From Exodus to Alien, here’s a list of Ridley Scott’s finest and worst sci-fi films, graded from worst to best.
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For more than half a century, Sir Ridley Scott has been a constant presence in film, television, and ads, making it impossible to rank his work. They have worked on some of the best and worst movies in recent years, from Exodus to Alien.
Scott and his brother, the late director Tony Scott, were influenced by classic sci-fi films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Day the Earth Stood Still as working-class kids in South Shields, England. Short films, adverts, and early episodes of Doctor Who were all Ridley’s future projects. Scott hasn’t slowed down since he made his feature film debut. To this day, he is best recognized for his groundbreaking science-fiction films that helped usher in a new age in cinematic storytelling.
Scott is still going strong at the age of 82. This year, he will direct his first television show, HBO’s The Last Duel, a historical drama about a duel that took place during the coronavirus outbreak. And that doesn’t even include all of his work as a producer in cinema and television, which includes Raised by Wolves and a Gucci family drama starring Lady Gaga! In honor of Scott’s historic contribution to filmmaking, we’ve ranked his films from worst to finest. while a wise commercial decision, his casting in this character was a mistake—he wasn’t ready for the weight or intricacy of the role at the time. Co-stars like Eva Green, Edward Norton, and Jeremy Irons have acted alongside him off-screen. The film’s poorer than it may have been due to the theatrical cut’s exaggeration of the period’s complexities.
10. All The Money in the World
With so much drama surrounding its creation and extensive reshoots to recast one of its principal players, it is difficult to think of All the Money in the World as just a film. A month before the film’s release, Scott changed the lead actor from Kevin Spacey to Christopher Plummer in just eight days of shooting. That’s an incredible show of cinematic dedication (Plummer went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor).
Final product is snappy and dexterous thriller about individuals who would be considered absurd if they weren’t all real, but they’re all real in the end. This sad story of a kidnapped young man and his stingy grandfather who refuses to pay the $17 million ransom has a pitch-black comedy to it. Everybody has money, and they know all about how money can poison even the simplest thoughts and situations. However, even though Plummer’s performance was well publicized, the real star of the play is Michelle Williams, who expresses the misery and despair of being yet another pawn in the wealthy world she inhabits.
9. Matchstick Men
It’s always a treat to see a picture that reminds us of Nicolas Cage’s talents as a truly compelling actor when he’s given material he can really sink his teeth into. His role in 2003’s Matchstick Men has him play an obsessive-compulsive conman who begins to rethink his career following a series of panic attacks and the news that his daughter is a teenager. While the film isn’t quite as raucous as Scott’s best work, the performances of Cage, Rockwell, and Lohman are all worth the price of admission, especially the undervalued Alison Lohman. You may not have heard of Scott’s other works; yet, Matchstick Men remains his most underappreciated and urgently requires a second look.
8. American Gangster
Several critics blasted Scott’s gangster thriller about drug trafficker Frank Lucas, who brought heroin into the country on flights returning from Vietnam, accusing him of romanticizing his protagonist’s suffering and portraying him as the story’s real hero. There are plenty of other directors who have faced similar accusations — just ask Martin Scorsese — and while American Gangster does show a certain affinity for its antagonist, it is far more intelligent than its critics gave it credit for being. While it’s true that the American Dream is based on hard labor, this film offers a cleverly subverted version of that story. As history has begun to perceive such characters, the film depicts Lucas as a near-mythic figure at moments. At the same time, Denzel Washington never sacrifices his charisma for Lucas’s arrogance and pessimism.
In recent years, it’s been fashionable to minimize the film’s technical prowess and pure entertainment value, or to dismiss its Best Picture Oscar award as yet another example of the Academy’s many blunders. This cynicism does nothing to diminish the reality that Gladiator, Scott’s most thoroughly delightful piece of work, is an absolute blast of a movie. Scott has a good eye for historical detail and dramatic action set-pieces in this classic homage to old Hollywood swords and sandals epics like Ben Hur and Spartacus. Even if it’s a bloody narrative of good triumphing over evil, it’s not a coarsely told one. It’s hard to argue with Crowe’s performance, but it is Joaquin Phoenix’s turn as the childlike emperor that steals the show. (Phoenix’s performance here would go on to be highly influential in pop culture, with Joffrey from Game of Thrones being one notable example of a villain inspired by Gladiator.)
