It’s a filmography filled with masterpieces – A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove – as Neal Damiano takes a look at the top 10 Stanley Kubrick films…
Kirk Douglas stars as a heroic slave who fights to lead his people to freedom from the Roman Rule. Lots of blood and fighting in this epic picture but perhaps the most noted and memorable moment is the bathing scene between the Roman General played by Laurence Olivier and the angst ridden poetic slave played by Tony Curtis. The scene sparked a lot of controversy and was considered very taboo for its time.
9. Barry Lyndon
Stanley Kubrick’s eccentric drama centers around the rise and fall of Barry Lyndon, an Irishman with delusions of grandeur and dreams of glory. Ryan O’Neal’s performance is superb. Not known generally for playing quirky characters, O’Neal channels an eccentricity that just radiates on film. The movie has exceptional costume design and period music.
8. Dr Strangelove: Or How I Stopped Worrying And Love The Bomb
I would say this is Kubrick’s quirkiest film in his brilliant library, simply because of the characters and it’s his only comedy (of sorts). The absurd characters in this doomsday dark comedy are nonstop. What is also quite amazing about this film: Peter Sellers plays three different roles throughout the entire movie. Sterling Hayden plays a paranoid, commie-hating General who launches an air attack on the Soviet Union. The interesting aspect that I love about Dr. Strangelove is that it centers on a threat that was very real at the time and manages to poke fun at it in a tasteful, unique way.
7. The Killing
Stanley Kubrick’s third feature film considered to be one of the most influential and entertaining crime heist films ever made. Sterling Hayden stars as a criminal released from prison who can’t shake the urge to pull off one more heist before marrying his long time girlfriend. He hooks up with two ex-professional wrestlers to do the job. A very influential film to many directors – Quentin Tarantino admits the influence Kubrick’s film had on the filming of Reservoir Dogs. A very visually stunning film made on a very small budget.
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001 is one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made in my opinion, because of the mysterious way it was captured on film. Kubrick was the master of directing cinematography and it really shows in this epic adventure of exploring space and unknown territory. A true masterpiece about man vs machine and quite ahead of its time. The movie really gave us a glimpse of the future and the battle in human condition as technology advanced everyday. The most memorable quote “Open the door Hal, open the door.”
Peter Sellers plays Humbert, a college professor. While waiting for a teaching position, he rents a room from a lonely woman played by Shelly Winters. She has a beautiful 15-year-old daughter that Sellers becomes quite inappropriately fond of. She finds a diary filled with lustful writings on what Humbert would like to do with her daughter, so distraught she runs into the street and gets killed by a car. Humbert basically kidnaps the daughter on a cross country road trip. Lolita was quite taboo in nature and daring in its time. The film got mixed reviews and is known for its drawn out length. I feel it told a risky story and Kubrick made it very funny at times. It does tend to drag a bit in the second half but a very well made character-centered story.
4. Eyes Wide Shut
The final film from the master of cinema. Surprisingly it got trashed by the critics because of its shallow content, but I saw the film a different way. I thought it was an eerily dark story about temptation, desire and curiosity of the unknown. Tom Cruise stars as a pompous doctor who battles with sex addiction and infidelity. When he gets introduced to the sordid underworld of sex parties among the elite rich, he finds out more than he ever wanted to imagine. I read a quote about this film when it first got released, that really stuck with me – it read: “A doctor that thought he knew everything……but realized his eyes were wide shut” and I feel that nails what the movie is about.
3. The Shining
Writer Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick join forces to make one of the most frightening films in history. The Shining scared the life out of me as a kid. I remember the scenes so vividly and Jack Nicholson’s portrayal as the caretaker of The Overlook Hotel, who gets possessed by the previous caretaker, mixed with a little cabin fever is so over the top and crazy I had nightmares. His son acquires the “shining” which enables him to foresee things before they happen. Some truly freaky and disturbing scenes throughout and filled with quotable lines including one of the most famous lines in cinema history – “Here’s Johnny”
2. Full Metal Jacket
Full Metal Jacket is one of the greatest portrayals of the Vietnam War. The viewer gets a glimpse of boot camp hell to being on the front line in battle. Mathew Modine plays Joker, a cocky and witty recruit who quickly learns the horrors of war. What makes Full Metal Jacket so compelling is the vivid realism in the way it was filmed. The cinematography is amazing and the film features superb acting by the entire cast. The film really brings the viewer on a journey through the entire process of being a recruit to a full on soldier. Lee Ermey plays a sadistic DI to near perfection and has many very funny quotable lines!
1. A Clockwork Orange
This film is what introduced me to Kubrick’s amazing line of work. An ironic tale of an ultra violent future filled with gangs, run down cities, and strange technology. Malcolm McDowell stars as Alex the leader of a vicious gang that is obsessed with violence, sex, and Beethoven. The Singing in the Rain scene is iconic in cinema and the perverse violence in the movie is frightening to watch but like a car accident it is hard to turn your head away. The brilliance of A Clockwork Orange is how ahead of its time the film was. Kubrick knew something we didn’t, violence and sex sells more than anything else in society. The idea of someone apathetic to the order of society and does whatever they feel is interesting to human beings. Then to see them fall and get reformed is even more fascinating. This is a common theme in a lot of Stanley Kubrick films, he warned us. The man was a brilliant storyteller and director.