13 movies. Not 10. I’m five for five!
Anyway, here’s my latest offering to the listicle gods. Stanley Kubrick’s complete filmography. Kubrick’s canon, those movies that he laid authorship on, was actually only 10 movies. They excluded Fear and Desire, Killer’s Kiss, and Spartacus. But you know that 10 movies is just simply unacceptable.
Kubrick’s films, rated best to worst. Click on the links to get my full reviews.
13. Fear and Desire
“This is the work of an immature, unfocused, and pretentious bore. This Stan Kubrick guy has no future in the movies. He should just go back to New York and become a dentist or something.”
12 . Killer’s Kiss
“[I]t shows an artist learning the mistakes of his last film, expanding on the best parts of the previous effort, and becoming a more complete filmmaker in the process.”
“Each time I see this film, I like it a tad bit more. It’s certainly good, but I think it’s a good bit from greatness, though time may change that opinion.”
“In the end, the movie’s certainly good, but it’s got too many authorial hands moving it in different directions. Instead of William Wyler getting support from producers and star to make Ben-Hur in the best possible way, we had a screenwriter insisting on less interesting characterizations, a producer and star who seemed more interested in making himself look good than telling a story, and a director that couldn’t pursue anything like his own vision. It’s a compromised film that amazingly works as well as it does.”
9. Full Metal Jacket
“So, that’s kind of where I am overall with the film. I know that the first half informs the second half, but I still haven’t quite figured out how. I think I can grasp the overall thematic thrust of the film, but I haven’t really developed it in my own head. I believe that there’s more to this movie than my first four viewings have left with me, and I’m more than willing to give the film another try in the future.”
8. The Killing
“The Killing represents an artist discovering the intricacies of his craft and the necessaries of narrative technique while growing significantly from one film to the next. Kubrick was presenting himself as an assured director with a firm grasp of his material.”
7. A Clockwork Orange
“Perhaps it will grow on me more with time, but I cannot imagine ever quite loving this movie as much as the listed others with a first act that makes me cringe so much. Yes, it’s intentional and successful, but still…that’s a hard watch.”
7a. A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Kubrick held onto this project for years, eventually dying before filming a frame. Spielberg took it up as his next project after Kubrick’s death, and there are parts of the final product that feel like Kubrick filmed them himself. There are also parts that feel like pure Spielberg, so including it on this list isn’t the most appropriate thing in the world, but I think it’s appropriate enough to slide it in with an asterisk.
6. Eyes Wide Shut
“But yeah, I find the movie completely enrapturing. It’s a descent into dream logic and another world while also touching on themes that are extraordinarily grounded. I think it’s an underrated work from one of the greatest of filmmakers.”
5. The Shining
“The Shining is first and foremost an exquisitely crafted horror film. From the camera work, to the geography of the hotel that never quite makes sense, to the performances, and finally to the music, the film creates an otherworldly feel that unnerves the audience, creating the perfect environment to strike terror. That terror is firmly rooted in something very relatable to an audience, the fear of losing family, and it works marvelously.”
4. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
“The movie’s slyly funny in several ways, great to look at, and with some wonderfully iconic imagery. That sight of Major Kong riding the bomb to the ground is just so fantastic. There are obvious sexual metaphors everywhere, implying a Freudian connection between war and sex, that heightens the comedic value as well. This movie is a classic for good reason.”
3. Paths of Glory
“This is Stanley Kubrick’s first great film, and it has the kind of emotional punch that many find sorely missing from his overall oeuvre. Dealing with themes that Kubrick would explore for the rest of his career, Paths of Glory is one of the great anti-war movies.”
2. Barry Lyndon
“The inevitability of his rise and fall is so well handled that it gains an element shared with Greek tragedy. He’s destined to fall because his fall was always within him. As the voice over says, the qualities of gaining a fortune and maintaining a fortune are not the same thing.”
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
“There’s so much to appreciate in this film. It’s complex, simple, beautiful, ugly, cold, and warm all at once. It’s a masterful achievement that proudly sits atop a master’s filmography.”
17 thoughts on “Stanley Kubrick: The Definitive Ranking”
I’d probably put Spartacus higher, but of the ones I’ve seen I would agree with the ranking.