Ridley Scott is a name you know even if you don’t watch movies. Scott’s extensive body of work that includes more than twenty Hollywood films. He is also an active producer.
Leaving out the Alien and Bladerunner franchises, which seem to suck all the air out of this room before the conversation even gets started, what movies are the best to watch to get an idea of Ridley Scott’s impressive range?
The following movies are when Ridley Scott tells us a story with the same triumphant themes and epic storylines that made him famous. This is an eclectic list that includes historical dramas, fairy tales and documentaries. And there isn’t an Alien or replicant in sight.
In the end, the conflict always comes from within.
7 The Duelists (1977)
It wasn’t science fiction or a thriller that brought Ridley Scott into the spotlight. The Duellists is a historical drama set in Napolean-era France and won the Best Debut Film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1977. Few peoples outside of Cannes know Ridley Scott had anything to do with it.
It might not take place in space, but the setting is just as dangerous. This is a journey that follows the violent and bloody obsession of two men as their lives take them from war to war. For 15 years, they fight an ongoing duel with the chaos of 19th-century Europe in the background.
It’s an epic tale, winning accolades for historic accuracy and brilliant direction. Scott would give us similar historic settings in the future like Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood.
6 Legend (1985)
Every so often we get a fantasy movie that’s intended for adults but ends up beings marketed to kids. Most people stumbled across this film in their childhood somewhere between The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal. The result is box office failure and obscurity, and thus we have Legend.
The script went through numerous rewrites and there are currently four versions of the film, with the Director’s Cut being the most recent in 2002.
As one of Tom Cruise and Ridley’s Scott’s earliest big-budget films, with other stars like Tim Rice holding up the cast, this movie does have some merit and enjoys a cult following.
5 White Squall (1996)
Survivalism is a popular genre and Ridley Scott likes to pit his characters against ridiculous odds. That doesn’t necessarily mean man versus nature in this film, either. Some of the most intense drama takes place when the students have to confront issues with each other or family members. Training sequences are just as tense as the heroic actions that take place during the actual storm.
A lot of White Squall is based on a true story about a student sailing trip gone wrong in the 1960s. This was yet another movie that critics liked but failed at the box office. People liked the action sequences but cringed at the sappy dialogue.
Without the direction of Ridley Scott and a strong performance from Jeff Bridges this movie really would have sunk.
4 G.I. Jane (1997)
This movie was ahead of its time when it came to the subject of women breaking into a man’s world. It’s also an excellent example of smart marketing, image control and why Demi Moore was so popular. Viggo Martensen also plays a part.
G. I. Jane had a lot going for it as far as themes and characters. Other than that, it isn’t one of Scott’s more celebrated outings.
The actual storyline is rather forgettable, following a pattern that only a studio or test audience would love. Critics hated it for all the right reasons. Audiences loved it for all the wrong reasons.
3 Tristan and Isolde (2006)
Those that pay attention to Ridley Scott’s peripheral work won’t be surprised at how often myth and legend appear in his projects. Legend was based on a Celtic myth and Scott made a Robin Hood movie with Russell Crowe (although apparently not the movie he really wanted to make).
Scott isn’t behind the camera this time. His role in the making of Tristan and Isolde was as executive producer and he’s been open about working on adaptations for the story since the 1970s. Considering his interest in Celtic mythology, his involvement isn’t that surprising.
The film was directed by Kevin Reynolds and was the last movie distributed by the now bankrupt Franchise Pictures.
2 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
This is one of those historical dramas that is loved by critics and underrated by the public, much like the equally obscure The Duellists. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is also about murderous intent and the personal conflict that arises between two people.
Even though Ridley produced this film as opposed to directing it, the actual director Andrew Dominik uses the same epic style. The train robbery at night scene is an amazing example of Roger Deakin’s cinematography talents. Dominik would team up with Brad Pitt later to make Killing Them Softly in 2012.
Yet another compelling period drama to add to Scott’s impressive resume.
1 Life in a Day (2011)
A unique documentary that was made in an unconventional format, Life in a Day is a compilation of crowdsourced YouTube videos arranged in a documentary format and released by National Geographic Films.
Over 80,000 different clips were used from a wide range of content creators and uploaders to make the movie. The videos all focus on a specific day, July 24th, 2010, the first Saturday after the World Cup.
This is also an instance where Ridley is an executive producer as opposed to the director. He also worked on editing the videos that were submitted as part of the initial compilation.
It’s an interesting twist that a director with so much talent would invest in a movie that doesn’t need him – and might signify the future of film.
NEXT: 10 Unrealized Ridley Scott Projects We Want to See