- Simply put it’s an expressionistic masterpiece and perhaps the greatest example of production design and mise-en-scene in film history
- Has many roots in noir and detective/crime films and fiction—the fire bursting from the city reminds me of Walsh’s White Heat with James Cagney in 1949
- Every scene is pouring with steam from the streets and cigarette smoke (noir)
- It’s perpetual rain and perpetual night just like noir
- Harrison Ford has more screen time but it’s Rutger Hauer’s film
- Hauer is in roughly 32 minutes and it may be the greatest 32 minute performance of all-time.
- Ford’s performance isn’t transcendent but it isn’t bad either- he’s doing Bogart here- meeting with seedy club owners and falling for the damsel in distress. He keeps it all internalized with a handed outer sheen
- Sean Young is very good here—it’s a strong performance
- Features an absolutely brilliant synthesizer score and main motif by Vangelis
- Gorgeous advertising production design with the Coke, Atari and Pan Am logos
- The reflected eye (you can see the city and fire) and reflected window/glass use it’s hard not to think of the helmet shield in 2001
- The architectural miniatures are truly part 2001 and part Metropolis from Fritz Lang
- Ford’s driving narrative is largely a slow-burn detective film looking for clues but there’s existential questions, largely in subtext, throughout
- I think there’s an underlying racist element in the dystopian word. This is just an observation—but the world here is a melding of worlds and language- very Japanese heavy of course but we also hear german “danke” in the elevator, there’s the snake maker (this could be a nod to Casablanca as well), a Spanish language movie house, etc
- There’s a Christ allegory I hadn’t realized until now. Hauer’s Roy is the “prodigal son” and near the end of the film he puts a spike through his hand as he’s dying. It’s a bit of a stretch to say he spares Ford or that he’s somehow dying for him but the “Father/God” character of Tyrell is very real. Very “Why has thou forsaken me” in some of Hauer’s musings
- Two perfect endings in one- we have the tears in the rain death of Hauer and then the unicorn escape epilogue with Ford and Young with the open ending and the jump to the faster score- pitch perfect
- Douglas Trumball—special effects designer has both this and 2001 to his name not to mention a special consultant mention in tree of life…. Yamma
- Lawrence G Paul is the production designer, he worked in back to the future– which is really well done as wel-l but I don’t see anything else in his history here to suggest that Ridley Scott is NOT the genius behind the production design—Scott is the auteur
- A wonder of film miniature work and establishing shots
- Countless still-frame hang-on-wall photography shots including Tyrell in bed doing stocks and has about 50 candles going in his room. Haha
- Much tighter than Blade Runner 2049. It’s weird- it’s a very tight film but it’s also a slow-burn mood piece
- The scene where Hauer’s Roy kills Tyrell is so magnificently operatic. It reminded me here of the Joaquin Phoenix killing of Richard Harris in Gladiator (obviously also by Scott)– vengeful son killing father
- Literally people smoking and/or drinking whiskey in every scene (very noir/detective)
- Clearly influenced by Bertolucci’s the conformist in lighting and set design
- The film is as influential as any film in post 1980’s cinema—there’s no I. from Spielberg without this film
- It’s a very short scene but the scene where Ford interrogates the snake-maker is shot entirely through glass with logos on it and it’s utterly stunning to look at
- The lighting of the umbrellas is so inspired—ditto with the lining of the interior of the bus
- The Joanna Cassidy broken glass slow-mo shooting/death sequence is another stunner—fake snow and reflected neon glass
- Countless beautiful dank dark shots of Ford’s cluttered apartment and there’s always exterior light pouring in from every window—the darkness and busy disheveled mise-en scene reminds me of some of Tarkovsky’s work—JF Sebastian’s large house/set piece reminds me of it as well
- A Masterpiece and top 10 all-time film
I had been itching to see some good sci-fi films so I decided to see blade runner today. Sure it’s good, but for me, its no where near my top 10.