6. Black Hawk Down
In terms of total immersion, Scott’s military drama from 2001 may not be the most enjoyable film in his discography, but it comes nowhere close in terms of quality. “Black Hawk Down,” starring Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor and Hugh Dancy portrays the US military’s disastrous Mogadishu, Somalia operation in 1993, is a riveting account of what went wrong and what went right. To avoid many of the banal or romantic clichéd in modern conflict, this image is one entwined in socio-political complexity. A fundamental theme in Black Hawk Down is that no matter how much technology advances or tactics evolve, war will always be a horrific experience for everyone involved.
5. The Martian
As a result of its critical and financial success, as well as the seven Oscar nominations it got, The Martian was viewed as a little return for Scott, despite the fact that the Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical was a decision that rightfully looked to surprise him. In spite of the debate about whether or not The Martian represents a return to form for a director who has never truly gone away, it is fair to state that this is a fantastic film. The film manages to be both enjoyable and terrifying at the same time by combining a typical survival-and-rescue scenario with a wider examination of the greatness of science. For Matt Damon and Scott, this may be the funniest film they’ve ever made (although its labeling by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as a comedy is still somewhat suspect). As a sequel to Blade Runner and Alien, The Martian proves that director Ridley Scott is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of science fiction.
4. The Duellists
His first feature-length directorial, The Duellists, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1977, and was chosen the UK’s favorite commercial in a 2006 poll by the Advertising Age. His brief narrative bursts of cinematic flair had been a budding ability, but now he could take it to the next level with a full-length feature. As a result, Scott had a stunning tale of rival Napoleonic officers that garnered plaudits from critics and comparisons to none other than Stanley Kubrick. The Duellists has a precise aspect that betrays the fact that this is Scott’s first feature-length film, particularly in its production design and cinematography. The Duellists is extraordinarily accurate in every aspect, despite Scott’s later preference for historical accuracy (except for the American accents of Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel). Aside from being one of Scott’s finest works, this film may be one of the greatest directorial debuts of all time.
3. Thelma and Louise
Only Thelma and Louise in Scott’s filmography packs the pure emotional blow. It seemed like a strange decision at the time, but Scott is perfectly at home in this modern-day Western about two best friends attempting to escape both the law and the crushing anguish of the patriarchy. With its vivacious depiction of a loveable, prickly, and highly sympathetic friendship, Thelma and Louise lifts the conventional male-driven buddy comedy subgenre to new heights. Criticisms of the film that labeled it “anti-male” were missing the point: Living in a sexist culture can wear anyone down, but women’s screams of freedom resonate around the world. The film’s message was clear: Americana imagery (great countryside!) is embraced in this film. It’s country music! Shirtless, cowboy hat-wearing Brad Pitt exposes the filth that makes misogyny suffocating. It’s also one of the most emotionally draining moments in recent American cinema.
2. Blade Runner
Although there are numerous arguments for and against each of the many different versions of Blade Runner, its magnificence is undimmed. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, was a critical and box office failure when it was released in 1982. Everyone had to catch on to its brilliance for a few years before deeming it one of the greatest sci-fi flicks of all time. According to many film reviewers, the movie was lacking in humanity, yet this is far from the truth. Emotional intricacies, whether organic or programmed, are at the heart of Blade Runner’s plot. For the most part, Scott would prefer you watch The Final Cut, which is the only one he had any real say in, yet Blade Runner is still a classic.
When you consider that Alien was only Scott’s second feature-length film, it’s mind-boggling to think of how confident this now-iconic sci-fi thriller is from the start. This film has inspired entire businesses in the entertainment industry, yet it is the original that still holds sway. Alien is still a terrible tale of isolation and facing the dreadful menace of the unknown, more than 40 years after its release. From the easygoing interactions between the main characters to the wear and tear on their ship, its genius is in how lived in it feels. It has been a common mistake among writers and directors alike, including Ridley Scott, in subsequent Alien films to overcomplicate what should be a basic hook. Part of what makes Alien so terrifying is that it makes humanity feel powerless against a horrible entity that has just one goal in mind: survival. Ordinariness is what lingers in the minds of these workers, who aren’t scientists or military personnel. As one of the most memorable scenes in horror and science fiction cinema, Ridley Scott has been attempting to replicate it ever since.