Cinema has lost one of its most singular directors.
“Top Gun” hit the popular culture like a megaton bomb and Scott's “MTV-style” filmmaking — with its fusion of pop/rock music and kinetic editing – made an indelible mark on the way films of that sort got made, to say nothing of what it did for the image of fighter pilots. Scott would continue being stylish for the remainder of his career, but he was never stagnate. He managed to refine/reinvent his style twice, to the point where his late work feels almost wholly removed from his early work.
What remained, though, is an energy and exuberance for filmmaking that, even in his late 60s, would run circles around filmmakers half Scott's age. Scott may have preferred style over substance, but there are few filmmakers with a style as distinct and immediately recognizable as Scott's.
His work, in addition to helping define an era of cinema, was also essential in helping to launch the careers of two of cinema's biggest names: Michael Bay and Quentin Tarantino. Without Scott blazing the trail with Simpson/Bruckheimer, we'd have never gotten Bay. (Go back and watch the first “Bad Boys,” it feels remarkably like a '90s-era Scott film.) Scott bringing Tarantino's “True Romance” script to violent, kinetic life was arguably as important to boosting Tarantino's early career as “Reservoir Dogs.”
No matter your opinion on his films, Scott was a passionate filmmaker and he will be missed.
The Essential Tony Scott:
You could make a very strong case to define “Top Gun” as the quintessential movie of the '80s. At the very least it is one of the most iconic films of the era. Launching Tom Cruise's career into the stratosphere and defining a style of filmmaking that is still being emulated today, “Top Gun” is without a doubt one of the most enduring blockbusters ever made.
“Man On Fire” (2004)
I consider this Scott's masterpiece. It's the perfect synthesis of story and his inimitable style. This is also the last great performance we've seen out of Denzel Washington as he unleashes Creasy (an alcoholic bodyguard tormented by personal demons) onto the scum of Mexico City's underworld to rescue the precious little girl who finally gave him something to live for. Stylish and brutal, but also with a vital, beating heart, “Man On Fire” is Scott at his best.
“True Romance” (1993)
There are some who consider this Scott's best film, and it's difficult to disagree. Amid the howling violence and overall craziness of the proceedings, at its core, “True Romance” is still a story about two kids who fall madly in love with each other and do anything and everything they can to be together. With great performances from Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt (his stoner Floyd still garners laughs), Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater (probably his best performance), this is one of Scott's most underappreciated films.
“The Last Boy Scout” (1991)
Scott worked with two brilliant writers in the '90s. The first, obviously, was Tarantino, with the second being Shane Black. “The Last Boy Scout” is the fruit of their collaboration and the film is one of the great forgotten action flicks of the '90s. And when you see the faux Hank Williams Jr. performance in the opening as it skewers the country singer's “Monday Night Football” anthem, you realize that Scott could actually imbue his films with some sly satirical smarts when he tried.