Ridley Scott is regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers in recent years who have set the bar high for sci-fi filmmaking.
In his 45 years as a filmmaker, Scott directed a total of 27 films including Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), The Martian (2015) and Gladiator (2000).
Even in his early years as a filmmaker, Scott was able to showcase his exceptional creativity in the sci-fi genre with films that continue to influence filmmakers up to this day. He is also a recipient of a BAFTA for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema in 1995 and was knighted for his outstanding contribution to the British film industry.
In this article, we’ve listed our 57 favorite Ridley Scott quotes on filmmaking. If you find this article helpful then we would be grateful if you could share it with other filmmakers.
Also don’t forget to check out our other filmmaker quote articles from the masters of cinema series.
Ridley Scott Quotes on Film and Moviemaking
I’m a moviemaker, not a documentarian. I try to hit the truth.
In my view, the only way to see a film remains the way the filmmaker intended: inside a large movie theater with great sound and pristine picture.
I think moviemakers are dramatists.
[on Alien: Covenant (2017)] I wanted to really scare the shit out of people. Totally, that’s the job. It’s like if I’m a comedian, I want to make you laugh like hell. My day job is to be an entertainer. Some of it is art, but fundamentally I entertain–never forget that.
I try to make films, not movies. I’ve never liked the expression “movie”, but it sounds elitist to say that.
[On directing] You prove how reliable you are. Which I am, I always have been–it’s part of my thing.
Scott on the Script and Development Process
The fundamental of anything as a director is material, material, material–script, script, script–once you have the script everything else is straightforward.
Once you crack the script, everything else follows.
I learned years ago that a great script ain’t gonna land on your desk. When I’m not working I’m also constantly developing material. But this [The Martian (2015)] came to me in one of those rare occurrences. I’ve been with Fox more than 12 years now, and there’s a first-look deal. They came to me and said, “Look, we’ve got this script and you might want to look at it.” I read it and was highly entertained and also impressed that it covered all four quadrants of emotion.
I want to make films about the human condition, what we’re doing to the world or ourselves.
I get so used to working with writers that my prime occupation is development.
I think I’m blessed by the fact that I can draw. I’ve got an inner eye, definitely. At first I wasn’t aware of it, and then after 2,000 commercials, there was a reason I was so busy. I was the most visual of all directors. That’s why I was so flat-out successful, frankly. That’s why I never did a film until I was 40. I didn’t start filming until I was 40. I certainly appreciated what I had, and I started to acknowledge it, embrace it, and use it. I think visually. But I’m good with words, and I’m helpful with writers because I’ll talk to them visually when I’m working.
I spend a lot of my time just developing material; or the company does. That material can come from a book, can come from a newspaper, can come from a discussion and sometimes it can come from a script that got passed over and is floating around.
[on Blade Runner (1982)] I’ve never spent so much time with a writer. That was the real evolution of the story.
The time it would take me to write a screenplay it would take me the time to make two films. I would rather make the movies and I’m a better moviemaker than I a would be writer.
Audiences are less intrigued, honestly, by battle. They’re more intrigued by human relations. If you’re making a film about the trappings of the period, and you’re forgetting that human relationships are the most engaging part of the storytelling process, then you’re in trouble.
Ridley Scott on Shooting the Movie
People say I pay too much attention to the look of a movie but for God’s sake, I’m not producing a Radio 4 Play for Today, I’m making a movie that people are going to look at.
The important thing for the editor is coverage. That’s why I always have multiple cameras, so I can shorten the scene. Half the time it’s about shortening and refining. Drew Goddard’s script was very well done. But if you have a scene that’s four minutes and you think it’s got to be two minutes, you can’t do that unless you’ve got cuts.
[on cinematographer Dariusz Wolski] Dariusz has a great eye and great taste. He is a great camera operator. I think any cinematographer should operate the camera occasionally; if you don’t, you don’t understand the frame. Dariusz likes the storyboards; he loves to know what we’re doing, because he has to prep it. We always work with multiple cameras. With Dariusz, it’s usually four, but if it’s complicated, it’s five to eight cameras. It’s knowing where to place them. We shot The Martian (2015) in 72 days. Normally it would be 100 to 110. Part of that is multi-camera, part of it is knowing what you’re doing. You can’t walk in every morning and say, “Let’s talk about this scene.” Are you kidding me? You can’t do that.
[on The Last Duel (2021) and shooting with multiple cameras] I’m working 4 cameras, which fundamentally will capture any scene in a space. If it gets bigger, I’ll do 6. If it gets huge, I’ll do 11. You’ve got to know where to put the cameras, but it means everything is constantly fresh, so you do it 4 times as opposed to 20. Adam [Driver] was saying he loves the freedom that the 4 cameras gave him. He’d never experienced that before. I am continually puzzled about why people don’t embrace that.
