Saturday, June 9, 2012

Top 5 Films Directed By Ridley Scott

Disclaimer: This list is in no particular order.

These are just some of my favorite films that Ridley Scott, the director of the new film Prometheus has made over the years that I believe best epitomizes his immense talent as a filmmaker and helps solidify him as one of the best directors working today.

For a man with such a prestigious film legacy as his, Ridley Scott is a somewhat tortured soul in my eyes. Being a visionary filmmaker does not exactly mean he gets what he wants when he wants it, usually means he has to fight for it. As a matter of fact it is most often the complete opposite of that with many of his films being released in an artistically compromised fashion. Blade Runner, Legend, Kingdom of Heaven and American Gangster have all had director cuts, with some being released as a director's cut upon first release on home video even. Never the less though, his work has inspired countless other filmmakers and artists for decades. Probably one of my favorite aspects to his filmmaking career is the diversity between his projects. He started in space, then went on to tackle the fantasy, war film, spy/espionage, medieval and horror genres. Hell, he even made a road trip movie! There is no doubting his impact on film and these following examples are what I consider to be the pinnacle of his brilliant and still on going directorial career.

As a side note, I know I am gonna get a lot of crap for not including Gladiator on here, but I just didn't really care too much for that film and it most definitely isn't as indicative of his talents as the following films are. So to all you Gladiator fans out there, bite me.


While I wouldn't classify this re-enactment of the Battle of Mogadishu as a war film, it certainly is one of the most intense movie-going experiences I have ever had. It depicts a solitary military mission that goes awry in the worst possible ways and it does it in a way that will leave you breathless by the end of it all. The cast is an outstanding mixture of talents ranging from Josh Hartnet, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Jeremy Piven, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana and even a very brief appearance by a then unknown Orlando Bloom. What truly sets this film apart from other similar efforts is the way Scott keeps his audience engaged with a set core group of characters and stages an unparalleled battleground for all the action to take place in. Better yet is how he masterfully makes it so the audience always knows all the particulars of the individual battles going on, who we are following, where they are in relation to each other and how long they have been there. This is one of the best examples of how to make and execute an action film I have ever seen. If you have reservations about watching yet another war style film then forget them, if you have never seen Black Hawk Down then do yourself a favor and see it immediately! You have no idea what you have been missing out on.



(Theatrical Cut)

"In space, no one can hear you scream", Ridely Scott's second directorial effort not only marked the feature film debut of Sigourney Weaver but also the beginning for one of the most beloved sci-fi horror franchises of all time. All of Scott's film have a lavish production and an extreme amount of attention to detail and all that started here. From the gritty but beautiful interior of the Nostromo to the harsh and dangerous terrain of the planet the crew of said ship find their ultimate doom on, the film is just a feast for the eyes where ever you look. Even the now commonplace idea of having people in space dressed in casual wear (Brett's Hawaiian shirt for instance) is nothing short of brilliant and something most would take for granted anymore since that style of future has been used time and time again. Then there is the alien itself, designed by H.R. Giger and still to this day one of the most beautiful creature designs to ever grace the silver screen. Ridley Scott made a classic film right out the gate and while that is something most directors strive for at least once in their careers, the amazing thing is that Scott was just getting started with much grander things to come.



For me this is the one film that proves Ridley Scott is one of the most diverse directors working today. Say what you will about your Finchers, Del Toros or Nolans (all of whom I love equally), it takes a truly gifted filmmaker to go from making sci-fi horror, film noir and fantasy epics to making one of the most revered female empowerment movies of all time. The truly remarkable thing about Scott making this movie is that most people are not even aware that the same visionary director who gave them films such as Blade Runner and Alien is the man behind this relatively simple road trip movie. What elevates it from your typical formula driven film however is its cast, Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis (this is probably the one movie I actually liked her in), Harvey Keitel and a young unknown actor by the name of Brad Pitt. Most people remember the film for its climatic leap of faith but I tend to remember it mainly on a pure visual level. Scott brings his usual aesthetic skills to the table once again to create a gorgeous looking piece of celluloid with some truly beautiful landscapes and an appropriately bright and colorful palette that contrasts wonderfully against the Utah desert backdrop used for the final third of the film. This one may be the underdog on this list, but I believe it showcases the director's more broad stroke talents than any other film of his career.



(All versions)

What can be said about Blade Runner that hasn't already been said before? Well, in the hopes of filling this paragraph with something, let's give it a shot. First of all, I fully admit to not 'getting' it until years later as a teenager. It seemed boring and uneventful, as a child I saw this expecting to see star Harrison Ford in full on Indiana Jones or Han Solo mode but that wasn't what Scott was up to with this adaptation of legendary sci-fi author Philip K. Dick's novel. Film noir was a foreign concept to me and this was my first real introduction to it. The methodical investigative procedures mixed with probably the most influential future world in all of film history was and still is a mesmerizing experience. To this day I still find myself falling under its spell of visual perfection and its auditory splendor provided by Vangelis' transcendent score which is essentially crack-cocaine for the ears. This was also the first, but certainly not the last, time Scott would have to fight for his vision and lose, there are at least 4 different versions of the film, all of which have their individual qualities. While it is debatable which version is superior (do you like the narration or not?), there is no debating the quality of the finished product and its influence on every single film or TV show dealing with the future to come after it. This, for me anyway, is the pinnacle of Scott's career and a true masterpiece.



(Director's Cut)

The greatest epic of any sort from the past decade, Scott's visual style is on hyper drive for this medieval look at the never ending battle for the holy city of Jerusalem. While this wasn't the first time the director tackled this era of history, see Gladiator, it is without question the better of the two. While every other epic dealing with swords and sandals was trying to create grand scale battles for the ages, Scott was more interested in the intricacies of his characters and where each of their personal journeys would lead them. Featuring a fantastic cast with the likes of Liam Neeson, David Thewlis, Eva Green, Orlando Bloom (in probably his best role outside of Middle Earth to date) and an uncredited but extremely effective Edward Norton as the current ruler of Jerusalem. What really sells me on the film though beyond the usual visual treats and expert direction by Scott is the story it tells about this kingdom forever doomed to be laid siege upon by whomever claims its holy hallways as their own. The constant crusades to take it over and the toll it has on those who lay claim to it is conveyed in such a subtle but extremely manner that you will wonder if anything that happened in those 3 plus hours you just sat through meant anything at all. But they did, since Scott wisely puts the focus on his characters and not so much the splendor of battle, which is why this film in particular stands out for me as having the best of both worlds from the director, characters you can get invested in and production design that is second to none.



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