It’s hard to make one truly amazing film. It’s entirely more difficult to become one of the most innovative auteurs of our time. Both of those are traits Scott holds, and oftentimes the execution is obvious, grandiose and spellbinding. Today we’re gonna discuss what I consider to be his five movies. Picking his best is difficult and many great films of Scott’s had to be left off the list. I tried to include a mixture of his exercises in filmmaking, and this list features horror, science fiction, crime drama and others. What they do have in common is their ability to create a world through a lens that is at times heartbreaking, shockingly scary and poignant. Without further adieu, I give you Ridley Scott’s best. Lastly, there will be spoilers throughout, so hopefully you’ve seen these. Enjoy.
5. THE MARTIAN, 2015
What could have been a film as depressing and downtrodden as any other survival type movie manages to be not only tough skinned in tone and delivery, but also quite funny throughout. Much of this is due to the screenplay for the film, based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir is thoroughly funny throughout, with sarcasm and snarkiness permeating through. Much of that is due to how well Matt Damon delivers in his role as Mark Wattley. You sense his desperation in the face of almost certain death, but the levity he brings to his trials helps the movie goer, and the character himself, brave the more difficult parts of the film. You ache for him when his crop dies, yet you laugh with him when he’s explaining the poor choices in music that his captain has. It’s a harrowing adventure sci-fi film, and it’s thoroughly rewatchable. The whole cast, which includes Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Jessica Chastain and more are all great, but this is Damon’s show and he owns its power.
4. AMERICAN GANGSTER, 2007
I went to see this with my former partner over a decade ago, and her reaction to loving the film still creeps out in my head. She hasn’t heard much about it. But was uninterested all the same. Nearly three hours later she was excitedly ranting about how great it was. In hindsight it’s hard not to expect Washington and Crowe to deliver the kind of top tier acting they’re known for, but this movie still wasn’t a completely sure thing. The plot involves a crime lord working his way up while working himself into the spotlight long pointed at his mentor, who passes away during the early moments of the film. On the other hand you have a cop, played by Russell Crowe, who’s similarly working his way back into the good graces of his police cohorts, while also trying to get his law degree. Both of these masters trade back and forths as they circle each other until the tension can’t be held anymore. It’s an excellent drama led by another insane cast, with Josh Brolin playing a huge asshole corrupt cop, and plenty of others. The tale spans years, continents, provocations and of course the ultimate fight among cops and the drug dealers who work to control the means of production.
3. ALIEN, 1979
John Landis once commented that Alien isn’t actually a science fiction film but gothic horror. To some extent he’s correct. However, in my opinion it’s able to be both sci -fi and gothic horror. It’s scary and futuristic, but the setting of the Nostromo makes the sense of dread even more palpable. Essentially it’s a film about a creature torementing the residents of a ship, but that’s just the beginning of the nightmare. Ellen Ripley, played brilliantly by Sigourney Weaver is a powerhouse of raw energy and instincts that she utilizes to defeat the Xenomorph in the film. Simply put this film is a masterpiece, and its success spawned decades of at times exciting film making and plot twists. But if not for the memorable moments of the first film, none of the others would have ever done to fruition. Between the infamous chest bursting scene, or all the grizzly deaths carried out by the “Alien,” Aliens was a different kind of horror tale, and it worked to massive success and the emergence of a female heroine that everyone could root for, even if the story of Ripley is ultimately heartbreaking and seemingly never ending.
2. GLADIATOR, 2000
From the epic battles and plot, to the grandiose set design and feel of the time, Gladiator is a rare Epic that did extremely well with both casual audiences and critics alike. Nearly twenty years later, it’s still a marvel to watch, and it only gets better with time. As Maximus, Russell Crowe is amazing in his role, and expels determination and brutal methods in his race to be welcomed to the afterlife where his family is waiting for him. Running close to three hours long, it’s easy to lose interest in some films, but Gladiator sucks you in and won’t let you go until all the wrongs of Commodus are undone and made right. It’s poetic and poignant, but also deeply dark and sinister, especially when Phoenix begins his descent into madness. It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, but it’s also just a really really good film. For that and all the other reasons I’ve explained, Gladiator lands at number 2 on our countdown, and it’s well deserved.
1. BLADE RUNNER, 1982
Really, where to even begin? Among Scott’s best films there tends to be a large division among the top choice. Some choose the coldness of Alien, others the engaging battles of films like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, while others like his softer more compassionate side with The Martian. For me though, Blade Runner tops all of them. I’ve always been a fan of dystopian science fiction, and this is widely considered among the all time best. From harrowing performances by Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young, to the gorgeously layered rubble of Los Angeles, it’s basically perfect. One thing though, they have multiple cuts of this film, so make sure to avoid the voiceover version. Stick with the final cut. It’s longer and more dense, but you get snapshots of the world more and it ends up being more thoughtful also. It’s honestly beautiful in its portrayal of humanoid machines trying to figure out what the right way to survive is. It’s a struggle for the characters, but understanding it is really a cinematic treasure and a joy to experience. It makes you think long and hard about our future and the unnerving future that is racing towards us. One of the best movies of all time, it only gets better and more relevant with age. I hope you enjoyed this little variety in the programming, and I’ll see y’all later. Thanks for reading.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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