From Paths of Glory to The Shining: The Top Films of The Greatest Director, Stanley Kubrick


The top film from the greatest director of all time, Stanley Kubrick! Known for his mastery across genres, Kubrick's films have influenced generations of filmmakers, from Nolan to Tarantino. From his early works like Paths of Glory to groundbreaking films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining, Kubrick's perfectionism and groundbreaking photography are evident in every frame. Join us as we explore the unparalleled legacy of this legendary director through his must-watch films.

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1. Paths of Glory (1957)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
Genre: Drama, War

My Take:

In Paths of Glory, Stanley Kubrick masterfully portrays the harrowing realities of World War I through a powerful and thought-provoking story. The film centers on a French General who commands his men to launch a futile and devastating attack on a heavily fortified German position. As the battle unfolds, the stark black-and-white cinematography enhances the sense of stark realism, making the intense and brutal scenes even more impactful and emotionally stirring.

“Politics is nothing more than a rich man’s hobby.”

Kirk Douglas delivers an exceptional performance as the conflicted French General, torn between his duty to his country and the moral dilemmas of blindly following orders. The supporting cast, portraying the soldiers who endure the horrors of war, adds authenticity and depth to the film, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.

Paths of Glory is not merely a war film; it is an exploration of the morality of war and the repercussions of leadership decisions on the lives of ordinary soldiers. The film raises profound questions about the human cost of conflict and the ethics of those in positions of power. Its unapologetic portrayal of war's brutality makes it a challenging yet essential cinematic experience.

Beyond Kubrick's technical and artistic achievements, the film's enduring relevance lies in its timeless themes. Paths of Glory serves as a poignant reminder of the human toll of warfare and the importance of questioning authority when faced with moral dilemmas. As conflicts continue to shape the world, this anti-war masterpiece remains an essential watch, urging us to reflect on the consequences of our actions and the true cost of war on humanity.

2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
Genre: Comedy

My Take:

“Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is a black comedy film directed by Stanley Kubrick that pushes the boundaries of satire and military spoof. Released in 1964, it remains one of the darkest and bravest comedies ever produced by a Hollywood studio.

The film’s plot revolves around a nuclear attack triggered by a series of absurd and farcical events, including the accidental launch of a nuclear bomb by an American plane. As the characters in the war room, played by Peter Sellers and George C. Scott, scramble to prevent the impending doomsday, the film cleverly satirizes the absurdity of nuclear warfare and the madness of the Cold War era.

One of the notable aspects of “Dr Strangelove” is Peter Sellers’ improvised lines as he portrays multiple characters in the film, including the titular character Dr Strangelove. Sellers’ comedic timing and ability to switch between characters with different accents and mannerisms add to the film’s comedic brilliance. One of the most memorable lines is Sellers’ exclamation as Dr Strangelove in the final scene, “Mein Führer! I can walk!” showcasing Kubrick’s unique and dark sense of humour.

Kubrick’s meticulous attention to detail and research is evident in the film, as he read nearly 50 books about nuclear war to ensure the accuracy of the events depicted. The film’s satirical commentary on the absurdity of war and human nature led to actual changes in policy to prevent such events from occurring in real life, highlighting the impact and relevance of “Dr Strangelove” beyond its comedic elements.

The film’s combination of serious subject matter and dark humour is masterfully executed, with Kubrick’s distinct visual style and storytelling techniques shining through. The phone scene, in which the characters engage in prevarication, and nothing speaks in the face of impending disaster, is a classic example of Kubrick’s ability to create tension and laughter simultaneously.

“Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is a timeless black comedy that pushes the boundaries of satire and military spoof. Kubrick’s attention to detail, Sellers’ improvisations, and the film’s dark humour make it a standout and refreshing entry into the comedy genre. It remains a thought-provoking and relevant film that continues to captivate audiences with its daring and unique approach to storytelling.

3. The Shining (1980)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers
Genre: Drama, Horror

My Take:

“The Shining” is a 1980 horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. Kubrick’s meticulous attention to detail and perfectionism is evident in the film, with interesting facts and trivia surrounding its production. For example, the iconic shot of blood pouring from the elevators took ample time to get right, with Kubrick’s insistence on achieving the desired look of blood. Similarly, the famous “Here’s Johnny!” scene, featuring Jack Nicholson’s character, took three days to film and involved the use of sixty doors, showcasing Kubrick’s dedication to getting every detail just right.

What makes “The Shining” a perfect horror film is its ability to create a sense of unease and psychological disintegration through its haunting atmosphere and surrealism. Kubrick’s use of the isolated and eerie setting of the haunted hotel and the labyrinthine hallways and rooms creates a sense of claustrophobia and impending doom. The film’s cinematography and use of practical effects, despite being released in 1980, are still impressive and visually stunning, adding to its timeless appeal.

One of the film’s strengths is its ambiguity, leaving audiences with a sense of unease and open to interpretation. The psychological descent of Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrance, into madness, is portrayed masterfully, blurring the lines between reality and delusion. The film’s ending, which is open to interpretation, adds to its enigmatic and thought-provoking nature, leaving audiences pondering the story’s true meaning long after the credits roll.

