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The Biggest Ridley Scott Movies Of All Time

Ridley Scott has been directing movies for over four decades now. In that time, he's produced enough classics to ensure that every generation has their own unique Scott feature to call their own. Maybe you are a child of the '70s and Scott's second feature, "Alien," blew your mind. Perhaps you were born later in the 1990s and "Gladiator" was a film that redefined what movies in the 21st century could look like. The list goes on and on, with projects ranging from "Thelma and Louise" to "The Martian" also serving as milestones in Scott's career. Given how influential his works have been, it's no surprise that Scott has also helmed a surplus of box office hits.  

Looking at the highest-grossing movies at the worldwide box office in Scott's filmography, it's remarkable to see how many genres he's worked in as well as the varying factors that have informed his most lucrative titles. Scott hasn't cultivated box office glory from tying himself to just one franchise; over the decades, he's consistently worked with exciting new artists while daring to venture into genres many saw as unfeasible in the modern film landscape. To look upon the biggest Ridley Scott movies of all time is to appreciate the qualities that have defined this enduring filmmaker.

12. Black Rain

Thanks to the director's reputation, some of Ridley Scott's movies have entered the theatrical marketplace trumpeting the news that a new movie from the director of "Alien" has arrived. For 1989's "Black Rain," however, the primary draw was leading man Michael Douglas, who was coming off a spectacular 1987 with "Fatal Attraction" and "Wall Street." With Douglas winning a Best Actor Oscar for his work in the latter, it's no surprise that there was a heavy amount of anticipation surrounding whatever he did next.

In the end, "Black Rain" grossed $133.9 million worldwide. This was below the global haul of "Fatal Attraction," although the $45.8 million domestic gross of "Black Rain" exceeded the North American total of "Wall Street." The film also proved highly profitable on a $30 million budget and was Scott's first movie since "Alien" to exceed the $100 million mark at the global box office. A popular leading man and a premise that played on widespread fears of Japan in 1980s American cinema helped ensure that "Black Rain" was a hit, even if it wasn't solely due to Scott's participation as a filmmaker.

11. Black Hawk Down

Some directors take years in between movies, but not Ridley Scott. Not only does this filmmaker regularly make new films, but he's also been known to occasionally deliver two movies in a single year. That happened in 2001 when Scott kicked off the year with "Hannibal" and then delivered "Black Hawk Down" in the final days of December 2001. Rather than being a movie that was too rushed to resonate with audiences, Scott's second 2001 directorial effort proved to be a big hit, particularly in North America.

Grossing $159.6 million worldwide, "Black Hawk Down" made $108.3 million of that haul from its ticket sales in North America. That's no surprise given that the film was about U.S. military personnel and mirrored how future box office hits based on soldiers, like "Lone Survivor" and "American Sniper," would make drastically more in their home country than in international territories. "Black Hawk Down" benefited mightily from launching its wide release theatrical run in January 2002, where it had less competition to face than if it had opted to open a month earlier during the bustling Christmas season. Generally positive reviews and a renewed pro-America sentiment after 9/11 just months earlier also helped give "Black Hawk Down" enough ammunition to hit impressive heights at the box office.

10. Alien

Some directors take a couple of movies to hone their craft, like John Krasinski, who didn't knock it out of the park until his third directorial effort, "A Quiet Place." For Ridley Scott, though, it only took his second feature, the original "Alien" in 1979, for this filmmaker to establish himself as a director of note. This original science fiction classic immediately took pop culture by storm, birthing a new landmark film in the genre and an iconic filmmaker in the process.

Dropping into movie theaters in May 1979, "Alien" managed to crack $184.7 million globally, which included a $78.9 million domestic haul big enough to make it the fifth-biggest movie of 1979 in North America. To this day, it's still the third-largest entry in the "Alien" franchise at the worldwide box office, surpassing later entries (including ones from the 21st century) even before taking inflation into account. Sci-fi horror wasn't usually something that became a box office smash back in the late 1970s, but "Star Wars" had already redefined the financial heights cosmic fare could soar to. Building on that film's box office achievements, "Alien" proved that darker entries in the genre could be just as lucrative as more light-hearted family fare — simply by providing an incredibly scary film moviegoers just had to see. With that achievement, "Alien" didn't just become a hit, it also launched the career of one of the most enduring genre filmmakers working today.

9. Kingdom of Heaven

Medieval-themed movies always tend to play better overseas than they do in North America. European moviegoers especially tend to flock to such titles, which regularly employ mythology and/or historical figures from those countries. This is good news for titles like "Kingdom of Heaven," which just wiped out at the North American box office. Scott's first foray into a historical epic after "Gladiator," "Kingdom of Heaven" made only $218.6 million worldwide, including a dismal $47.3 million domestically. Among 2005 releases in North America, the significantly costly "Kingdom of Heaven" made less than much cheaper titles like "Kicking and Screaming" or "Just Like Heaven."

