Ridley Scott: All Films Considered

From aliens to men in tights

Image
Average Metascore 64
Films Directed by Ridley Scott *
Average User Score 7.3
Average Budget $56.4M
Average Gross (U.S. only) $60.0M

* Score averages do not include films missing from Metacritic's database (see below).

Ridley Scott hit the film scene as an innovator in the late ’70s after getting his start making television commercials. He made his name in science fiction with one of the most sensational back-to-back film rollouts of all time, Alien and Blade Runner, and he’s been responsible for changing the way we see and experience film ever since.

His advertising background brought a glossy, epic quality to cinema that has since become the norm. But with massive themes and larger-than-life set pieces, some of Scott’s films tend to lean towards the high-concept, leading some to believe his films run the risk of leaving actors as an afterthought.

Scott has battled these style over substance arguments for most of his career, though he has avoided space, swords, and sandals as of late with his last three films A Good Year, American Gangster, and Body of Lies. That changes this week with his take on the Robin Hood myth, starring his current go-to actor Russell Crowe in the titular bow-and-arrow-wielding role.

Early reviews seem to indicate that the new film is more Gladiator than Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which is probably for the best. Crowe and Scott are hoping the film performs well enough to launch an ongoing franchise.

Below, we take a closer look at the director's best and worst films. First, here's how Scott's movies have performed at the box office:

Comparative Box Office Performance of Ridley Scott's Films
Year Title Metascore Users Inflation-Adjusted Domestic Box Office
1977 The Duellists  n/a n/a n/a  
1979 Alien  n/a n/a $241.9M bar
1982 Blade Runner  n/a n/a 79.9 bar
1986 Legend  n/a n/a 31.8 bar
1987 Someone to Watch Over Me  n/a n/a 20.0 bar
1989 Black Rain  n/a n/a 88.6 bar
1991 Thelma & Louise  88 7.5 82.0 bar
1992 1492: Conquest of Paradise  n/a n/a 13.2 bar
1996 White Squall  52 7.5 17.7 bar
1997 G.I. Jane  62 6.8 79.9 bar
2000 Gladiator  64 8.6 264.9 bar
2001 Black Hawk Down  74 7.8 142.3 bar
2001 Hannibal  57 6.5 222.0 bar
2003 Matchstick Men  61 6.9 46.6 bar
2005 Kingdom of Heaven  63 7.8 56.3 bar
2006 A Good Year  47 6.1 8.7 bar
2007 American Gangster  76 7.4 143.9 bar
2008 Body of Lies  57 7.7 41.8 bar
2010 Robin Hood         

All box office figures are U.S. grosses adjusted for inflation for purposes of comparison. Source: Box Office Mojo.

