12 Underrated Ridley Scott Movies That Deserve More Love

Movies


Ridley Scott has been making feature films for close to half a century at this point. Even into his 80s, he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, as shown by a particularly busy 2021, which saw two of his films released just months apart. He’s tackled projects of all genres and has made some undeniable classics (like Blade Runner, the first Alien, Gladiator, and Thelma & Louise, to name a few). But with such a wide variety of films, it’s understandable that not all of Scott’s films have been winners. And even those that were somewhat successful or critically well-liked have flown under the radar, becoming cult films years after their initial release, if they’re lucky. They deserve their time in the sun, too.


After a busy start to the 2020s, Ridley Scott is showing no sign of slowing down. He has a new historical epic that premiered at the end of 2023 called Napoleon, which stars Joaquin Phoenix and dramatizes the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, joining a long line of movies centered around the famous historical figure. More surprisingly is his film after that, Gladiator 2 (2024), which is set to continue the story that was started in one of his greatest films. Time will tell how these movies turn out of course, but they do demonstrate Scott’s willingness to continue directing, with age seemingly unable to slow him down.


12 ‘Black Rain’ (1989)

Starring: Michael Douglas, Andy García, Ken Takakura

Image via Paramount Pictures 

Black Rain is a neo-noir action thriller that stars Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, and Kate Capshaw. The film is set in New York City and follows a couple of cops who are charged with transporting a Japanese mafia leader back to Japan for prosecution. As they navigate the underbelly of the Japanese mafia, they encounter a slew of issues and conflicts.

Praised for its stylized visual effects and action sequences, as well as its lead actors’ performances, it’s among the most underrated Ridley Scott movies that have faded into the background over the years. While Black Rain doesn’t hit all the right marks when it comes to character development or atmosphere-building, it’s still worth watching again today for any fan of the buddy cop genre.

Black Rain

Release Date
September 22, 1989

Rating
R

Runtime
125

Watch on Hoopla

11 ‘Legend’ (1985)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry

Tim Curry as The Lord of Darkness in Legend (1985)

Long before he was known for starring in the explosive Mission: Impossible series, and a year before he established himself as an action movie icon with Top Gun, Tom Cruise starred in Legend, a fantasy movie directed by Ridley Scott. The plot here is pretty barebones, with a hero needing to defeat a great evil and save a princess.

Legend can feel a little generic, and it’s far from one of Scott’s best, but neither does it deserve to be completely forgotten about. It gets the job done for what it is, and becomes considerably more entertaining once Tim Curry enters the film, given he plays the lead antagonist called the Lord of Darkness who, for all intents and purposes, is basically Satan.

Legend

Release Date
April 18, 1986

Rating
PG

Runtime
94 minutes

Rent on Apple TV

10 ‘All the Money in the World’ (2017)

Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg

Christopher Plummer in All the Money in the World
Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

All the Money in the World is a 2017 crime drama film based on the real-life kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. The film follows Paul’s mother, Gail Harris (Michelle Williams), as she tries to negotiate his release after he is kidnapped by Italian gangsters. Despite her pleas, the victim’s multi-billionaire grandfather, J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), initially refuses to pay the ransom, forcing Gail to seek help from a former CIA agent.

Exploring the ramifications of greed and excessive wealth on familial dynamics, All the Money in the World depicts the power struggles within the main characters’ family in tense and often frustrating ways. It’s among the most underappreciated of Ridley Scott’s recent movies, and deserves more attention for its remarkable portrayal of the intense event. – Hannah Saab

All the Money in the World

Release Date
December 21, 2017

Rating
R

Runtime
132

Rent on Apple TV

9 ‘Body of Lies’ (2008)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong

Russell Crowe sitting across a table from Leonardo DiCaprio in Body of Lies
Image via Warner Bros.

While it’s not one of the greatest action/thrillers of all time, 2008’s Body of Lies is certainly a decent one. It follows two men who are wrapped up in a hunt for the mastermind behind a series of terrorist attacks, with one being on the ground and consistently in danger, and the other observing events from the other side of the world, physically disconnected and safe.

