Five Great Movies: Tony Scott (1944-2012)

Relive your memories of the late, great Tony Scott by looking back at five of best movies he ever directed.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani


Five Great Movies is finally back, but it's no cause for celebration. Late last night brought the tragic news that Tony Scott, one of the most celebrated directors of masculine cinema, passed away in apparent suicide. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and many artistic collaborators who must surely be feeling the loss more than even his most fervent fans. Here at CraveOnline, we know of no better way to honor the passing of a cinematic titan than by remembering their finest work in the medium. Scott was a hit-or-miss director, if we're being honest, but for every Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 or The Fan he directed, Tony Scott also managed to produce a genuine, if populist, classic, and some damned fine genre entertainments besides. We present here five great movies from the director's 30+ year career. Not his best, necessarily, but undeniably strong works and certainly some of our favorites.

Did we miss one of yours? Let us know in the comments below, and spread the love for the career of the late, great Tony Scott.


Top Gun (1986)

Tony Scott’s second feature length film – after a series of short films, TV work and the highly recommended erotic horror film The Hunger – was a little film about a guy with responsibility issues who grew up a bit at the end. You know it better as Top Gun, a sexy romance with a hit soundtrack and aerial dogfight sequences so exciting that recruitment in the U.S. Navy reportedly rose as much as 500% after its release. Tom Cruise stars as “Maverick,” a hotshot flyboy whose talent seems to compensate for his immaturity… until tragedy strikes and forces him to reevaluate his life. Top Gun was a phenomenon upon its release and remains Scott’s most talked about film, although often for its much-debated homoerotic undertones.


True Romance (1993)

Tony Scott’s films are typically described as “macho” motion pictures. He was interested in issues of masculinity and the way it pertains to adult life, with a lot of action tossed in for good measure. But he had a heart: True Romance, as the title suggests, is one of the best romances of the 1990s, thanks to an amazing ensemble cast and a screenplay by a young Quentin Tarantino. Christian Slater stars as a comic book store clerk who falls in love with a prostitute played by Patricia Arquette. He tries to buy her off of her pimp, but the exchange turns violent and the young lovers are forced to run from the mob with a giant bag of cocaine in tow.

Scott took liberties with Tarantino’s screenplay, putting the film back in chronological order (unlike Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction-esque original draft) and giving the starcross’d lovers a happier ending (which created continuity problems with Reservoir Dogs, released a year earlier). But the wit, passion and large cast of fully realized characters remained intact, giving Tony Scott one of his best motion pictures and actors like Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt and Bronson Pinchot some of the most memorable roles of their careers.


Crimson Tide (1995)

Tony Scott’s first collaboration with Denzel Washington remains one of the best, with Washington starring as the first officer on a submarine, under Captain Gene Hackman. When a message comes in announcing World War III, Hackman wants to retaliate against the Russians but Washington stands in his way, for fear of starting World War III because the order cannot be confirmed. Scott’s direction has, arguably, never been better: the mutual respect between the characters, and the strong moral ground on both sides, creates a palpable tension throughout the entire claustrophobic running time whereas other, similar blockbusters would have exerted their energy on mere mass destruction. Not just a great thriller, but a great acting showcase for the Washington and Hackman, who are both giving their all in every scene.


Man on Fire (2004)

Tony Scott’s adaptation of A.J. Quinnell’s revenge novel (and a remake of the 1987 Scott Glenn movie of the same), absolutely detonates the screen. Washington reteams with the director as a former assassin turned bodyguard who realizes that the little girl he’s protecting (Dakota Fanning) just might be the key to saving his soul. When she’s kidnapped, he goes off on a roaring rampage of revenge shot with ecstatic showmanship by Scott as his macho best. Man on Fire lacks subtlety, but it’s supposed to: it portrays the unbridled fury of its hero in exactly the right, spectacular, horrifying measure.


Déjà Vu (2006)

Tony Scott’s only sci-fi movie might also have been his most intelligent film, if you can believe it. Denzel Washington stars (again, in his third of five collaborations with the director) as a New Orleans ATF agent investigating a domestic terrorist attack. He’s recruited by a top-secret government project that can utilize a new technology to spy on the past, but discovers that not only can the past be changed… he may have tried to change it before. Using some truly inventive action sequences – like a high-speed car chase with a criminal escaping the crime scene days ago – Scott not only tells a gripping sci-fi thriller, he also explains away the great Ontological paradox (or "Bootstrap Paradox") that has plagued time travel stories for decades. Underappreciated in its time, Déjà Vu was, ironically, something nobody had seen before.


What was your favorite Tony Scott film?