Russell Crowe Gladiator

5. Gladiator

Scott’s lone Best Picture winner is far from his best, but it’s still pretty fantastic. Gladiator tells a horrifying yet rousing story of one man’s fall from grace and eventual rise back to power in a memorable, visceral style with a truly epic scope. The digital effects, circa the year 2000, don’t exactly hold up, but the characters and the acting, particularly the performances of Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, absolutely do. Gladiator might have been over-praised just slightly, but if you step back, it still resonates.

Black Hawk Down

4. Black Hawk Down

For my money, Black Hawk Down deserves to be considered among the best action films ever made. As a war movie, it’s not quite as good because the reality of this situation is undercut by that action, but wow does the action work. Black Hawk Down is so intense, so manic, and so chock-full of absolutely incredible actors. It’s basically a two and a half hour gun fight that never gets boring because you’re so engrossed by the interesting characters, frightening situation and controversial politics at hand. A truly underrated, wonderful film.

Thelma and Louise

3. Thelma & Louise

Powerful female characters are a constant presence in the films of Ridley Scott, but few of his women get the spotlight for films that are as unique and energetic as Thelma and Louise. The chemistry of Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon was undeniable; Scott discovered a little actor named Brad Pitt; and the film had a memorable, gutsy ending in the mold of the best films in the Seventies. Thelma and Louise was very much rooted in that feeling of those previous decades. A big middle finger to the terrible world we’re living in, but with a distinctly modern, contagious feel.

Blade Runner

2. Blade Runner

As has become evident on this list, Ridley Scott is great at scope and scale. He directs massive films. And Blade Runner might be his biggest movie with the fewest resources. Every choice Scott makes, from the music to the visuals, have resonated throughout the decades. That reputation and premise might imply a big, action packed film, but Blade Runner is not anything of the sort. Scott dials it back. Blade Runner is great because it’s a small, character-based story nestled into this sprawling world. It explores mind-bending ideas rather than big action. Of course, the director’s cut is preferred (or even the Final Cut, if you want to get technical about it) but really, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Sigourney Weaver Alien

1. Alien

There isn’t a negative thing to be said about Alien. The film is a masterwork, tense and interesting from frame one. The story is loaded with implications of mythology and detail, but never harping on backstory. Everything is character-driven, with great mysteries weaved in, and some of the biggest scares ever in a sci-fi film. The casting of Sigourney Weaver was perfect, the supporting cast is all incredible, and HR Giger’s designs are among the best in cinema history. The film is so good we still think about it, and its sequels, on an almost daily basis. None of that would be possible without Scott’s incredible vision.

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