The 19th of August 2012 was a sad day for the film industry when it was reported that film director Tony Scott had committed suicide. While mystery still surrounds the exact nature of his death, what is certain is his cinematic legacy and place in film history.
Born in North Shields, England in 1944, in many ways Tony Scott represented the rock ‘n’ roll of the film industry. His movies were often loud, occasionally dumb, relied heavily on spectacle and were never really the critic’s favourites, but they consistently packed out cinemas and DVD shelves, thrilled punter upon punter and always left the audience cheering for more.
Coming from a background as an advertisement director, Scott’s movies were often criticised as “style over substance” but the sheer impact and adrenaline he was able to translate to the screen maintained his status as a fan favourite, he was AC/DC, Bon Jovi and The Foo Fighters. While Wes Anderson tuned his ukulele, Scott was stacking up his amps and arranging his 30-piece drum kit complete with gong.
Scott’s breakout success was when he was hired by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to direct a young Tom Cruise in one of his most iconic films, Top Gun in 1986. Prior to this his only major directing credit was for The Hunger in 1982 however this was a commercial flop. Scott was reluctant to take Top Gun at first but his films since would suggest he never looked back.
Top Gun set a new bar for glossy, full-throttle summer blockbusters and Scott would eventually team with Bruckheimer and Simpson four times and Bruckheimer on his own (after Simpson’s death) a further two times. Scott’s films, although never really straying from the action or action-thriller genres, did evolve each having its own personality, but Tony knew what he was good at and stuck to it.
Lets not damn with too much faint praise though. Yes action was important to his movies, but that’s not all they were. Scott’s films always tried to tell a story, he stayed away from all-out action stars like Arnie, Stallone et al even though their primes coincided, never allowing the brain/brawn scales to tip too far. Similarly in what would turn out to be his latter years, when superheroes began to run rife, Scott maintained his distance, electing to continue making movies for those who preferred their action to have a more traditional feel.
His films were occasionally over-stylised but never without flair. Whilst brother Ridley got a little serious every now and then, Tony stuck to his guns (literally). Despite his film’s style being a blessing and a curse, there are a lot of people in Hollywood that have tried and failed to make films with the panache of a Tony Scott production only to have fallen by the wayside. His influence can been seen throughout tinsel town and yonder in the careers of directors like J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau and high-concept television shows such as 24.
After helping to launch Tom Cruise’s career, he went on to develop a number of regular collaborators. As well as the aforementioned producers Bruckheimer (who’s career direction took a thematic and notably successful turn after the success of Scott’s Top Gun) and Simpson, Scott was regularly joined by composers Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams as well as actors Christopher Walken, James Gandolfini, Gene Hackman, Mickey Rourke, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt and most famously Denzel Washington, so he must have been doing something right.
Freely admitting he probably moved the camera a little too much on occasion, Scott would often shoot with 4 cameras simultaneously (often with at least one in a helicopter), helping him to develop that trademark frenetic style. Not all of his films are classic, maybe none on them is, but they’re full of great moments and that is what we’re here to celebrate because make no mistake, the cinematic landscape would have been a far more boring place over the last 30 years if it wasn’t for Anthony David “Tony” Scott.
Each entry may contain spoilers, though I have left each title spoiler-free so you can flick through even if you haven’t seen all of his films.
Each film only gets one entry.
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