I also saw The Pier (1962). This movie is a capital M masterpiece made by the great Chris Marker. Its influence on other sci-fi movies is so obvious (especially 12 monkeys). Pauline Kael might be right in calling it “the greatest science fiction film ever made”. its THAT good.
What you’ll consider the greatest examples of mise-en-scene in film ? A top 20 or something (I guess I have a thing for top 20- haha, weird ).
Tokyo Story! Or pretty much anything by Ozu.
@Azman Why don’t you like Blade Runner? It is one of my favorites, I did not like it the first time either (I suppose because I saw it in standard quality) I saw the restored version and I loved it
@Cinephile.The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, I just saw him recently and it’s absolutely beautiful
I like Blade Runner. Iconic score, brilliant writing, that acting by Rither Hauer (wow), the establishing shots, the cinematography, mise en scene etc when did I say I disliked it?
Sorry if I misinterpreted, there is a comment from you at the top and you say it is not close (Top 10).In a publication(I don’t remember which one it was) you commented on the best science fiction movies and Blade Runner did not appear, only the incomparable 2001 and The Pier
I love La Jetee. I’ve been teaching it for the past two years now. But I’m not sure if it’s a fair comparison. The storytelling in La Jetee is incomparable in terms of structure, but it doesn’t come close to the achievements Scott made in Blade Runner
@Cinephile- like the list here so far- Ozu has a few that come to mind– Tokyo Story, The End of Summer blew me away… love Aldo’s pick here with Greenaway’s masterpiece, Blade Runner… I gotta tell you that this Roy Andersson trilogy I just finished thoroughly impressed me, Visconti’s The Leopard, Antonioni’s Red Desert, Bertolucci’s The Conformist, Imamura’s The Pornographers, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Dreyer’s Gertrud, Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc, Stalker and Nostalgia from Tarkovsky… if you’re looking for more recent examples Pawlikowski is doing some amazing work right now, Cuaron’s Roma is just about perfect– every inch of every frame— and then first-time filmmaker Kogonada made a film called Columbus in 2017 that nobody saw.
@Drake, Azman, Aldo— Great mentions here. I think Barry Lyndon, Playtime and Persona deserve a spot there too. More recent films I think have outstanding mise-en-scene are The Favourite, Blade Runner 2049 and Midsommar. I belong in the minority that saw Columbus- haha.
What about the best examples of film form ?
If another actor was in the leading role (let’s say de niro) could this movie be even better, Top 5 of all time quality ?
@M*A*S*H – Here are 4 actors that I think would be interesting in the role
– James Caan
– Martin Sheen, 3 years after Apocalypse Now
– Richard Harris
– Jack Nicholson
@James Trapp- sign me up for the version of this with Martin Sheen in the role– that would be my vote. Great suggestion- jealous I didn’t think of it.
All of these guys would be amazing (even Richard Harris I actually think would be great) but Sheen, he’s Deckard. Or Christopher Walken.
Ah hell. I just realized Richard Harris wouldn’t even be alive to give Ford’s even better performance in the sequel.
@M*A*S*H– very interesting. If language and time didn’t matter I like Tony Leung or Jean-Louis Trintignant… I’m having trouble finding others
William Holden would be perfect… if we aged him down thirty years. Gene Hackman could do with about ten years of age rewinding. Bogart would be brilliant. Dustin Hoffman or Robert Redford might succeed at the appropriate age. From contemporary times, Ryan Gosling is the obvious choice, though I wonder if Brad Pitt would be sufficient. Micheal Keaton would be a possibility with a ten year age boost.
Damn, I wish cinema people were immortal and could change age at will.
Hampton Fancher: “I wrote Blade Runner for Robert Mitchum”
Say what you will about age (he would have been 63 during filming) but I think Mitchum could very well have been Hauer’s equal as Rick Deckard; the only man who was Mitchum’s peer in these insouciant world weary badass roles was Bogart, and he’s obviously out of the question.
