5 “Legend” (1985)
Although “Legend” failed to achieve commercial success during its initial release, the fantasy adventure film has achieved cult status, especially as a childhood favorite of ’80s adolescents. Starring Tom Cruise as Jack, the champion of unicorns, and Tim Curry as the evil Lord of Darkness, the project was originally conceived by Scott as an art house film intended to explore the darker side of fairy tales that had been sanitized in Hollywood versions. Although audiences didn’t initially embrace the film, “Legend” managed to earn an award from the British Society of Cinematographers and nominations from BAFTA and the Oscars for Best Makeup.
4 “Black Hawk Down” (2001)
Based on the Mark Bowden book “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War,” Scott’s 13th film was anything but unlucky for him. The gripping, gritty war story starring Josh Hartnett and Ewan McGregor fictionalized the events of the Battle of Mogadishu that took the lives of 19 U.S. soldiers and over 1,000 Somalis. Hailed for its frenetic pace which successfully simulated battlefield chaos, “Black Hawk Down” earned Scott his third Best Director nominations and received the Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound.
3 “Thelma & Louise” (1991)
The film that “launched” Brad Pitt’s movie career has an ending so iconic it’s been referenced and parodied countless times, from “The Simpsons” to Taylor Swift and Shania Twain. Scott shot the epic last shot in just 45 minutes, but that bittersweet finish almost didn’t make the final film. Rumor has it that the studio execs were unhappy that “Thelma and Louise” ended on such a tragic scene, but since they couldn’t come up with anything better, Scott got his way and the ending stayed. He must’ve been right, too, since the film went on to earn six Oscar nominations and won for Best Screenplay.
2 “Gladiator” (2000)
Scott has made a number of historical dramas throughout his career, but to date none has been such a smashing critical and commercial success as “Gladiator.” Starring Joaquin Phoenix as the usurper Commodus opposite Russell Crowe as the gladiator Maximus, the movie became one of the highest-grossing pictures released in 2000. Garnering critical acclaim from BAFTA and the Golden Globes, the epic film went on to receive 12 Oscar nominations and five wins, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Crowe.
1 “Alien” (1979)
As the science fiction horror film that launched Scott’s Hollywood career, “Alien” proved a hit with audiences and critics alike. The story that pit Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) against the titular creature was so realistically terrifying, it earned the film an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Reputedly inspired to make the film after viewing the success of George Lucas’ “Star Wars,” Scott’s first foray into the genre has been named by the American Film Institute the seventh best sci-fi film ever made.