Blade Runner 2

We frequently think of Ridley Scott as a master, a filmmaker with huge ambition and bigger talent who can bring any vision to the big screen. His resume certainly seems to confirm that. Space opera, war movies, period pieces, spy thrillers, Best Picture winners — he’s pretty much done them all. Still, out of the 22 films Scott has directed, including this week’s release Exodus: Gods and Kings, how many of them are actually good? What about great? It’s a pretty high percentage. Below, we rank the top 15 best Ridley Scott movies.

Exodus: Gods and Kings poster

Unranked. Exodus: Gods and Kings

Scott’s latest, Exodus: Gods and Kings isn’t among his top 15. It’s probably more like number 20, but as it’s the reason we’re doing this list, we figured we’d explain.
Even leaving aside the racial controversy that’s dogged it for the past several months, Exodus simply isn’t a very good film. It stumbles gracelessly from plot point to plot point without ever offering much insight into the complicated men or the thorny relationships at the heart of the story. Though perhaps it’s for the best Scott doesn’t push those elements too hard, since Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton’s performances feel like they come from two entirely different films.
Still, through it all, it’s possible to recognize the Scott we admire. Exodus doesn’t want for ambition, and the filmmaker clearly took great pains to get every little detail just right. Two of the traits that truly mark a Ridley Scott movie. In particular, the imagery in the “parting of the red sea” sequence is breathtaking. It’s just a shame the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to his efforts.

1492 CONQUEST OF PARADISE

15. 1492: Conquest of Paradise

It took balls to spend tens of millions of dollars to make a two plus hour historical epic about Christopher Columbus. That ambition is by far the best thing you can say about this huge, well made, but very messy movie starring Gerard Depardieu, Sigourney Weaver and Armande Assante. Majestic visuals, great music, epic scope but in the end, it’s just not a very fun movie. The historical context is interesting but no one has ever said, “Let’s watch 1492 tonight!” Which you can’t really say about the rest of Scott’s better movies.

American Gangster

14. American Gangster

When I first heard about Ridley Scott directing American Gangster, I was so stoked. Scott doing a gangster movie with Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington? This was going to be the best movie ever. And…it’s good. Denzel is electric as real life gangster Frank Lucas but few things around him really rise to that level. Scott sets a distinct tone, tells a fascinating story but American Gangster never quite reaches the heights of the great films that inspired it.

Tom Cruise Legend

13. Legend

There are some of you out there right now freaking out. You’re screaming that Legend is amazing. One of your favorite films of your childhood with an amazing villain in Tim Curry’s Darkness and Tom Cruise just coming into his own. That’s fine. And yes, there is some fun stuff in there. But when compared to Ridley Scott’s overall body of work, Legend is a bit of an afterthought. A fun film for kids, but in many ways interchangeable with Willow or The Neverending Story or Conan the Barbarian. It’s cool, but it’s not great.

Black Rain

12. Black Rain

Here’s the thing with Black Rain. It’s Ridley Scott being comfortable. The film is a suitably entertaining and engaging cop action film but there is very little that really distinguishes it from the 500 other similar films that were being released in the Eighties. Michael Douglas is a great lead, you’ve got a decent score and really beautiful visuals. The fact the film is more global than most other action films of the time does almost make it feel Ridley Scott-ish but overall, it’s just doesn’t measure up to the films that came before it.

Prometheus David Back

11. Prometheus

I don’t hate Prometheus. I think there are lots of good things about it. But I think, ultimately, Scott is the victim of his own success with the film. Instead of just making another great sci-fi film, like we obviously know he’s capable of (scroll toward the end of the list for proof) he steeps this film in all these grand ideas that feel bigger than the story or the characters. It also doesn’t help that it’s some how related to the Alien movies. There’s just too much uncertainty downplaying the good stuff, like the action, the effects and more. A flawed story, but a visually impressive notch on the director’s resume.

GI Jane

10. G.I. Jane

Call me crazy, but I like G.I. Jane. Demi Moore is so badass and so incredibly charismatic in the role of a woman pushed to her limits in the worst possible environment. Some people don’t like it, and I do get that it’s a bit formulaic. A bit obvious in points. Plus it falls under the banner of not quite exhibiting the scale that Ridley Scott is capable of. Either way, it’s a worthy story with a solid center that holds up pretty well – even thematically – in the almost 20 years since its release.

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