Ridley Scott's 10 Best Movies
  Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 Blade Runner 1982 n/a n/a
"This is still the most remarkably and densely imagined and visualized SF film since 2001: A Space Odyssey, a hauntingly erotic meditation on the difference between the human and the nonhuman."
-- Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
After Frankenstein and Metropolis, Blade Runner is one of the most influential science-fiction films of all time. The Philip K. Dick adaptation was overshadowed by the release of E.T. at the time but its reputation has only grown in subsequent years. Harrison Ford’s portrayal of an android hunter who falls in love with an android (and who may be a Replicant himself) is neo-noir at its best. The futuristic Los Angeles depicted in the film is still awe-inspiring, as is the score by frequent collaborator Vangelis. [Note that a 1992 theatrical re-release received a Metascore of 88.]
  Budget: $28.0M U.S. Gross: $32.8M
2 Alien 1979 n/a n/a
"Alien is an old-fashioned scary movie set in a highly realistic sci-fi future, made all the more believable by expert technical craftsmanship. "
-- Variety
Essentially a haunted house film set on a spaceship, Alien chest-birthed the modern science-fiction horror genre, with its terrifying mix of scares amidst future technology. A standout ensemble cast comprised of Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Yaphet Kotto -- and Sigourney Weaver in a star-making performance as Ripley -- helped create a franchise that’s still breathing to this day. Though he didn't direct any of Alien's many sequels, Scott is currently working on two 3-D prequels to this legendary film. [Note that a 2003 theatrical re-release received a Metascore of 83.]
  Budget: $11.0M U.S. Gross: $80.9M
3 Thelma & Louise 1991 88 7.5
"Begins like an episode of 'I Love Lucy' and ends with the impact of 'Easy Rider.'"
-- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
After a lengthy stretch of films with flimsy female roles, Scott directed Callie Khouri’s Oscar-winning screenplay about two oppressed friends on the run after killing a rapist. During their escape from the law, they come across a scene-stealing drifter played by the then largely unknown Brad Pitt, who became a household name after the film was released. Stellar performances from Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Harvey Keitel, and Michael Madsen elevate this film into classic territory.   
  Budget: $16.5M U.S. Gross: $45.4M
4 American Gangster 2007 76 7.4
"I don't think it attains the Godfather level -- it lacks dark passion and grand-scale irony -- but it is an intelligent, well-made and seductive movie.."
-- Richard Schickel, Time
Reuniting acting powerhouses Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe 12 years after the forgettable Virtuosity, Scott tells the story of rising drug lord Frank Lucas  (Washington) and cop Richie Roberts (Crowe) who attempts to bring him down. An original tie-in soundtrack from Jay-Z and appearances from Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Brolin, The Wire’s Idris Elba, and more couldn’t entirely hide a familiar been there, done that feeling.
  Budget: $100.0M U.S. Gross: $130.2M
5 Black Hawk Down 2001 74 7.8
"A beautifully filmed, scrupulously authentic but strangely evasive exercise in combat ultra-realism."
-- Jonathan Foreman, New York Post
The most complex and kinetic film of Scott’s career follows close to 40 characters (played by the likes of Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Piven, and many more) during a violent attempt to capture two Somalian lieutenants. When a pair of the mission’s Black Hawk helicopters crash, the stakes are raised in this ambitious war film that was a hit with critics and audiences alike.
  Budget: $92.0M U.S. Gross: $108.6M
6 Gladiator 2000 64 8.6
"Like an aging athlete who knows how to husband strength and camouflage weaknesses, it makes the most of what it does well and hopes you won't notice its limitations."
-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
The combination of director Scott and Russell Crowe created a box-office and critical sensation in the summer of 2000. Crowe’s charismatic portrayal of Spanish general Maximus, who is out to avenge the death of his family at the orders of Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ immoral son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), kept audiences entertained. The film eventually won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor. Scott, nominated for Best Director, would lose to Steven Soderbergh for Traffic.
  Budget: $103.0M U.S. Gross: $187.7M
7 Kingdom of Heaven 2005 63 7.8
"What sucks the wind out of the movie's sails is the vacuum at its core."
-- Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun
Many regarded 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven as something of a Gladiator retread when it was released. Another epic period action drama, the film was set during the Crusades and starred the then-hot pretty boy actor Orlando Bloom, fresh off of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The film was met with mixed reviews and bombed in the U.S., though it was a hit elsewhere and was eventually released in an extended director’s cut with 50 extra minutes on DVD and Blu-ray.
  Budget: $130.0M U.S. Gross: $47.4M
8 G.I. Jane 1997 62 6.8
"This hot-button picture isn't especially well thought-out, but it might be crafty and manipulative enough to rile up audiences. "
-- Charles Taylor, Salon
Even though the film was billed as a simplistic woman-kicking-ass action movie, G.I. Jane had a lot more going for it. The story of the first woman to undergo training in the U.S. Navy Special Warfare Group is tough as nails and political to boot. Stellar performances by Demi Moore as the titular character, pre-Lord of the Rings Viggo Mortensen, and Anne Bancroft as a duplicitous senator made for better than expected reviews, but the film’s financial performance was lackluster.
  Budget: $50.0M U.S. Gross: $48.2M
9 The Duellists 1977 n/a n/a
"What one carries away from the film ... is a memory of almost indescribable beauty, of landscapes at dawn, of over-crowded, murky interiors, of underlit hallways and brilliantly sunlit gardens. It's not a frivolous prettiness, but an evocation of time and place through images that are virtually tactile, and which give real urgency to this curious tale. It's marvelous.
-- Vincent Canby, The New York Times
Scott’s first feature film, about two French officers (Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel) during the Napoleonic Wars, won the Best Debut Film award at the Cannes Film Festival but was barely seen by audiences and met with mixed reviews. The film’s look was patterned after Stanley Kubrick’s similar Barry Lyndon but is beautiful all on its own.
  Budget: $0.9M U.S. Gross: n/a
10 Matchstick Men 2003 61 6.9
"Scott's finesse can't entirely disguise the mechanical nature of Nicholas and Ted Griffin's script, which has one too many twists for its own good."
-- David Ansen, Newsweek
One of the most restrained and character-driven films of Scott’s career is this refreshing adaptation of Eric Garcia’s novel about two Los Angeles con artists (Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell) whose lives are upended when one discovers that he has a 14-year-old-daughter, magnificently played by Alison Lohman. The film received mostly positive reviews but was largely a dud at the box office.
  Budget: n/a U.S. Gross: $36.9M
Ridley Scott's 5 Worst Movies
  Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 A Good Year 2006 47 6.1
"Even judged by the not excessively demanding standards of middle-aged renovation fantasies, A Good Year isn’t much."
-- David Denby, The New Yorker