I’m blessed with a great eye, and I always have been. It even got in my way because I used to be criticized for being too visual. I would say, “Well, hold on. I’m not making a bloody radio play! I’m making a movie. What I have is an advantage, and I’m constantly looking for a way of evolving and avoiding what I’ve done before.
I think, at the end of the day, filmmaking is a team, but eventually there’s got to be a captain.
You just don’t know when you get all the paint across the canvas how it will turn out. When you step back after you’ve finished, you say, “This one is not so good. This one is good.”
I always shoot my movies with score as certainly part of the dialogue. Music is a dialogue. People don’t think about it that way, but music is actually dialogue. And sometimes music is the final, finished, additional dialogue. Music can be one of the final characters in the film.
Scott’s Film Business Wisdom
[On directing blockbusters] You want big films and stories to keep people going to the cinema. It’s up to us to keep the bar raised. That’s the trick. I’ve always done that. [ . . . ] It is brain surgery! It is bloody brain surgery! You’re putting together a whole group of people, you’re trying to budget as accurately as you can and, at the end of it, you’ve got to sell a lot of tickets. That’s more complex than banking–but a few of us manage to pull it off. [ . . . ] I’m not kidding myself: I love the challenge. If you don’t, don’t do the job.
I always say to people when I’m trying to get something going, bringing on other producers or other directors, “You can think of 95 reasons why not to make a movie. You’ve got to address why you want to make the movie and get it done. Just do it.” I tend to live by that rule.
I don’t make films for other people; I make films for me.
The person that probably stopped me in my tracks as a child… because I used to love to go to the cinema was David Lean with Great Expectations (1946). I thought everything was somehow better than most of the other movies in terms of the way it looked… the way it was dramatized and the way it was photographed. In fact, he was detailed from corner to corner and that is what I picked up with John Ford and then Kurosawa [Akira Kurosawa], then Carol Reed, Michael Powell… those were all the fundamental characters at that time… and Orson Welles, of course. There are Frenchmen, too, of course, who will be remembered as well, but I wasn’t open to the French cinema at that point, so it was American and English film directors. So those were the influences.
A friend of mine says, “Art’s like a shark. You’ve got to keep swimming, or else you drown.” Keep bouncing around. People always ask me, “What’s the plan?” There is no plan. I go to what fascinates me next.
I like the competition. You create a competition with yourself. I’m very competitive. Very. I look around and think, “I’ve got to raise the bar”. That’s what we do. If we can all raise the bar in everything we do, isn’t that better? I try and raise the bar every time I do a movie, and a part of that is not to repeat yourself. It’s an internal ego, not an external ego.
There’s a little thing on your shoulder called intuition and it whispers in your ear. Everyone has that, there is a voice telling you to do something. Most people ignore it – but you must listen to it. I do it every day, all day.
I love different themes, different venues, different movies. I love to jump about and tackle different subjects. I have no intellectual master plan.
I’m a yarnteller. My job is to engage you as much as I can and as often as I can. I love the process and still continue to adore the process, actually. I don’t get attached to anything. I’m like a good antique dealer. I’m prepared to sell my most valuable table.
If studios don’t get their money back, we don’t have any movies. So it is important that films are successful, and I am fully supportive of that because I’m not just a director, I’m also not stupid. I’ve been in this business long enough and, to a certain extent, I’m a businessman; I know the importance of that.
I didn’t want to go down the route of spending a year of my life making a movie that would never be seen. I may as well go down a route making a film that a lot of people will see, which is the whole idea behind cinema.
Over the years I’ve probably done 2,700 commercials. So, I’m always ticking. And in a way that was a huge advantage because I was able to take my time choosing my film subjects because I wasn’t relying on the fear of not being able to work.
The whole process of making movies and writing screenplays is visceral and intuitive.
Do what you haven’t done is the key, I think.
Ridley Scott on Critics
Blade Runner (1982), was a disaster. It didn’t play. People didn’t get it. I was way ahead, is what I think it was. I knew it was really good. I just thought, “What the hell? They just don’t get it.” That was when I learned to move on and not read press. Don’t read press. You can’t read press–it’ll destroy you.
[on Blade Runner (1982) getting initially negative reviews ] I know, but I knew it was good. This goes on to what I learned from getting beaten up. Pauline Kael [ . . . ] spent three pages destroying “Blade Runner” and me. Even to the fact that I had a beard [ironic]. I couldn’t believe it, it was personal. I never met her in my life and it was really distressing. But after that moment, I never, ever read press again. Even if it’s glowing, best not read it, because you think you own the world. If it’s killer, best not read it because you think you’ve failed. You have to be your own critic.
The key thing is you can be the only person, your own critic.
Scott Quotes on the Future of Cinema
Digital is a different world because you are sitting at home and a hi tech piece of equipment today is within reach of most people, so they are watching a pretty hi tech version of whatever you’ve done.
