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All 23 Ridley Scott Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

23 April 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Mike Gray

Ridley Scott is one of the most successful directors of all time: combined, his films have grossed $1.5 billion theatrically alone, while his work in the science fiction and historical drama genres have set the standard for generations of filmmakers.

Having directed sci-fi masterpieces like Alien and Blade Runner, to historical epics like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, to the feminist classic Thelma & Louise, Ridley Scott has produced a variety of films to great financial and critical success. Never one to rest upon his laurels, Scott’s output over the past four decades has spanned multiple genres to a mixture of success and failure, commercially and otherwise.

A master of creating detailed worlds in which his characters struggle and strive, Scott’s work is distinguished by an individual fighting against extraordinary circumstances and the epic scale of his productions. Sometimes overwhelming in detail while losing the plot, Ridley Scott has not put out an immaculate filmography but a very interesting one nonetheless.

While a “worst-to-best” list inherently passes judgement on the quality of a director’s films, it’s important to note that any one of Scott’s films that have landed in the “Top 10” of this list grossly outweigh most director’s best effort. Although not perfect, his films are always well thought-out and made with the utmost professionalism and care.

 

23. GI Jane (1997)

GI Jane (1997)

While working within the same female empowerment themes that succeeded in Alien and Thelma & Louise, Ridley Scott made arguably his worst film, GI Jane, about a female lieutenant that enters training for the U.S. Navy Combined Reconnaissance Team in a politically motivated attempt to prove that a woman can achieve within a male-dominated arena of the military.

Although memorable female characters either overcoming or confronting gender prejudice has served him well in the past, this Demi Moore-starring drama fell flat in many ways: its forced premise, hammy acting (Anne Bancroft’s Senator character in particular chews all of the scenery she can get her hands on), and overcooked-but-obvious social equality message (women can do what men can, you see) makes for a dire and (worse) boring viewing experience. Although Moore gives a strong performance, it isn’t enough to save GI Jane from the bottom of Scott’s filmography.

 

22. Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Exodus Gods and Kings (2014)

Ridley Scott is no stranger to the historical epic: some of his best work, including Best Picture-winner Gladiator and directorial debut The Duellists, has him meticulously studying and recreating the distant past to create slick period pieces for modern audiences to enjoy. So it made sense when Scott announced that he would take on a Biblical epic–the story of Moses–in the big-budget Exodus: Gods and Kings.

But Scott–a staunch atheist–miscalculated the potential audience of the film. Instead of leaning on the religious aspects of the story, he created a CGI-filled spectacle filled with overwrought performances that felt more at home in a summer blockbuster than a story from the Old Testament.

Opening to negative reviews, the film was a box-office bomb, recouping only half of its $268 million budget. Instead of taking literally one of the oldest stories in the world and making it new, Scott made an expensive retread of The Ten Commandments without the conviction.

 

21. Someone To Watch Over Me (1987)

Someone To Watch Over Me (1987)

After witnessing a murder, a woman is taken under the protection of an NYPD detective. She is stalked by the murderer, hoping to silence her before he is ID’ed, and the blue-collar police officer falls for his high society charge in the process. This is the high-concept premise of the 1987 thriller Someone To Watch Over Me.

A paint-by-numbers thriller, it was a low-key choice for such a technically minded filmmaker like Ridley Scott. And while the film bears Scott’s penchant for neo-noir aesthetics, the plot is predictable, the acting stiff, and it’s a largely unengaging film.

The exception here is Lorraine Bracco’s standout performance as the detective’s wife, who infuses the stock character of a police officer’s long-suffering wife with energy and imagination. But a good supporting performance can’t save a standard thriller, least of all when it’s made by one of the greatest directors of the 20th century.

 

20. The Counselor (2013)

On paper, the combined talents of writer Cormac McCarthy and director Ridley Scott sounds like a win-win proposition: one of the most critically acclaimed authors of modern times had written his first original script and a master of film was helming its production. So what went wrong?

