5. The Martian (2015)
The Martian was somewhat of a surprise critical hit for Scott given the movie’s more comedic tone – certainly not an element usually considered a part of the Scott wheelhouse – and was honoured with several award nominations at the Golden Globes and the Oscars, somewhat of a surprise given that genre pieces (in this case sci-fi) rarely find such instantaneous success in the critical realm. Dubbed “Castaway in space” by internet commentators, The Martian produced the best Matt Damon performance in over a decade (and arguably ever), and was universally praised for its beautiful depiction of a desolate Mars landscape. Scott, of course, brought decades worth of work on science fiction films to fray, and managed to find the same focus in this film as he had with many of his largest successes, only this time with the biggest ensemble cast of his filmography to date. Funny but worthy of investment and still a spectacle for the eyes, The Martian was one of this decade’s more well-respected sci-fi films that places it firmly in this list’s top 5.
4. Thelma & Louise (1991)
Thelma & Louise remains a landmark for women in cinema as well as one of Ridley Scott’s most precious gifts to the industry. Susan Sarandon (left) and Geena Davis (right) play Louise and Thelma respectively in a well developed road movie in which the two stars play criminals on the run from a murder charge brought about by their shooting of a rapist in Arkansas. The film won Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars, with Sarandon and Davis each being nominated for Best Leading Actress at that year’s ceremony. Scott himself was nominated for Best Director too, though the movie’s critical recognition pales in comparison to its historical importance and the iconic status that Sarandon, Davis and their ’66 Thunderbird have gained in the years since. This is an important movie in terms of representation and a really entertaining spectacle to boot, making it one of several all-time classics to come from the mind of this legendary director.
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3. Gladiator (2000)
When Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe set off on their venture to make a Roman-era epic in the same mould as Spartacus (1960), they had barely any script to work from and instead a list of ideas they wished to put to screen in order to present their ideal Gladiatorial film. $100million later, the pair had made one of the most iconic cinematic releases of modern times and a would-be 12-time Oscar nominee (5 time winner), the most nominated of any release in Scott’s career. Combining inspiration from the above-mentioned Spartacus and 11-time Oscar winner Ben-Hur (1959), Scott’s story of a revolutionary gladiator overcoming the Roman Empire was exciting and dramatic, with each scene being enhanced by its combination of CGI and practical effects. In Crowe, Scott had found his ideal leading man, with this movie proving the catalyst for a lasting relationship between the pair that would come to define each of their careers in the decade to follow. In many respects, Gladiator can be marked as the last of the historical war epics to truly find critical acclaim in this era, and though it inspired studios to pursue the likes of Alexander (2004), Troy (2004) and Scott’s own Kingdom of Heaven (2005), it is Gladiator that remains the best and most memorable of the bunch.