British motion-picture director, known for creating spectacular visual images. Born in South Shields, England, Scott studied art and filmmaking at the Royal College of Art in London. He began his career as a set designer and later worked as a director of television programs and commercials, many of which won awards.
Scott made his feature film debut with The Duellists (1977), about a feud between two French military officers during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). Based on “The Duel,” a short story by Polish-born British novelist Joseph Conrad, the film is distinguished by its dramatic visual beauty. Scott achieved his first major commercial success with Alien (1979), a science-fiction horror film starring American actor Sigourney Weaver. The film’s manipulative editing and shocking images proved terrifically popular among audiences, and it produced a number of sequels. Scott’s next film, Blade Runner (1982), is a futuristic detective story starring American actor Harrison Ford. Notable for its striking depiction of a dark, congested urban landscape, Blade Runner has won an enthusiastic following. Scott’s other films of the 1980s include Legend (1985), a fantasy film; Someone to Watch Over Me (1987), a romantic thriller; and Black Rain (1989), a crime story set primarily in Japan.
In 1991 Scott had great commercial and critical success with Thelma and Louise, a feminist story about two women on the run from an oppressively male-centered culture. Less successful efforts were films such as 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), White Squall (1996), and G.I. Jane (1997). Scott then directed Gladiator (2000), an epic about a Roman general who loses a power struggle and must become a gladiator to survive. The film was a huge success, winning the Academy Award for best picture and earning Scott a nomination for best director. Scott also had a hit with the thriller Hannibal (2001), a sequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
The slick visual flair of Scott’s films owes a great deal to his early work in advertising and set design. Aside from making feature-length motion pictures, Scott owns a television advertising company with his brother Tony, who is also a film director.