In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ridley Scott

  • Introduction
  • Book-Length Studies and Compilations
  • Documentaries on Scott and Specific Films
  • General Filmology-Based Essay Collections

Cinema and Media Studies Ridley Scott
Nancy Kang
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0363


British director, producer, and artistic entrepreneur Sir Ridley Scott (b. 1940– ) has established a solid cinematic legacy since his education and training at the West Hartlepool College of Art, the Royal College of Art, and the National Film and Television School. He amassed formative and formidable industry credentials in graphic design, writing, editing, art direction, and advertising in his early years. He was at the helm of thousands of television commercials for notable brands like Levi’s, Apple, Chanel, and Pepsi. Scott completed his first full-length feature film, a well-received period drama set in Napoleonic France titled The Duellists in 1977. His award-winning oeuvre has consistently aimed for variety, commercial success, and global reach. He founded the London-based Ridley Scott Creative Group, which includes such notable production companies as RSA Films and Scott Free. Scott is the brother of late director Tony Scott (b. 1944–d. 2012) and father of directors Jake, Jordan, and Luke Scott. His significant successes include works in science fiction, crime thrillers, unique character studies, and historical epics. He has tackled narratives exploring myths and world-building, projects centered upon a provocative individual that address a broader threat to humanity, and visionary experiments that probe speculative futures in urban wastelands and outer space. Whether through adrenalized survival stories, often about war or other intergroup conflicts or through stylized meditations on the dark side of human nature, he has won industry credibility and a diverse fan following. His big-budget, visually arresting narratives usually convey ethical messages about human choice. His output rarely alienates the audience, inviting viewers in without ideological heavy-handedness or undue abstraction. He has steadily earned a place in the top tier of contemporary Hollywood directors alongside such names as James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino. The heroic epic Gladiator (2000), feminist road-trip movie Thelma & Louise (1991), and Somalian war chronicle Black Hawk Down (2001) garnered Scott three Academy Award nominations for directing. Because his films tend to target mainstream audiences and resist easy categorization, defining what exactly comprises “Signature Scott” remains an elusive endeavor, unless one counts his lifelong commitment to ingenious visual display. Criticism of his films has included accusations of leaky, predictable, or contrived storylines; stereotyped or otherwise unnuanced characterizations; and the privileging of spectacle over substance. The films nonetheless address key social, cultural, or philosophical dilemmas. Survival in a corrupt or otherwise unwelcoming society, the path to redemption after a fall, the virtues of honor and self-reliance, and the alluring complexities of evil remain lifelong preoccupations. A visualist entranced by the capacities of light and the thrill of unapologetic artistry, Scott continues to open portals to ancient, lost, and latent worlds. His startling panoramas and carefully wrought narratives are likely to remain influential for generations.

Book-Length Studies and Compilations

Solid assessments of Scott’s work have appeared in book form and continue to the present day. Some, like Schwartz 2001, Parrill 2011, and LoBrutto 2019, are geared toward academic readers, while the majority—like Sammon 1999, Clarke 2002, Robb 2005, Bonnal 2014, and Antoniazzis 2021—are suited for a popular readership given the accessibility and appeal of his films to a wide cross-section of viewers regardless of their willingness or ability to define him as an auteur. Robb 2018 and Ian 2020 are attractive publications primarily intended for display and enjoyment by cinema buffs. Raw 2009 is a painstaking effort to document and explicate a universe of themes, correlations, influences, and topics broached by Scott’s life and works. Martin 2019 delves into the complex philosophical universe of the films, explicating post- and transhuman implications while highlighting common fears and desires located at the limits of our very being. Most of the volumes tend to start with a brief assessment of the director’s biography; they then offer some commentary on his ongoing entrepreneurial ventures in production, design, filmmaking, television, and a host of other arenas; finally, they analyze his films in the order of release. Because his output has been prolific, topics of discussion tend to be vast and varied.

  • Antoniazzis, Riccardo. Ridley Scott: Cinema e visioni dalla New Hollywood. Viterbo, Italy: Edizioni NPE, 2021.

    A combination of critical filmography and survey of lifetime achievement, this text scrutinizes Scott’s films by offering detailed plot summaries and thematic analysis accompanied by black-and-white film stills. The main foci are generic variety, key concepts across genres, and the director’s ability to maintain individuality despite industry constraints.

