This Sunday will mark the birthday of critically acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick. In celebration of this occasion, we’ve put our heads together to bring you a list of essential Kubrick films:
One of the only times Kubrick let his hair down, Dr. Strangelove is a political satire and black comedy about nuclear weapons and the Cold War. As the auteur of this film, he touches upon themes of sexuality, war, and humanity’s magnetism towards power. Peter Sellers uses his unique and fantastic character acting abilities to play multiple characters including a British RAF officer, the President of the United States, and the title character of Dr Strangelove; a wheelchair bound, nuclear weapons expert who just so happens to be a former Nazi. Premiered over 50 years ago, its messages are still relevant; however good intentions may be, there could be collateral damage caused by the actions of others. These actions come in the form of a nuclear bomb plummeting towards earth whilst Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again plays over the inevitable pain of the final moments. Kubrick certainly never dismissed his audience and knew of their intelligence, thus the popular rumour that the table top in the war room was green in order to look like a poker table.
Infamously detested by source author Stephen King, defining the film as “cold” and hilariously describing Shelly Duvall’s portrayal of Wendy Torrance as a “sort of screaming dishrag”, The Shining just so happens to be – ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY – one of the most popular and scary horror films ever made. Presenting a series of uncanny imagery and hidden meaning, viewers are continually left spooked and confused after multiple viewings. With minimalistic sequences of murder and – ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY – blood, excluding the elevator flooded with “rusty water”, Kubrick relies almost solely on character performance, psychological thrills and an atmosphere so eerily isolated, the shiver down your spine will stay permanent long after.
The attention to detail in 2001 is phenomenal. When Kubrick finished shooting the film, it is said that the total footage shot was 200 times the theatrical length of the film. Shots, such as when Dr. Frank Poole is running around the Discover 1 spacecraft to keep fit, is a genius way to create the tangible feeling of being in outer space. The legendary score, featuring such songs as Also Sprach Zarathustra, Blue Dunube and Requiem for Soprano, has influenced many filmmakers since 2001 including Gareth Edwards (Godzilla). It’s the delivery of the monumental ending that makes the film so perfect however, // SPOILERS // when the unforgettable and strangely hypnotic slit scan method is used to portray the wormhole that Dr. Dave Bowman travels through. Despite the length of this scene, it keeps you absolutely transfixed and is one of the reasons the film earned an Oscar for Best Special Visual Effects. 2001: A Space Odyssey has become a timeless piece of art in the cinematic world and has influenced generations of Science Fiction films.
Trust the British public to have a moral panic and overshadow what essentially is a compelling and unforgettable film. Withdrawn from British circulation in 1971 at Kubrick’s request, A Clockwork Orange was essentially unseen until after his death in 1999. Set in a dystopian future, the film follows Alex (Malcolm McDowell), an anarchic yob whose principal interests consist of rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven. Soon, he is brainwashed and becomes nothing more than a guinea pig in a government initiative to cure criminality. Notorious for its scenes of rape and sadistic violence, the first half is both shocking and visually powerful. One thing’s for sure; you’ll never be able to hear Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony again without thinking of this masterpiece.
Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnamese war drama mostly stems away from the conflict, giving greater emphasis on the characters. Vastly prominent for the improvised scenes of Sgt. Hartman (Lee Ermey) who, mixed with Kubrick’s unique style of cinematography, provided a perfect antagonist for the rookies. Full Metal Jacket’s main theme signifies how impactful a war environment can be on individuals, a primary example being when // SPOILERS // Pvt. Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) kills Hartman and then proceeds to take his own life; it was this which aided in cementing the film as a benchmark Kubrick piece. The robust presentation of such hard hitting subject matter is hard for any audience member to forget, perfectly demonstrating the wisdom of Kubrick’s filmmaking.
What’s your favourite Kubrick film?
Comment with your thoughts.
– Ryan Keen Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
– Daniel Sheppard The Shining
– Ali Mendzil 2001: A Space Odyssey
– Anna Richards A Clockwork Orange
– Christian Robson Full Metal Jacket