Ridley Scott is an English film director and producer. He has directed and contributed to many wonderfully made films since Alien was released, to critical and commercial success in 1979. His films are very atmospheric, and often depict well-known historical environments, such as in Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and Robin Hood (2010). He has been nominated for three Oscars– for Thelma and Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down (2001)– but surprisingly has never won one. He was knighted in 2003.
Although he has directed many brilliant films, he has also directed some which have not been to the taste of critics and audiences, such as The Counselor (2013), and his latest release, Exodus (Gods and Kings) which he also wrote and produced. He has had mixed reactions to films such as Body of Lies (2008) and GI Jane (1997). However, he has succeeded in wildly diverse genres from science-fiction and war to dark comedy, which is no easy feat. He is known for his visual style, and he often utilises a slow build up, followed by action much later in the film. He is highly skilled in the use of production design, sound/music and atmospheric lighting.
Ridley Scott is a well-known name in the world of film, and hopefully he will continue to bring us new films to marvel at over the next decade. Prometheus 2 is set for release next year as is an untitled Blade Runner project, and we do hope these live up to one has come to expect from one of the masters of film-making.
10. Kingdom of Heaven (Director’s Cut) (2005)
Kingdom of Heaven is an epic historical drama starring Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Liam Neeson and Edward Norton as part of its all-star cast. The film is set during the 12th century Crusades, and the script is loosely based on the life of Balian of Ibelin who was a crusader noble of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (played by Orlando Bloom in one of his best roles).
The 194-minute director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven may sound like a chore to some, but the extra length makes the film much better. It is a rich epic, similar to Gladiator in some ways, but not as absorbing. This cut of the film pays more attention to character development and the pacing is vastly improved with a strong script. Visually, it is a beautiful film boasting impressive set design and beautiful cinematography throughout. The battle sequences are rich and vibrant, and it is a visual treat to behold.
9. Prometheus (2012)
Prometheus is a bit like Marmite. After its much anticipated release half the audience loved it (as I did), and half detested it. Granted, there are a few plot holes and flaws, Guy Pierce in some bizarre elderly man prosthetics, and the characters were not as well written as the earlier films. However, Prometheus is a stunning science-fiction film which delves into the question of where human beings come from. A lot of the audience were expecting it to be more of a prequel to Alien, and whilst it is in a sense, it is most definitely a film in its own right. The cinematography and visuals are beautifully photographed as ever by Scott.
Noomi Rapace takes on the role of the Ripley type lead with pizzazz. She plays Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist who is funded to visit a distant moon, LV-223. Along with her partner, Charlie, they have found a “star map” which they believe contains an invitation from the ”engineers” of life to visit them on LV-223. Shaw is hoping for a peaceful mission, but unfortunately things don’t go that way and their arrival is more hostile than they had ever imagined.
The film features an all-star cast including Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba, and whilst the suspense and tension in the first half of the film has nothing on Alien, it still exudes a sense of dread and wonder. Once the action is in full swing there are a couple of scenes of explicit gore and horror which are perfect additions to the final half, making it a brilliant piece of horror and science-fiction.
Prometheus leaves the audience with questions, but no real answers. It is most definitely a film that improves after a second and even third viewing. Prometheus was never going to be as good as Alien, because Alien was such a masterpiece of film-making at the time, however Scott made Prometheus as well as he could have done. The Alien franchise has been a big part of my film life, and Prometheus was a welcome addition.
8. American Gangster (2007)
Denzel Washington plays Frank Lucas, a quiet, calm and unnoticeable man; he doesn’t stick out from the crowd. He plays a driver to one of the city’s main black crime bosses. They are close, and they respect each other. However his boss dies and Frank (with quiet intelligence) begins to build his own empire from this, focusing on his idea of the American Dream. He becomes a huge gangster in the underworld, and ends up ruling the drug trade.
Russell Crowe plays Richie Roberts, a dishevelled detective who notices that there has been a change in the drug trade in the city. Frank and Richie come up against each other in Richie’s attempt to bring Frank down, but they are similar in the fact that they have specific codes of ethics that they stick fiercely to. But only one can win in this tale of crime and the life of a gangster. Washington plays the part of a gangster ruthlessly, and it fits him brilliantly. In a similar way to Michael Corleone in The Godfather, we see his transformation from calm, likeable, hard-working man to ruthless gangster.
7. Black Hawk Down (2001)
Black Hawk Down is based on real-life events during the Battle of Mogadishu in October, 1993. An American elite force undertakes a mission to abduct two employees of a Somalian warlord, which culminates in a long, weary battle full of bloodshed. Through the battle hundreds lost their lives.
Black Hawk Down stands out from the crowd among war films thanks to Ridley Scott’s direction. It could perhaps be seen as either being “pro-war” or “anti-war”, which is interesting because it doesn’t side with one argument in the debate. The film is visually compelling and gruelling, a two-hour-long battle of ultimate chaos. In his direction Scott clearly visualises the battle, but he still manages to keep the film exciting throughout the non-stop action. In somebody else’s hands this narrative could have been a disaster, but Scott does it with pure visual skill. It is an exhausting film, but it portrays the real horrors of war.
6. The Duellists (1977)
Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine are the two stars of this beautiful period drama. They play officers in Napoleon’s army who have a series of violent duels, getting increasingly worse after each duel. These duels take place over the course of three decades and the battles end up ruining their lives.
The Duellists was Scott’s first film as a director, and one of his best. At its time of release it won the top prize at Cannes. It is such a well-constructed film, especially for a first feature length release. The cast are also brilliant at conveying their characters which makes the film even better and more realistic. Ultimately the best part of The Duellists is in the visual, the excellent performances and the cinematography, which make it a historical masterpiece. Like many of Scott’s films, the film gets better with multiple screenings.