Best Stanley Kubrick Movies

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Stanley Kubrick’s films transcend genius. His ability to construct breathtaking shots, expand emotional boundaries, and shatter story impossibilities has made his catalog that of legend. Here are the very best Stanley Kubrick movies that showcase his unmatched talent.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)


Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%

 

Eye’s Wide Shut would, sadly, be Kubrick’s final addition to the film world.

Like other Stanley Kubrick movies, Eyes Wide Shut posed a challenge to social constructs. The entire film is a narrative about the institution of marriage, as a seemingly perfect couple played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, take their monogamy issues to dangerous levels.

The film’s explicit nature is a unique challenge for any director, but Kubrick’s abilities take the movie from smut to stardom.

 

Lolita (1962)


Cast: James Mason, Shelley Winters, Sue Lyon, Peter Sellers

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

 

Lolita is, undoubtedly, Stanley Kubrick’s most controversial film.

Lolita is an adaptation of a Vladamir Nabokov novel, in which the protagonist becomes sexually involved with his underaged stepdaughter. Although the premise is horrible and unacceptable by today’s standards, the film was Kubrick’s first stretch into dark comedy.

He was able to draw out a levity that nicely balanced the overall drama of the film. Peter Sellers’ satirical portrayal of Clare Quilty brilliantly offsets the controversial nature of the story, as well.

Overall, Lolita was the first of Kubrick’s movies where audiences could so clearly see his meticulous style take flight.

 

Full Metal Jacket (1987)


Cast: Matthew Modine, Vincent, D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

 

With one of the most incredible opening sequences in film history, Full Metal Jacket blew the door off its hinges when it hit theaters in 1987.

Played by R. Lee Ermey, Sergeant Hartman is about as authentic a bastard as you could ask for. He tournaments the privates into killing machines. He particularly tries to break and rebuild the unmotivated and uncoordinated private Pyle (played by Vincent D’Onofrio).

The story is essentially split into basic training, or what war is perceived to be, and what action is actually like.

 

The Killing (1956)


Cast: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

 

For its time, The Killing was an innovative masterpiece. Kubrick instilled many then-revolutionary techniques, such as flashbacks and rewind.

However, this heist noir isn’t just technically prolific. It’s also incredibly entertaining. Johnny Clay (played by Sterling Hayden) is freshly out of prison. He puts together an ambitious two-million-dollar heist on a horse race track.

Kubrick considered this new template for the heist genre his first mature film. Additionally, it’s a great example of his excruciating attention to detail.

 

Paths of Glory (1957)


Cast: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjoue, George Macready

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

 

Paths of Glory is widely considered Kubrick’s most criminally underrated film. It chronicles a WWI lawyer-turned-Colonel, played by Kirk Douglas.

When three French soldiers abandon their posts—refusing to attack because it guaranteed their own deaths—Colonel Dax is presented with the almost impossible task of defending them.

Paths of Glory is steadfast in its theme: war is hell, and certain death is not glorious. Its courtroom drama style was proof that Kubrick was capable of handling a pure drama just as masterfully as anything else.

 

Barry Lyndon (1975)


Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee

Available on: HBO Max, YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

 

Kubrick was able to find substance in a seemingly posh and fluffy world with his 1975 aristocratic drama, Barry Lyndon.

Based on a heroless Victorian novel, Barry Lyndon chronicles an Irish rogue’s social climb during the Seven Years War.

Visually stunning with its wide-angle shots of an outdoor English setting, this movie let Kubrick flex his technical muscles. Its style also adds to the film’s posh nature, which lulls you into a sense of calm even during high-pressure, stressful sequences.

 

A Clockwork Orange (1971)


Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

Available on: Netflix, YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

 

Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell) and his “droogs” are a gang of vicious juveniles in a future, somewhat dystopian, world.

The story delves into the dangerous yet essential element of free will. Despite Alex’s awful crimes, audiences root his redemption when his free will is stolen.