The story is simple enough: trying to shore up money for his upcoming wedding, an attorney enters a deal with a Mexican cartel to smuggle a large amount of drugs into the country.

What follows is perhaps why the film wasn’t a success, either commercially or critically: it’s a tragedy, with most of the main characters, innocent or otherwise, either unceremoniously murdered or left to take the fall in the end. Combine this with Scott’s stylish but hollow direction and McCarthy’s crisp dialogue but bleak script and you have a film that’s unappealing to audiences and unsatisfying to its viewer.

 

19. 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)

Aside from his contemporary James Cameron, if there’s one thing Ridley Scott knows what to direct, it’s big-budget films. Adjusted for inflation, most of his films have averaged between $50 to $100 million apiece to produce, and (for good or ill) all of it is evident on-screen. For the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of “The New World,” Scott directed a film to commemorate this historic discovery and, with a budget of $47 million ($84 million in 2017 dollars), created 1492: Conquest of Paradise.

While a lavish production, the film took a beating at the box office for several reasons: released at the same time at the (earlier-released) Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, audiences confused the two films and were already fatigued by the premise when Scott’s version sailed into theaters; the casting of never-popular-in-America star Gerard Depardieu as Columbus failed to capture audience interest; and its negative reviews sealed its fate as a box-office disaster, where it recouped only 15% of the budget during its theatrical run. With no critical reassessment in sight, it’s clear that Scott’s vision of Columbus’s journey remains dead in the water.

 

18. White Squall (1996)

Undeterred by his previous aquatic film’s sunken prospects, Scott re-entered dicey waters with yet another seafaring adventure, this time detailing the ill-fated voyage of a schooner that was out on an educational trip and subsequently sunk by a white squall in 1961. Focusing on the interpersonal relationships of the novice seamen and their hard-nosed teacher (played by Jeff Bridges), White Squall mixes drama with action as the initially combative seafarers must pull together when disaster strikes.

Perhaps because of the more intimate story involved, White Squall succeeds in places where Scott’s previous attempt at drama set on the high seas failed. Featuring a commanding performance by Bridges and harrowing scenes of a seacraft at distress that puts its young crew members in peril, it’s a serviceable action-thriller that never reaches the heights of epic storytelling or drama of which Scott has proved that he more than capable of achieving.

 

17. Robin Hood (2010)

robinhood

Robin Hood is a character from English folklore whose story has been told and retold seemingly countless times throughout history–in ballads, plays, literature, and films both live action and animated. While there have been many successful adaptations throughout 20th century cinema–most notably Walt Disney’s animated version in 1973 and the live-action Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991–Ridley Scott still hadn’t made one, so he embarked on his own retelling of the tale in 2010’s Robin Hood.

While a financial success (to a point: it cost $200 million to produce and made $317 million at the box office), the film received mixed reviews and quickly faded in filmgoer’s memories. Perhaps the biggest detriment of the film was its gritty and dour mood: instead of presenting Robin Hood as a plucky outlaw, Scott instead chose to make Hood (played by Russell Crowe) a disillusioned veteran of the king’s army, turning outlaw after the political situation goes sour.

Besides this, Scott’s historical attention to detail of medieval conditions is impressive but overwhelms what most audiences identify as a lighthearted folk tale; and the story itself becomes muddled with political intrigue instead of portraying the series of Robin Hood’s adventures that audiences are familiar with. Always an impressive filmmaker, Scott sometimes doesn’t see the forest for the trees–and when the setting is Sherwood forest, he missed them entirely.

 

 

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  • Ricardo Correia

    Gladiator is so mediocre

    • AmazingAmy

      Can’t belive it ranked above Thelma and Louise

      • Vincenzo Politi

        Neither can I!!!! Thelma and Louise is a masterpiece, Gladiator is just rubbish: the trashy, Ancient Rome remake of Brave Heart – they have EXACTLY the same plot. Plus, the reconstruction of Rome is just laughable! Everything is so fake and so ‘plastic fantastic’. In the very last frame, you can see a panoramica of the Colosseum with the river running behind it… whereas the river is actually KILOMETRES AWAY!!!

