What is it about Guy Ritchie movies? They're usually a ton of fun, dragging you into criminal underworlds and parts of polite society you never get to encounter. You get stars like Brad Pitt, Henry Cavill, Matthew McConaughey, Jason Statham, Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and others playing completely against type.
Guy Ritchie is known for his fun dialogue, over-the-top characters, violence, and usually some excellent music. He's taken his auteur talents and risen through the indie movie ranks while also forging a successful studio filmmaker career almost simultaneously. That ability to seemingly be two different directors is what makes Ritchie so interesting.
Today, we'll look at Guy Ritchie's greatest movies and even a few I consider to be lesser than the others. We'll see a list of his films and go over lessons every filmmaker can glean from them.
Sound fun? Let's dive in.
Guy Ritchie on the set of 'Sherlock'Credit: Warner Brothers
The Best Guy Ritchie Movies (Lessons from His Greatest Films)
Do you remember the first time you saw a Guy Ritchie movie? As an early adopter of Netflix, I remember watching Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch over and over again one summer. They were so tonally different than other gangster movies. Somehow both were grounded and also ludicrous. The characters had funny names, and incomprehensible accents (to a suburban Philly kid), and the violence came in shocking waves and lasted only long enough to surprise you.
But who was this daring director bucking conventions and putting his personal stamp on his films?
Guy Ritchie on the set of 'The Gentleman'
Who Is Guy Ritchie?
Guy Stuart Ritchie is an English film director, producer, screenwriter, and businessman. After being kicked out of primary school for being a general hooligan, he directed a short film, The Hard Case. It was popular and introduced him to filmmaker Matthew Vaugh, who decided to help produce Ritchie's feature debut, the crime comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). It was a wild ride with clever camera work, quick editing, and witty writing. The film won a BAFTA for Film of the Year, and the world was suddenly on notice.
His creative process is an interesting one. Ritchie said, "My creative process has never been something I can put into words. It's very random, very scattered, and can sometimes lead down dark alleyways and dead ends. What I will say is I think any director needs to immerse himself in both real life and in history to fully open up creative processes. And you must be prepared for the reality that any creative process worth its salt needs to be revised, reworked, and, on occasion, thrown out the window entirely."
Since his debut, Guy Ritchie has been making movies, music videos, short films, and commercials using his signature style to put a jolt into tradition and turn tired genres into personal expressions.
When it comes to influences, Ritchie says every great movie ever made has had a huge impact on him. And he doesn't cite too many particular filmmakers but instead, talks about actual gangsters, like Ronald and Reginald Kray.
Ritchie said, "It’s inevitable, again. Because everything, more or less, of the old-school villainy related back to the Krays at some point. And the Krays were a lot worse than everyone thinks they are. And that was why I had a big problem with the film; they just looked like a couple of faggots as far as I was concerned, even with what they were showing. And I know what those boys were doing was a hundred times worse than what everyone thought was going on. So it’s inevitable that anything that is genuine, and old, and British will somehow have something to do with the Krays."
This over-the-top personality has given us some really memorable and exciting movies. Let's take a look at a list of his films.
A List of Guy Ritchie Movies
- 2023 - Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre (coming soon)
- 2021 - Wrath of Man
- 2019 - The Gentlemen
- 2019 - Aladdin
- 2017 - King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
- 2015 - The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
- 2011 - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
- 2009 - Sherlock Holmes
- 2008 - RocknRolla
- 2007 - Suspect (TV Movie)
- 2005 - Revolver
- 2002 - Swept Away
- 2000 - Snatch
- 1998 - Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (directorial debut)
Lessons from Guy Ritchie Films
There's so much you can learn from a director like Guy Ritchie. It's obvious he has his personal films, and he also has the ones he does for studios. I'm not saying he only takes them for a paycheck, but I think he knows when he has less control of a story.
Look at his 2019, when he made the incredible film The Gentlemen, a story about London gangsters told with interesting bookends. And then he also made the Disney Aladdin remake, which was a serviceable retelling of an animated movie. Very different movies and very different assignments. Not many people can do both. He has consistently.