  • Bonnal, Nicolas. Ridley Scott et le cinéma rétrofuturiste. Paris: Dualpha, 2014.

    Concentrates on “retrofuturism,” or Scott’s penchant for combining historical narratives and ancient myths with cultural reference points related to the present and future. What results is conceptual, spatial, and temporal fluidity and an openness to contradiction. Emphasizes Scott’s investment in myth and religion, adventure, initiation stories, and the moral perils of capitalism.

  • Clarke, James. Ridley Scott. London: Virgin, 2002.

    An often colloquially written volume that devotes a chapter to each film. While a more polished manuscript would be ideal, the chronological lineup adroitly surveys storytelling techniques, main characters, themes, setting, and cinematic skills alongside cast and crew lists, details on musical scores, posters, excerpts from reviews, grosses, distribution details, and major awards.

  • Ian, Nathan. Ridley Scott: A Retrospective. London: Thames & Hudson, 2020.

    An attractive coffee table book, this text features fourteen loosely thematic chapters, an epilogue, and a filmography. Double-page full-color spreads, behind-the-scenes narratives, and key quotations from Scott and influential critics are also included.

  • LoBrutto, Vincent. Ridley Scott: A Biography. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2019.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvd7w7s1

    This critical biography features very concentrated, digestible chapters on content and form starting with the short film Boy and Bicycle (1961) and ending with All the Money in the World (2018). Stresses Scott’s entrepreneurism, visual artistry, worldview (on such topics as the origins of life, the philosophy of death, religion, and the nature of eternity), and breadth of contributions to global cinema.

  • Martin, Jean-Clet. Ridley Scott: Philosophie du monstrueux. Brussels: Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2019.

    DOI: 10.14375/NP.9782874497223

    This careful analysis interrogates the transhuman and post-human possibilities of Scott’s oeuvre, especially regarding creatures that meet or exceed human parameters (namely robots, aliens, monsters, and divine beings). Interrogates the films’ depictions of our immortal yearnings and the risks we are willing to take to achieve them.

  • Parrill, William B. Ridley Scott: A Critical Filmography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

    This scholarly volume places Scott’s work in the context of Western cinematic history, offering a wealth of comparative commentary and industry tidbits in a dry but readable way. The brief chapters run from Boy and Bicycle (1961) to Robin Hood (2010), covering reception and key themes.

  • Raw, Lawrence. The Ridley Scott Encyclopedia. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2009.

    A boon for Scott researchers, this volume takes a holistic approach to the director as industry mogul and artist. Entries fall into four categories: analysis of directorial work until Body of Lies (2008), plus a sample of twenty-five commercials; personnel involved in Scott’s professional networks; major thematic foci; and cinematic influences on Scott. Individual entries include production information, sample reviews, short critical analyses, and a bibliography of print and online sources.

  • Robb, Brian J. The Pocket Essential Ridley Scott. 2d ed. Harpenden, UK: Pocket Essentials, 2005.

    A brief, pithy introduction to Scott as visual innovator, this overview addresses his biography, films, and their critical reception, as well as putting forth supplementary resources for further reading. A shorter first edition was published in 2001.

  • Robb, Brian J. Ridley Scott: Promethean. Hailsham, UK: Hemlock, 2018.

    A fully illustrated, detailed biography of Scott aimed at popular audiences that underscores the director’s evolution from his art school days to being a master of “world building.”

  • Sammon, Paul M. Ridley Scott: The Making of His Movies. New York: Orion, 1999.

    Filmmaker Sammon conducted multiple interviews with Scott for over a decade to produce this first book-length exploration of the director’s films. This slender volume is an insider’s view that includes multiple photographs and a final section featuring Variety reviews up to G. I. Jane (1997). Chapters are thematic, comparative, and grouped by film.

  • Schwartz, Richard A. The Films of Ridley Scott. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2001.

    This short volume is a well-crafted academic overview of Scott’s oeuvre that covers The Duellists (1977) to Hannibal (2001) using sophisticated thematic analyses. Each film-based chapter includes a cast list, production details, brief synopsis, reception summary, and an extended discussion section.

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