        • Mortimer

          For a movie that has many (intentionally) historical inaccuracies the main problem is river in the very last frame ?
          Gladiator has flaws obviously but it’s still enjoyable, classic, old-fashioned homage to Hollywood’s Roman Epics from 1950s and 1960s with larger then life performances from Crowe and Phoenix and with very capable help of British old guard in supporting roles. And how exactly is plot the same as Braveheart ? WTF you’re talking about ?
          It’s a surprise to me that someone is bashing Gladiator and at the same time praise The Revenant. Now – that’s the epitome of overrated rubbish.

          • Vincenzo Politi

            I am going to answer this time and, after that, I will never talk to you again: you are a very rude persone and I don’t like the aggressive and confrontational style you mantain. 1. The Gladiator has many obvious flaws, as you yourself recognise. The river is not the main problem, but the reason why I wanted to stress it is that such a gross and naive innacuracy may not have been apparent to people who have never been to Rome and who buy the story of the ‘accurate reconstruction of the city’. 2. That a movie is “still enjoyable” does not mean that it is a very good movie – or, in this case, a better movie than Thelma and Louise. 3. “And how exactly is plot the same as Braveheart ? WTF you’re talking about ?” – The plot of Brave Heart: there is a nice guy minding his own business, he is in love with his woman, his woman gets killed by the awful people in power, the nice guy fights really hard, in the end nice guy dies and sees his woman waiting for him on the other side of life, all of this is followed by some political stuff, the end. The plot of The Gladiator: there is a nice guy minding his own business, he loves his wife and his child, wife and child get killed by the awful people in power, nice guy fights really hard, in the end nice guy dies and sees wife and child waiting for him on the other side of life, all of this is followed by some political stuff, the end. That’s exactly “WTF” I was talking about. 4. You clearly do not understand what The Revenant is about. I tried to explain it to you. I tried to explain the vision of huanity which is not above and beyond nature, but part of an evil (or, actually, ‘a-moral’ nature). I doubt you have the intellectual tools to appreciate that movie, or to understand why other people can actually enjoy that movie. This makes you a bit angry, which explains your sarcastic/aggressive attitude and the total lack of arguments whatsoever: you simply state your opinions (i.e., “that’s the epitome of overrated rubbish”) without any explanation, without attempting a bit of interpetation, without nothing at all. You take your own opinion to be a fact and you are surprised when other people think otherwise. This is all very childish and I don’t want to waste my time with people like you. Goodbye.

          • Mortimer

            No, I’m not rude or aggressive, I just responded to your hysterical post above where you bash this movie for the n-th time with the same lame argument over and over again (please, compare your first post and mine and say honestly which one looks more aggressive). And you have constant habit to trash The Tree of Life with similar hysterics way with another lame argument so why are you so butthurt now ?

            1. I was in Rome three times (2010, 2012, 2013), yes I know that the river isn’t located on the right place in the movie. So what ? I never buy the story about “accurate reconstruction of the city” nor I’m obsessed with it like you. Like I said, I knew even before watching that movie has many historical (intentional) inaccuracies for dramatic reasons – for example: we all know Maximus isn’t the real historical character and duration of Commodus’ reign (12 years, not year or two) and circumstances of his death. I’d bet even Quo Vadis, Ben-Hur and Spartacus had similar anachronisms in their time and that in my opinion doesn’t make them lesser films. It really wasn’t a big problem for me.

            2. Where I said exactly that Gladiator is better movie than Thelma and Louise ??? I think Thelma and Louise is great movie and it should be ranked as No.3 on this list.

