We’re all shocked and saddened by the news that filmmaker Tony Scott, 68, died Sunday in what appears to be a suicide (possibly prompted by inoperable brain cancer). As tributes and obits roll out today, most will identify Scott with Top Gun, his biggest commercial success — but as with most filmmakers, his biggest hit was far from his finest work. Though Scott never quite made the move from blockbuster-maker to critical and Oscar darling that his brother Ridley did, the second half of his career was marked by entertainments that refused to pander or condescend to their audience in the way that big-budget action films often did. He was a filmmaker who first found a style and then found substance, and it’s worth taking a moment to praise a few of his films that may have been under-appreciated or undervalued. Five of our favorites are collected after the jump.
Though his most financially successful films (Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II) were released in the mid-1980s, Scott reached something of a creative nadir by the end of that decade with films like Revenge and Days of Thunder. But he got something of a jumpstart when he signed on to direct True Romance, a gritty, smart, wildly inventive screenplay by then-unknown Quentin Tarantino (who sold the script before making Reservoir Dogs). The finished film is, somehow, a perfect fusion of their very different styles: Scott’s intense lighting and hyperactive camera are present, sure, but he also varies his tempo, invests in Tarantino’s characters, and knows when to dial down and simply let us observe the electrifying dialogue and tough-guy sparring of Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in the film’s most memorable scene.