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Tony Scott Movies Ranked

Tony Scott Director

What did I learn after watching and reviewing every Tony Scott movie? Well, that I really like marathoning a director’s entire filmography, and I’ll be picking up at the start of another very soon.

More notably and to the point, I learned that I freaking love Tony Scott movies! I already kind of knew that, but I had only seen about half of them, and I hadn’t taken the time to really analyze what makes him and his movies noteworthy and special.

Tony Scott movies obviously have a very distinct style – very fast cuts, highly saturated frames, pounding music, and lots of shouting. I knew all that going in, but it was still fun to see these things evolve over more than 25 years. Tony Scott movies also lean extremely heavily on the charisma of their (mostly male) stars. In that way, they’re a product of their time. We don’t movies like the ones Tony Scott made in 2020, and I can’t imagine they’ll be coming back any time soon.

Some things didn’t work across his filmography. He made two trips to Mexico that didn’t bear fruit. A few films featured the very irritating stylistic choice of putting dialogue actually on the screen. Three times, he went to the exact same climactic set piece. And around the two-thirds mark in this filmography, his movies began getting absurdly long.

All that aside, I still really enjoyed the vast majority of the Tony Scott movies I watched. They break down as such:

  • Two stone cold masterpieces
  • Five super compelling, expertly crafted thrillers
  • Three strong pieces of popcorn entertainment
  • Two interesting misfires
  • Three intermittently tolerable bummers
  • One catastrophe

Without further ado, every Tony Scott movie ranked:

Revenge Movie - Kevin Costner

16. Revenge

This movie languished in development hell for a decade before Tony Scott took the director’s chair away from star Kevin Costner, who made Dances with Wolves as his debut instead. Good move.

Nothing really comes together in this turgid excuse for a slow-burn thriller. The characters are compelling, and their motivations are laughable (when they’re explained at all). Revenge doesn’t have a single moment that makes you sit up and sort of lock in with its rhythms. You’ll just sit there, gaze at your phone occasionally, and wait for it to come to a merciful end.

Click here for my full Revenge review.

*****

Man on Fire - Denzel Washington

15. Man on Fire

I had high hopes when it came to revisiting this 2004 Scott/Denzel Washington thriller for the first time since it came out. While I still found Washington to be pretty great, and his character’s relationship to Dakota Fanning’s Pita is well developed and endearing, the film just goes on and on and on with its climax being its least satisfying and interesting set piece.

It also bears mentioning that Man on Fire is pretty gross in terms of the way it depicts Mexico City as a place where white people are always threatened and Mexicans as people who do nothing but kidnap and commit other various crimes. The title card before the end credits thanking the city and its special people doesn’t undo the damage done in the preceding 150 minutes.

Click here for my full Man on Fire review.

*****

The Taking of Pelham 123 - Movie Review (2009)

14. The Taking of Pelham 123

While the two titles preceding this one are clearly misfires, this is the only movie in Tony Scott’s filmography that, for me, doesn’t need to exist. I don’t understand what about this story appealed to Scott when the great 1974 original was right there. The main change is to refocus the film away from the mechanics of the crime and onto the dynamic between the dispatcher (Washington) and the hijacker (a bizarre John Travolta). I guess it’s OK? It just doesn’t add up to all that much.

Click here for my full The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) review.

*****

Enemy of the State - Movie Review

13. Enemy of the State

Another Tony Scott movie that I liked more going into this marathon than I do at the end of it. The film is very much a product of its time (see: Seth Green’s glasses … see also: Seth Green). It really kicks off Scott’s borderline obsession with the people who watch us and the way they do it, which isn’t necessarily bad. (It gives us Deja Vu in a few years.) The fatal flaw here is that the film is super long and super repetitive. It takes an hour or so before Hackman shows up, and it feels like the film should be getting ready to end. But there’s still so. much. more.

Click here for my full Enemy of the State review.

*****

The Fan - Robert De Niro

12. The Fan

“Ayyyy Bobbayyyy! Attaboy, Bobbayyyy!”

If you want to hear Robert De Niro shout this about 150 times over two hours, The Fan is your Tony Scott movie. It’s maybe the most preposterous thing I’ve ever seen, but it goes for it in a way that I admire and kind of enjoyed. The Fan is a decidedly not great movie, but I’ll never forget watching it, which goes a long way for me.

Click here for my full The Fan review.

*****

The Hunger - David Bowie

11. The Hunger

Like The Fan, The Hunger goes through some rough patches. Unlike The Fan, The Hunger‘s rough patches are more boring than they are electrically silly. Either way, those rough patches are easy enough to forgive when they’re bookended by truly inspired sequences, and I can appreciate The Hunger more than not for those sequences.

Click here for my full The Hunger review.

*****

Top Gun - Movie Review

10. Top Gun

The movie that put Tony Scott on the map is far from his best, but Top Gun works because it’s not afraid to embracing being a product of its time. Was Scott aware that his dated film would somehow age into timelessness while he was making it? I doubt it. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Top Gun and Tom Cruise’s landscape-shattering, star-making performance is effective and super engaging.

Click here for my full Top Gun review.