To some extent, the talent involved in making this movie – primarily Ridley Scott as directed and Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe as the film’s stars – are going through the motions, but are inherently skilled enough at what they do that the results are still solid. Those who like the other collaborations between Crowe and Scott, or those who are particularly fond of Black Hawk Down should probably check this one out.

Body of Lies

Release Date
October 10, 2008

Rating
R

Runtime
128

Watch on Max

8 ‘House of Gucci’ (2021)

Starring: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto

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A movie that can be wonderfully campy at some points but a little bit of a drag at other times, House of Gucci is certainly all over the place. It’s a crime/drama film based on a true story, following one woman’s plot to murder her husband, who just so happens to have a very famous grandfather: Guccio Gucci, the fashion designer behind the Gucci brand.

Whenever House of Gucci lets its hair down and gets a little silly, it can be quite fun, with the bloated runtime of 158 minutes being the only thing preventing this from feeling like solid entertainment all the way through. At least the cast members look like they’re having fun, with Lady Gaga giving it her all, and Adam Driver once again demonstrating that he can do no wrong as an actor.

House of Gucci

Release Date
November 24, 2021

Rating
R

Runtime
195

Watch on Amazon Prime

7 ‘Prometheus’ (2012) & ‘Alien: Covenant’ (2017)

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce

Prometheus and Alien_ Covenant

Maybe it’s incorrect to call Prometheus and its sequel, Alien: Covenant, underrated in the traditional sense. Each got decent reviews from critics, and the former was a modest hit and created quite a buzz at the time of its release, thanks to it representing Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise, which he was instrumental in kicking off way back in 1979.

But perhaps Prometheus was scrutinized too carefully as an Alien prequel when that wasn’t its principal concern; more with being another story told within the world of Alien. And then, when Alien: Covenant went more directly back to the series’ roots, fans seemed to reject it for being an imitation of what they’d seen before. For Prometheus taking a unique approach to science-fiction, and Alien: Covenant updating the classic Alien formula, each deserves a little more love… or at least a little less hate than they’ve got in the years since they were each released.

Prometheus

Release Date
June 8, 2012

Rating
R

Runtime
124

Watch on Netflix

6 ‘Matchstick Men’ (2003)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman

Nicolas Cage and Allison Lohman as Roy and Angela in a convenience store in Matchstick Men
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Released in 2003, Matchstick Men is in that awkward no man’s land regarding a film’s age. It’s not nearly recent enough to be considered a “new” film by any stretch of the imagination, but given it’s still under 20 years old, it doesn’t feel like it’s been around long enough to be a classic.

All that aside, even if it were a little older, it may not quite be a “classic,” but it is a pretty good film, and feels unique within Ridley Scott’s filmography. It’s a mostly comedic crime movie about two con men and the complications that arise when one of them is suddenly reunited with his teenage daughter. With stars Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell at their best—and perfectly in their element—you know you’re in for a good watch.

Matchstick Men

Release Date
September 12, 2003

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
116

Rent on Apple TV

5 ‘The Duellists’ (1977)

Starring: Harvey Keitel, Keith Carradine, Albert Finney

Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine dueling with Swords in the Duellists
Image via Paramount Pictures

The Duellists was Ridley Scott’s debut feature film, and while it might be far from his best, it’s still a striking first film. It centers on a rivalry between two French lieutenants who have a series of duels over several years, with neither ever besting the other, and the result is that all their disputes continue to persevere and escalate.

It features two strong leading performances from Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine, showing how Ridley Scott was always great at getting good performances from his cast, even from the start. It also has some very pleasing visuals, strong attention to detail, and solid action, which are continually present in many of Scott’s films he made post-The Duellists.

