7 Ridley Scott Historical and Period Films Ranked

Exploring Ridley Scott’s Historical Epics: A Ranking and Review

Few directors today have a connection to historical epics and period dramas as strong as Ridley Scott. These grand, action-packed films, reminiscent of the 1950s and 1960s classics like “Ben-Hur” and “Spartacus,” were once popular. Scott, however, keeps the genre alive with his upcoming projects and past works. In this article, we’ll dive into a ranking of Ridley Scott’s historical epics, exploring the highs and lows of his contributions to the genre.

7. ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ (2014)

“Exodus: Gods and Kings” stands as Ridley Scott’s weakest foray into the epic genre. This cinematic interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Exodus revolves around the rivalry between Moses and Ramses II, the Hebrews’ journey to freedom, and the plagues that befell Egypt.

While the film boasts moments of impressive action and effects, thanks to its $140 million budget, it ultimately falls flat. The pacing drags, and the performances often feel lackluster. For a superior take on the same source material, viewers are better off turning to classics like “The Ten Commandments” or “The Prince of Egypt.”

6. ‘Robin Hood’ (2010)

“Robin Hood,” released in 2010, is another questionable addition to Scott’s filmography. While it offers more frequent action than “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” this take on the classic Robin Hood legend remains forgettable.

The film attempts intrigue by merging Robin Hood’s story with real historical figures, adding a grounded element. However, it struggles with pacing and fails to make the most of its talented cast. Despite its efforts, “Robin Hood” falls short of leaving a lasting impression.

5. ‘The Duellists’ (1977)

“The Duellists” marks the turning point in Scott’s epics ranking where quality starts to shine. Although it is shorter in scope compared to his other historical dramas, this feature film debut packs a solid punch. Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, it focuses on the personal conflict between two men.

Clocking in at under two hours, the film offers engaging sword fights and compelling performances, particularly from Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine. This directorial debut showcases Scott’s ability to deliver a straightforward and engaging story.

4. ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise’ (1992)

Underrated and underappreciated, “1492: Conquest of Paradise” commemorates the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. The film provides a mythologized take on the historical event, featuring spectacular visuals and an outstanding Vangelis score.

While the film sidesteps some uncomfortable aspects of Columbus’ life, it remains a thrilling epic with a unique approach to storytelling. Its divisive narrative is balanced by its artistic qualities, making it a noteworthy entry in Scott’s filmography.

3. ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (2005)

“Kingdom of Heaven” offers some of the best action in Scott’s filmography, set against the backdrop of The Crusades. To fully appreciate the story’s coherency, however, viewers should opt for the director’s cut, which adds around 50 minutes of content.

While the events are fictionalized to a degree, the film’s massive battle sequences and engaging storytelling make it a well-crafted epic. The director’s cut, in particular, elevates “Kingdom of Heaven” to a level that deserves more recognition.

2. ‘The Last Duel’ (2021)

With an exceptional cast and a unique narrative structure, “The Last Duel” is a standout in Scott’s body of work. Set in 1386, the film explores the final use of trial by combat in France, presenting the story from three perspectives.

The film’s thought-provoking approach and relevance to modern conversations, like the #MeToo movement, contribute to its impact. While challenging and lengthy, “The Last Duel” impresses with its performances, production design, and action sequences.

1. ‘Gladiator’ (2000)

“Gladiator,” which won Best Picture in 2000, remains Ridley Scott’s crowning achievement in the epic genre. Set in the Roman Empire, the film follows a former soldier seeking revenge after betrayal, murder of his family, and enslavement as a gladiator.

Utilizing cutting-edge technology, “Gladiator” presents a visually stunning and emotionally engaging narrative. The film’s fantastic performances, particularly from Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix, contribute to its timeless appeal.

Keeping the Epic Genre Alive

Ridley Scott’s contributions to the historical epic genre have varied in quality, but they all reflect his dedication to storytelling on a grand scale. While some films fall short, others, like “Gladiator” and “The Last Duel,” stand out as exemplary works. As Scott continues to explore historical narratives, audiences can look forward to the spectacle and depth that define the epic genre.

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Stevie Flavio
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