Scott took a major detour -- to Provence in the south of France, to be exact -- with this romantic comedy that starred Russell Crowe and then-rising international star Marion Cotillard. Despite a great cast and gorgeous locations, audiences and critics remained cool on the story of a busy trader who takes a break from his materialistic life and falls in love with his rediscovered past at an inherited vineyard.

  Budget: $35.0M U.S. Gross: $7.5M
2 Someone to Watch Over Me 1987 n/a n/a
"The sets are so sumptuous, you'll want to move right in. But the haze is so thick, you'll need to bring a defogger."
-- Rita Kempley, Washington Post
This steamy thriller starring Tom Berenger as a working class cop who defends wealthy socialite Mimi Rogers and ends up falling in love with her is a slickly produced non-starter that skates by with top-tier production values but is ultimately undone by a wafer-thin plot and cold performances. Critics were not kind, and audiences stayed away from this instantly dated flick.
  Budget: $17.0M U.S. Gross: $10.3M
3 Legend 1986 n/a n/a
"All of the special effects in the world, and all of the great makeup, and all of the great Muppet creatures can't save a movie that has no clear idea of its own mission and no joy in its own accomplishment."
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
After Alien and Blade Runner, Scott directed this beautifully made fantasy misfire starring Tom Cruise, Mia Sara (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and Tim Curry as The Lord of Darkness. Plagued by studio interference, production problems, and negative test screenings, the film was shortened and released to bad reviews and little business. In 2002, Scott released a director’s cut on DVD with an original Jerry Goldsmith score instead of the Tangerine Dream-filled theatrical music.
  Budget: $30.0M U.S. Gross: $15.5M
4 White Squall 1996 52 7.5
"The shipwreck comes too late to rescue the movie from endless banalities."
-- Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail
One of the first films produced by Scott Free Productions, the production company of Ridley and his brother Tony Scott (Top Gun, True Romance), White Squall was based on the true story of a school sailing trip gone awry. Dr. Christopher B. Sheldon (Jeff Bridges) leads the ill-fated trip, and the unlucky students are played by the likes of Scott Wolf, Ryan Phillippe, Balthazar Getty, and Jeremy Sisto. The rousing yet depressing film was a financial disaster and a critical mixed bag.
  Budget: $38.0M U.S. Gross: $10.3M
5 Body of Lies 2008 57 7.7
"Scott doesn't bring much to the table as an action director, and his keen storytelling abilities go invisible here."
-- Eric Kohn, Premiere
The complex Middle East espionage thriller starred A-listers Leonardo DiCaprio as a CIA case officer in Iraq and Russell Crowe as his manipulative boss back home in Virginia. The on-screen bickering between the two leads and lack of traditional action produced mixed reviews and small box office returns, surprising for a film with such high-profile stars.
  Budget: $70.0M U.S. Gross: $39.4M

What do you think?

What is your favorite Ridley Scott movie? Are you looking forward to Robin Hood? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Comments (23)

  • Sergiu  

    The 2 that I love the most are Thelma and Louise and A good Year.

  • geoff  

    love ridley... but american gangster his 4th best0? Yikes. And Good Year his WORST? Critically perhaps, but that film is a very good wine country movie, and LOTS of people love it.

    And GI Jane and KOH among the best, please....those are both awful, awful movies.

    @Michael -- Black Rain is far from his best IMO ... it probably got nominated for anything in japan because of its production locations.

    If you asked me, I'd put Alien above Bladerunner, and blackhawk down as 3rd or 4th, but again thats a personal preference thing.


    Either way a good, worthy article, far better than most the junk that cnet tries to direct me toward.

  • geoff  

    p.s. good call on hannibal, i cant believe I forgot about that one ... awesome movie, great direction.

    Also ridley is essentially the man who popularized the "over-crank" method of shooting action scenes that is so prevalent in modern movies.... shoot at twice the framerate or more, which creates more sharp individual images (think ed norton shower scene in american history x), but would play in slo-mo ... but then they take out every other frame (which puts it back at normal live-action speed) and create the patented look that gladiator and so many movies have used since.

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