Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Genius Directors - Stanley Kubrick

Despite being a fan (to say the least) of Stanley Kubrick and his films, I didn't quite grasp the level of brilliance he achieved during his career until I visited his IMDB page recently and really soaked in the list of his work. The man was essentially a masterpiece machine, and what impresses me even more is that he wasn't a one trick pony who mastered a genre and stuck with it.

In 1957 he released the devastating film Paths of Glory, an anti-war story of a troop of soldiers who refuse to follow through with a suicidal attack and are thus charged with the war crime of cowardice, a potential sentence of death at the hands of their own country they trusted with their lives. In 1960 Kubrick was at the helm of the historical epic Spartacus, a film twice as long as Paths of Glory and far grander in scope. In 1964 the world was lucky enough to witness the absolutely brilliant anti-war satirical comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, which I consider to be one of the greatest comedies ever released.

His next film after Dr. Strangelove is considered by many to be not only the greatest science fiction film of all time, but perhaps the greatest period. 2001: A Space Odyssey is without a doubt my favorite work of Kubrick and sits comfortably in my top ten films of all time, an abstract and polarizing cinematic behemoth that is designed to confound and challenge the audience, and it succeeds as even after double digit viewings I can merely present my hypothesis on the meaning of the film rather than absolutes.

Skip ahead all the way to 1980 when one of the truly iconic horror classics was released, The Shining, a film that not only scares the shit out of viewers but also has left a lasting legacy on pop culture and anyone who has allowed the haunting imagery to linger in their minds. Next was Full Metal Jacket in 1987, another Kubrick anti-war classic that plays in two jarringly different acts, the first at boot camp as we witness the mental breakdown of Leonard Lawrence, more famously known by the nickname Gomer Pyle, and the second act allows us to witness the awfulness of the Vietnam war. Full Metal Jacket is a wonderful movie as a whole, but the first act at boot camp and the final scene of the film are the two aspects that will forever stay with me.

Finally, twelve years later in 1999, sadly Kubrick's final and most misunderstood masterpiece was released, Eyes Wide Shut, a film that literally gave me nightmares after seeing it. If you sit down to watch Eyes Wide Shut because you are looking for nudity and the infamous orgy scene, don't bother. Sure, those aspects are indeed there, but if your main goal is to be aroused by the experience you are sure to be disappointed, as the narrative of this film is instead a giant advertisement for the positives of monogamy, a slice of cinema that left me feeling anything but sexy.

Amazingly, all these films I mentioned and I didn't even cover Barry Lyndon or A Clockwork Orange, considered to be two of the finer films ever released. That is how brilliant the filmography of Stanley Kubrick.

Ranking his work is a tall order, but here is my attempt to do so:

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Eyes Wide Shut
3. The Shining
4. Full Metal Jacket
5. Dr. Strangelove
6. Paths of Glory
7. Barry Lyndon
8. A Clockwork Orange
9. Spartacus

Not listed are those I have (sadly) never seen, his first feature from 1953 titled Fear and Desire, the 1955 film The Killer's Kiss, The Killing from 1956 and Lolita from 1962. A part of me feels ashamed to still have these four films to experience before I can truly understand everything the man accomplished, but the other part of me is thrilled to have Kubrick work left to discover.


  1. Great article Scott - THE SHINING is top 5 movies of all time for me as is Kubrick as director. My top 5 Kubricks would be:


    The first time I saw 2001 was also the first time I was given acid as a teenager - you could say I entered that other dimension - #minddestroyed :) hahahaha

  2. haha I watched 2001 the first time completely sober and my mind was destroyed. I can't even imagine...

    I really need to watch Spartacus again, one of those films I watched a long time ago and I didn't give it the full attention it deserves.

  3. Steven Weber came to play - always does. Wings for life.