@Cinephile– i’m 100% with your additions. film form is the tougher as so much of it is tied to the other elements like camera movement, mise-en-scene and editing–the binding component if you will of those elements, or skeleton — at a quick (very quick so apologies in advance) glance through my top 500 these stood out: In the Mood For Love, I think 2001– The Music Room, Performance from Roeg, L’Eclisse, Chungking Express, The Master, Stranger Than Paradise from Jarmusch
Also forgot The Blue Angel- von Sternberg for mise-en-scene— I could do this all day and be forgetting good stuff
I believe you called Last Year at Marienbad perhaps the most beautiful movie ever made… about a month ago.
@Matt Harris – thank you buddy. Yes- I was rolling through my top 500 of these quickly (which Marienbad will certainly be on when I update it but isn’t on now so I missed it)– “A convincing case could be made for Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad to be called the most attractive work of cinema of all-time—a formal, stylistic, and visual sonic boom”— is what I said. Beautiful or attractive isn’t synonymous with great mise-en-scene always but yeah — I’d call like von Sternberg’s Blue Angel a masterpiece of mise-en-scene but wouldn’t rave about how beautiful it is. The obstruction of the frame. Some (most) of these films are both of course- including Marienbad.
As far as film form goes I’d like to single out some contemporary examples. Tarr’s The Turin Horse contains a lavish use of form. Furthermore, Trier’s Melancholia is also potent, The Master as Drake mentioned. Boyhood and Paterson are formal powerhouses too. Ultimately, in my estimation, The Irishman is a landmark in film form.
Since there is the Blade Runner theme, is there any other candidate for the greatest production design in the history of cinema? I know they are going to mention 2001, but someone else who can stand up to them?
@Aldo— I’ll leave some out but LOTR, Alien, 2001, Blade Runner, Metropolis, The Conformist, Grand Budapest Hotel is one contemporary film that gets mentioned often. Godfather Part II, In the Mood for Love, The Cook The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover… Red Desert, Do the Right Thing, Cries and Whispers
What movie do you think has the best special effects, pre-CGI? Could be be Blade Runner or 2001 (greatest piece of art ever), both done by Douglas Trumbull. Post CGI, for me, it’s Gravity with Blade Runner 2049 as a possible number two. Nolan’s films are hard to classify because they mostly don’t have much computer generated. Not so surprising that the top choices are all sci-fi.
This comment does not add anything, i just wanted to say that today i will see Blade Runner in the theater, very excited
@Aldo- very exciting indeed!
Yesterday I did very well, it was incredible, I would like to add something, but you have covered everything, what is your choice for the best scene in the movie?
Also here a question, have you seen all your top 100 in the theater? If not, which movie of those would you like to see more in the theater?
@Aldo I think the story is kind of forgettable and the film is more about visual beauty. There is a lot of blue in the film but i think the best scene of this very good movie is when he meets Rachel, with the owl and the sun. The use of yellow in this film is amazing. Also id say the scene at Tyrrells bedroom. I dont know if this makes sense but the film seems to have a ‘sparkle’
@Aldo, the best scene in the movie is the ‘tears in rain’ scene. Maybe even the gorgeous establishing shots. Or even the scene M mentions.
It’s visually superb in every scene with a story that really sticks with you. As much as I liked Alien, Blade runner is scott’s best.
How was your experience watching blade runner in cinemas Aldo? Had you seen it before? Where would you rank the film now?
@Aldo- sorry – catching up here. I’ve seen some of the top 100 but certainly not all. I’ve seen Apocalypse Now, 2001, Lawrence, The Godfather, The Searchers— I think Blade Runner may be my choice! I’m jealous!
@Drake where did you see the Searchers. Did you see it with live music. Thats amazing. 2001 is the film I really need to see live, because it is a spiritual experience.
Since Aldo was talking about going to the theatre/cinema, it got me wondering.
