Ridley Scott has been working on some of my favourite films for over four decades now. And the man shows no signs of letting up even at the age of seventy nine. He has created some of the most intense moments in Sci-Fi and fantasy in film, and has brought us some of its most legendary characters. He continues this trend with the release of Alien: Covenant (2017), the second film in his Alien prequel trilogy. So it feels right to count down the best of his work throughout the years, as I struggle to fit in the right order of each justified entry. Starting with:
10. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Okay to be perfectly honest, I was really not a big fan of Kingdom of Heaven. I just remember sitting down during the credits and giving off a slight exhalation and saying “Okay then”. I am being mean but I am including it on today’s list as I have been told by a vast amount of people that the director’s cut is a far superior film. So I will keep my mind open until that day, but for now it remains in this position.
9. Legend (1985)
A few people are a bit iffy about Legend in regards to the story. But quite frankly it is one of the most beautiful looking films of the 1980s for me. A young Tom Cruise plays pretty well, and Tim Curry as darkness has to be one of the greatest portrayals of the Devil ever. That make up takes a lot of commitment, and Curry to add his own sense of dramatic flair in a somewhat campy way is just the absolute show stealer. I have it recorded on TV too, so I’m watching that son of a bitch again later.
8. Prometheus (2012)
I can actually admit to only seeing this not too long ago, and I would have to agree with certain criticisms of the plot. In saying that, it really isn’t as bad as most people made it out to be. Fassbender was fantastic (as always) along with Rapace as a solid female lead. It had moments of intensity and sheer terror. And that brilliant self-surgery scene was fantastic. There have been rumours circulating for Scott to release a director’s cut over the last few years. But for what it was, I came away pretty satisfied.
7. Black Hawk Down (2002)
Black Hawk Down is a film that has received a lot of criticism due to its historical accuracy. The story itself is based on the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, but everyone knows at this stage that films of this calibre tend to embellish the truth to an extent. In saying that, it’s still a really intense and action-packed film. With a big cast including Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom and a young Tom Hardy to name a few. Whether the story is accurate or not, it still looks like a pretty frightening experience. And Scott, as usual, delivers in those areas.
6. Thelma and Louise (1991)
Thelma and Louise is a film rife with feminist overtones, although some have argued differently. I’m not going to comment because it is not an area I have any knowledge or experience in. However, as a piece of filmmaking, I still really enjoy this one. Both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon are brilliant, and backed up by a great cast including Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and a young Brad Pitt. Seeing assholes in movies get what’s coming to them is a real pleasure of mine, and without giving away too much for people who haven’t seen it, I think some people will walk away satisfied.
5. American Gangster (2007)
I’ve talked about American Gangster before and have really given my adoration for it on more than one occasion. As with Black Hawk Down there has been some discussion over its historical accuracy, but that doesn’t take away from how brilliant the film is. Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas is one of his most terrifying portrayals. And Russell Crowe as the cop trying to take him down is just as intense in his performance. With a cast including Josh Brolin, Cuba Gooding Jr., Chiwetel Ejiofor and Norman Reedus, I would put it up there as one of my favourite crime films ever.
4. The Martian (2015)
This is one film that really blew everybody away when it was first released, and proved that Scott has still got what it takes when it comes to a brilliant script. Matt Damon plays an astronaut stranded on Mars, presumed dead, and must do what he can in order to survive the next few years on his own. Being a botanist, he begins to cultivate his own food through human waste, and get to work on the only working rover to get him to a distance close enough for rescue. I won’t give away too much, but for Sci-Fi nerds this is definitely essential viewing. And proves that Scott, nearly forty years later after his breakthrough film (still to be mentioned), still has what it takes to work well in this genre.
3. Gladiator (2000)
Through most people that I know (including people who aren’t into film), Gladiator is still somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. Russell Crowe (again) gives an incredibly manly performance in one of the most brutal mainstream films I think I have ever seen. Joaquin Phoenix plays the sadistic emperor who ruins our protagonist’s life, therefore thrusting him into the gladiatorial arenas of ancient Rome, to rise to the top and seek his revenge. I still get people quoting this film from time to time and I can’t really blame them, it is a masterpiece. Also being Oliver Reed’s final role, he surely did leave on a high note.
2. Blade Runner (1982)
It really kills me not to put this at the number one spot as I find it a much deeper meaning film than most. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter (Blade Runner) who is tasked with seeking out some rogue androids led by the charismatic Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). There are many different versions of this film with people preferring their own cut. But no matter what way I look at it, I still find it a masterpiece. The neo-noir setting, the cyberpunk set pieces, all steeped in moral philosophy and religious symbolism make it one of my favourite films of all time. All leading to that beautiful ‘Tears in Rain’ soliloquy, that has honestly hit me so hard every single time I watch it. Plus Deckard’s gun is without a doubt one of the coolest firearms in cinema ever.
1. Alien (1979)
I think we all knew this was coming. I’m not going to be too miffed about putting this ahead of Blade Runner as it is without a doubt one of the greatest Sci-Fi films of all time. It has made the top of several lists before but it still rings true as a masterpiece of both Sci-Fi cinema and Horror. Introducing us to one of the greatest (if not greatest) action heroine in cinema history in the form of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), as her and her crew of the doomed space vessel the ‘nostromo’, must face a battle of wits against an evasive, and terrifying Xenomorph. Playing out like a haunted house film, the claustrophobic atmosphere just heightens the intensity of the film. After that infamous ‘chest-burster’ scene, all bets were off, as audiences had never experienced anything like this before. The film has spawned a franchise that still continues to this day, and will continue with Scott at the helm. Will they reach the heights of this entry and its critically acclaimed sequel? Maybe not. But that won’t stop me from finding out.