As Alien: Covenant is headed for the cinemas this Friday, Ridley Scott's career seems now firmly planted in the sci-fi realm.
Although he's most widely known for the likes of Blade Runner, Alien and so on, it wasn't always so. His first film, The Duellists, was a swashbuckling thriller about two French officers who have a years-long feud that often results in bloody battles. Black Rain, meanwhile, was a glamorous noir set in Japan with Michael Douglas, whilst A Good Year was probably the most unique film in his oeuvre - a romantic comedy.
In any event, his eye for framing, production design and cinematography has always worked its way through. Here's our pick of his five best scenes.
5. GLADIATOR - "My name... is Maximus Decimus Meridius."
There's a story that Russell Crowe initially refused to say the infamous line because he felt it was the cheesiest dialogue he'd ever read. Uttered by anyone else, maybe. However, Crowe's steely gaze and physical presence meant that he was able to carry it off with ease. Jaoquin Phoenix's expression throughout the scene is incredible. You can see the humiliation, the fear and the uncontrollable anger all muddled and mixed together. What Scott does with this scene, however, is the staging. Phoenix's guards are cloaked in black whilst Crowe's motley band of gladiators are in tattered grey, the music of Hans Zimmer lifts off as Crowe bites out the dialogue. When you see it in context - after a breathtaking battle sequence - it's incredibly powerful.
4. AMERICAN GANGSTER - "You gonna shoot me? In front of everybody?"
American Gangster was a real departure for Ridley Scott's previous work. Known for an acute eye for detail and painstakingly precise scenes, American Gangster was closer to a documentary than anything he'd done up until that point. Denzel Washington's performance as Frank Lucas was raw and unhindered. This scene, in particular, shows both Denzel Washington's incredible range - going from loving family man to ruthless killer in the space of thirty seconds - and Scott's ability to edit and pace a scene. It's all over in a flash, but the effect of it lasts well after the scene ends.
3. THE DUELLISTS - The sabre duel
Ridley Scott has often credited Stanley Kubrick with inspiring him in his career and, out of all of his films, The Duellists is the film that bares the most resemblance to Kubrick. Somewhat derisively described as "Barry Lyndon with a pulse", The Duellists was Scott's first feature-length film and showcased a number of the trademarks he'd become known for - incredible cinematography, sharp pacing and editing, and an unmatched eye for detail. Like Barry Lyndon, The Duellists is beautifully staged and has some of Scott's finest cinematography, but this scene is by far the most exhilarating scene in the film and features brutal, physical performances from Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine.
2. BLADE RUNNER - "Deckard...B-6264."
Blade Runner was derided initially by critics for being too boring, and while it's true that it does move a somewhat stately pace compared to his other films, it can never be accused of being boring. This scene, where Deckard chases the replicant Zhora through the neon-drenched streets of Los Angeles with the intent of gunning her down, is one of the more exciting beats in the film. Yet, in spite of that, it still has an elegance and grace to it that Scott's never really been able to replicate (pun unintended). Vangelis' bluesy soundtrack is punctuated by blasts and we see Zhora barreling through plate glass as the neon signs bounce off it, all as Deckard - by compulsion - keeps firing. It's only when it's all over and he sees what he's done that we gets a sense of where he's at. Is he upset? Is he out breath? So much of Blade Runner was brilliantly ambiguous, and none more so than this.
1. ALIEN - "Don't touch it! Don't touch it!"
Alan Ladd, Jr. - then the head of 20th Century Fox - said that audiences would respond to the terror in Alien the same way audiences reacted to Hitchcock's Psycho. That's a fair statement, because Ladd also said that he is - to this day - still utterly disturbed by this scene. John Hurt parodied it in Spaceballs, it's been a feature in most Alien films, but none have come close to replicating it. It's all about the microbial details in it. Ian Holm's Ash - who we later find out is a synthetic who admires the alien's purity - is glancing over every so often at Hurt. The camera moves ever so slightly in as Hurt begins to cough. There's no music needed and the cacophony of screaming and yelling soon drowns out any need for it. It's a horrific, terrifying birth sequence - and one of the best horror moments in film history.