Hearing the news of Tony Scott’s passing was a huge shock that I am still trying to recover from. The younger brother of fellow filmmaker Ridley Scott, many saw Tony as simply standing in Ridley’s shadow as his films garnered far more critical acclaim than his. This view however is not fair to Tony as he had his own directorial style that made him stand out in his own way, and while his movies were heavily stylistic and designed with a strong visual element in mind, he never lost sight of the human quality movies need in order for them to work.
The following Tony Scott movies listed below are the ones that stay with me the most. They are my favorites of his, and that’s even if not all of them were considered his best.
This is my favorite Tony Scott movie of all as he molds Quentin Tarantino’s romantic crime drama of a screenplay into an unlikely fairy tale of sorts. The cast is perfectly chosen, and even the actors with the smallest roles leave a very memorable impression. The scene between Christopher Walken and the late Dennis Hopper is one of the all-time greats, and Tony creates visual poetry with an ultraviolent shootout at a hotel and a truly exhilarating roller coaster ride.
One of the best submarine movies ever made, Tony gives us a highly riveting character piece as Executive Officer Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) argues with Captain Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) over a course of action which could lead to World War III. Tony smartly confines the majority of the movie to the claustrophobic confines of the submarine as he sails through the ocean underwater. By making know as much as the ship’s crew members know, he puts us right in their shoes as they are forced to make a tough decision based on incomplete information.
We do laugh at this movie’s story today as it came to inform the plot of many 80s action films; the overconfident hero who gets his ego seriously bruised and has to build himself back up again. Tony does get strong dramatic moments out of “Top Gun’s” cheesy story, but his talents as a visual artist is what he really stands out best here. The aerial dogfights are still amazing to watch as the choreography involved looks completely insane and leaves you wondering how Tony and his crew members pulled this all off. I also remember when “Top Gun” first came out on VHS; its sound design really gave stereo speakers a serious workout.
“Beverly Hills Cop II”
Yes, the original is better (even Tony admitted that on his “True Romance” commentary track), but I still enjoy watching this sequel which takes the same story and still leaves you very entertained. Tony gets some exciting action scenes and some beautifully staged robbery sequences, all of which are brilliantly scored by composer Harold Faltermeyer. I also have yet to see another movie where characters make use of a cement truck in a car chase.
“The Last Boy Scout”
Critics kept pouncing on this movie’s more lurid elements and the fact that screenwriter Shane Black got paid almost $2 million for his screenplay. But at its heart “The Last Boy Scout” is a character driven piece which benefits from the performances of Bruce Willis (who was then slowly recovering from the “Hudson Hawk” debacle) and Damon Wayans as a former pro-football player who has since fallen from grace. Their characters are mentally and physically down in the dumps, and Tony makes us root for them as they come to rediscover (albeit in a very violent way) their sense of duty in a time which feels endlessly inhabited by corrupt individuals.
Quentin Tarantino has declared this movie to be Tony’s masterpiece, and it looks much better today than when it first came out. Its story has Kevin Costner falling in love with Madeline Stowe who happens to be married to his best friend played by the late Anthony Quinn. It’s a very gritty story where the characters cross lines they should know not to cross, and its brutality was hard to stomach back in 1990. But “Revenge” does show Tony at his most uncompromising which is why people have re-evaluated it as such, and I don’t just mean with the movie’s ending which you can’t help but get choked up over.
This biopic is like few others which came before or after it, and the critics were far from kind. But I was completed fascinated and taken in by the story of the late Domino Harvey, an English daughter of stage and screen actor Laurence Harvey who ends up becoming a bounty hunter in Los Angeles. Tony does go overboard with a lot of orgasmic visuals and editing that feels more hyperkinetic than anything in his other movies, but this is unlike any film “based on a true story” that I have seen in ages, and I loved “Domino” for exactly that reason.
“The Taking of Pelham 123″
Here we have Tony doing a remake of the 1974 movie which starred Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, and in a time of endless (not to mention needless) remakes, he makes one that’s actually worth watching. It proved that Tony was a smarter director than people give him credit for as he takes the movie’s basic plot and spins it into something to where it doesn’t even feel like a remake. And whereas the original was a caper movie with the good guys against the bad guys, this one features two characters played by Denzel Washington and John Travolta who are really not that different from each other.
Tony’s last movie was also one of his most thrilling as “Unstoppable” is one of those action films that keeps the adrenaline pumping and never lets up. Like in “The Taking of Pelham 123,” Washington proves that he is still convincing as an everyman, in this case a railroad engineer who is teamed up with a new conductor played by Chris Pine. The two men take it upon themselves to try and stop a runaway train that is barreling down the tracks like a missile, and Tony does excellent work in showing how hard it is to stop the train and how brutally destructive it can be to everything in its path. However, Tony also gives an equal amount of attention to both Washington’s and Pine’s characters which serves to make the action all the more emotional and exciting as we root for them to save the day.
So as you can see, Tony Scott was not a filmmaker obsessed with visual style at the expense of everything else. His best movies (whether you agree with this list or not) pay close attention to character as well, and that’s why many of them will live on after his passing.