“The Shining” has become a masterpiece of horror cinema, inspiring countless films and filmmakers. Its unique blend of psychological horror, stunning visuals, and ambiguous storytelling has earned it a place in cinematic history. Kubrick’s perfectionism, attention to detail, and the film’s surrealism and ambiguous ending make it a standout entry in the horror genre.

4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates
Genre: Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi

My Take:

A Clockwork Orange is a masterpiece of dystopian cinema that pushes boundaries and challenges societal norms. Stanley Kubrick’s unflinching exploration of unprovoked violence and its consequences remains a polarizing topic to this day.

The film is set in a dark and twisted world where a gang of young men engages in ultraviolent acts without a second thought. The film’s aversion therapy scenes, in which the protagonist Alex is forcibly conditioned to reject violence, are challenging to watch. However, the film’s commentary on the power of the state and its ability to control its citizens is what truly sets it apart.

“Is it better for a man to have chosen evil than to have good imposed upon him?”

The film is a visual feast, with every frame expertly crafted to convey its unsettling tone. The use of classical music as a counterpoint to the film’s graphic violence is particularly effective. The film’s final scene, which was done after 74 takes, is haunting and memorable. The film was shot, edited, and released in just over a year, making it one of Kubrick’s fastest productions.

A Clockwork Orange is a controversial film that tackles the dark subject of unprovoked violence with unflinching realism. Kubrick’s masterful use of visuals and music creates an unsettling atmosphere that lingers long after the film ends. Its commentary on state control and individual freedom is thought-provoking and relevant, making it a must-watch for fans of challenging cinema.

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi

My Take:

2001: A Space Odyssey is a landmark in cinema history. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this film transcends time and remains an enigma that challenges the viewer’s understanding of existence. The movie follows a voyage of discovery that takes the audience from the prehistoric past to the infinite future. The story is driven by the monolith, an alien artifact that has the power to influence human evolution.

The film’s ambiguous ending has been the subject of much debate and interpretation. The movie’s ending is open to interpretation and leaves the audience with many questions. It’s a film that demands multiple viewings; you discover something new each time you watch it.

2001: A Space Odyssey is known for its meticulous attention to detail, and its use of orchestral music score is a significant factor that elevates the film to a masterpiece. The iconic opening sequence, which features Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” sets the tone for the rest of the film. The use of music is brilliant and enhances the already stunning visuals.

2001: A Space Odyssey challenges our perception of reality and our place in the universe. The movie shows how technology helps us and can surpass human capabilities if not cautious and threaten humanity. This idea was revolutionary in 1968, and the film's influence can still be felt in modern-day sci-fi. The film's impact on the sci-fi genre is immeasurable, and it continues to inspire filmmakers to this day.

6. Spartacus (1960)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons
Genre: Biography, History, War

My Take:

Spartacus is a classic historical epic film directed by Stanley Kubrick, with Kirk Douglas playing the titular character. The movie is set in ancient Rome during the Roman Republic, specifically in the year 73 B.C. It follows the story of Spartacus, a gladiator who leads a slave rebellion against the Roman Empire.

One of the most interesting facts about the film is its scriptwriter, Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo was one of the Hollywood Ten, a film industry professional who was blacklisted during the Red Scare for their alleged Communist sympathies. Despite this, Trumbo continued to write under pseudonyms, including for Spartacus, which he wrote while still on the blacklist. He won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film.

Spartacus won four Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor for Peter Ustinov, who played the character of Batiatus. It was also nominated for Best Picture but lost to Billy Wilder’s The Apartment.

The film begins with voice-over narration that sets the stage for the story, and the opening scenes show Spartacus being sold into slavery and trained as a gladiator. As the film progresses, Spartacus becomes more and more disillusioned with his situation, leading to the famous scene where he declares, “I am Spartacus!” and his fellow slaves all stand up in solidarity, each saying, “I am Spartacus!” in turn.

Spartacus is a movie about freedom and the fight against oppression, and it remains relevant today. The film’s portrayal of the brutal realities of slavery and the courage of those who fought against it is both powerful and moving. It’s a true classic that deserves to be seen and appreciated by audiences of all generations.

7. The Killing (1956)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards

Genre: Crime, Drama

My Take:

"The Killing" is a 1956 crime film directed by Stanley Kubrick, and it showcases Kubrick's early mastery of the genre. Despite being one of Kubrick's earlier works, "The Killing" stands out as a stunning film that continues to captivate audiences to this day. The film's initial test screenings were reportedly poor, with audiences finding the non-linear structure confusing. Kubrick was forced to edit the movie linearly, but in the end, it was released in its original form, which is often cited as a major influence on other non-linear films like Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) and "Pulp Fiction" (1994).

One of the strengths of "The Killing" is its heist plot, which may seem average by today's standards, but was groundbreaking in 1956. Kubrick's direction and storytelling techniques elevate the film, showcasing his early talent for creating tension and suspense. The plot twists and turns, with the characters' motivations and actions keeping audiences on the edge of their seats.