Nowadays, everything’s evolved into superheroes and it’s boring. If I see one more superhero movie I’m going to shoot myself.
I think movies are getting dumber, actually. Where it used to be 50/50, now it’s 3% good, 97% stupid.
I’m not criticizing Hollywood because I work there, I partly live there. But I’m saying this is the way it is, commerce is taking over art. Commerce has become the most important thing in the film industry. Hollywood is an industry, it’s not an art form, therefore they have to address the bottom line. But in a way it’s sad when you get a remake, isn’t it?
Usually, when special effects get in the way, it’s because the story isn’t strong enough. If you don’t start with a strong screenplay, it’s easy to fall back on special effects, thinking it’s going to carry you. But it never works. It’s just tiresome.
The 3D world allows you to engage even more with a film because you’re somehow drawn into the landscape or the universe of that scene. Even when it’s two people talking at a table, you feel like you’re a third party.
The truth is that technology is moving so quickly that the high-end 2D [high-dynamic range] nearly makes 3D redundant. We shot and edited The Martian (2015) on 3D and it was pretty straightforward if you’ve got the right team, and [cinematographer] Dariusz Wolski is great. From my point of view, I can just have fun making 3D pictures. But now with 2D becoming so great, you really have to ask yourself if you need it.
We’re suffering from saturation, overkill. The marketplace is flooded by demand, and there are too many films, so everything gets watered down. Demand is the boss and everything bends to that will. Bigger and not necessarily better shows seem to be the order of the day. I can’t watch most of them.
The digital and theatrical markets are two different marketplaces. I think the digital marketplace–thank God for it!–is like having a book on the shelf: so you can actually go to that book and if it’s four hours long, you can put it on pause, you can have a beer–no one’s counting.
[in 2017] Franchise always sounds like a vaguely not-very-nice word, because it means making money. And there’s nothing wrong with making money in the film industry–in fact. it’s what it’s all about. If there’s a big film that’s a disaster, it’s bad for everybody. If there’s a little film that’s a huge success, it’s good for everybody. That’s the industry we’re in.
More Ridley Scott Filmmaking Quotes
The great film editor is not a cutter, he’s a storyteller, right?
When you’re in the editing room, the dangerous thing is that it becomes like telling a joke again and again and again. Eventually, the joke starts to not be funny. So you have to be careful that you’re not throwing the baby out with the bath water
There’s nothing really original. Alien was a B-movie. Five directors passed on it before me. Because I was into Heavy Metal, I read it, and thought, “Wow, I want to do this.” I was on a plane to Hollywood in 22 hours. It was a B-movie and was elevated to an A-plus movie by sheer good taste.
I think I have less patience, mainly because I’m so experienced. Because I’m so experienced I need the very best people around me. Because people say, “Well you don’t need a terribly good camera” or, “You can go and do this,” and I say, “No, no, no, no, you don’t understand. I want the Earth. And I want the Earth in 10 minutes.
Scaring someone’s the hardest thing to do, and that’s why most of scary movies are not scary. They’re sick, but not scary. There’s a lot of sickness out there, of people who then sit there and watch it, which I think is absolutely dismaying.
[in 2017] It all comes full circle to starting out as a painter. You walk in the room in the morning, where you spent all day yesterday by yourself. You stare at the canvas and you go, “Bloody hell, I hate it”. Painting is all about what you did yesterday, how you’re going to re-correct it, improve it, or go, “Holy shit, I got it”. It’s being your own critic, that’s it. That’s the most important thing.
People say a good score is when you don’t notice it. I say bullshit. I’m very conscious of a good score and I’m very conscious of a bad score. And anyone who says that simply doesn’t know music.
Sometimes, scenes are great without any music at all.
[on his shooting style] I’m neither film trained nor actor trained. My film school was television commercials. I did 2500 commercials, personally. But good ones like Steve Jobs’ Apple Mac: 1984 (1984) commercial: I always noticed we’d rehearse, and the actor would usually nail it on take one and I wasn’t turning – and that would drive me crazy. So I said, “You know what? I’m going to roll on this.” And we roll and invariably it happens in take one or two.
I cast carefully. If I cast very well, the actors are going to help me on the day we shoot and I’m going to help them. It becomes a partnership. I don’t do days and weeks of rehearsal. What I tend to do is when we walk on the floor, I literally shoot the first rehearsal and rehearse on camera. Because then you get the energy of coming in prepared but not rehearsed, and then you get a reality. If you over-rehearse it goes dead when you shoot, and you spend time getting back to what you found in rehearsals. I’m not unusual that way. Clint Eastwood does it, and so does Martin Scorsese . . . more actors like it than they care to admit. If it’s well written, you don’t have to rehearse. In this case, we had a great script from a great book.
Ridley Scott Quotes Final Words
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