I have always loved TV and movies. Maybe its because a lot of us raised in the 80s had so much more to entertain us. I had influences that would become pop culture icons popping up around me like weeds in an unkempt field. Movies were a big part of that. I remember the excitement of the Star Wars movies. I remember the first roundhouse kick that I saw from Jean Claude Van Damme or the first time I saw a Bruce Lee movie. I can vividly remember running to sit in front of the television to watch He-Man hold aloft his magic sword and say “By the power of Grayskull, I have the POWER!” (That part still gives me chill bumps.) All in all, I loved being entertained. And truly don’t we all? So when it comes to a movie, what draws us in? Sometimes less is more. Sometimes the grandiose and unbelievably complex spectacle is what impresses us. Sometimes, when it comes to a powerful scene in a movie; stripping away all of the fluff to reveal the most basic of elements is what truly draws you to a character. My family allowed me to watch whatever movie flew to my fancy (within reason of course), so I was lucky enough to watch some of the best movies and TV produced before my time as well as the movies that were being made as I grew up. Watching Spaghetti Westerns with my dad or watching Road House allowed me to grow up and experience some amazing movies as I aged. Along my schematic journey; I encountered a director, screenwriter and producer who would not only become one of my favorite but will be remembered as one of the most influential directors in cinematic history.
July 26th, 2018 would have been Stanley Kubrick’s 90th birthday. Sadly the director passed away in 1999 while he was completing his 13th and final feature length film, “Eyes Wide Shut.” The director died at 70 years old but his 46-year career of creating movies produced some of the most memorable and influential movies of all time. Despite him only making a baker’s dozen movies; the films that he did create are not your average films. Many of them are quite literally cinematic Masterpieces which have been ranked (USA Today, IMDB.com, Rolling Stones Magazine, etc) among other classics as the greatest movies of all time. So it is an honor for me to present my Top Cat’s Top 10: Stanley Kubrick Movies –
Though the film is not one of his most influential, Spartacus was the movie that paid a significant monicker in Kubrick’s impressive resume. The movie’s large format cinematography allowed Kubrick to branch out from his stripped down, cinematic shots like in his 1955 movie, “Killer’s Kiss”. He butted heads with script writers and editors, but the movie has many Kubrick-esque elements.
9. Eyes Wide Shut
In what many consider to be his worst movie, Kubrick’s erotic tale that whimsically mixes together themes of love and the occult is definitely a Kubrick film. Though Kubrick thought the movie was his greatest contribution to the cinematic universe…Tom Cruise’s lackluster performance keeps the movie near the bottom on my list but Kubrick did however show his perfectionism by controlling everything from the color of the walls to the details in the masks used in the movie to the rolling camera shots.
Lolita is a creepy movie. The book is even worse but Kubrick did at least work with the numbers to make the movie adaptation a little less creepy. Oh you don’t know why? Well the movie centers around a middle aged man marrying a woman because he is in love with her daughter. Her very YOUNG daughter. The film is however well done, and like many of Kubrick’s movies; tip toes along the line of politically correctness.
7. Barry Lyndon
Another one of Kubrick’s novel adaptations, this time he adapted the 1844 novel called The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thacheray. The story revolves around a conniving, amoral Irish social climber who manipulates his way from an Irish farm to a wealthy entitled life. Roger Ebert labeled the movie as one of the most beautiful films that he had ever seen; Kubrick’s cinematic tricks and camera work (thanks a NASA made lens that could capture images lit only by candlelight) creates a truly spectacular piece of cinematic history that allows everything from the production design to the silverware on the table to tell its own story.
6. Paths of Glory
One of Kubrick’s earlier works, which showcases the aristocracy of leaders and the atrocities of war; Paths of Glory allows us to witness the internal struggle of human beings in what could easily have been just another war story presenting simple war heroes but he instead presented it in such a way that it is truly unforgettable. We cinematically witness the human spirit crack under pressure and realizations of war while feeling every gut-wrenching, senseless death. This movie digs past the trenches and court room scenes to show man at his many weakest but also most beautiful points. The film’s last scene is one of the most emotional scenes of the movie and is remembered as one of the most effective endings in film history. The last scene, like the movie, allows you to see the humanity of an enemy and the tears that fall from the faces of everyone involved evokes emotions in even the hardest of hearts. The move the audience just as much.
