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Flashback Five – Ridley Scott’s Best Movies

Director Ridley Scott has brought stylistic virtuosity to pics dealing in sci-fi (Alien), war (Black Hawk Down), crime (American Gangster), and fantasy (Legend). This man is so much more than Blade Runner! But which of his cinematic visions rises above the rest? Clearly, these.

1. Alien (1979)
Yucky things happen in outer space when an extraterrestrial parasite latches onto astronauts and, in the process, gives tapeworms a good name. More about claustrophobia than gun power, this chest-bursting classic features one of the scariest monsters in movie history. Most importantly, the flick introduces Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the greatest big-screen heroine ever. (Sorry, Angelina.)

2. Blade Runner (1982)
No one imagines dismal futures as richly as Ridley Scott does. If Alien showed his knack, Blade Runner showed his genius. His nightmarish take on 2015 Los Angeles is as mind-blowing as it is meticulously rendered — from fire-spewing skylines to neon-washed cityscapes. And what a plot: private eye Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) hunts down androids while wondering if he’s one himself.

3. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
The director’s cut has become a marketing device, yet this one is actually essential. Scott’s lavish exploration of the Crusades received mixed reviews upon its initial release. Recut and expanded, this complex tale of religious conflict deserves the epic treatment that Scott gave it. If you thought Gladiator was good, you’re in for a treat.

4. Black Hawk Down (2001)
Forget G.I. Jane. Please! This is really Scott’s first war pic, a frenetic, gruesome depiction of the chaos and courage of soldiers under fire — specifically a rescue mission in Mogadishu that results in many deaths and few returns. And since Scott is not a “message” filmmaker, he leaves the viewer to ponder whether the sacrifices are worth it.

5. The Duellists (1977)
Scott specializes in revitalizing genres. He did it first with this period piece about a long-simmering feud between two officers during the Napoleonic Wars. While the film forecasts the intense rivalries of Scott’s Gladiator and American Gangster, what makes The Duellists worthy of his top five is that it’s got the best sword fights on celluloid.

Honorable Mentions

6. Gladiator (2000): This bloody Shakespearean sword-and-sandal movie paved the way for Troy, Game of Thrones, and Joaquin Phoenix.

7. American Gangster (2007): Scott’s sprawling crime saga shows he’s an actor’s director, not just a stylist, as Denzel Washington gives his finest performance in years as real-life drug lord Frank Lucas.

8. Thelma & Louise (1991): This gritty, unlikely chick flick — albeit one with murder and rape — focuses on strong women (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis) who’d make mincemeat of the ladies from Sex and the City.

9. Robin Hood (2010): Scott reunites with Gladiator star Russell Crowe for this radical reenvisioning of the bandit of Nottingham.

10. Legend (1985): A flop at the box office, this goth cult hit serves up twisted charms that extend beyond the tastes of Dungeons & Dragons players.

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Tune in to the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven on AMC. Click here for the full schedule.

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