Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest directors and writers of all time. His ability to tell a story was truly like no other. From The Killing to Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick consistently changed cinema with every film he released. Today is his birthday, so I thought it would be appropriate to rank his filmography. This was a very hard list for me to make.
12. Killer’s Kiss
A lot of people probably have not seen Killer’s Kiss. At only 1 hour and 7 minutes long, it is Kubrick’s shortest film. It was a nice little crime movie that had one memorable scene where the protagonist and antagonist are maneuvering through some mannequin props. I still think of that scene every time I look up Killer’s Kiss.
Lolita was very controversial when it first came out, and in some regard it still is today. Any movie where an older man falls in love with a 14-year-old is bound to rub people the wrong way. It was a very bold film to make at the time. The acting Sue Lyon and James Manson was fantastic and their chemistry was conveyed well on-screen. It was bit too long and had some pacing issues, though.
10. Barry Lyndon
This one is memorable for two reasons: The costume design and the score. Barry Lyndon definitely is not for everyone. I really like Kubrick’s directing in this one. It is just a very, very, VERY slow burning film that is over 3 hours long. The set design was really good as well. It is just one of those Kubrick movies that you watch maybe once every few years.
9. The Killing
Kubrick really took some big steps in his career when he made The Killing. It is a very well paced crime drama that takes what was good about Killer’s Kiss, and amplifies it with more confident direction. And come on, that money flying around in the wind at the end is incredibly memorable.
The contrast of characters and beautifully written and directed dramatic scenes make Spartacus a true cinematic achievement. It felt so authentic, and the cinematography was beautiful at the time. A lot like Barry Lyndon though, where I can only watch it every few years. At nearly 3 and a half hours, it is an entire process to sit down and view Spartacus. If you haven’t seen it though, you need to.
7. Paths of Glory
Paths of Glory may be the best anti-war movie of all time. It really makes the viewer perceive warfare and coward qualities in a different way. The actual assault in the film feels as authentic as the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan. This is one that frustrates me for not being in the top 5 on this list. The movies that come before this one though are very worthy.
6. Eyes Wide Shut
This was Kubrick’s final film and it was SO creepy. The eerie piano in the score and the mesmerizing scenes with the cult put a final staple on cinema before Kubrick’s death. There are a few scenes that have you on the edge of your seat.
5. Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove is incredibly funny. It is also extremely intelligent and well written as a whole. The war room scenes are some of the best directed scenes of all time, without question. Some of the special effects did not age too well, but it is from 1964 so you have to forgive it. It is one of those few movies that I wish was longer, because I couldn’t get enough.
4. Full Metal Jacket
Critics were not a huge fan of Full Metal Jacket when it came out back in 1987. It really took some years and more dissection before people really understood it. I would venture to say that it is the most realistic Vietnam war movie of all time, and one of the most authentic war films ever. The boot camp scenes are iconic, and so many war films have tried to recreate it since.
3. The Shining
The Shining is one of the most recognizable film titles in history. “Here’s Johnny” is a phrase that every person in the United States knows. Kubrick’s direction in this one is remarkable. The way the blueprints of the building do not line up with the actual hotel, the chairs switching places within the same scene. People thought they were continuity errors when The Shining first came out. After more dissection, it became much more.
2. A Clockwork Orange
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie as unique as A Clockwork Orange. SO many films have borrowed elements from this Kubrick classic ever since it hit theaters back in 1971. The costume design is something that stuck with me since the first time I watched it. There are so many beautiful shots too that let the camera and character facial expressions tell this story of brutality. A Clockwork Orange is definitely a classic.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Man oh man… This film is a stunning achievement. It is the first film ever to use computer generated visual effects, and it has aged very well to this day. It is just such a layered and complex story of humanity, evolution, life, and death. Not many films left a mark on me like 2001: A Space Odyssey did. I pick up on something new every time I watch it. The score is also one of the best of all time. How did that not even get an Oscar Nomination?! Just crazy.
Happy Birthday Mr. Kubrick! Thank you for blessing us with some of the best films of all time.