The Zone of Interest is the best film about the Holocaust since Schindler’s List.
  • The Zone of Interest is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.

It’s a rare, meaningful, and impactful token of endorsement: In an oral history of 1993’s Schindler’s List by The Hollywood Reporter, Steven Spielberg declared Jonathan Glazer’s recent film, The Zone of Interest, as the best Holocaust film since his ownCritics regularly esteem Spielberg’s feature as the finest work of cinema about the Holocaust. Thus, Spielberg’s praise speaks volumes. 

Schindler’s List

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Earning Spielberg critical acclaim, broad audiences, and a reputation as one of the most important works of art treating the Shoah, Schindler’s List constitutes a profoundly personal achievement. Steven Spielberg considers the film the best he’s ever made, specifying: “I am not going to say it’s the best movie I ever will make. But currently, it’s the work I’m proudest of.”

The Zone Of Interest

However, Steven Spielberg deemed Glazer’s The Zone of Interest as the finest work since his own, especially saluting the film’s ability to depict the “banality of evil,” a term popularized by political Hannah Arendt during her coverage of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi and principal perpetrator of the Holocaust.

Emerging as a serious contender in cinema, Glazer’s The Zone of Interest has earned, beyond Spielberg’s praise, five Oscar nominations—including Best Picture. The harrowing film is set against the backdrop of Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland. It concerns the life of Rudolf Höss, played by Christian Friedel, the commandant responsible for the murders of approximately 1.1 million people, of whom 960,000 were Jews. 

Reception To The Zone Of Interest

The film, acclaimed by Steven Spielberg, is reported to be a masterpiece of understated horror, all unfolding inside the house and in the garden of the house Höss shared with his family—a house directly beside a gas chamber and crematorium. Starkly, the setting, characters, and plot convey a contrast between the mundane features of a German family’s home life and the unspeakable, unfathomably evil murders perpetrated only meters away. 

Ultimately, Steven Spielberg’s earnest endorsement of The Zone of Interest—implying in no uncertain terms that it is a work mentionable alongside his own—should spur audiences to see a film seemingly more than deserving of the attention. 

Other Works Dealing With The Holocaust

Critics have never been anything but flattering concerning Schindler’s List. In a poll of nearly 100 film critics in September of 2022, the film was ranked the director’s second best (Jaws won first place). Since its early ’90s release, numerous films depicting the Holocaust have followed. These include the critically celebrated Son of Saul and a film by Roman Polanksi (himself a Holocaust survivor), The Pianist, also a major critical success. 

Spielberg And Wilder

steven spielberg

Spielberg fans may know that, shortly before filming Schindler’s List, legendary director Billy Wilder, whose mother, grandmother, and stepfather were all murdered in the Holocaust, approached the former with a personal request. Wilder had just read the book Schindler’s List before learning Spielberg owned the rights. Would, Wilder asked, the younger filmmaker let him direct the film? 

Steven Spielberg had no choice but to be honest: he was only a few weeks from flying to Cracow, Poland, to film the project himself—a film that had already been cast with a fully assembled crew. 

Ultimately, however, Billy Wilder would praise Spielberg’s achievement, describing it as “absolute perfection.”