With the recent and sudden news of Director Tony Scott’s passing, it isn’t until such tragic events occur that the real impact such people have on our lives is truly felt. While many film buffs or critics my not revere Tony’s work in such high standards as his brother Ridley or some other more revered directors, for me this man helped shape my life in more ways than one. I have no purist approach to rating movies or directors. That would be like trying to rate an artist and their artwork. It is purely subjective and everyone takes away something special from it. There is something about a particular film that resonates deep within us and touches us in some special way. Although Tony Scott’s body of directing work isn’t probably as exhaustive as some other directors, it is no doubt exceptionally difficult to pick a top 5 because every one of his films he has made since Top Gun had something fantastic to offer beyond the thrill of a good time. So without further adieu I present to you my Top 5 Tony Scott Films.
1.) Top Gun
What can be said about this movie other than the fact it re-defined the term blockbuster in the 80’s and defined a generation of filmmaking. Arguably his greatest work, Ridley Scott re-defined the term cinematic action by taking his experience as a TV commercial and music video director to the big screen and bringing a new cinematography style to Hollywood. It’s amazing in that what got Tony the gig was the fact that he had directed a car commercial for SAAB which featured the SAAB jet fighter. Scott’s epic back lighting, close-up shots, flash-cut editing and super saturation helped redefine the way action blockbuster movies would be made. This style certainly influenced directors like Michael Bay, Peter Berg and Oliver Stone and the cinematic visuals they applied to the making of their films. Top Gun reigned at number 1 at the box office in 1986 speaks for itself.
Despite being a high-octane action piece, there is still a great deal of emotion that is injected into this movie through the death of the lead character’s partner. Tony Scott is a very passionate director and it certainly comes through in this movie and every movie he made since. He cares about every aspect of the film from the visuals through to the feel and music of the film. Nothing says this more than when they were filming the last scene of the movie and Scott had his personal assistant get his check-book from his cabin on the aircraft carrier to pay the captain to turn the carrier around so he could get his shot. Everything about this movie screamed the 80’s and made for a rocking good time. This movie made Tom Cruise a household name and sent enlistment numbers for the US Navy through the roof. This movie is the epitome of 80’s blockbuster action that is a 100% high-octane rockin’ experience.
2.) Crimson Tide
This movie redefined the term tension building. Submarine movies are quite difficult movies to make in that a director has very little to work with location wise and visually. Hey, it’s a bunch of guys in a tube that floats underwater. A director really has to maximise their actor’s performances and really focus on character driven elements to drive the film. This movie is no exception. While probably not quite up there on the same level with Wolfgang Peterson’s Das Boot, this movie does not fail to deliver in it’s suspense and thrilling action. Top Gun is a sunny exposition piece of sex appeal and rock n’ roll. This piece while great on action is driven mainly through strong characters and the way in which they interplay to form an ever building tension which matches the tension that is mounting outside of the submarine with the brewing nuclear missile crisis.
This movie stars two powerhouse actors in Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. I think the most beautiful part of the movie is when Hackman and Washington’s characters sit down and discuss the Lipinzzaner Stallions. The point where Denzel points out that they are black a birth is a fantastic metaphor for the fact that the old Captain Ramsey (Hackman) is white while the younger Commander Hunter (Washington) is black. Ramsey the veteran represents the old school while Hunter symbolises the new way of thinking. The way that scene is shot is just so engaging; Scott can’t help but drag you into the fray with his shooting style. It is this incredible interplay between the two main stars that makes this film nothing short of EPIC!
3.) Beverly Hills Cop II
After the success of Top Gun, Scott became a hot name and property in Hollywood and there was no way that Simpson and Bruckheimer were about to relinquish this champion horse and offered Scott the sequel to the already successful Beverly Hills Cop. This movie is interesting in that this is the only sequel that Tony Scott ever directed. Some directors may be scared of taking over an already established franchise, especially if it was successful. This did not faze Scott who knew he could bring his own style and make this movie his own. It is by all means my favourite out of all the Beverly Hills Cop movies purely because Scott stylised the look and feel of the film through his trademark visuals.
The opening scene with Axel Foley getting ready in a slick 80’s stylised suit coupled with flash cutting all to the tune of Bob Seger’s song Shakedown just exuded 80’s style and class. I vividly remember Axel getting into the Ferrari 308, the frog lights popping up and illuminating the inside of the garage and the Ferrari being revealed by the raising garage door. This is something that you would expect in a car commercial. This is a prime example how Scott’s style and drawing upon his roots to put his stamp on the property. Scott brought great 80’s music, style and fashion and made Beverly Hills Cop II look simply awesome, slick and overall made a fun movie.
4.) The Fan
Now this is a movie that you would never have pictured Scott to make given his previous body of work. I mean how can you make a blockbuster thriller out of baseball? Well Tony Scott can and did that. I am not a baseball fan and I think if I ever had to sit through a full 9 innings I would probably be bored stiff. Not with Tony Scott umpiring… No sir… If anything, Crimson Tide almost formed the training Scott needed to make a strong character driven piece. Starring two very large stars in the form of Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes, this movie brings and interesting thriller aspect to what would otherwise be a very dull genre.
De Niro is a fantastic actor, but it takes a real craftsman to take the great tools they have and utilise them to their maximum potential and that is what Scott did with De Niro. I don’t think Scott is credited enough for being a director capable of instilling emotion in his work, but if you look at many of his films like Top Gun, Crimson Tide and The Fan there is an incredible amount emotion in these films that the characters exhibit which only serves to heighten the tension contained within these films.
5.) Days of Thunder
Ok so you a probably wondering why in hell I am including this movie on the list of Scott’s top 5 given that there are certainly other movies such as Enemy of the State that are much better story wise than this movie. Well there is a very good reason for that. After reading around the web today about Scott’s life in movies I was surprised by what I found out about this movie. Scott began filming this movie without a script. This movie was literally written at night and filmed during the day. This was the time when Tom Cruise reigned supreme in Hollywood and just about any movie made with Tom was almost guaranteed to make $100 million in the domestic market.
Given that paramount had green lit this picture with no script in hand I think that this movie really is a testament to how Scott was able to create something out of nothing. Let’s face it. How exciting is it really to watch a movie about a bunch of cars going around an oval track. This movie would see Scott and Tom Cruise re-unite to re-ignite the screen for the 90’s and set the screen on fire with some great visuals and some great racing action.