Just the other day I was having a conversation with someone about how the quality of Ridley Scott’s movies had been in serious decline. If it weren’t for The Martian I may have written him off at this point. Scott’s films don’t stink by any means, and they never did. He’s great director – but his more recent works (with the notable exception of American Gangster and The Martian) can best be described as forgettable and not the kind of movies we’re used to him delivering. I’ve ranked the top five movies directed by Ridley Scott. Let’s see if you agree with my assessment.
5. Black Hawk Down
Based on the book by Mark Bowden, Scott’s Black Hawk Down effectively shows the horrors of war, specifically the Battle of Mogadishu. The film’s cinematography and sound are superb and help to create a terrifying, dangerous atmosphere without resorting to cheesy explosions for added dramatic effect. Black Hawk Down has got a great cast, too, with many of the characters based on the real-life soldiers who participated in the battle.
4. American Gangster
American Gangster is the story of Frank Lucas and his business of importing heroin into the United States from Vietnam. As always, Denzel turns in a great performance (as does Crowe), but what was most impressive about this movie was Scott’s ability to capture the essence of 1960s Harlem. The clothes, cars, and especially the buildings and streets give viewers a look at Frank Lucas’ world.
I remember when I first saw the preview for Gladiator – with Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba” as the background music – I thought that there was no way this movie could be any good. It looked like a cheap action movie targeted at the same demographic that flocks to the Fast and Furious movies. I couldn’t have been more off. Gladiator is a moving story of a general who becomes a slave, and then becomes a gladiator, all the while seeking vengeance on the Emperor who murdered his wife and son. Gladiator is incredible and the rewatchability is off the charts, but it’s only number three in these power rankings. And oh, by the way: it’s better than Braveheart.
2. Blade Runner
To be honest, I had a hard time deciding whether or not Blade Runner should be number one or two on this list. It’s a near perfect sci-fi movie, and Scott’s creation of a postmodern, dystopian world remains breathtaking even today. Blade Runner’s cityscapes have influenced countless other sci-fi movies and quite a few video games, too, and it’s clear that Scott had a thorough understanding of the themes originally presented by Philip K. Dick.
If Blade Runner isn’t number one in these power rankings, then of course it’s got to be Alien. Besides giving us the greatest movie heroine ever, Scott gave us futuristic spacecrafts, malfunctioning androids, and an alien creature that has become embedded in America’s pop culture. Even if you’ve never seen Alien, you should undoubtedly recognize the infamous chest-burster scene. It’s tough to classify Alien, because it fits so well into either the science fiction and horror genres. In part because it can be considered one of the best films from either of those genres, Alien is the best movie directed by Ridley Scott.
*The Martian was definitely a return to great form for Ridley Scott but I still can’t give it a top five. G.I. Jane was solid but doesn’t hold a candle to these five.