8. Black Hawk Down (2001/02)
Ridley Scott was nominated for a Best Director award at the 2002 Oscars for his work on this modern war epic that captured the seemingly worthless loss of lives that American forces suffered in the African country of Somalia during the 1-day-long Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
The filmmaker brought much of the atmosphere featured strongly in the rest of his oeuvre to this film, with a retread of the dramatic colouration techniques he had used to great effect in Gladiator helping to increase tension in the warzone and enhance the filmmaker’s artistic input for what was an ensemble piece of early 2000s famous faces – led by Josh Hartnett but also featuring Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Ewen Bremner, Sam Shepard, Hugh Dancy, Ioan Gruffud, Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Piven, Tom Hardy and Orlando Bloom – battling insurmountable odds.
Black Hawk Down is perhaps too often overlooked in the annuls of war film history, for it is a very good film from a talented director at the peak of his powers telling an extraordinary story that needs to be seen to be believed.
7. The Duellists (1977)
If you were to take a quick glance at The Duellists through an image search engine or via YouTube, this movie’s visual beauty would be the first thing you’d notice, for Ridley Scott’s feature-length directorial debut marvellously recreated Napoleonic France and instantly stamped Scott’s name amongst cinema’s list of beautiful scene constructors.
Starring the likes of Harvey Keitel and Albert Finney, The Duellists was far from a simply beautiful movie, as it also became one of the more compelling movies of its type, telling the tale of two officers who regularly duel throughout several decades.
This film was an early glimpse at Scott’s incredible talent for focusing and personalising grandiose stories, and though it is oft-forgotten amongst his more popular movies, it remains one of his best.
6. American Gangster (2007)
This R-Rated gangster movie, based on the real-life actions of notorious New York heroin kingpin Frank Lucas in the 1970s, is perhaps best remembered for the fantastic performances of the Oscar-nominated Ruby Dee (who played Mama Lucas) and Golden Globe nominee Denzel Washington, the latter of whom embodied his character’s arrogant ruthlessness in such a way that enhanced each of the picture’s many moments of heightened tension.
Scott’s clever presentation of the actor worked to separate him from the rest of his crew while never quite establishing such a distance that made his character inhuman, dictating that for all of his monstrosity Frank Lucas was a very real person.
Also starring long-time collaborator Russell Crowe, this film is never thought of as a classic of the gangster genre, but given the time in which it was released – a relatively unpopular decade for gangster films – and the skill involved in all aspects of the production, American Gangster remains a very strong release in Ridley Scott’s overall filmography.