A Clockwork Orange is a deliciously original look at behavioral psychology. It dances along a razor’s edge of making the protagonist palatable, a recurring theme in many Stanley Kubrick movies.

 

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


Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn

Available on: Amazon Prime, YouTube (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

 

Dr. Strangelove is one of the funniest movies ever made. It turns a serious political stance into an absurd tale, mocking the constant unease of America’s duck-and-cover era.

Indeed, the Cold War was a global pissing contest—and Kubrick pulls no punches saying so.

Peter Sellers’ masterfully hilarious three-role performance makes Dr. Strangelove a side-splitting spectacle that still feels fresh today.

 

The Shining (1980)


Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd

Available on: YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%

 

The Shining is widely considered the most excellent horror film of all time: to this day, in fact, filmmakers debate its essential meaning.

Some believe it’s a social commentary on the genocide of Native Americans; others think it’s an anti-Nazi film. One thing is for sure, though. The Shining is outstanding.

As a horror film, The Shining is emotionally haunting. Its ever-changing labyrinth set gives audiences the sense that they themselves are trapped in the Overlook Hotel.

What’s more, the portrayal of Jack Torrence by Jack Nicholson is undeniably unsettling. His rageful, brooding descent into madness leaves audiences with a lingering aftertaste of impending danger.

 

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester

Available on: HBO Max, YouTube (for rent), Amazon Prime (for rent), Google Play (for rent), iTunes (for rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

 

2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the most visually enchanting films of all time, dethroning even the great Lawrence of Arabia. In fact, its effects still hold up as film wizardry to this day.

It also changed the Sci-Fi genre forever. The beautiful spaceship docking scenes scored perfectly were proof that Kubrick had finally made his magnum opus.

His dazzling technical prowess—and his ability to make a looming, dangerous presence in HAL (Heuristically Programmed Algorithmic Computer 9,000, voiced by Douglas Rain)—was revolutionary. He’s not even a sentient or moving being, yet Kubrick turned HAL into one of Sci-Fi’s greatest villains.

 

Killer’s Kiss (1955)

Cast: Frank Silvera, Irene Kane, Jamie Smith

Available on: Pluto TV, Tubi, Amazon Prime (rent or buy)

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

 

With 3 short films and a feature under his belt, none of which had received any notice, Kubrick decided to try out something new: Film-Noir.

The film is filled with Kubrick trademarks through and through. He uses boxing, zooming techniques, flashbacks, and narration. The cinematography is exquisite with many shots being backlit with a soft, grey light to give it a disconnected, almost rear-screen-projection feel.

While this film may not be considered a masterpiece, it’s an opportunity to check out Kubrick’s early work.

 

Spartacus (1960)

Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Oliver, Jean Simmons

Available on: Amazon Prime (rent or buy), YouTube (buy or rent)

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

 

Spartacus is a moving and compelling story. The plot is relentless, propelled by a spectacular screenplay. Kubrick draws some of the greatest performances of the cast and fills the screen with images that fascinate throughout.

In this critically-acclaimed biographical drama, the slave Spartacus survives brutal training as a gladiator and leads a violent revolt against the decadent Roman Republic, as the ambitious Crassus seeks to gain power by crushing the uprising.

Even though there are claims of historical inaccuracies, whatever Kubrick might lose with those inaccuracies, he gains far more in his ability to convey the story to the viewer. Even though Spartacus is over sixty years old, the film tells us more of the present day than it does of the past.

 

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Stanley Kubrick movies are that rare combination: a visual feast and addictive storyline, peppered with rich, memorable characters who may not always be likable…but are, somehow, always endearing.

Kubrick has no doubt reached the point where his portfolio of works was so great that his name is instantly recognized among many others such as Martin Scorsese or the Coen brothers. With many other addictive movies out there such as “found footage” films, the works listed above are definitely worth an add to any movie lover’s library.