With the recent release of Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel, sci-fi ensemble Prometheus, the man behind a number of the greatest movies of the last 50 years seems to be back on the right track. After a string of less than decent directorial efforts (mostly 2010′s Robin Hood and 2008′s Body of Lies), Scott now has a critical and commercial hit with Prometheus, and already has two should-be hits in the works with 2013′s The Counselor and an “Untitled Blade Runner Project in 2014. After a quick look back over the auteur’s long, busy career, I’m tempted to suggest that he’s been every bit as artistically – and commercially – significant as Steven Spielberg. In addition to the many successful films he has directed, there are another 30 or so modern classics that Scott produced or played some other hand in. And, along the way, the guy has been hugely diverse and influential, most notably with films like Alien, Blade Runner and even Thelma & Louise. And so yes, you guessed it, we have a Ridley Scott-themed list for you. Here they are, our Top 10 Favorite Films Directed by Ridley Scott.
10. Legend (1985) - I’ve not seen this movie in a really long time, but it’s a cult movie with a well deserved legacy. And it stars Tom Cruise in one of his classic, name-making roles. I recall the production being strange and beautiful and every bit as imaginative as any other movie of its era, and I remember the movie being a blast. A fantasy classic.
9. Thelma & Louise (1991) - Maybe some of the production choices in this movie haven’t aged as well as most of Scott’s movies have, but the story, cinematography and direction is just as solid today as ever. A brave, beautiful, empowering flick that nearly won Scott the Best Director Oscar – and introduced the world to Brad Pitt.
8. Black Hawk Down (2001) - Fun, action-packed and full of impeccable action sequences. Compared to Scott’s other great films, Black Hawk Down almost feels like a small movie, it’s 144 focused, fluid minutes passing by as effortlessly as any of the great wartime action movies. A surprisingly beautiful action romp dressed up as a wartime thriller.
7. A Good Year (2006) - Poorly reviewed and little seen, this romantic comedy – starring Russell Crowe and the incomparable Marion Cotillard – plays though like a beautiful, easily digestible vacation film. Both Scott and Crowe have said that they love the movie, and stand by it 100%. Me too. As far as sweet, poetic, visually beautiful rom-coms go, A Good Year is as good as they come. The writing isn’t that great, but everything else is just about perfect.
6. Prometheus (2012) - I’m still not sure what I think of the story or pacing, but the style in this flick is as good as any I’ve seen. I’m not typically a fan of 3D production, but the design in this movie is something to absolutely marvel at – as is the cinematography and scope. A big, bold, flawed sci-fi epic that I won’t have a full opinion about until I see it a few more times. There’s that much going on.
5. American Gangster (2007) - A big, sprawling period piece gangster movie with a huge cast, big story and tons of style. Gangster did well enough at the box office and with the critics, but didn’t get the Oscar love it deserved and seems to be mostly forgotten only a few years later. One of the great gangster movies of all-time, we say. Beautifully stylized and directed.
4. Matchstick Men (2003) - This little offbeat comedy is twisty and weird and cool. Maybe even Scott’s coolest non-sci-fi flick to date. Nic Cage gives a signature performance and Scott stuffs as many style points as he can in a subtle, almost poetic way. Masterful in the same small, understated way Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love is.
3. Gladiator (2000) - After a long, largely unsuccessful run in the 90s, Scott returned with this big, sprawling historical epic. A huge production with a huge cast, unthinkable staging and set design and impressive, fluid construction and editing. Winner of many, many awards, including the Best Picture Oscar, four other Oscars and seven additional Oscar noms.
2. Blade Runner (1982) - The best futuristic sci-fi movie ever? Maybe. The best production design ever? Very probable. Influential? Hugely. Thirty years after it’s release, the look and ambition of Blade Runner still amazes me in the same way Tim Burton’s Batman, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey do. One of the finest examples of film making … ever.
1. Alien (1979) - For my money, Alien remains one of the best sci-fi films ever made. Maybe one of the best films ever made. The set design and general style of the film is as beautiful and timeless today as it ever was. And the big, ensemble cast. And the building tension. And the music. And the coloring and cinematography. And everything else. Not many movies are considered to be perfectly crafted, but this one – and maybe Blade Runner, Gladiator and even American Gangster – is. A masterstroke from one of our era’s greatest movie makers. A perfect film.