While Hollywood lingers in sad confusion over the shocking death of one of its most accomplished directors, Tony Scott, the rest of us are left remembering some his greatest contributions to cinema over his long and storied career. Although Tony Scott did not receive the same artistic accolades as brother Ridley, many of his films reached their own iconic stature, creating genres of their own and developing near cult followings. However, amongst his many incredible works, five films in particular stand out for me as truly impressive works of cinema.
Written by Quentin Taratino and Roger Avary and released in 1993, True Romance was a film that was arguably ahead of its time. With one of the most jammed packed casts in Hollywood history- Christian Slater, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, Denis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Patricia Arquette, and a young Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini- True Romance helped launch the careers of a number of future stars as well as add to the legacies of some of Hollywood’s elite. The classic story of boy meets prostitute, robs drug dealer, moves to Hollywood to sell the drug dealer’s cocaine, and escapes one of the bloodiest shootouts in film history did not immediately resonate with American audiences. But in the years since, True Romance has become a household classic that rivals all great American Dream tales.
Man on Fire
One of many films that Tony Scott and Denzel Washington collaborated on, Man on Fire is probably the greatest revenge films in the history of movies. While slow in the beginning, all of the mysterious exposition of Denzel Washington’s character, Creasy, and his violent CIA past, is well worth the set up for Creasy’s eventual rampage after the kidnapping of the girl (a slightly less than usually annoying Dakota Fanning) that he was hired to protect. Although there are some other decent supporting roles in the film, most notably Christopher Walken, Washington steals the show. He is far more terrifying and enthralling than his Oscar-winning role as a corrupt cop in Training Day. However, the film is also brilliantly shot by Scott, and is probably his most original directorial efforts. With hazy, quick shot, rewound and sped up scenes (this will make sense if you seen it), Scott successfully captures the dark underbelly of Mexican crime and the violence necessary to combat it.
Days of Thunder
I know, I know. Days of Thunder? Really? A serious film about NASCAR racing? However, I’m willing to argue that the dramatic increase in popularity of NASCAR through the 90s and ascent to America’s most popular sport could be directly connected to this film. Granted, I’ve never watched a NASCAR race for more than ten seconds, but I have to imagine this film influenced a lot of people to tune in for at least a minute or so, maybe even converting some completely. With some of the best racecar driving footage ever captured on film, Days of Thunder is a high octane, revved up, gear shifting, add your racecar adjective here movie that proved that if you add good-looking people, melodramatic dialogue, Robert Duvall drinking moonshine, and cars racing and occasionally crashing and exploding, then any movie can be successful. It’s amazing more films haven't followed this formula. Seriously though, the movie has Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Duvall, a young John C. Reilly, and a pre-insane Randy Quaid. That has to count for something.
One of his more serious films, Crimson Tide, starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, is one of the better movies about the military, nuclear arms, and the concept of authority. Filmed in the tight quarters of a nuclear submarine, Crimson Tide paired two of Hollywood’s greatest actors in one of the greatest showdowns in film history. A young Lt. Commander, Denzel Washington, and an aging legend, Gene Hackman, square off against one another on the same vessel they were both sworn to command. Although there is some underwater action and a few small coups, the real genius of the film is the intensity of Washington and Hackman as they battle for control of the sub and attempt to properly manage the impending nuclear holocaust. However, it’s been said before that behind every great acting performance, there is a great director.
Saving the best for last, Top Gun, for all its cheesy fist pumping, motorcycle riding, tower flybying, teeth biting, chest inflating, F-14 inverting, Goose singing, shirtless volleyball playing antics, is actually the film that launched Tony Scott into stardom. And while truly ridiculous to many, if watched enough times, the film actually manages to transcend criticism and achieve a stature few movies have ever acquired. Ice cold, no mistakes. In college, my roommates and I actually watched Top Gun six times in one day. Nearly twelve hours of our lives dedicated to a single pursuit of unparalleled understanding. Who says appreciation for art is dead? Granted there was a lot of alcohol involved, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Top Gun is unquestionably one of the greatest contributions to American cinema known to man.
Patrick Edmonds is a co-founder, editor, and writer for/of The Lunch Break. His passions include Food, Arts & Entertainment, and Education. You can follow Patrick Edmonds on facebook and on Twitter @patrickedmonds1.