5. Full Metal Jacket
I have watched this movie so many times; but I have to go to the second part most of the time. The movie is split into two distinct parts that beautifully echo each other. The two parts allow you to see the soldier and how being a soldier can create that lack of humanity. Besides the first part housing the infamous real-life drill sergeant turned actor R. Lee Erney (who was brought on to help create authenticity in the dialogue but then was used in the actual part) unleashes a verbal (and sometimes physical) assault on the men. Though Erney’s barrage of dialogue comes at the expense of a young man who clearly won’t make it in the army. You witness the army drill sergeant driving their humanity from them…turning them into cold blooded killers. Which if you haven’t seen the movie, is exactly what happens.
4. Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
The term black comedy is very different than that of a Black comedy. Black comedy (also known as dark comedy or gallows comedy) makes light of a subject matter that is generally too taboo. When he wanted to do a Cold War era thriller involving the nuclear-weapons crisis; he produced the masterpiece in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis and on the eve of the Vietnam War. But while doing his research for the film, he decided that instead of a thriller, that the ‘mutual assured distruction’ theory was too absurd. The fact that both sides of the Cold War thought that stockpiling nuclear bombs and planning on doomsday scenarios forced Kubrick to make this comedic masterpiece more than just a comedy piece; but it becomes a political statement that feels relevant over 40 years later.
3. The Shining
What could arguably be one of the most significant films in filmmaking, The Shining is not just a horror classic but is a cinematic treasure. Kubrick yearned to make a horror film that brought us to see the flaws of man. To see the personality flaws that allow us to see how far you can fall. The film scares you and it makes you uneasy; all while psychologically thrilling the audience. His use of location and his masterful editing and doing take after take created a film that will not only scare you; but will make you question your own psyche by watching Jack Nicholson’s character descend into madness.
2. A Clockwork Orange
Kubrick himself describes the film as “a story of the dubious redemption of a teenage delinquent by condition-reflex therapy. It is, at the same time, a running lecture on free-will.” The social satire and the film’s subversive beauty allows the characters to uncomfortably become the protagonist. Alex and his “droogs” rape, beat, and steal unabashedly. The film makes you uncomfortable from the images portrayed but we are forced to confront our own morals and are forced to look deeply into how we view free will.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
Kubrick was definitely ahead of his time. Even 50 years later, 2001: A Space Odyssey is listed as one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time and still revels new space movies. Though this movie may have been the springboard to launch Kubrick to superstardom, Kubrick had us looking to the stars a year before we put a man on the moon. The movie which showcases not only humanity’s relationship with the cosmos; but also shows the potential negative interactions with technology. The movies technical engineering aside, the movie is cinematically amazing. The story (which he wrote in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke) could easily be passed off as a movie told this year. (Just watch Interstellar if you don’t believe me.) The sci-fi genre was thrown off its axis thanks to this movie because this genre-altering screenplay will transcend cinematic history as one of the greatest of all time.
Kubrick directing Kirk Douglas in Spartacus accredited to Studio – ebay, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19971103
Eyes Wide Shut Mask image credited to FaceMePLS from The Hague, The Netherlands – Stanley Kubrick in EYEUploaded by SunOfErat, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30389629
The Shining Door at the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition image credited to Carlos Pacheco from Toronto, Canada – Redrum door – The Shinning, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40387574
Clockwork Orange costume at the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition image credited to Matthew Gallant from Santa Monica, California – Stanley Kubrick Exhibit 008Uploaded by SunOfErat, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30390386
Hal 9000 at the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition image credited to Ben Snooks from Melbourne, Australia – Krakow-Stanley-Kubrick-Exhibition-HAL, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40400228