*****

Days of Thunder - Tom Cruise

9. Days of Thunder

It gets written off as a racing-focused riff on Top Gun, and, well, that’s basically what it is. But Days of Thunder has higher stakes and more interesting stylistic touches than its predecessor, which place it a hair higher on my list. The only major negative is a bizarrely charisma-free performance from Nicole Kidman as Cruise’s doctor and love interest. (But she’s not really his love interest … you know …)

Click here for my full Days of Thunder review.

*****

Spy Game - Brad Pitt and Robert Redford

8. Spy Game

Ever wonder what Tony Scott’s Citizen Kane would look like? I think Spy Game gets pretty damn close, and while isn’t anywhere close to Kane in terms of quality – I’m not that crazy – it’s an entertaining, well-structured movie with a surprising amount of pathos. Ultimately, it’s just a lot of fun seeing Robert Redford reminisce on his life and outsmart a bunch of irritating, conservative suits.

Click here for my full Spy Game review.

*****

The Last Boy Scout - Bruce Willis

7. The Last Boy Scout

This movie, like The Fan and a few others on here, is totally ludicrous. I mean, pro football on a Friday night? C’mon, people.

But The Last Boy Scout nonetheless succeeds on the back of some sweaty, juicy dialogue from Shane Black’s mad expensive screenplay and, perhaps more importantly, Brue Willis’ megastar performance. He was apparently a miserable prick on set, but there’s no denying how good he is nor, I guess, how good a match he is to this particular character.

Click here for my full The Last Boy Scout review.

*****

Beverly Hills Cop 2 - Eddie Murphy

6. Beverly Hills Cop II

I hadn’t seen any of the Beverly Hills Cop movies going into this marathon, so along with checking out Tony Scott’s edition, I took a slight detour into Martin Brest’s and (*shudders*) John Landis’ respective filmographies. The first Beverly Hills Cop completely knocked my socks off and immediately took its rightful place among my all-time favorite comedies. Its breezy, improvisational style charmed me beyond my wildest expectations.

Beverly Hills Cop III isn’t worth writing another word about, but I was prepared for that going in. I was much more curious how I’d react to II, which some people I know raved about, while others (including Murphy) think it’s rather soulless. It’s much more obviously constructed than its predecessor – overdone, some might say, and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But while Beverly Hills Cop worked brilliantly as a comedy and mildly as an action-filled detective film, its sequel creates a worthy mystery and loses precious few laughs for its troubles.

Click here for my full Beverly Hills Cop II review.

*****

Deja Vu - Denzel Washington

5. Deja Vu

It takes Deja Vu quite a while to get where it’s going, but once it’s there, it doesn’t let up. If Tony Scott movies are defined by great performances by stars and incredible action set pieces, this one features one of the best of each in the form of Denzel Washington’s work as Doug CarLIN (emphasis his) and the chase sequence when he has one eye in the present and one in the past. This is, no exaggeration, one of the best action scenes ever filmed.

Click here for my full Deja Vu review.

*****

Domino - Keira Knightley

4. Domino

Nothing surprised me more during this marathon than Domino. It’s arguably Tony Scott’s worst reviewed movie, and as far as I could tell, it hadn’t received much of a re-evaluation among critics in the 15 years since its release. But I might have just missed it because when I announced that Domino completely and totally stole my heart, I was told that mine was far from the first.

Anyway, this movie also features a top-notch star performance from Keira Knightley as the titular model-turned-bounty-hunter, and more than a few super memorable set pieces (though its climactic one felt a little long in the tooth at this point in Scott’s filmography). But what I loved most about it was how messy it is. It introduces so many characters with motivations that are in conflict with one another and often don’t make any sense within their world, and watching it all unfold with a real tongue-in-cheek sense of humor was beyond delightful. More than any other film here, I can’t wait to take this one in again and see what other layers I can discover.

Click here for my full Domino review.

*****

Unstoppable Movie Review

3. Unstoppable

Tony Scott’s last movie is undeniably one of his best. It’s also his most economical with well-shot, tension-packed action from about minute 10 to minute 100. After a bummer of a train movie, Scott figures the vehicle out and delivers an absolute banger.

Click here for my full Unstoppable review.

*****

Crimson Tide - Movie Review

2. Crimson Tide

The fate of the entire world rests in the hands of two men – Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, both in their first performances in a Tony Scott movie. Whoever comes out on top will decide if we all live or die. It’s an unbelievable premise (in more ways than one), and it works because you believe they could both galvanize portions of their crew to join them. Scott’s filmmaking is also on point here. The constrained setting allows him to do some fun, creative things that he’d employ in most of his films going forward.

Click here for my full Crimson Tide review.

*****

True Romance - Movie Review

1. True Romance

Not the most creative choice, but watching True Romance was an altogether different experience than watching any of these other titles. This was me glimpsing a transcendent, all-time great motion picture. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt that watching a movie for the first time in the last six or seven years, and it rejuvenated me, exhilarated me, and inspired me in a way I wasn’t prepared for.

Make no mistake: It’s kind of a gross movie with nary a redeeming individual in sight. But for how rough around the edges it is, it also wears its heart on its sleeve, and the combination of these two qualities is truly unique. Tony Scott took a Tarantino screenplay and made a Terrence Malick movie. It’s one of a kind, and I love it.

Click here for my full True Romance review.

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