A film director, screenwriter, and producer. While Stanley Kubrick may wear many hats, it’s his directing hat that creates the most impact in the world of films. Kubrick is easily one of the most influential directors in cinematic history. His films, spanning diverse genres, are mostly noted for their high level of realism, unique use of music and sound effects, elaborate set designs, artistic cinematography and most notably, dark humour.
Kubrick passed away 19 years ago, shortly after completing the dark, twisted Eyes Wide Shut with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, but his legacy continues. In fact, his works have inspired some of the best directors of our time, including Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg and more. In celebration of what would have been Kubrick’s 90th birthday today, let’s take a look and five of his best works.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
In this ode to space that’s way ahead of its time, Kubrick cleverly makes use of sound, or rather, the lack of sound, to create tension upon tension. The movie tells of a quest to Jupiter by a group of astronauts and an intelligent computer named HAL 9000. The movie is known for its accurate portrayal of space flight, and for the first 25 minutes of the movie, there’s no dialogue, only actions and motions, forcing its audiences to fully concentrate on what’s happening onscreen. Dealing with subjects like existentialism, extra-terrestrial life and artificial intelligence, Kubrick’s space opera isn’t just a journey to outer space, but also to the future.
Did You Know:
Kubrick, being the perfectionist that he was, actually shot so much footage that when totalled, is 200 times more than the actual movie, which stands at 149 minutes.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
It was a provocative, unapologetic movie that deals with morality. Although A Clockwork Orange isn’t a horror movie, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Malcolm McDowell plays Alex, an antisocial delinquent whose hobbies include raping women and doing random acts of extreme violence. He’s the leader of a pack of bullies and the film follows them on their crime-ridden spree. In one of his escapades, he was captured and put into rehabilitation using psychological conditioning.
A Clockwork Orange is an eye-opening experience peppered with excessive violence and over-the-top vulgarity. But the violence isn’t mindless, and the vulgarity is there to make a point, questioning about what’s being accepted by society, and what is deemed indecent. Every move that Kubrick makes has a meaning. You definitely don’t see movies like that these days.
Did You Know:
In the torture scenes, McDowell’s eyes were anesthetised so that he could film for long periods without much discomfort. Still, his corneas were scratched.
The Shining (1980)
Even though it didn’t have any big scary monsters, The Shining is still easily one of the scariest horror movies of its time that heavily influenced the genre. Based on a novel by Stephen King, the movie follows a writer (Jack Nicholson) who brings his family to a remote hotel for the winter in hopes to break out of his writer’s block, and earn some money while being an off-season caretaker at the hotel. However, things spiral out of control as he gradually descends into lunacy. The movie messes with your mind more than relying on special effects to deliver cheap scares. And that is the best type of horror story.
Did You Know:
One of the most famous lines in the movie is a creepy Nicholson saying “Heeeere’s Johnny”. It’s actually a line from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and Nicholson improvised the line. Kubrick was against it as he’s never heard of the line before, but was convinced to add it into the final film. It became one of the most iconic scenes in the movie.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
This is Kubrick’s 2nd film in the 80s, after a seven-year hiatus since filming The Shining. The movie, about the harshness of the Vietnam War, is broken down into two parts. The first tells the experience of a group of unhinged Marine volunteers, detailing their tormenting boot-camp under the sadistic drill instructor. Part two takes us to the action in Nam, where the Marines are now highly trained for combat.
Filled with dark humour and witty dialogue, Full Metal Jacket is a riveting portrayal of the psychological and physical transformation and turmoil of the US soldiers during the Vietnam War, bringing to attention the plight of the real-life soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Did You Know:
Kubrick was a huge animal lover, and when some rabbits were accidentally killed on set, he was so upset that he cancelled a whole day’s work.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
An erotic thriller that sends us on an adventure into the depths of sexual and moral discovery, Kubrick’s swan song brings together Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a married couple facing marital issues. Had their roles been played by two actors not married to each other, it wouldn’t have that sort of easiness, that level of tension and chemistry that makes Eyes Wide Shut bizarre yet somewhat relatable. At every step of the movie, you’re left guessing what next.
Did You Know:
As they were eager to work with Kubrick, Cruise and Kidman signed open-ended contracts, agreeing to work on the project until Kubrick is satisfied, regardless of the length of time it took. And because of Kubrick’s perfectionism, the film was shot for 15 months, going into the Guinness Records as the longest constant movie shoot.