1. Blade Runner (1982)

IMDb: 8.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

Storyline: Blade Runner is a dystopian science fiction thriller that takes place in a gloomy, futuristic Los Angeles, 2019. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, an alienated, burnt-out blade runner (a cop tasked with terminating ‘replicants’, bioengineered beings designed to look like humans). When four fugitive replicants led by Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) return to Earth illegally, Deckard, who wants nothing more than to abandon his profession, is coerced back into service to hunt them down.

Blade Runner is among the most celebrated works of director Ridley Scott, solidifying his position as a master auteur in the realm of science fiction. The film challenged the status quo of the time, reframing and evolving the sci-fi genre from mere fantastical displays into a platform for intellectual musings on philosophy, religion, and what it means to be human. Moreover, Blade Runner’s highly stylized visual aesthetics influenced an entire generation of filmmakers and redefined the cyberpunk subgenre, lending it a never-before-seen sense of grandeur and depth.

Over the years, the movie has grown beyond being just an iconic scientific fiction. It has become a cultural phenomenon, a touchstone in cinema that continues to shape the narratives and aesthetic choices of modern films within and beyond the genre. Various interpretations of its ambiguous narrative have led to several re-edits and releases of the film, including Scott’s own ‘Final Cut’, cementing Blade Runner’s legacy as a film that provokes contemplation and discourse.

2. Gladiator (2000)

IMDb: 8.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

Storyline: In Gladiator, Russell Crowe plays Maximus, a Roman general loved by the people and loyal to their aging emperor, Marcus Aurelius, who intends to make him the regent. However, the corrupt son of the emperor, Commodus, ascends the throne after murdering his father, and orders the death of Maximus due to envy of his popularity. When Maximus escapes but finds his family slain, he turns into a vengeful gladiator, determined to avenge his family’s death and the usurped throne.

Gladiator was a historical drama and epic that brought director Ridley Scott immense acclaim, including his first and only Academy Award win for Best Director. A significant example of Scott’s prowess in helming massive, visually jaw-dropping films, Gladiator also showcased intimate character studies amidst its grandeur. Scott masterfully intertwines the grand spectacle of Roman battle scenes with an emotionally charged story of love, loss, and revenge.

The movie’s success resurged an interest in historical epic dramas in Hollywood, with Ridley Scott’s own works, including ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, following in its footsteps. Gladiator gave cinematic realism to the ancient world, the likes of which had not been seen in Hollywood for decades. Moreover, it helped to further cement Russell Crowe’s status as a leading man in Hollywood. Its phenomenal soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer remains one of the greatest and most influential in film history, shaping the sound of epic cinematic music for the 21st century.

3. Alien (1979)

IMDb: 8.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

Storyline: Alien follows the seven-member crew of commercial spaceship Nostromo who, returning to Earth, are diverted by a distress call from a desolate, uncharted planet. There, they encounter an alien lifeform that begins to systematically kill them, turning their mission into a fight for survival. As the creature preys on the crew through the ship’s claustrophobic corridors, it’s up to the resilient Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, to confront it.

Regarded as a benchmark in the genre, Alien is Ridley Scott’s magnum opus that catapulted him into international acclaim. The film blends science fiction and horror tropes – the existential dread of the unknown encountered in space, and the lurking terror within the confines of the ship – to create a unique cinematic experience that leaves the audience on edge. This mash-up was a novelty at the time, creating a subgenre of its own that inspired scores of ‘Alien’ clones.

Alien is celebrated not only for its innovative genre fusion but also for its groundbreaking portrayal of a female protagonist. In a terrain dominated by male heroes, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley emerged as a beacon of female empowerment, setting a precedent for future female-led action and horror films. Essentially, Alien is an ingenious representation of primal fear, one that haunts the viewers long after the movie ends, making it a landmark film in Ridley Scott’s illustrious career.

4. The Martian (2015)

IMDb: 8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

Storyline: The Martian is a tale of human resilience and ingenuity set in the hostile landscape of Mars. Astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, is left stranded by his crew on the Red Planet, thinking him dead after a violent storm. With meager supplies and no contact with Earth, Watney must rely on his wits and spirit to survive, eventually managing to establish communication, leading to a grand and risky interplanetary rescue mission.

Ridley Scott’s return to the space genre with The Martian was met with widespread critical acclaim. Balancing humor with the human will to survive in dire circumstances, Scott proved himself once again as a storyteller who could conjure immersive and epic spectacles while maintaining the emotional core at the heart of the narrative. The Martian differs from his previous space epics with its optimistic and lighthearted tone, displaying Scott’s dexterity with varying narrative styles.