What are the best experiences you’ve had watching a film (in cinemas or otherwise)? what films blew you away?
This question is for Drake and all other readers of the blog.
@Azman. What about the scene of the glass slow-mo shooting/death?
It was wonderful to see it on the big screen and the Vangelis soundtrack, i must say that it has been the best experience in the theater watching a movie but this also has to do with it’s the best movie i’ve seen on the big screen, somewhere i talked to you and you said you saw 2001 in the theater, i also want to see it, i’m on the lookout to see if they ever project it, i’ve never seen the searchers, sunrise, lawrence or apocalypse now in the theater, what other great movies have you seen in the theater apart from 2001?
I have seen it 6 times, the first time it was horrible, i saw it in poor quality, after times 4, 5 and 6 i am sure it is a great masterpiece and one of the most beautiful movies that exist
Do you have a numbered ranking like Drake or do you just have tiers? I just rank my movies with tiers like Drake does. I don’t number them. What about you? if you have a numbered list, what position would blade runner be on there?
Well, i would say that it belongs to the group of the best along with the searchers, rashomon, other great movies like Vertigo, Taxi driver, once i tried, but i couldn’t get past 10, i was like Vertigo is better than Citizen kane? and i stopped haha.
I mean between masterpiece classifications, it belongs to the godfather group instead of The Conversation (a masterpiece, but i wouldn’t say equal to those 2)
Finally, have you seen another movie as good as 2001 in the theater? I was going to see a clockwork orange that was on the billboard but i saw it a few weeks ago
@Azman Sadly I haven’t seen too many great films in theater. Mostly I see the superhero movies when they come out and see films with family and friends and they usually don’t want to see art films or more ambitious personal filmmaking. I have one friend who is really into cinema and we saw ad Astra but then covid hit before we could see more good films. I have to say seeing black panther with my church group was very entertaining. When I’m older I will see more great films on my own accord. The films I most want to see in revi al theaters are 2001, Intoleranxe and Gone with the wind
The Vangelis track is amazing. One of the most underappreciated scores. What else do you think would be in that category. Even hogwash like Shawshank redemption id say has a great score. The searchers score should be way more acclaimed also plus raising arizona
What are a few movies from each decade with spectacular production design? I will list some, but this list cannot be elaborate as some others of mine, as I am too overwhelmed to choose a single winner for each.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The Passion of Joan of Arc
* I have not seen Metropolis
Gone With the Wind
The Wizard of Oz
The Rules of the Game
The Third Man
The Night of the Hunter
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Paths of Glory
2001: A Space Odyssey
Last Year at Marienbad
Cries and Whispers
A Clockwork Orange
The Godfather Part II
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
Do the Right Thing
Raise the Red Lantern
Saving Private Ryan
Three Colors: Red
Children of Men
The Lord of the Rings
In the Mood for Love
There Will Be Blood
The Dark Knight
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Blade Runner 2049
Mad Max: Fury Road
La La Land
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
What are others’ favorites?
@Graham– quite a list- thank you for putting this together. If I sound like I’m nitpicking it only because just about everything else here is perfect– but are we sure that The Dark Knight belongs here?
Thank you. I was skeptical of including The Dark Knight among these at first, but look at these shots:
I’d say those are some spectacular sets.
@Graham- very nice- I’d still have it a tier or two below most of the rest of these
[…] Blade Runner – R. Scott […]
This film has sky rocketed up my personal list, 1st time I enjoyed and was impressed but it has grown immensely. The “tears in rain” monologue is amazing and perfectly delivered but I think the scene where Roy kills Tyrell is just as powerful, like you say it is “operatic”. It’s interesting how sci-fi films can often be the most interesting in examining issues of humanity; paradoxically, the blade runners are forced to show less empathy in retiring (killing) replicants who are on a mission to extend their own lives and thus the replicants are clearly relishing the life that the blade runners are coldly attempting to take away. Look forward to re-visit 2049.
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