            3. If you watch again both films that plots aren’t the same , only similar – revenge set in historical contest.

            If you look at that way at least thousand of revenge movies (some of them great) have the same or similar plot. Again -so what ? Hey, 80% of love stories have similar plot, more or less. Same for gangster, political thrillers, courtroom dramas, action, horrors, war or coming of age films. And again, many of them are not lesser movies because of that. It’s just your another lame excuse to hate on this movie. You can say that The Revenant has similar plot like Man in the Wilderness (1971) and elements from Jeremiah Johnson (1972) but that’s not the reason I don’t like that movie. Also, does Boyhood have the same plot like…million other movies ?

            4. First, I never stated my opinion abot The Revenant as absolute truth. Just my opinion, that’s all. You don’t like some of my opinions and I don’t like some of yours and that’s fine. Unfortunately, I understand what The Revenant is about, more than you or that “Bergkamp” guy. Please, stop embarrassing yourself with your “why this movie is so good” explanations because they are laughable. Your personal insults are funny but really don’t deserve my response at all. And please, don’t try with some classic “Inarritu hater” bs thing because that simply isn’t true, I actually like 60-70 % of his filmography.

            My advice to you – watch The Revenant again and you will see what this movie really is about (I’ve seen it three times already – to my misfortune). Perhaps you’ll have your epiphany moment.

            Yes, I also don’t want to waste my time with people like you anymore. Goodbye.

    • Allister Cooper

      I agree. Russell is more suited to playing villains and heroes instead of victims, so that’s why I think he deserved an Oscar for Master and Commander, which I think is his crowing achievement to date.

      • bluesborn

        I keep waiting for a sequel

    • Zack Snyder

      Mediocre is your opinion.

      • Ricardo Correia

        I am seeing you have no arguments other than trash talking

  • Bergkamp

    Against the popular opinion, I gotta say, I actually liked body of lies and Prometheus.

    And to me, Alien was more of a mainstream influential film than blade runner, because blade runner made an impact without that many people realizing. Alien was something and still is, an influence that you can see like almost IN YOUR FACE, because even people that doesn’t follow the world of movies that closely, knows about the impact from the movie in not only the movie industry, but also in the videogame industry, and almost everyone knows that. while at the same time, you see a lot of movies, music videos (specially from the 90’s) or even videogames that took a lot of ideas about the themes you see in the movie, or even technical or visual aspects, and probably a lot of people don’t even know that those ideas came from the roots of blade runner. So that’s why blade runner it’s more of a underground influence to a lot of movie directors, writers and such.

    Also, even though i appreciate more, something like blade runner, I have to admit that in a “objective analysis” I will have to say that alien it’s a more polished film IMO. It’s almost perfect, as opposed to blade runner, which is sort of a flawed beauty piece of art.

    • frank mango

      same here. I really like body of lies

  • David Lai

    Glad that American Gangster is ranked so high. For me I would but it into this top 3. RS showed true character development with a straight forward story. Rich in visual and audio. Perfect casting. For me AG is one of my all time favorites

  • Bobba Fett

    The “Duellists” behind” Legend” and “Prometheus” ??? Really ?

  • Daniel Miklos

    The Martian just made me angry. It’s only a 2 hour long commercial for NASA. It should be on last place.

  • Raphael Bruckner

    This will take abit except for Legend and Robin Hood should have been dead last

  • Zwei

    The Counselor worth it?

    • nah

      The Director’s Cut is not as bad as they say.

    • sailor monsoon

      It’s Jackie Brown without any humor.

  • Allister Cooper

    My top three, in alphabetical order: American Gangster, Black Hawk Down, and Prometheus. Mr Scott, I am a fan. And RIP to your brother who made the kick ass True Romance.

  • Andrey Koshmar

    Alien and Blade Runner great genre films, but after them Scott showed one of the worst filmographies

  • Ricardo F.

    Thelma & Louise should be higher

  • A. Coop

    Always surprised that these lists always rank the most recent of a directors work near the top. Also, Thelma and Louise most definitely should be higher on the list. Definitely a top three for me.

  • AA_Hill

    The Director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven is easily a top five Ridley Scott movie.