I was as shocked and stunned as anyone when I heard about the death of Tony Scott. The circumstances were as strange as the actual death – Tony Scott sadly committed suicide by jumping off a bridge – but let’s leave the numerous, emotional obituaries to those who knew the man better than us moviegoers did and remember his talent through the long-established medium of a pot-stirring Top 10. I’m the first to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Tony Scott’s movies, especially in the last decade, but when I thought about how many films he had directed and how many great actors he had worked with I knew that a Top 10 would be an easy thing to do, even considering the fact that I just know I am about to leave out a number of movies that other fans will rush to mention. I am, and always have been, a Ridley Scott fanboy but there’s no denying that the Scott brothers, as a whole, were a powerful force in the movie business and that they managed to come a long way from their early days. From an unforgettable HOVIS advert to the creative output of Scott Free Productions, that is quite a journey and these brothers made it look pretty easy with their mix of craftsmanship, energy and attitude. So let’s celebrate a life by picking out some bloody good movies.
#10 The Taking Of Pelham 123 (2009)
I have still never seen the original version of this film and I’m sorry to shock you all with that confession. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed this stylish and retooled use of the material. Denzel Washington (quite a regular in Tony Scott movies through the years) is very good as the flawed hero while John Travolta has a lot of fun as the villain of the piece.
#9 Deja Vu (2006)
It suffers from a number of stupid character decisions and a few moments of overediting (in a Tony Scott movie? never!) but this sci-fi thriller featuring good old Denzel Washington once again has some good ideas in the mix and proves to be a unique and offbeat “time travel” movie.
#8 Enemy Of The State (1998)
I like Enemy Of The State. I don’t love it but I like it. What I do love, however, is that cast – a veritable who’s who of Hollywood from that time. Will Smith stars alongside Gene Hackman in an ensemble that features *deep breath* Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King, Barry Pepper, Ian Hart, Jake Busey, Scott Caan, Jason Lee, Gabriel Byrne, James LeGros, Jack Black, Jamie Kennedy, Seth Green, Philip Baker Hall, Jason Robards and Tom Sizemore. Not bad for a slick and entertaining thriller about modern technology, eh.
#7 Top Gun (1986)
Like many movies from the 1980s, it’s easy to dismiss Top Gun and make fun of it. But just admit it. You loved seeing Tom Cruise fly around and be a bit cocky. You loved seeing Val Kilmer in the mix too. And Meg Ryan. And Kelly McGillis. In fact, this has another absolutely superb cast (Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, Anthony Edwards, Tim Robbins, etc) but the one name I cannot allow myself to miss out from everyone involved is, of course, the mighty sir Kenneth of Loggins. Berlin may have had the BIG hit with “Take My Breath Away” but decades later I don’t even have that song in my collection while Danger Zone is happily in my latest playlist (and I will put that here to be read again and again . . . . . . . despite my wife insisting that I shouldn’t share that fact with anyone, ha!).
#6 The Fan (1996)
It’s a standard psycho thriller. Wesley Snipes is the baseball player getting some unwanted attention. But that unwanted attention is thanks to Robert De Niro. Great fun, even if it is a bit by-the-numbers for most of the runtime.
#5 Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
It’s brash and unsubtle but Beverly Hills Cop II also happens to be a great action comedy. Eddie Murphy was still in top form and Brigitte Nielsen was in that weird phase when she made me fancy her (sorry, I was young, she was Amazonian and exotic). Another great cast helps, including the double act of John Ashton and Judge Reinhold, and it remains a lot of fun to this day.
#4 The Last Boy Scout (1991)
Shane Black, the writer responsible for such action greats as the Lethal Weapon movies and The Long Kiss Goodnight tore up the rulebook and reinvigorated many of the staples of the genre with his directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Those of us who lived through the 80s, however, saw things changing as the 90s began and one of the movies that stands as a marker of that change is this one. Bruce Willis is great in the lead role, the script is as good as you would expect and the movie manages to have its cake and eat it, just like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang would do over 20 years later.
#3 The Hunger (1983)
Let’s be shallow for a moment. Join me, join me, come in, the water’s lovely. Because, yes, Tony Scott gave all of us a very beautiful moment when he gave us the scene from The Hunger that shows Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve being lovers. David Bowie is put to great use as one of the main characters but this is, overall, a stylish and moody piece that works both as an effective vampire movie and also as a slick stake in the heart of the traditional aspects of the older vampire stories. From the opening sequence that assures us that “Bela Lugosi Is Dead” to a finale as poignant, in many ways, as it is horrible, The Hunger may not be a complete success but it deserves to be included in any overview of the touchstone vampire movies from the subgenre.
#2 Spy Game (2001)
I was hoping to enjoy Spy Game when I rented it out some years ago. I didn’t expect to love it. Funny how movies can seem to come along and just jump straight amongst your established favourites. This action thriller tells the story of two men, the older and experienced Robert Redford and the younger and slightly naive Brad Pitt. Pitt has landed himself in some very hot water and nobody can do anything to help him. Redford knows how the system works and knows what can be done if it isn’t pushed through the official channels. Slowly but surely, he attempts to put all of the pieces in place in this superb film.
#1 True Romance (1993)
The words of Quentin Tarantino. The style of Tony Scott. The powerhouse cast that includes top performances from Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Gary Oldman, Bronson Pinchot, Brad Pitt (a small role but still a memorable one), Tom Sizemore, James Gandolfini and Christopher Walken looming over Dennis Hopper in THAT scene that stands as one of the greatest of all time, in my opinion.
So there you have it. I didn’t even mention the ones I really dislike and I even had to, much to my surprise, omit one that I thought was a solid contender for such a list – the superb barnstorming double act of Denzel Washington against Gene Hackman that IS Crimson Tide.
Bring on your own favourites and let’s celebrate the life of Tony Scott in a completely movie-centric manner. May he rest in peace while his movies continue to entertain viewers for years and years to come.