Tony Scott, who died Sunday in an apparent suicide, had a golden touch at the box office.
He helmed such '80s touchstones as "Top Gun" and "Beverly Hills Cop II" and helped to cement Tom Cruise as one of the film business' brightest stars. Though he was never a critical favorite, Scott matured into a canny director of tightly constructed thrillers such as "Man on Fire" and "Unstoppable" and enjoyed a healthy collaboration with Denzel Washington, working with the Oscar winner on five memorable films.
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Like his brother Ridley Scott, Tony Scott's films were visually stunning — sunsets just looked more blazing and brilliant in his movies, and nobody lit actors better (just ask Cruise, who is positively incandescent in "Top Gun" and "Days of Thunder").
Here's a look at five of Tony Scott's best works from a career that spanned three decades and nearly every genre.
THE HUNGER (1983)
Panned by critics on its initial release, Scott's directorial debut is an evocative and overly ripe stunner. The vampire love triangle brings together an eclectic cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie, all of whom sizzle. There's a reason that the necking between the two actresses is a barrier-busting tour de force.
It's "Twilight" but with much more explicit sex and less moping. Heavy on atmosphere and eroticism, the plot drags at points, but it announces Scott as a director who shared his brother Ridley's painterly touch and mastery of art decoration and lighting.
TOP GUN (1986)
The flyboy action film perfectly encapsulated the jingoism of the 1980s and made Tom Cruise a superstar. The flight sequences still hold up, the romantic liaisons between Cruise and Kelly McGillis generate heat and the screenplay is a pulpy wonder (Sample line: "I feel the need…the need for speed").
But its stylized, overly saturated aesthetic transformed the look and feel of modern blockbusters, and its effects can be felt on such recent franchises as "Transformers" and "Mission Impossible."
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TRUE ROMANCE (1993)
Scott's blood-soaked, pop culture-fueled crime film was one of his rare box office whiffs, but it has justifiably developed a cult following. A modern-day retelling of "Badlands" with a script from an up-and-coming talent named Quentin Tarantino, "True Romance" may be Scott's most assured and mature work.
In particular, Christopher Walken's interrogation of Dennis Hopper is a master class in tension-building and crackling dialogue, representing some of the finest performances the two have ever given. The happy ending is a cop-out, but the adrenalized trip to get to the point is one of the best lovers on the run films in movie history.
CRIMSON TIDE (1995)
A brainy popcorn flick about nuclear brinksmanship, "Crimson Tide" is one of Scott's most restrained works. In place of the quick cuts and spectacle he often deployed, the director lingers on close-ups of stars Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington — a decision that ratchets up the paranoiac intensity.
What elevates the film is that Scott gives equal weight to both sides as the two men debate whether or not to fire missiles at a Russian nuclear installation, potentially instigating World War III in the process. Its a knotty military quandary and an egghead blockbuster that respects the audience's intelligence enough to engage in some moral gray areas.
MAN ON FIRE (2004)
Critics were horrified by the high body count and Denzel Washington's character's relish for torturing his adversaries, but they missed the fact that "Man on Fire"s' vigilantism is perfectly attuned to the post-9/11 world order.
As a CIA operative turned bodyguard, Washington's willingness to use the same brutal tactics administered by the Mexican criminals who kidnapped his young charge (Dakota Fanning) is reminiscent of Jack Bauer's own descent into the moral abyss on "24." The violence in the film is both galvanizing and horrific, and "Man on Fire" represents the best of Washington and Scott's five collaborations. A bloody good revenge flick, it's best seen on an empty stomach.