Published on August 10th, 2012 | by Matthew Gammond0
The Best Of Ridley Scott
OK, I’ll level with you; this article was originally supposed to be published to coincide with the release of Prometheus, but it never happened. I could blame it on the fact that trying to find a correct order for the following films was difficult, but in reality I was just being a lazy sod.
Anyway, I digress. I’ve always wanted to do a “Best of Ridley Scott” feature; some of my very favourite films were directed by him. And whilst some of his efforts have been a bit wide of the mark, for the most part his vision comes across beautifully; whether it is in the dank corridors of a mining spaceship, or the vast desert surrounding Jerusalem.
Ranking these films in any kind of order would be difficult, though there are some which are clearly better than others. I should also stress that this is just a collection of the Ridley Scott films that I have actually seen, which is why you are now going to read through the top eight, rather than a sensible number like ten.
I hope you agree with me, then again if you don’t you can vent your fury in the comments below.
8) Robin Hood (2010)
I could say, perhaps, that this film was a little disappointing. So much so that I often forget it was a Scott-directed picture. But behind the clunky storyline there is much to behold, with star Russell Crowe being, well, Russell Crowe and the I’m-always-the-bad-guy Mark Strong doing his best to be a sinister villain.
Though lacking the spectacle of some of Ridley’s other films, Robin Hood does at least have a collection of great moments (seriously, that cavalry charge on the beach? Awesome) which are punctuated nicely with glorious wide shots of ye olde England’s stunning countryside and a collection of decent performances from Cate Blanchett and co.
It’s far from Crowe’s best work with Scott, but it’s still worth a watch as it tells the origin story of Robin Hood; a tale we rarely get to see.
7) Prometheus (2012)
This was a big one; perhaps my anticipated film of 2012, one that marked Ridley Scott’s return to the realm of sci-fi.
Mixing some of the greatest visuals ever seen on screen with an interesting and oft-unexplored alien mythology proved to be quite a good combination. Factor in a stunning performance by Michael Fassbender and you really have something.
That is, until, you realise that there are more holes in the plot than at a sieve museum. For all its grandeur, Prometheus managed to leave audiences wanting a hell of a lot more. You should definitely check it out for the amazing scenery and Fassbender’s performance, as well as a couple of grotesque body shock moments, but be wary of feeling irritated come the credits.
6) Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
This may be the shock entry on the list; Kingdom of Heaven never went down too favourably with fans and critics, with claims of a disjointed plot and some mediocre acting. And whilst I agree that Orlando Bloom was never the true leading man that his role required, I very much enjoyed this 2005 epic.
The vast scale of the world in which this is set, married to the elegant score and breathtaking action sequences creates a fantastic viewing experience. With the talents of Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson factored in, for the most part you have a solid cast.
It is in the huge set pieces that the film’s heart lies; the siege of Jerusalem is spectacular, swooping from that infamous trebuchet barrage to the tight hand-to-hand combat within the walls of the city. In fact, the cavalry battle at Kerak Castle is worth watching this film for alone.
5) Blade Runner (1982)
Shock horror! You were expecting this film to be sitting pretty at the top spot weren’t you? Alas, I respect this film immensely but I do prefer some of Ridley’s other work.
There’s no doubt that this is most influential sci-fi movie ever made; and every time I watch it I am amazed by the dystopian world that Ridley Scott presented to us. The seething mass of the scrubby underworld that is illuminated by tacky neon signs and drenched by rain creating a world that no one will ever forget.
Our erstwhile hero, Deckard, is a fantastic character and his stand-off with his own morals whilst hunting down the renegade androi- err I mean replicants is a thrilling narrative to behold. Cap everything off with that famous speech at the end and you’ve got one hell of a movie.
4) Black Hawk Down (2001)
When I first watched this film I didn’t know what to make of it, but over time I have grown to appreciate it immensely. Being a bit of an action fiend, I noticed that about 85% of the movie is one long battle sequence, with varying levels of scale and violence.
Whilst that may seem like a bread and butter plot, the film manages to be wonderfully deep, with some solid and gruff performances from a fleet of famous stars; Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett… even Orlando Bloom drops by for a bit!
The gruelling nature of the scenario that the soldiers find themselves in always gets to me; with the claustrophobic streets packed with Somali gunman creating a maze of oppression that has real tension throughout. The heroism that the soldiers show in this horrific environment provides some great on-screen moments, the majority of which are complimented by Hans Zimmer’s superb score.
3) American Gangster (2007)
American Gangster is one of the more complex of Ridley Scott’s films; playing off a smooth drug tycoon against a rough-as-nails detective in what turns out to be a battle of determination against wealth and cunning.
Russell Crowe is marvellous as Richie Roberts, but the incredibly eerie presence of Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) is what really stood out for me. One minute he’s as cool as a cucumber, the next he’s crushing a guy’s head in a piano; you just never know what to expect from him.
The film may be light on action, but this is more a character piece than an all-out showdown and it really benefits from the solid performances of the principal cast. Sure, a few secondary characters draw a short straw, but at the end of the day I was gripped from start to finish with what is surely one of the finest crime films of recent times.
2) Gladiator (2000)
Quite possibly the film that made Russell Crowe, Gladiator stands (still to this day) as one of the greatest stories ever told; a general who became a slave. A slave who became a gladiator. A gladiator who defied an empire.
This is Crowe’s finest hour, and his recognition for it is perfectly deserved. Though the scripting surely should get a mention, and as for Hans Zimmer’s score? Well, I think it may be the best ever written for a film.
Maximus’ to-and-fro with Commodus is an intriguing plot, the lays hidden for one of the characters until a chunk of the movie has gone by. Filled with violence, huge battles, stunning scenery and a brilliant collection of characters; Gladiator maintains the throne of the greatest swords-and-sandals film of all time.
1) Alien (1979)
The absolute by-word in sci-fi horror; Alien practically launched the career of Ridley Scott and was the genesis for a whole new take on horror; what if you take one of the finest killing machines in the universe and put it in a claustrophobic spaceship with a handful of space miners who are outmatched in every way? Surely that’s a great combination?
The crew of the doomed Nostromo act as a family unit, and that is the secret to this film’s success. They’re just your average, working-class guys, trying to scrape by on whatever money they can find. And as each one bites the dust, you really feel their sense of desperation increase, which creates a real emotional bond with them.
Packed with moments that have gone down in cinema folklore, eerie music and masterful camera techniques, Alien stands as one of the best sci-fi films to have ever graced the big screen. It has such a simple premise, but the way in which it is filmed brings down the barrier between the audience and the screen, and places you right there between the double jaws of the xenomorph in a way that many films to this day try to imitate. Pure genius.
So, that’s my list guys, I hope you enjoyed reading through it. Of course, any alterations are welcome and I’d love to read about them!