Kubrick's unconventional camera angles, lighting, and editing create a distinct visual style that adds to the film's overall atmosphere. The film's black-and-white cinematography is also noteworthy, adding to its noir-esque aesthetic and enhancing the gritty tone of the story.

"The Killing" is a standout film in Stanley Kubrick's early career, showcasing his mastery of the crime genre and his innovative filmmaking techniques. Despite its poor initial test screenings, the film has become a cult classic and significantly influenced other films. Kubrick's attention to detail, storytelling prowess, and unique visual style make "The Killing" a must-watch for any cinephile or fan of crime films.

8. Barry Lyndon (1975)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee
Genre: Adventure, Drama, History

My Take: 

“Barry Lyndon,” tells the story of a young man’s journey from a humble background to becoming a member of the aristocracy in 18th-century Europe. While the story may not have personally compelled me, what fascinated me about this film was the production, landscapes, and cinematography.

The attention to detail and visual aesthetics in “Barry Lyndon” is truly awe-inspiring. Kubrick borrowed a low-light camera from NASA to capture the film’s scenes in candlelight, creating a unique and visually breathtaking experience for the viewers. Many of the shots in the film are meticulously composed and filmed to evoke the style of eighteenth-century paintings, particularly those by Thomas Gainsborough.

Despite being known for its visual grandeur, the film’s story of the stepfather-stepson conflict and Barry’s journey through the social classes may not resonate with everyone. The film is deliberately paced and more prolonged than necessary, which may test the patience of some viewers. However, for those who appreciate Kubrick’s meticulous attention to detail and his ability to create immersive cinematic experiences, “Barry Lyndon” is a masterpiece.

“Barry Lyndon” is a visually stunning film that showcases Kubrick’s mastery of cinematography and attention to detail. While the story may not be universally compelling, the film’s production, landscapes, and costumes are a visual feast for the eyes. It is a unique and breathtaking cinematic experience that deserves to be appreciated on the big screen.

9. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, Vincent D’Onofrio
Genre: Drama, War

My Take:

“Full Metal Jacket” is a 1987 film directed by Stanley Kubrick that depicts the harsh realities of the Vietnam War through the eyes of U.S. Marines. The film is divided into two halves – the first focusing on the grueling boot camp training the soldiers undergo and the second delving into the brutality and chaos of war.

The film’s first half is a standout, with Kubrick masterfully exploring the psychological and physical challenges of military training. The film offers a chilling portrayal of the dehumanizing effects of boot camp, where the soldiers are stripped of their individuality and moulded into a uniform unit. The cast’s performances, particularly R. Lee Ermey as the drill instructor, are outstanding, adding depth and authenticity to the portrayal of army life.

However, the film’s second half falls short compared to other gripping war films. While Kubrick’s cinematography and style are visually stunning, the story and characters become somewhat disjointed, and the plot loses momentum. The film leaves many questions unanswered and offers little hope, reflecting the grim reality of war and the harsh truth that many soldiers die young.

Despite its flaws, “Full Metal Jacket” remains a perversely fascinating movie that leaves a lasting impact. Kubrick’s cinematic style, with long travelling shots that capture time and space as a seamless whole, adds to the film’s unique and immersive experience. The film’s metaphorical scheme may be open to interpretation, but its depiction of the psychological toll of war is undeniably powerful.

“Full Metal Jacket” is a thought-provoking and visually striking film that offers a grim portrayal of the Vietnam War and its impact on the soldiers. While the second half may not be as strong as the first, Kubrick’s artistic vision and cinematic style make it a compelling watch. The film’s exploration of the dehumanizing effects of military training and the harsh realities of war make it a relevant and haunting depiction of the human cost of conflict.

10. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Todd Field

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

My Take:

"Eyes Wide Shut" is a 1999 erotic thriller exploring a marriage's complexities, delving into themes of sexual fantasy, infidelity, and the darker aspects of human desire. The film also holds the record for "The Longest Constant Movie Shoot," spending almost a year in post-production, a testament to Kubrick's meticulous attention to detail and perfectionism.

Visually, "Eyes Wide Shut" is seductively beautiful, with Kubrick's signature transfixing style is evident throughout the film. The shots are meticulously composed, creating a sense of visual poetry that adds to the overall aesthetic appeal of the movie. The complexity of the relationship between the central characters, played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, is portrayed as compelling and nuanced, even when they appear to be a seemingly fine couple on the surface.

The film's pacing may be painstakingly slow for some viewers, but it is also what makes it entrancing. Kubrick deliberately creates a sense of tension and unease, drawing audiences into the story and allowing them to contemplate the deeper meanings beneath the surface. The film's exploration of human nature, the temptations that assail us from within and without, and the consequences of our actions are thought-provoking and unsettling.

"Eyes Wide Shut" is a visually stunning film that delves into the complexities of human relationships and desires. Kubrick's meticulous attention to detail, alluring style, and thought-provoking narrative make it a compelling watch. Despite its slow pacing, the film's exploration of the darker aspects of human nature, infidelity, and sexual fantasy leaves a lasting impact.


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