In honor of one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema, who would have been 86 years old today (Kubrick passed away in 1999), I have decided to make my list of the Top 10: The best of Stanley Kubrick films ever. It wasn't hard to come up with ten great Kubrick films, but it was tough to order them because so many of his films are masterworks that continue to evolve over time. Kubrick films are rare in that every time you re-watch them it's like experiencing the films new all over again.
Many of his films broke new ground in cinematography, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a science-fiction film which director Steven Spielberg called his generation's "big bang", with innovative visual effects and scientific realism. For Barry Lyndon (1975), Kubrick obtained lenses developed by Zeiss for NASA in order to film scenes under natural candlelight and The Shining (1980) was among the first feature films to make use of a Steadicam for stabilized and fluid tracking shots. As with his earlier shorts, Kubrick was the cinematographer and editor on the first two of his thirteen feature films. He directed, produced and wrote all or part of the screenplays for nearly all his films.
While some of Kubrick's films were controversial with mixed reviews, such as Paths of Glory (1957), Lolita (1962), and A Clockwork Orange (1971), most of his films were nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes or BAFTAs. Film historian Michel Ciment considers his films to be "among the most important contributions to world cinema in the twentieth century" while director Norman Jewison calls him one of the "great masters" that America has produced.
Kubrick is one of the most influential film directors in the history of cinema. Leading directors, including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Woody Allen, Terry Gilliam, the Coen brothers, Ridley Scott, and George A. Romero, have cited Kubrick as a source of inspiration, and in the case of Spielberg, collaboration. On the DVD of Eyes Wide Shut, Steven Spielberg, in an interview, comments on Kubrick that "nobody could shoot a picture better in history", and the way that Kubrick "tells a story is antithetical to the way we are accustomed to receiving stories". Writing in the introduction to a recent edition of Michel Ciment's Kubrick, film director Martin Scorsese notes that most of Kubrick's films were misunderstood and under-appreciated when first released. Then came a dawning recognition that they were masterful works unlike any other films. Perhaps most notably, Orson Welles, one of Kubrick's greatest personal influences and all-time favorite directors, famously said that: "Among those whom I would call 'younger generation' Kubrick appears to me to be a giant."
So keep in mind, this Top Ten list merely reflects my personal taste of Kubrick's work. I don't think he's ever made a bad film, and certainly from The Killing (1956) to Eyes Wide Shut (1999), you could make the case that all the films he made in those years were masterpieces.
1. A Clockwork Orange - 1971
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey - 1968
3. The Shining - 1980
4. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - 1964
5. Eyes Wide Shut - 1999
6. Barry Lyndon - 1975
7. Paths of Glory - 1957
8. Full Metal Jacket - 1987
9. The Killing - 1956
10. Lolita - 1962
Honorable Mention: Napoleon
Kubrick's unrealized dream project that sadly he was never able to make.
Following 2001 (1968), Kubrick planned to make a film about the life of the French emperor Napoleon. He had already spent two years doing extensive research about Napoleon's life, and would use a screenplay he wrote in 1961. The film was well into pre-production and ready to begin filming in 1969 when MGM cancelled the project, partly due to its projected cost, and the poor reception the Soviet version received.
In March 2013, Spielberg, who previously collaborated with Kubrick on A.I. Artificial Intelligence and a passionate fan of his work, announced that he would be developing Napoleon as a TV miniseries based on Kubrick's original screenplay. A draft of the screenplay from 1969 is available to read online, and I was thoroughly engrossed. Often called "The Greatest Film Never Made".