Ranking the films of the greatest director of all time. Let’s get to it.
13. Fear and Desire (1953)
Kubrick’s first film isn’t really that bad. The camera techniques are very advanced for a debut and the script isn’t terrible either. But, the characters aren’t interesting at all and the acting is bad. I mean IT’S BAD! Paul Mazursky delivers one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen. Overall, the film is impressive on a technical level, but is pretty amateurish and boring. Definitely the weakest of Kubrick’s filmography.
12. Spartacus (1960)
This shouldn’t even be considered a Kubrick movie. Kubrick was hired one week after shooting began, and star/producer Kirk Douglas was the one who wanted to make the film. Kubrick added some touches that definitely improve the movie, but the performances are pretty hammy, even from the great Laurence Olivier. There’s too much time spent on the politics of Greece and not enough about the main plot. Pretty muddled movie, but it has it’s moments.
11. Lolita (1962)
A film that hasn’t aged well. The first half is definitely the best part, with Humbert Humbert internally going mad over Lolita, and Charlotte Haze literally going mad over Humbert Humbert. After that, the movie gets really boring and Sue Lyons isn’t that pretty, plus she can’t act for sh*t. Peter Sellers is fun to watch, but his character’s scenes seem like they’re from a completely different movie. So, it’s a decent movie, but not anything spectacular.
10. Killer’s Kiss (1955)
This is a truly underrated movie. It has a lot of problems; bad acting and writing and such. But, the atmosphere is so mysterious and symbolic. Individual scenes in the film are very interesting and very Kubrick-esque. The boxing scene, the ballet scene, the climax in the warehouse, they’re all creative and intriguing. However, the film as a whole isn’t entirely cohesive. Definitely a movie for completists, but still an interesting one, nonetheless.
9. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Yeah, so, I used to love this movie. It had a cool first half and the sniper scene was awesome. But, rewatching it now, after several rewatches of Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and other, better war movies, it kind of feels a bit empty. That isn’t to say the boot camp sequence isn’t amazing. It is. R. Lee Ermey and Vincent D’Onofrio should have at least been nominated for an Oscar. However, the second half is attempting at recognizing the surrealism of war by focusing on the realism of war. Only, it doesn’t work as well as it should. The sniper scene is petrifying, but the rest feels really weird. The dialogue is kind of pretentious and the acting isn’t great. Overall, an uneven film with more good than bad, but it’s still got some major issues.
8. The Killing (1956)
This is the first great movie on the list. I’ve only seen it once, but I think it’s amazing. The script is fantastic and the performances are astonishing. Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook, and Timothy Carey being the standouts. The narration is a little distracting, but it’s not too distracting. The witty dialogue and creative direction are the highlights; this is an underrated gem from the master himself.
7. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
A film that has taken me a while to see, but now that I finally have, I can confidently say that it’s a masterpiece. The sex stuff is a little gratuitous, but it’s very effective because it does the impossible by making sex look creepy. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are fantastic in their roles. I had the impression was that they’re performances would be very stiff, as if they were trying to prove that they could act. But, fortunately, that’s not the case. Anyway, an emotional experience with a tense atmosphere, it’s a great movie for Kubrick to go out on.
6. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
What a surprise to see this so low! I know, but while I don’t think it’s as good as I originally thought, I still love it for the awesomeness it is. It’s a very theatrical movie with a lot of camp. While the rape is horrific, it’s even more horrific when you realize that it’s being treated as an afterthought. It’s Kubrick’s f*cked up, pitch black humor that actually works to the tone’s advantage. As I’ve said before, the message is very well portrayed and McDowell’s performance is astounding. Not much else to say accept, “I was cured alright!”
5. The Shining (1980)
Possibly, the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to say because I’m easily excitable, but this one keeps me up for days! The film’s brilliance is in the subtlety of the creepiness. For example, if you watch closely, the Overlook Hotel’s overall layout is entirely inconsistent, leaving the viewer with an uneasy feeling whenever a character is alone in the hotel. Also, a lot of people complain about Jack Nicholson’s performance in the film as being too crazy or psychotic, but I think it’s perfect. The film portrays him as a deeply troubled man with a struggle between work and family, and this job as undertaker causes him to finally snap. Anyway, a great film with thrilling scares. Just don’t go into Room 237.
4. Barry Lyndon (1975)
A beautiful film. That’s really all I have to say. The arch of Redmond Barry isn’t really an arch at all. He’s a spoiled, needy brat who becomes a RICH spoiled, needy brat. This makes his character all the more interesting and realistic. Every shot looks like a painting. Ryan O’Neal is surprisingly amazing as Barry, as is Marisa Berenson. What to say, but another underrated one.
3. Paths of Glory (1957)
Shocking, I know. It’s still in my top 10, but I think the top 2 are better. Only slightly. This movie deserves a lot of credit because it was the film that got me into making movies in the first place. The camera work is brilliant, the script is very well written, the acting is powerful, but Kubrick’s direction is the most amazing part. The overall dark tone really foreshadows the perfectionist’s future projects (Dr. Strangelove, Clockwork Orange, etc.) What else to say, but it’s a superb film that every film buff must see.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Another shocker. Every time I see it, it keeps on blowing me away. The visuals, the music, the direction, everything is great. It’s interesting that no one talks about how great the script is, but it’s arguably the greatest thing about the film. Then again, everything is the greatest thing about the film. I adore this movie and can now fully appreciate everything it has to offer. A true masterwork!
1. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Bomb (1964)
The best satire ever, the best Kubrick movie, the best comedy, the best war movie, the best sci fi movie, and definitely one of the best movies of all time. Peter Sellers is great in all three of his roles. He’s so goofy, but he has a certain subtlety that makes it even more hilarious. George C. Scott as Buck Turgedson is one of the best screen performances of all time. It’s amazing that Kubrick actually convinced Scott that the takes he was using were “outtakes.” It’s shocking. While the subject matter is definitely dated, the film is still as funny today as it was back 50 years ago. Happy birthday Dr. Strangelove!
So those are my rankings for Kubrick’s full 13 feature filmography. All I can say is that this man is truly extraordinary. I love him and his films, he is the greatest filmmaker of all time. Bravo, Stan!