The movie was a box office success and marked a triumph in Ridley’s career after a line of less successful ventures. The Martian was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Matt Damon, making it a milestone in Scott’s directorial journey. The film, blendings science and entertainment, ignited audiences’ interest in the exploration of Mars, thereby contributing to contemporary space discourse.

5. American Gangster (2007)

IMDb: 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Storyline: American Gangster is a biographical crime drama based on the life of Frank Lucas, a notorious drug dealer who smuggled heroin into the United States in the coffins of American soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. The film documents Lucas’s rise to power and wealth, defying the established underworld order, and the relentless pursuit of a determined detective Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe, to bring him to justice.

Ridley Scott’s venture into crime biographies with American Gangster resulted in a gritty, meticulously crafted tale that presented an unflinching look at America’s drug problem. Guided by powerful performances from Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, and a sharp script by Steven Zaillian, Scott managed to translate real-life crime drama into an engaging narrative, delivering a film as compelling as it is significant.

What makes American Gangster stand out in Scott’s filmography is the profound social commentary underpinning the tale. As it explores a man’s ascendency in a corrupt system, the movie skilfully reveals the prevailing racial and societal issues in America. Furthermore, the film emphasizes the ultimate futility of Lucas’s venture, thus reinforcing society’s moral stand on crime.

6. Black Hawk Down (2001)

IMDb: 7.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

Storyline: A grueling depiction of the Battle of Mogadishu, Black Hawk Down is the story of 100+ U.S. soldiers who were dropped into the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia in a mission gone wrong. An initially simple mission to catch two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord turns into a desperate fight for survival when two Black Hawk helicopters are shot down, stranding the surviving soldiers and instigating a deadly overnight fight with the city’s militants.

With Black Hawk Down, Ridley Scott showcased his prowess for tense and claustrophobic action sequences, set within the backdrop of a conflict-ridden city. Scott, one of the industry’s best when it comes to constructing scenes of grandeur and scale, used his abilities to great effect in depicting the chaotic, deafening battlefield. The film functions as an immersive war chronicle, taking the audiences into the heart of the catastrophic operation and its devastating aftermath, creating a vivid and unflinching portrayal of modern warfare.

Black Hawk Down packs a visceral punch, with Scott’s masterful rendition offering a gritty examination of the horrors of war. While the film is not overtly political, it nonetheless incites viewers to question the inhumanities of conflicts and the real cost of war. It earned two Academy Awards and furthered Scott’s reputation as a diverse and skilled filmmaker capable of handling a vast range of genres.

7. Thelma & Louise (1991)

IMDb: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Storyline: Thelma & Louise is an iconic feminist road movie, examining the transformation of two ordinary women, played by Geena Davis (Thelma) and Susan Sarandon (Louise), into fugitives. Their aimless weekend trip evolves into a cross-country escape from the law after Louise kills a man who attempted to rape Thelma, leading to an unforgettable showdown at the Grand Canyon.

A departure from his typically epic and genre-heavy films, Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise is celebrated for its invigorating take on feminist themes. Achieving cult status as a classic feminist film, it explored issues of sexual assault, female friendship, and female discontentment with patriarchal norms, wrapped up in a buddy road movie. Through the journey of its titular characters, the film displays a spirited defiance against gendered stereotypes, a rarity for its time.

Thelma & Louise, despite its initial controversy, struck a chord with audiences, redefining women’s roles in the cinematic universe and refuting conventional storytelling paradigms. The movie fostered a groundbreaking shift in Hollywood’s perception of female-led stories. It remains an enduring symbol of women’s liberation and empowerment in pop culture, making it a pivotal film in Scott’s career as well as in the annals of feminist movies.

8. Prometheus (2012)

IMDb: 7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 73%

Storyline: Prometheus is a pseudo-prequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise, concerning a crew of explorers who embark on a mission to a distant planet to find humanity’s creators, known as ‘Engineers.’ What initially appears as a groundbreaking scientific expedition turns grim as they unravel horrifying secrets that may end humanity, leaving the crew in a desperate struggle for survival.

Prometheus marked Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise after three decades, manifesting his ability to adapt and expand his own mythological world with current cinematic technology. The film exhibits Scott’s signature emphasis on visual luxury and atmospheric terror, albeit with a heavier focus on grand philosophical themes. Combining horror and hard sci-fi elements, it serves as an ambitious testament to Scott’s mastery over the genre.

Despite mixed reviews, Prometheus is recognized for its visual effects and grand thematic ambitions. It sparked renewed interest in the Alien franchise, leading to a sequel, ‘Alien: Covenant.’ The enduring appeal of Prometheus and the crucial questions it raises about creation and humanity’s place in the universe only attests to the lasting impact of Ridley Scott’s cinematic vision. The film stands as another intriguing addition to Scott’s repertoire of genre-defining science-fiction films.