The Duellists

Release Date
January 13, 1978

Rating
PG

Runtime
100 minutes

Watch on Kanopy

4 ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise’ (1992)

Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Armand Assante, Sigourney Weaver

1492_ Conquest of Paradise

1492: Conquest of Paradise was made to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus‘ discovery of America, and that’s exactly what the film’s about. It takes a romanticized, almost mythical approach to history, painting Columbus in a heroic light and shying away from his darker aspects, making 1492: Conquest of Paradise a problematic film to stomach.

When viewed as a specific depiction of the story not so concerned with historical accuracy, it largely works, as it’s visually gorgeous, brilliantly scored, filled with exciting, memorable scenes, and feels suitably mythological. But it’s perhaps risky—irresponsible even—to suppress the truth when it comes to a historical figure like Columbus. Therefore, it is wholly understandable why 1492: Conquest of Paradise is not liked by all. The filmmaking and technical qualities as a whole are remarkable, though. If they’d been paired with a story that was willing to be wholly honest about history, 1492: Conquest of Paradise could well be considered one of Ridley Scott’s best. As it stands, though, it’s admittedly an intoxicating visual and aural experience with a story that’s not going to please (and indeed hasn’t pleased) everyone.

Watch on Kanopy

3 ‘American Gangster’ (2007)

Starring: Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas smirking while looking intently in American Gangster
Image via Universal Pictures

True-crime stories certainly haven’t dwindled in popularity in recent years, and neither have biographical films about real-life figures. And Denzel Washington is still as popular an actor as he was in 2007.

So it’s a little strange that a crime film based on a true story with a powerhouse central performance by Denzel Washington has been mostly forgotten about, despite good reviews from the time of its release, but that’s the situation American Gangster finds itself in. Hopefully, it won’t disappear entirely because it holds up well and earns its lengthy runtime with an ambitious and engaging story. But for now, it’s yet another film that’s disappeared in the crowd that is Ridley Scott’s filmography, simply because there’s already so much good stuff in there.

American Gangster

Release Date
November 2, 2007

Rating
R

Runtime
157 minutes

Watch on Max

2 ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (2005)

Starring: Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons

Crusaders in Kingdom of Heaven
Image via 20th Century Fox

Presenting the Crusades on a scale that hasn’t been seen before or since, Kingdom of Heaven is one of the largest-scale epics in recent memory, rivaling the genre in its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. The plot is complex, there are numerous characters, and the battle scenes are truly spectacular, making for an enthralling movie.

The main reason it’s a lesser-known Ridley Scott film not always mentioned among his greatest works is that its theatrical release hurt it. When first released as a theatrical cut, it ran 144 minutes, offering spectacle but ruining the flow of the story and leaving too many things unexplained. A later director’s cut dramatically changed how people viewed the film, adding about 45 minutes to the runtime and making the story far more coherent and satisfying. Having to seek out a far superior version of the film hurts its accessibility and has likely led to Kingdom of Heaven remaining underrated, despite its relatively recent release and the praise from those who’ve seen the director’s cut.

Kingdom of Heaven

Release Date
May 3, 2005

Rating
R

Runtime
138

Watch on Starz

1 ‘The Last Duel’ (2021)

Starring: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer

the-last-duel-featured

The Last Duel is a historical epic that was one of the most unfairly overlooked films of 2021, so it naturally has to be included among Ridley Scott’s most underrated films. It tells an important, brutal, and hard-to-watch story about revenge and the mistreatment of women in medieval France, which still rings true – in many ways – in today’s times.

The way The Last Duel travels back in time – loosely basing itself on true events – to comment on the present is one thing that makes it so interesting. The structure helps, too, playing a series of events three times, each from a very different perspective, before the truth is revealed in the last of those perspectives, right as the film builds to a harrowing and remarkably intense climax. There’s also fantastic attention to detail and perfect performances from the whole cast; how the film couldn’t even score a single Oscar nomination remains one of 2021’s biggest mysteries.

The Last Duel

Release Date
October 15, 2021

Rating
R

Runtime
142 minutes

Watch on Hulu

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