Whereas "Gladiator" had earned positive marks from critics, "Kingdom of Heaven" was dragged down by mixed reviews. Plus releasing a new action movie, even an R-rated one, in May 2005 in such close proximity to "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" was a miscalculated scheduling move. Scott also expressed his belief that the marketing for the film in the U.S. just didn't click and expressed particular frustration for how much the ads in this territory emphasized the romantic-drama elements but not the political details. Adding insult to injury, Scott also felt that last-minute edits to trim the movie down hurt its overall quality, which could have contributed to its mixed reviews. If the beloved director's cut of "Kingdom of Heaven," released later, had made it to screens instead, perhaps it would have ended up higher on this list!

8. Alien: Covenant

In 2012, "Prometheus" returned "Alien" to its status as a big box office draw after titles like "Alien: Resurrection" and "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem" diluted the franchise's financial stature. With all that box office moolah, it was only a matter of time before more "Alien" movies pounced on moviegoers. Enter "Alien: Covenant," a 2017 film that embraced a largely new cast but was decidedly a follow-up to "Prometheus," thanks to the continued presence of Michael Fassbender as the android David.

While "Covenant" carried over an actor and themes from "Prometheus," it didn't carry over that film's level of financial success. "Covenant" could only muster $238.5 million worldwide, a sizeable 41% drop from the global gross of "Prometheus." This was especially disappointing since, unlike its predecessor, "Covenant" made its connections to the "Alien" movies explicit by plastering the xenomorph beast on its posters and trailers. Part of the issue was squeezing "Covenant" into May 2017, a month packed with "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Pirates of the Caribbean," as well as the elongated five-year delay between its release and "Prometheus." Whatever caused these box office results, it was clear that "Covenant" returned the "Alien" franchise to its troubled pre-"Prometheus" state financially.

7. American Gangster

Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott reunited once again for "American Gangster" after their unforgettable collaboration on "Gladiator," but leading man Denzel Washington was front and center in this movie's marketing campaign, and for good reason. Washington is a reliable box office draw, especially in adult-skewing crime dramas.

Bringing all these big-name artists together turned out to be an easy recipe for box office glory, as "American Gangster" grossed $267.9 million worldwide. The success of this project was especially felt in North America, where its sizeable opening weekend was seen as rejuvenating a stagnant box office marketplace. That impressive debut led to a $130.1 million North American sum that cemented the title as Washington's biggest movie ever domestically. It was also a welcome change of pace for Crowe at the box office given that his last two projects, "Cinderella Man" and "A Good Year," failed to catch on with moviegoers. The same could be said for Scott, who scored his first $100 million+ domestic grosser with "American Gangster" since "Black Hawk Down" six years earlier. As a cherry on top for the filmmaker, "American Gangster" was also the director's third-biggest movie ever at the global box office at that time. Sometimes, movies bring together a bunch of A-list talent and end up with disappointing box office, but in the case of "American Gangster," so many famous faces yielded sizeable financial rewards.

6. Exodus: Gods and Kings

2014 was a banner year for movies based on tenets of Christianity making big bucks at the box office. "Noah" cracked $350 million in its worldwide box office run, while smaller-scale features "God's Not Dead" and "Heaven is for Real" exceeded all expectations by becoming sleeper hits. Capping off the year, though, was a box office dud in the form of "Exodus: Gods and Kings." Costing a whopping $150 million to make, "Exodus" had a star-studded cast and a prime mid-December release date that seemed to position it as the next big box office hit from Ridley Scott.

That never came to pass, though, as "Exodus" grossed just $268.3 million worldwide, less than twice its budget. The film also made 33% less than "Noah" globally while also selling fewer tickets than significantly cheaper Scott directorial efforts like "Hannibal." One problem may have been that "Exodus" was telling the story of Moses, a tale moviegoers had already seen plenty of times before. There was some novelty to seeing a big-budget version of "Noah's Ark" that was missing from "Exodus." Meanwhile, moviegoers in December 2014 looking for a big-budget event movie to watch opted for the final "Hobbit" entry while negative reviews further sank the chances of "Exodus" living up to the other faith-based box office hits of 2014.

5. Robin Hood

Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe have reteamed multiple times in the years after "Gladiator" in the hopes of replicating the enormous success of that 2000 movie. However, none of their subsequent projects have resonated anywhere near as powerfully with moviegoers as that sword-and-sandal epic. To date, the last effort Scott and Crowe teamed up on was "Robin Hood," a 2010 feature that leaned on the "Gladiator" comparisons by having Crowe play a vengeful figure in a period-era setting heavy with grit and violence.

Though it may have seemed like an easy recipe for making the "Gladiator" lightning strike twice on paper, there were always going to be inherent problems in making "Robin Hood" just a profitable venture, let alone the second coming of "Gladiator." For one thing, Robin Hood is a character who's been adapted so many times, even in modern cinema, that just doing another film starring this archer isn't enough to get people's attention. Meanwhile, "Robin Hood" came out in 2010, a whole decade after "Gladiator." The latter film hadn't been forgotten or become hated, but it wasn't the buzziest thing in the marketplace anymore. Combining all that with the enormous budget, it's clear that "Robin Hood" was a severely challenged project. Considering all that, its eventual $322.4 million worldwide haul isn't great (it's less than half of what "Gladiator" made), but its box office results could have been a lot worse. Just ask the 2018 Taron Edgerton "Robin Hood" movie.

