From art-house films with Hollywood sensibilities, to blockbusters with a cheeky sense of independence, Luc Besson has had a long and storied career.
To celebrate the release of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets on DVD, Blu-ray & Digital, we've taken a look back at our favourite moments in Besson's career, and the movies that defined them.
The Big Blue (aka Le Grand Bleu)
Luc Besson’s first English-language film is a highly fictionalised retelling of the rivalry between two champion free divers. A cult-classic, The Big Blue is a slick, colourful, tongue-in-cheek and (in a uniquely French fashion) borderline pretentious masterpiece!
Nikita (aka La Femme Nikita)
When disaffected teenager Nikita is convicted of murder and threatened to a life in prison, she’s given the choice of becoming a femme fatale assassin. Spawning countless adaptations on the big and small screen, this tense, graphic neo-noir thriller established a common fixture in a number of Besson’s films – a strong female lead.
Léon: The Professional
Featuring a breakout debut performance from a young Natalie Portman, and the ever fantastic Jean Reno (who you may have recently spotted in The Last Face) and Gary Oldman, this outrageously violent & delightfully offbeat thriller about a lonely hitman who takes in and mentors an orphaned teenager cemented Besson as one of the pre-eminent writer/directors of his generation.
The Fifth Element
Often regarded as his magnum-opus, and certainly his most ambitious film, The Fifth Element is a flashy and fun sci-fi adventure. We’re not even going to try to explain the plot this film. But rest assured it is peak Besson, with a tight screenplay, solid pacing, and solid knowledge of when to shift from grandiose action to whimsical humour.
Written by Luc Besson and his frequent collaborator Robert Mark Kamen, The Transporter follows a driver for hire who will deliver anything, anywhere with no questions asked. It’s an undeniably fun grindhouse action martial-arts flick, co-directed by Hong Kong cinema veteran Corey Yeun and Louis Leterrier, who would go on to direct the high-stakes magic caper Now You See Me. What's more it gave a huge boost to star Jason Statham's career as an action-hero, who went on to appear in the likes of Crank, The Mechanic and Parker.
A balls to the wall action thriller penned by Besson & Kamen, Taken follows an ex-CIA agent who goes on a bloodthirsty rampage through France in an effort to save his kidnapped daughter from sex traffickers. It gave Liam Neeson an unforgettable speech and reinvigorated his career, scoring him countless roles in action blockbusters and critical darlings like Silence and A Monster Calls.
When an unwilling drug mule is accidentally exposed to the substance she was carrying, she quickly develops enhanced physical and psychokinetic abilities, as well as a lust for vengeance. With a charming performance from Scarlett Johansen, this box-office smash hit is a wild ride for sci-fi fans.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
An adaptation of his favourite comic book series, Luc Besson delivers another sprawling sci-fi adventure in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It combines Besson’s unique slick style, unrivalled visuals, wacky humour and a strong female lead (Cara Delevingne’s Laureline) into one package.