Tony Scott may not have been as critically beloved as his older brother, Ridley (Alien, Blade Runner), but his death of an apparent suicide on Aug. 19 marks the passing of one of Hollywood’s most profitable directors.
Best-known for his audacious action sequences, Tony Scott often partnered with mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. The star power and daring stuntwork in Scott’s pictures came to influence the modern school of big-budget directors such as Michael Bay (Transformers).
Here’s a look at Scott’s five most memorable films.
The Hunger (1983)
Scott came to embody blockbuster moviemaking, but his feature debut was a slow-burning, unabashedly arty horror film.
The Hunger stars David Bowie and French screen legend Catherine Deneuve as a pair of modern-day vampires who cruise the New York club scene in search of a plasma fix.
The movie had a bloodless showing at the box office, but it remains a compelling picture, not least for putting an emphasis on eroticism in a way that few vampire films had done before it.
Top Gun (1986)
With over $350 million in worldwide ticket sales, Top Gun is Scott’s most profitable outing. It’s also his most iconic.
Set in an elite U.S. flight academy, the film stars Tom Cruise as Maverick, an upstart pilot who must rein in his hotheaded impulses in order to learn a lesson about teamwork. (He also beds one of his instructors, played by Kelly McGillis, showing he needs no instruction whatsoever in the art of romance.)
Top Gun is a textbook Hollywood action picture: tough-talking, stunt-laden and deeply patriotic. It also inspired homoerotic YouTube tributes and likely popularized the word "wingman" in the dating lexicon.
True Romance (1993)
Arguably the best-written Scott film, thanks to a brash, eminently quotable script from a hot young talent by the name of Quentin Tarantino.
True Romance is essentially a chase picture, in which a charming miscreant named Clarence (played by Christian Slater) invites a world of pain after inadvertently stealing a stash of cocaine from a drug cartel and going on the lam with his prostitute girlfriend (Patricia Arquette).
Christopher Walken provides a memorable turn as a psychotic gangster named Vincent, and film buffs have a special affection for a harrowing scene in which Dennis Hopper, as Clarence’s dad, disparages Vincent’s Sicilian heritage. Judging by YouTube commentary, this sequence alone inspired a new generation of screenwriters.
Crimson Tide (1995)
This thriller could also be called Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington’s Submarine Shout-Fest.
The Soviet Union, America’s cold-war counterpart, may have dissolved, but the Russian Federation is still lousy with nukes. When word arrives that some Russian ultranationalists are threatening to blast the U.S. and Japan with missiles, Capt. Frank Ramsay (Hackman), commanding officer of the patrolling submarine U.S.S. Alabama, threatens a pre-emptive strike. Ramsay’s right-hand man, Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter (Washington), argues in favour of caution.
Their philosophical differences lead to a lot of artful yelling and accusations of mutiny. Crimson Tide remains a compelling exploration of the nature of U.S. military response.
Enemy of the State (1998)
This paranoid thriller is not only an action vehicle for Will Smith, but a scaremongering exercise on the perils of surveillance technology.
Robert Clayton Dean (Smith) is out shopping for lingerie for his wife when a friend secretly slips him an illicit video of the recent murder of a U.S. senator. Very soon, Dean becomes the object of an invasive computer-assisted manhunt led by a crooked official at the National Security Agency.
Dean’s only hope in escaping this Orwellian nightmare is a former intelligence pro played by Gene Hackman.
Enemy of the State foreshadowed the erosion of civil liberties and personal privacy years before the rise of the Office of Homeland Security and Facebook.