Last month marked the 79th birthday of one of cinema’s greats, Sir Ridley Scott. The auteur is a product of his birthplace, an industrious craftsman renowned for his efficiency. Since the turn of the millennium, the acclaimed director has churned out a new movie every 2 years, to varying degrees of quality. He’s comparative to a conveyer belt and the end product is more often than not satisfying. Here at So Is It Any Good, we commemorate his legacy with our top 10 picks from his filmography. Now on with the countdown!
Black Hawk Down
Not the best war film by any stretch of the imagination but what this is, and why it’s deserving of a place on this list, is a technically astounding and visceral portrayal of brothers in arms combat. You feel as though your part of the US ground forces (led by a terrific ensemble cast), and every time the camera pans onto a desolate street, the immersion is so great a bullet may just fly out of the screen. Scott has done better, but you can’t help as feel that this has been the foundation for every military first person shooter game since 2001. Technically influential.
Beginning life as a straight up prequel to his 1979 seminal classic, Alien (which appears a bit further up the list); Prometheus evolved, or probably more fittingly “morphed” into an existential sci-fi adventure exploring the origins of mankind, with ties to his original Alien. It has of course divided a lot of people. I, for one, was disappointed it lost most of its Alien tropes. However, the film looks beautiful as demonstrated by its Oscar nomination for visual effects. A reoccurring theme throughout this list is just how staggering Sir Ridley’s films look, Prometheus must take its place among the top 10 even if it is just a beautiful hollow shell of a movie.
Kingdom of Heaven
I never caught this one at the cinema, it never looked particularly alluring to me. Yes, it was from the man that brought us Gladiator. However, Troy and Alexander had come out the year beforehand and the “historical epic” was looking a bit like the superhero genre of today. But the Director’s Cut, which I purchased after hearing it trumps the theatrical cut in all sorts of ways, is a marked improvement over what was seen in cinemas. Some critics brand it better than Gladiator. For me, it sits somewhere in between the director’s Russell Crowe in Rome epic and his 2010 Russell Crowe in Sherwood epic, Robin Hood.
I’ve never been much of a crime and gangster genre fan but this is such compelling viewing for someone not steeped in mob boss lore. Featuring heavyweight performances by Denzel Washington as crime lord Frank Lucas and Russell Crow as detective Richie Roberts, 1970’s Harlem is brought to life meticulously by Scott through a storytelling sense, detailing relationships opposed to detailing landscapes and atmosphere, which is a well-known trait in the filmmaker’s arsenal. Compelling viewing.
Sir Ridley Scott’s 1977 feature film debut bears little resemblance to the huge budgets and crowd-pleasing premises the South Shields-born director is known for, instead focusing on a life-long personal grudge match between Lieutenant Gabriel Feraud (Harvey Keitel) and Lieutenant Armand d’Hubert (Keith Carradine). Set in France during the early 1800’s, what is distinguishable and traceable to the director’s latter films is his ability to transport you to a different time or another place. And for a 39-year old movie, it looks like it could have been filmed today.