Daily Film Thoughts (5/17/17): Top 10 Ridley Scott Movies

A new daily unfiltered and unedited journal of random film thoughts going through my head. No proofreading or serious analysis allowed.

5/17/17

Continuing my anticipation for the release of Alien: Covenant this weekend, I count down the top 10 films of Sir Ridley Scott, a visually ambitious filmmaker accomplished in multiple genres.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The cool crime romance Someone to Watch Over Me, featuring an outstanding Tom Berenger.
  • The Counselor, while critically panned, is actually a a bold and sexy attempt at something new from Scott that is immensely watchable.
  • The director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven, a historical epic that’s arguably problematic but filled with cool visuals and strong performances, specifcally from Edward Norton.
  • Hannibal may not be Silence of the Lambs and may be a bit silly, but it’s so much fun to watch Anthony Hopkins in the title role.
  • The stylish Black Rain, an unapolegetic action film that’s one of the forgotten gems of late-80’s violent cinema.

And now for the top 10…

#10) Matchstick Men

Was this the last great Nicolas Cage performance? True to its themes, the film is always jumping around. But it’s thoroughly well-acted and always interesting with its scathing humor. It also features Sam Rockwell doing Sam Rockwell things. Easy to see why it’s become a cult classic of sorts.

#9) The Martian

Scott’s critically-acclaimed and commercially succesful *realistic* sci-fi film was funnier than anyone expected, thanks to an exceptional Matt Damon. It also features some of the best 3D photography since the tech has been invented. Maybe its optimism holds it back from being truly thought-provoking, but it;s a fun film that proves Scott still does space as well as anyone.

#8) Legend

This 80’s cult classic is arguably Scott’s most visually immersive film, thanks to some groundbreaking makeup and beauitful cinematography from Alex Thomson. Scott wanted the film to play like old fables of old, in the sense that there’s a lot of darkness to them. The film is a bit muddled, but the visuals and Tim Curry’s work in the final act make it well worth your time.

#7) Prometheus

I wrote about this film in more detail yesterday, but let me just add that this largely unheralded blockbuster, much like The Martian, proved that practical effects and sets can work well with 3D photography.

#6) Thelma & Louise

Different than any other Scott film, this tragicomedy disguised as buddy road film remains an iconic piece of cinema decades later thanks to its memorable ending and feminist over/undertones. It’s a daring work from a director too often associated with bland studio filmmaking. Oh, and Susan Sarandon is the best.

#5) Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down was arguably the first great modern war film, and not just because it’s actually about modern war. Much like Kathyrn Bigelow’s Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker years later, Scott’s film takes an apolitcal approach, focusing more on physically detailing the conflict than sending a message. It received some critique for its lack of character work, but I think the omission was intentional and fitting. Scott used his technical prowess to show the lack of personality in war.

#4) Gladiator

Scott’s most successful film, a popular best picture-winning epic, throws an awful lot at you. Enormous sets, a heavy narrative, very aggresive sound mixing. He’s able to tell a human story though and reignite the sword-and-sandals subgenre because the film has two truly great characters, played by Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix. The fight scenes are perfectly edited, and the more melodramatic moments don’t come off as cheesy.

#3) American Gangster

Stylized much like gangster films of old, Scott’s film tackles corruption and ambition and race all the while remaining competent as a popcorn movie. Denzel & Crowe are both great and the film has so much fun with its period detail. Though not usually cited as a major work from Scott, American Gangster is a great crime drama that belongs right there with Scorsese’s The Departed, which won best picture the prior year.

#2) Alien

An atmsopheric sci-fi horror film that ignited a franchise and argued on behalf of slow-building tension at a time when genre films were getting more and more forceful in their pacing, Alien is probably the film Scott will be most remembered for. It’s surprisingly beautiful given its subject matter, and more concerned with character than James Cameron’s sequel. Who these people are and how they think matters. Add in iconic design elements and you’re looking at a true classic.

#1) Blade Runner

A perfect film, truly. Rife with ideas on society and humanity, equally rooted in film noir and pulp fiction, this film was so far ahead of its time that despite its classic standing today it was a box office failure and received poorly initially. Scott’s visualazation of the future has proven wildly influential, and Harrison Ford gives his strongest dramatic performance. If by some chance you haven’t seen this masterwork, make sure to get the director’s or “final” cut, just not the theatrical cut with the god-awful narration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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