Tony Scott: His Five Essential Movies

A look back at the filmmaker's most indelible films, from Top Gun to True Romance

By Alexis L. Loinaz Aug 20, 2012 1:00 PMTags
Tony ScottKevin Winter/Getty Images

The world has lost a top-gun filmmaker.

The entertainment biz is mourning the shocking death of director Tony Scott, who jumped off a bridge in San Pedro, Calif., Sunday in an apparent suicide.

The prolific filmmaker, whose directing and producing credits span some of Hollywood's most memorable blockbusters over the last 30 years, leaves behind an esteemed body of work celebrated for its high-octane energy and adrenaline-pumping kineticism.

Here are five essential films that are part of his indelible legacy as a director.

Paramount Pictures

1. Top Gun: The high-flying, jet-fighter action flick literally launched Tom Cruise's career into the stratosphere and remains Scott's most popular and beloved movie, ushering in an era of late-'80s testosterone-fueled filmmaking that would set the pace for his body of work. The 1986 film grossed a staggering $353 million worldwide, turned Cruise into the biggest star on the planet, and marked the first of several collaborations with überproducer Jerry Bruckheimer. (Scott was reportedly working on a sequel at the time of his death.)

Paramount Pictures

2. Beverly Hills Cop II: Scott took on the unenviable task of helming the highly anticipated follow-up to Eddie Murphy's 1984 hit, Beverly Hills Cop. The sequel marked his second collaboration Bruckheimer—and his first shot at action comedy—and they struck gold: The 1987 film pulled in almost $300 million worldwide and fulfilled Scott's dream of working with Murphy.

3: True Romance: A botched drug deal proves to be the catalyst for this gloriously blood-soaked road movie starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. Although the 1993 film was a box-office disappointment—it grossed a paltry $12 million—it is notable for two things: firing up a heated national conversation over its raw violence, and for its razor-sharp script by an upstart named Quentin Tarantino, who'd go on to release Pulp Fiction the following year.

4. Crimson Tide: Scott swiped the best elements of Top Gun's military machismo, jammed it into an armed submarine and took the plunge with leading man Denzel Washington. The result: a $157 million-grossing study in claustrophobia and nuclear-war paranoia. The film also marked the first of five successful collaborations between Scott and Washington, who together would go on to make Man on Fire, Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and Unstoppable.

5: Enemy of the State: Back in 1998, Will Smith was rocketing to superstardom after the back-to-back successes of Independence Day and Men in Black. But it was Scott who tapped Smith's ability to handle more complex material—and showcase a broader acting range—with this surveillance thriller that played up society's Big Brother fears amid exponential advances in technology. It remains one of Scott's best-reviewed films, which The New York Times' Elvis Mitchell singled out for its "hurtling pace, nonstop intensity and a stylish, appealing performance by Will Smith in his first real starring role."