It wasn’t cool to say you were a fan of Tony Scott’s movies. Among cine-snob circles, anyway. His work was too commercial, too mainstream. He wasn’t an auteur because he didn’t write his own features. And Ridley, his older brother, got more acclaim, won more awards and had a bigger fanbase thanks to Alien and Blade Runner. Ridley’s movies had the whiff of art to them.
But today I can’t deny I enjoyed Tony’s work, and actually never could. Even when his stylistic tropes trumped substance—in the 1980s it was lots of rain, smoke and lights shining through venetian blinds, the same sorts of aesthetic choices his brother (see Black Rain) and other big directors of the era, including Adrian Lyne (9 1/2 Weeks), made. But Tony Scott was an incredibly consistent filmmaker with a knack for delivering hits throughout his career, and that’s why he worked with Hollywood’s most recognizable performers.
I felt the air go out of my lungs when I heard this morning he’d had taken his life. This is the best piece I’ve read on him today. All I want to add to that is a list of recommendations from his body of work.
Chonologically, here they are:
The Hunger (1983)
One of those movies that defined the look of the ’80s. A vampire thriller starring a super-hot Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and David Bowie, it should be better than it is, but worth seeing for the opening sequence set to Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” the sexy stars getting it on, and the care that went into the art direction. It’s all mood.
Top Gun (1986)
Not much more to say about this that hasn’t already been said: It’s a big, fun action movie that doubles as a Navy recruitment video, more or less. I love how it’s been recontextualized in years since for its homoerotic content.
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
People still talk reverently about Shane Black’s script for this, a sour little action picture that kind of put a fork into the ’80s buddy genre.
True Romance (1993)
Another of Tony Scott’s films where the screenwriter got all the credit, this time it’s Quentin Tarantino. But it was the perfect marriage of word and image and the sweetest love story in all of Tarantino’s work.
Crimson Tide (1995)
Submarine thrillers are their own, strange genre, and this is one of the best, putting Denzel Washington up against Gene Hackman. And a whole lot of sweat.
Man on Fire (2004)
Mexico City never looked so juicy in the gritty crime drama. And great to see two of my favourites, Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke, in a movie together, their first since Homeboy in 1988.
Logistically, this must have been a bitch to shoot, but Scott makes for the best action thriller about a runaway train since, well, Runaway Train.