Legendary English filmmaker Ridley Scott turns 84 today. He is behind some of the most influential genre films ever made — be it futuristic science-fiction like Blade Runner or a period piece like Gladiator, he seems to hold a solid command over his craft, no matter when the story is set.
This year, Scott released two major films, The Last Duel and The House of Gucci, and it appears being over 80 has not affected his enthusiasm for filmmaking.
Here are his top 5 films.
5. The Martian
Ridley Scott’s best quality is his grip on every movie genre, but science-fiction appears to be something he has a particular flair for. Starring Matt Damon, The Martian is about an astronaut stranded on Mars, who has to survive long enough to wait for NASA to bring him back safely to the earth. The film is superbly directed with a pacing that is just right for a story like this. But most of all, it is very funny, something that would not be apparent from the logline.
4. The Duellists
The first ever film made by Scott, The Duellists remains one of his best. Based on a short story by Polish-British author Joseph Conrad, the 1977 Napoleonic Wars set period drama may indicate the filmmaker’s inclination towards story based around duels in pre-modern France. The Duellists is good-looking, stunningly detailed film. Even after more than 40 years, the camera-work impresses.
With this Russell Crowe-starrer, Scott is said to have revived the genre. The truly epic looking film, with a huge budget for those times, Gladiator was about Crowe’s titular Roman general Maximus whose family is killed by the upstart emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) who even his father, the former emperor, thought was unfit to rule. Maximus becomes a gladiator, warriors who fought other gladiators, condemned criminals and animals to death for the entertainment of the nobles. Gladiator is a true cinematic achievement.
2. Blade Runner
The film is set in a future where bioengineered humanoid servants called replicants exist. Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard is an ex-cop who is tasked to ‘retire’ four uncooperative replicants. The film is not just a visual feast, which is certainly is, but its story is thematically rich and poses complex questions about the nature of reality, what it means to be human, and so on. The monologue of replicant Roy Batt (Rutger Hauer) remains one of the most haunting in film. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
Alien has to be the best Ridley Scott film, though Blade Runner does come close. A landmark of a sci-fi horror movie, it remains one of the best of its genre. Even now, its slowburn style that leads to a terrifying climax is as frightening as it was back then. It also gave us one of cinema’s greatest heroines: Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. Unlike most lead female characters of 1970s, Ripley was intelligent, practical and most of all ruthless, who knew what needed to be done to counter the extra-terrestrial threat that was loose on the spaceship Nostromo.