Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical drama film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the 1982 historical fiction novel Schindler's Ark by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally. The film follows Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who together with his wife Emilie Schindler saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II. It stars Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ralph Fiennes as SS officer Amon Göth and Ben Kingsley as Schindler's Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern.
Ideas for a film about the Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews) were proposed as early as 1963. Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the Schindlerjuden, made it his life's mission to tell Schindler's story. Spielberg became interested when executive Sidney Sheinberg sent him a book review of Schindler's Ark. Universal Pictures bought the rights to the novel, but Spielberg, unsure if he was ready to make a film about the Holocaust, tried to pass the project to several directors before deciding to direct it.
Principal photography took place in Kraków, Poland, over 72 days in 1993. Spielberg shot in black and white and approached the film as a documentary. Cinematographer Janusz Kamiński wanted to create a sense of timelessness. John Williams composed the score, and violinist Itzhak Perlman performed the main theme.
Schindler's List premiered on November 30, 1993, in Washington, D.C., and was released on December 15, 1993, in the United States. Often listed among the greatest films ever made, the film received international acclaim from critics for its tone, Spielberg's direction, acting (especially Fiennes and Neeson), and atmosphere; it was also a box office success, earning $322 million worldwide on a $22 million budget. It was nominated for twelve Academy Awards, winning seven, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score, and won numerous other awards, including seven BAFTAs and three Golden Globe Awards. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked Schindler's List 8th on its list of the 100 best American films of all time. The film was designated as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress in 2004 and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
In Kraków during World War II, the Germans force local Polish Jews into the overcrowded Kraków Ghetto. Oskar Schindler, a German from Czechoslovakia arrives in the city, hoping to make his fortune. A member of the Nazi Party, Schindler bribes Wehrmacht (German armed forces) and SS officials, acquiring a factory to produce enamelware. Schindler hires Itzhak Stern, a Jewish official with contacts among black marketeers and the Jewish business community; he handles administration and helps Schindler arrange to finance. Stern ensures that as many Jewish workers as possible are deemed essential to the German war effort to prevent them from being taken by the SS to concentration camps or killed. Meanwhile, Schindler maintains friendly relations with the Nazis and enjoys wealth and status as "Herr Direktor".
SS-Untersturmführer (second lieutenant) Amon Göth arrives in Kraków to oversee the construction of the Płaszów concentration camp. When the camp is ready, he orders the ghetto liquidated: two thousand Jews are transported to Płaszów, and two thousand others are killed in the streets by the SS. Schindler witnesses the massacre and is profoundly affected. He particularly notices a young girl in a red coat who hides from the Nazis. He later sees her body on a wagonload of corpses. Schindler is careful to maintain his friendship with Göth and continues to enjoy SS support, mostly through bribery. Göth brutalizes his Jewish maid Helen Hirsch and randomly shoots people from the balcony of his villa; the prisoners are in constant fear for their lives. As time passes, Schindler's focus shifts from making money to trying to save as many lives as possible. To better protect his workers, Schindler bribes Göth into allowing him to build a sub-camp.
As the Germans begin losing the war, Göth is ordered to ship the remaining Jews at Płaszów to Auschwitz concentration camp. Schindler asks Göth for permission to move his workers to a munitions factory he plans to build in Brünnlitz near his home town Zwittau. Göth reluctantly agrees but charges a huge bribe. Schindler and Stern create "Schindler's List" – a list of 850 people to be transferred to Brünnlitz instead of Auschwitz.