I want to take a look at his best work and see what lessons we can glean. We can even look at some lesser films and see what he can teach us there too.
'Snatch'Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing
The Best Guy Ritchie Movies
The way this will break down is that I took a title and then I added a few lessons underneath for you. Obviously, this is just my opinion. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments section below. We love a good debate around here.
But I think there are three very clearly great Guy Ritchie movies.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels
The directorial debut of Ritchie, this movie does so many things right. It has interesting characters, huge stakes, and explores an interesting world we hadn't seen much of in cinema. It was also so personal, showcasing a style and voice that demanded to be heard.
Roger Ebert wrote about the movie, saying, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' is like Tarantino crossed with the Marx Brothers, if Groucho had been into chopping off fingers."
I think the most important lesson this movie can teach you is to have an amazing opening scene. Watching Jason Statham sling stolen goods on the sidewalk, hustling people, and then running from the cops sets up everything we have to know about this film.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking BarrelsCredit: Letterboxd
There's a huge debate amongst Ritchie fans about whether or not this or Lock Stock is his best movie. For me, nothing can beat Snatch. I have so many fond memories of watching this movie behind my parents' backs. It's full of gangsters, curse words, hilarious inside jokes, and Brad Pitt's incredible Traveler accent.
What stands out when I watch this movie now is how well-crafted the characters are. Ritchie develops characters in a way where everyone has a basic need. Each scene is palpable with drama rooted in what people need. These divergent needs usually caused a lot of trouble and a lot of laughs.
Guy Ritchie said of his character philosophy, “I think everything you do, characters I always find, have their own voices, and once you establish who that character is you find a different voice. I think it's just a question of establishing that character and the voice speaks through that character.”
'Snatch'Credit: SKA Films
When it comes to studio movies, Ritchie has a way of using his own personal style but still staying true to the more commercial ideas studios want to showcase. In this one, he gets Robert Downey Jr. to use a convincing British accent, playing a great Sherlock Holmes, who has brains and some clever brawn.
Sometimes, in Hollywood, you're going to need to do commercial jobs that may not feel like they directly align with your vision as an artist. But the people who work are the ones who are able to adapt what makes them special to different scenarios. And Ritchie has always tried to do that. This movie is where it works best.
'Sherlock Holmes'Credit: Warner Brothers
Other Good Guy Ritchie Films
Outside of the three best, I think there are two more with really valuable things to teach us. If the title didn't hit this list, I don't necessarily think the movie is bad, I just think the lessons are more defined in these titles.
After Ritchie had a string of movies that were critically less successful than others, he returned to a genre he knew he could crush—British gangster film. What's crazy is that he took that long away from it. But in his return, he did something fun. He used a lot of the old ideas in his films, but with another new spin on them.
This movie was not playing the greatest hits but employing all the lessons he's learned along the way to riff on his younger self. There were wizened characters, young guys mouthing off, and all of the cool camerawork we have come to expect.
When in doubt, go back to your roots and have something to say.
'The Gentleman'Credit: Miramax
The Man from U.N.C.L.E
I thought this film was criminally underrated when it came out. It's so much more than a studio action film. It has some of the best-designed set pieces in a modern blockbuster. If you want to learn how to shoot action or how to brainstorm effective set pieces, this is the movie to check out.
It also has that Guy Ritchie flare that he's known for—characters have swagger even if they're not part of the London Underground. It's an interesting look at how someone can put a personal touch on a movie not in their usual wheelhouse.
'The Man From U.N.C.L.E'Credit: Warner Brothers
Summing Up the Best Guy Ritchie Movies (and Lessons from Each)
Now that you've studied the greatest Guy Ritchie movies, it's time to take the lessons you've learned and apply them to your own writing. Go create some characters that feel larger than life. Work to make sure your dialogue stands out among the crowd. And even take a beat to ensure your plot all lines up into a big payoff.
What are your favorite Guy Ritchie movies? Or ones you hate? What parts of his direction do you love? Is there anything about him that drives you crazy?
Let us know in the comments.