When it comes to filmmaking, Stanley Kubrick is as ubiquitous as “cameraman” or “actor.” His deeply introspective films completely changed the movie landscape, instilling an allegorical feel that challenged critics and audiences alike. Kubrick is among the most influential directors and films like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Shining” are heralded for their impact on global filmmaking.
It’s difficult to narrow Kubrick’s work down to just five movies. However, taking into account critical acclaim, audience appeal, and the legacy of each film, we can arrive at an arbitrary list that, in my opinion, is an accurate representation of the filmmaker’s best work.
- “The Shining” (1980)
“The Shining” was Kubrick’s first and only entry into the horror landscape, but it remains a cornerstone of the genre nearly 50 years later. Adapted from Stepehn King’s bestseller of the same name, the film depicts Jack Nicholson as infamous writer Jack Torrance, whose slow devolution into madness means trouble for his wife and kid. The thriller completely changed how horror movies are shot and the “Here’s Johnny!” scene is arguably the most famous scene in film history. Period.
2. “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)
Kubrick is often labeled “a filmmaker’s filmmaker,” and the sentiment couldn’t be more true when considering the legacy of “2001.” Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, and George Lucas all cite the film as a massive inspiration, and Spielberg even refers to “2001” as “the big bang for my generation.” While some audiences may be turned off by its extensive run-time and methodically slow plot, “2001” is undoubtedly a must-watch for anyone interested in cinema.
3. “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Bomb” (1964)
Kubrick’s anti-war pathology is displayed in other films like “Fear and Desire” and “Paths of Glory.” But “Dr. Strangelove” is Kubrick’s masterpiece when it comes to satirizing man’s obsession with violence. The film, which is perhaps the funniest of Kubrick’s films, stars Peter Sellers in a story about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button. It’s timeless and timely, made in an era of mutually assured destruction and analyzed decades later for it’s almost comically accurate predictions of the current state of political affairs.
4. “A Clockwork Orange“ (1971)
Set in dystopian England, “A Clockwork Orange” is a raging film exploring the seediness of man. The film stars Malcom Mcdowell as a criminal discovering the harsh effects of corporeal justice, and Kubrick takes aim at blindly powerful governments through the director’s own interpretation of Big Brother. “A Clockwork Orange” is disturbing, poignant, and maybe the most entertaining film in the Kubrick canon.
5. “Barry Lyndon” (1975)
“Barry Lyndon” is the period drama of all period dramas. Centered around an 18th century Irish rogue who attempts to infiltrate English aristocracy, the film is a historic tale man’s relationship with fate and destiny. And despite being criticized for its restrained emotion, “Barry Lyndon” continues to make all-time lists for it’s influence on double shots, costume design, and practical lighting. It’s, in my opinion, one of the best works of cinematography in film history.