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10.25.2013by: Alex Maidy
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Top 10 Signature Elements in Ridley Scott Movies

Ridley Scott's latest film, THE COUNSELOR, opens today and fans of the director are looking forward to seeing a brand new genre from the filmmaker. With a great cast, a great writer, and a great story, THE COUNSELOR looks to join the annals of Ridley Scott's varied legacy. But, despite genre differences, THE COUNSELOR is bound to share a lot in common with all of Scott's films. Here are the top 10 elements that are found in almost every Ridley Scott film and just help to make him the great director he is. If you know of something that didn't make the list, feel free to add it to the talk back below.

#10 - Innovation

Ridley Scott is consistent in choosing no two projects that are alike. His forays into science fiction, BLADE RUNNER, ALIEN, and PROMETHEUS, are wholly different from one another. Even PROMETHEUS, as a sequel to ALIEN, is very different from it's predecessor. A GOOD YEAR is so different from any other Scott film that it almost seems weird to attribute it to him. MATCHSTICK MEN and HANNIBAL are vastly different while his next film, the biblical epic EXODUS, may seem a lot like KINGDOM OF HEAVEN on the surface but they couldn't be more different.

#9 - Fans

Ridley Scott loves fans. Well, he loves industrial and urban environments. Think of the films that include dark alleyways, hallways, venting, and you have most of his movies. BLADE RUNNER uses ceiling fans and box fans quite extensively. Hell, you may call it a stretch but even HANNIBAL has Japanese fans on the wall.

#8 - Water and Smoke

Ridley Scott loves using weather as a masquerade for his films. The use of water and smoke is prevalent in his movies. BLACK RAIN, WHITE SQUALL, 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE and G.I. JANE make a good use of weather to convey the setting while BLADE RUNNER and ALIEN use smoke as a curtain to more mysterious settings in the films. Scott's movies are atmospheric because he elegantly uses atmospheres to convey the tone of the film.

#7 - Music

Ridley Scott prefers the music in his films to be sweeping, bold, and classical. He often works with the same composers during stretches of his career. Be it Vangelis, Hans Zimmer, or his most recent collaborator Marc Streitenfeld. Maybe THE COUNSELOR composer Daniel Pemberton is the next musician du jour.

#6 - Military/Police

More often than not, Scott's films utilize the rank system of armed forces to reinforce themes of structure, order, and discipline. G.I. JANE and BLACK HAWK DOWN are the obvious military examples, but central characters being police officers appear in BLACK RAIN, AMERICAN GANGSTER, BLADE RUNNER, and BODY OF LIES as well. Ancient militaries also feature in GLADIATOR, ROBIN HOOD, and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Needless to say, Ridley Scott knows his way around guns and swords and not just for epic battle sequences but also to convey his thematic message.

#5 - Extreme Lighting

This may not be just a Ridley Scott technique, but look at any Ridley Scott film and you will see how important the lighting is to the film. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is bright and washed out while LEGEND is ethereal and fantastic. BLADE RUNNER is dark most of the time but when natural light pervades the story it signals something significant. While Tony Scott took a much different approach to lighting, Ridley always has kept it as real as possible.

#4 - Cityscapes

Whether it be the sprawling future cities of BLADE RUNNER or ancient Jerusalem in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, Scott often relies on massive metropolitan settings as characters to his story. Even Osaka, Japan in BLACK RAIN and New York in AMERICAN GANGSTER become an integral part of the story. But Scott doesn't just use cities, he develops them and uses them to further develop the characters of his tales.

#3 - Strong Women

Starting with Ripley in ALIEN, Ridley Scott has never featured women who are weak and stereotypical to their gender. Instead, we have THELMA & LOUISE and G.I. JANE all the way to Vickers and Shaw in PROMETHEUS. Basically, any main character in a Ridley Scott movie is going to be strong, intelligent, and powerful, regardless of gender.

#2 - Daddy Issues

Whether it be Vickers and Weyland in PROMETHEUS or Roy and Angela in MATCHSTICK MEN, Scott's entire filmography is full of characters who do not have the best relationships with their fathers. You could even factor in Commodus in GLADIATOR or Roy Batty and the creator of the androids from BLADE RUNNER. All of them have to come to terms with less than ideal relationships between themselves and their creators.

#1 - Director's Cuts

Ridley Scott is pretty much the innovator if not the inventor of the Director's Cut. The numerous versions of BLADE RUNNER exist because Scott shoots so much material that it warrants alternate views at what the film is or could have been. Couple that with his extended versions of LEGEND and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and you have perfect examples of movies that were improved if the director had been given the final edit.

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9:37PM on 10/28/2013
"Scott's movies are atmospheric because he elegantly uses atmospheres"
"Scott's movies are atmospheric because he elegantly uses atmospheres"
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5:43AM on 10/27/2013
This is a good point. The only other director I can name off the top of my head who always features strong, take-charge women in his films is Woody Allen.
This is a good point. The only other director I can name off the top of my head who always features strong, take-charge women in his films is Woody Allen.
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5:40AM on 10/27/2013
An interesting subject for a list. I would've included Strong Ensemble Casting as almost all of his films, even ones that feature a lead protagonist, like Gladiator or Robin Hood, rely on the strong turns from a large entire cast to be successful. A few exceptions, like A Good Year which features just a few actors throughout, but for the most part you will find large, strong ensembles in Scott's films.
An interesting subject for a list. I would've included Strong Ensemble Casting as almost all of his films, even ones that feature a lead protagonist, like Gladiator or Robin Hood, rely on the strong turns from a large entire cast to be successful. A few exceptions, like A Good Year which features just a few actors throughout, but for the most part you will find large, strong ensembles in Scott's films.
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10:37AM on 10/26/2013
Tch, fanboys. ;)
Tch, fanboys. ;)
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8:51AM on 10/25/2013
Why change something when it works on so many levels and genres. He's a very intelligent film maker that captivates, entertains and plays to emotion.
Why change something when it works on so many levels and genres. He's a very intelligent film maker that captivates, entertains and plays to emotion.
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8:35AM on 10/25/2013
His director's cuts have a reputation for often being markedly superior to the theatrical ones.
His director's cuts have a reputation for often being markedly superior to the theatrical ones.
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8:33AM on 10/25/2013
I like that his films never feel like propaganda when these elements are included in them.
I like that his films never feel like propaganda when these elements are included in them.
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8:32AM on 10/25/2013
"...and fire in the sky!"
"...and fire in the sky!"
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