Hasitha Fernando on the essential Tony Scott movies…
Apart from being the younger brother of the legendary Ridley Scott, filmmaker Tony Scott too boasted his fair share of critically acclaimed box office efforts. In the year that True Romance celebrates its 30th anniversary we dive in to look back at Scott’s career to pick out the essential movies that celebrate the late auteur’s best…
Top Gun (1986)
Of course, this takes the top spot. I mean what other Tony Scott flick deserves that crowning glory? A crowd pleaser through and through, Top Gun catapulted Tom Cruise to the proverbial stratosphere and cemented his role as a bonafide 80s action star. Initially reluctant to take on the role of LT Peter “Maverick” Mitchell, Cruise was convinced by none other than Ridley Scott and the rest, as they say, is history.
The movie became a major box-office success going on to become the highest-grossing domestic film of 1986, in spite of a rather mixed critical reception. Top Gun’s soundtrack became one its most memorable aspects with Berlin’s magnum opus “Take My Breath Away” sweeping awards season the following year. The eagerly anticipated sequel Top Gun: Maverick, released 36 years later, surpassed the original critically and commercially, bearing testament to the IP’s powerful influence and enduring legacy.
True Romance (1993)
A rare instance where the rapid-fire dialogue and pop-culture ridden sensibilities of writer Quentin Tarantino and filmmaker Tony Scott’s signature visual style and dramatic flair met; and boy-oh-boy is it an incendiary concoction or what.
A box-office flop during its debut, True Romance has since then gained a cult following and is now regarded as one of the best American films to come out in the 90s, featuring the crème de la crème of Hollywood talent. And all of these uber-talented folk dish out such mind-blowingly brilliant performances that each character that they embody in the story deserve to have their own movie. A damn compelling watch from start to finish, True Romance is an experience that you will not want to miss.
Crimson Tide (1995)
A first-rate thriller without comparison, Crimson Tide is headlined by Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, who play a seasoned commander and an executive officer of a U.S nuclear missile submarine respectively. The story takes a real-life Soviet navy incident that transpired during the Cuban Missile crisis, and shifts the perspective to that of an American one, thoughtfully side-stepping the pitfalls seen in The Hunt for Red October, released a few years prior.
Hans Zimmer, then an up-and-coming composer in Hollywood, was responsible for scoring the epic, synth driven soundtrack for Crimson Tide and the musician was deservingly awarded the Grammy Award for “Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture” in 1996. An ace actioner that delivers on the money and then some, this is Tony Scott as his finest.
Enemy of the State (1998)
A frenetic, politically charged thriller inspired by the likes of Brian de Palma’s Blow Out and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Enemy of the State ones again sees director Tony Scott back in his A-game. The duo of Will Smith and Gene Hackman are simply electrifying, and their compelling performances are complimented by a masterful script by David Marconi.
In a lot of ways, the suspenseful story brilliantly foreshadows the controversial policies which were introduced in the aftermath of 9/11, making us pause and reflect if ‘the end truly justifies the means’ when it concerns national security. A movie that remains as powerfully relevant today as it was two decades prior, Enemy of the State is a must see topsy-turvy, rollercoaster ride unlike any other.
Spy Game (2001)
In a lot of ways Spy Game functions as a great call back to Hollywood legend Robert Redford’s excellent run of 80s paranoia thrillers such as Last Days of the Condor and All the Kings Men, whilst channelling the edgier vibe sported by the Jason Bourne spy actioners of the post-Y2K era. Brad Pitt and Redford’s surrogate father-son relationship is every bit as convincing as it is endearing and most of the action set pieces take place in flashbacks which explore the character’s brief backstory and how things eventually came together.
If you are a fan of the over-the-top, world ending shenanigans of James Bond this might not be your particular brand of Vodka, but if you enjoy a solid action thriller bolstered by great performances and a simple yet effective story, reach out for this one.
A massive, unmanned, toxic waste laden locomotive hurtles towards a densely populated city, as two men fight against time to somehow stop it. Yep, that really happened and it’s a concept that certainly sounds great on paper, but many concepts of promise have ended up being disappointments due to an ineffective execution. Such is not the issue here however.
To say Tony Scott directs the hell out of Unstoppable, is something of an understatement. His kinetic visual style amalgamated with Mark Bomback’s script is akin a match made in heaven. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, make for an intriguing watch as they attempt all options possible in their effort to avert the potential disaster. Scott’s last film before his untimely demise, Unstoppable is certainly a fitting effort to bookend a fantastic career.
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
Writer Shane Black came into Hollywood’s attention with the superb script he crafted for Lethal Weapon. Since the movie’s release and the franchise’s subsequent success Black became one of the most sought-after writers of the 80s. As such, his script for The Last Boy Scout, fetched – a then unheard of – sum of $ 1.7 million.
And yet, in spite of Bruce Willis’ involvement, the movie became a box-office dud, receiving mixed critic reviews and a lukewarm audience reception. However, like True Romance after it, The Last Boy Scout developed a sizeable cult following, which has lead it to being reappraised as one of Tony Scott’s best efforts.
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
Based on the massive success of Top Gun, producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer hired Tony Scott to work on Beverly Hills Cop II. The initial plan, however, was to make a TV show featuring Eddie Murphy and the returning cast of Beverly Hills Cop, but Murphy insisted a feature film sequel should be the way forward.
Having not worked with comedy before Scott was dubious if he was the right man for the job, but in the end he and his team ended up creating a worthy follow-up which delivers on the humor and the action in spades. If you are a fan of 80s buddy action flicks seek this gem out.
Man on Fire (2004)
English novelist A.J Quinnell’s Man on Fire had been adapted to the big screen back in 1987 with Scott Glenn playing the role of former CIA agent John Creasy. Fast forward a decade-and-a-half later and producer Arnon Milchan (who bankrolled the Scott Glenn effort), is once again looking to remake the property to appeal to modern audiences.
Michael Bay (Transformers) and Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) were considered by Milchan before ultimately settling on Tony Scott. L.A. Confidential scribe Brian Helgeland updated the original story and changed the setting from Italy to Mexico, to better reflect the present-day context. Casting Denzel Washington in an action heavy role such as this was a stroke of genius and the guy gives it his all as the conflicted, world-weary ex-assassin.
Days of Thunder (1990)
Critic reviews and similarities to Top Gun be damned. There ain’t no better movie about NASCAR racing than this. Making back nearly three times its budget – more than $ 150 million – Days of Thunder was Tony Scott’s gritty, action-packed look at the adrenaline-fuelled high-risk sport.
Tom Cruise is in top form as hotshot racer Cole Trickle, and the talented actor is supported by a damn fine ensemble cast which include the likes of Robert Duvall, Nicole Kidman, Cary Elwes and Michael Rooker. Inspired by legendary actor Paul Newman’s part-time pursuit of motor racing, Cruise too wanted embark on a project based on the world of racing and the sensational result was this white-knuckling thrill ride.
What are your favourite Tony Scott movies? Let us know on our socials @FlickeringMyth…
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.