4. Hannibal

For a decade, audiences had been waiting patiently to see more of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. Thanks to his Oscar-winning performance in the 1991 Best Picture winner "The Silence of the Lambs," Hopkins' version of Lecter had become a pop culture icon whose quotes and mannerisms were widely imitated. Given this popularity and the fact that there were other books featuring the character, it was only a matter of time before a "Lambs" sequel would grace movie theaters. Such a project arrived from Ridley Scott in 2001 in the form of "Hannibal."

It wouldn't have surprised anyone to learn that such a highly anticipated follow-up — and the only non-"Alien" sequel Scott has directed to date — would turn into a moneymaker. However, it still proved surprising just how lucrative "Hannibal" was. Its opening weekend scored the fourth-biggest domestic debut ever at the time, an astonishing feat for an R-rated thriller released outside of either summertime or the holiday season. It's also still the largest opening weekend ever for a Ridley Scott film. But "Hannibal" wasn't just a box office powerhouse in its first few days of release. It proceeded to be enough of a draw for moviegoers everywhere that "Hannibal" eventually chowed down on a $350.1 million worldwide gross. This was a sizeable increase from its predecessor's $275 million global haul. The public's sizeable appetite for all things Hannibal Lecter was made apparent with the box office success of "Hannibal."

3. Prometheus

Though the summer of 2012's box office would be dominated by "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises," "Prometheus" was still one of the most hotly-anticipated titles of the season. How could it not be? Ridley Scott's return to sci-fi cinema, and the "Alien" franchise in particular, had been eagerly awaited for years. Distributor 20th Century Fox played on this interest by putting together a spectacular marketing campaign for the film that sold distinctive imagery and an ominous tone that ensured the film wouldn't just come off as a rehash of "Alien."

In the end, "Prometheus" ended up doing solid business, if not quite as big as its pre-release hype would suggest. Grossing $402.4 million worldwide, "Prometheus" had no problem vastly exceeding the global box office hauls of all prior "Alien" movies and all but one of Ridley Scott's directorial efforts at that time. The production was also a significant feat for its cast members, serving for example as Michael Fassbender's biggest non-"300" movie ever at the worldwide box office. If there was anything keeping "Prometheus" from hitting the next level of box office success, it was probably the mixed fan reception to the title. There was lots of pre-release internet hype for "Prometheus," but this was one case of fans finding the marketing more enticing than the actual film. Even with that caveat, though, "Prometheus" proved to be enough of a hit to reaffirm Scott's ability to produce appealing moneymakers.

2. Gladiator

Before "Gladiator" showed up on movie theater screens around the world in May 2000, the sword-and-sandal epic had been dead for years. The idea of plunking down so much cash on a new entry in this genre felt like a fool's errand. Of course, history has shown that "Gladiator" was anything but that. Even before it became the first Ridley Scott directorial effort to win a Best Picture Oscar, "Gladiator" was a massive success thanks to its performance at the global box office.

Worldwide, "Gladiator" handily earned $456.4 million. Despite this filmmaker having spent decades helming iconic motion pictures, "Gladiator" became the first film directed by Scott to clear the $300 million threshold globally. Even more impressively, "Gladiator" was the second-biggest movie of 2000 at the worldwide box office, exceeding the sums of titles like "Cast Away," "Dinosaur," and "X-Men." Decades after it first debuted, "Gladiator" is also still one of the largest historical fiction titles ever in North America. All these accomplishments showed that any genre could be revived if the premise resonated with audiences. "Gladiator" delivered that by producing a mixture of an underdog story with brutal violence, a unique concoction that proved to be catnip for general moviegoers. The rare summer blockbuster to work as both popcorn fare and an award season darling, "Gladiator" took Ridley Scott to new box office heights.

1. The Martian

Before "The Martian" was launched into cinematic orbit, Ridley Scott wasn't quite on a cold streak, but he had experienced his fair share of box office underperformers. In the years since "Gladiator" in 2000, only one of Scott's films ("Prometheus") had exceeded $400 million globally. Otherwise, he had largely directed films like "Robin Hood" that failed to turn a profit or indisputable box office bombs like "Body of Lies." That would change dramatically with "The Martian," which wasn't just a run-of-the-mill hit, but became the biggest movie of Scott's whole career.

Grossing $655.1 million globally, "The Martian" was buoyed by several key factors that put it over the top. For starters, the film had a great premise, a simple concept (man tries to survive after being marooned on Mars) with obvious and engaging stakes. Packing the film with A-list stars, conveying a hopeful atmosphere in the marketing, and scoring great reviews further helped "The Martian" exceed all financial expectations. His first directorial effort to crack the $500 million mark worldwide, "The Martian" proved that a veteran filmmaker like Scott could still deliver a sizeable hit.