Ridley Scott is one of Hollywood’s undeniable masters of science fiction, with an unadulterated visual flair that permeates each film he helms. The British director has been bringing his vision to our movie screens for over 50 years. After Australian director Peter Weir received an honorary Oscar earlier this month, Scott, celebrating his 85th birthday, should undoubtedly be next on the Academy’s list to get a statuette at next year’s Governors Awards.
Scott’s dances with the Academy have brought him to four ceremonies as a nominee. For best director, he’s picked up mentions for “Thelma & Louise” (1991), “Gladiator” (2000) and “Black Hawk Down” (2001), while he also scored one for best picture as a producer for “The Martian” (2015). He’s never won at any ceremony.
But that’s not all that makes him worthy of being honored. Scott’s 31 movies as a director have grossed more than $1.7 billion domestically, which places him in the top 20 of the highest-grossing directors of all time. Worldwide, his movies have grossed more than $4.3 billion, which has him sitting as the 11th highest earner.
Even though he has been known to divide critics and audiences with films such as his (still unsure if it’s really an “Alien” prequel?) “Prometheus” (2012) or the Lady Gaga-starring “House of Gucci” (2021), his films have always generated conversations. And that’s not to mention his most cherished features, which include the sci-fi horror epic “Alien” (1979), or what he has long called his most personal film, “Blade Runner” (1982).
There are also a handful of underrated gems that aren’t spoken about in enough movie circles which include his black comedy “Matchstick Men” (2003), led by Nicolas Cage in one of his most incredible career performances.
When he works with some of his “regulars” such as Oscar winner Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”), you don’t see the Australian actor doing the same thing with each outing. Even though “A Good Year” (2006) and “Robin Hood” (2010) don’t quite hit their marks, his way with actors and guiding them to their motivations has been impressive to witness across many of his films. But when he’s successful, like he is with Crowe in “American Gangster” (2007), he’s able to soften the actor’s approach in a film that rests on the masculinity in the crime era it explores.
When I look back at some of the most memorable performances in Scott’s movies, I tend to gravitate towards Geena Davis’ free-spirited yet strong-willed Thelma Dickinson in the Oscar-nominated “Thelma and Louise.” Surprisingly, not far behind, is Ben Affleck’s go-for-broke turn as Count Pierre d’Alençon in “The Last Duel” (2021), a performance that shows how invigorating the actor can be when placed into the right hands.
Some auteurs, like David Fincher, are consistent with their aesthetics, no matter the genre or story, while someone like Terrence Malick explores variations on consistent themes around morality and religion. Scott, meanwhile, is minute-to-minute about the crafts on display, casting a wide net of subject matter and style over his lengthy career.
One of Scott’s other films that gets better when watching the director’s cut is the historical epic “Kingdom of Heaven” (2005), which bleeds with gorgeous costumes and stunning music by frequent collaborators Janty Yates and Harry Gregson-Williams. His sound team has also remained unparalleled when putting their touches on any story he’s telling.
And Scott has given no indication that he’s wrapping up his time in cinema. Next year he is at the helm of Apple Original Films’ “Napoleon” (originally titled “Kitbag”) with Oscar-winner Joaquin Phoenix. The film is a personal look at Napoleon Bonaparte’s origins and his ruthless climb to become emperor.
He’s also attached to various projects as a producer, including Kristen Stewart’s directorial debut “The Chronology of Water,” Matt Ruskin’s thriller “Boston Strangler” with Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon and “Berlin Nobody” which stars Sadie Sink and directed by his daughter Jordan Scott.
More Scott is always welcomed.