Stanley Kubrick’s Top 5 Films of All Time!

Stanley Kubrick is a director who needs no introduction, with an extensive 48 years of technical innovations and grandiose storytelling under his director’s belt! Known to fans for his meticulous research, knack for perfectionism and taboo-breaking subject matter within his 13 feature films, Kubrick remains one of the most iconic and influential filmmakers of all time!

Taking up the mantle of editor, screenwriter and cinematographer for many of his own movies, Kubrick’s reputation as an auteur filmmaker is vastly apparent through his diverse filmography of multi-genre flicks. Among his greatest hits, 5 stand out as his best works and have left fans in awe of his artistic innovations to the film industry! Let’s take a closer look at what makes these 5 films the pinnacle of the iconic filmmaker’s career!

Full Metal Jacket

Right off the bat, Kubrick’s 1987 war drama film, Full Metal Jacket delves deep into the raw brutality and senselessness that occurred during the 20-year-long Vietnam War. The film’s gripping direction, ensemble cast of colorful characters within the United States Marines and horrifying scenes of graphic violence, have secured its place among Kubrick’s most shocking and elaborate films! 

Receiving an IMDB score of 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes score of 90% and a Metascore of 79%, fans of the anti-war film are in agreement of the film’s portrayed, generational impact and criticism of the Vietnam War, by Kubrick. 

Matthew Modine’s unforgettably comedic and harrowing performance as Pvt. Joker, makes for some very interesting juxtaposition within the otherwise, dour war film. Joker begins his militaristic journey as the class clown, using humor as a coping method amid scenes throughout boot camp, up until the beginning stages of his deployment in Vietnam. By the end of the film, there aren’t any more jokes being cracked by the barrack comedian–only the grim reality of war and its emotional toll taken on his psyche.

 2001: A Space Odyssey 

Step out of the warzone and into the cosmos with Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 space epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Regarded by fans and scientists as one of the most influential sci-fi films ever made, this written collaboration between filmmaker Kubrick and author Arthur C. Clarke follows astronauts as they investigate alien artifacts found on the moon! Things get even weirder with the presence of the Discovery One’s malevolent supercomputer, known to the space travelers as HAL9000, who bears an uncanny audio resemblance to that of real-life AI assistants such as Siri and Alexa. 

Between Geoffery’s Unsworth’s stunning cinematography of the starship and its dazzling interior set pieces, by production designers Ernest Archer, Harry Lange and Anthony Masters; 2001: A Space Odyssey makes for one of Kubrick’s most hypnotic films, blending together elements of science, art and technology! The film’s critical and commercial success, along with its impact on pop culture has earned itself an IMDb score of 8.3, Rotten Tomatoes score of 92% and Metacritic score of 84.


A Clockwork Orange

This next film from Kubrick might be his most deranged and abhorrent film to date, and we haven’t even covered The Shining yet! Based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 book of the same title, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange follows the sadistic gang leader, one villainous Alex DeLarge (Malcom McDowell) and his Droogs committing random acts of ultra-violence, without any regard for their victims! 

Fueled by intense drug use, Alex’s evil acts soon catch up to him after he’s arrested and convicted of murder. While incarcerated, Alex is offered a plea deal by the government, looking for subjects to participate in rehabilitation therapy, promising his release after completing two weeks of therapy. Though seemingly a slap on the wrist for the vile gang leader, the consequences of Alex’s therapy result in his disgust towards the violence and sexual deviancy that once defined him! 

A Clockwork Orange carefully examines grotesque violence and whimsical humor from violent criminals that cause pain to unsuspecting victims. The film’s twisted portrayal of sex, violence and depravity from the perspective of Alex, is what makes the film one of Kubrick’s most thought-provoking and disturbing films! This twisted flick received an IMDB score of 8.3, a Rotten Tomatoes score of 87% and Metacritic score of 77. 

The Shining 

Moving into the realm of horror, Kubrick’s The Shining is adapted from Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name and ups the creep factor with horrifying performances by Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall and Danny LLoyd! Confined to an isolated hotel for the winter, the Torrance family is snowed in and are tormented by a sinister presence, guiding the father towards violence, while his son experiences horrific visions from the past and future!

From the incredibly creepy twin girls that Danny keeps seeing, to the idea that Jack is a reincarnation of previous hotel caretakers, The Shining is considered to be one of the scariest horror movies of all time, as well as one of Kubrick’s best movies! 

The Shining received an IMDB score of 8.4, a Rotten Tomatoes score of 83% and a comparatively low Metacritic score of 68.   

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 

 Released in 1964, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a military spoof flick that pivots its jokes around a potential nuclear holocaust, between the United States and the Soviet Union. Released during the beginning stages of the Cold War, Kubrick’s film is considered to be the greatest of movie satires, using the real-life tensions between two world superpowers, pushing towards an arms race that could spell mutual annihilation! 

With Peter Sellers lighting up the screen with his hilarious four personas: Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove; as well as a number of whimsical performances and set pieces taking place throughout, there’s never a dull moment in the film! 

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb received an IMDB score of 8.4, a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98% and a Metacritic score of 97.   

At a glance, these 5 Stanley Kubrick films have largely impacted pop culture and inspired generations of up-and-coming filmmakers to pick up cameras and tell their own stories! Through his seminal works of the human condition, cosmic dread, violent tendencies, the paranormal and political satire, fans won’t soon forget Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic legacy!

About the Author

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Gregory Karp

Gregory S. Karp Jr. is a third-year multimedia journalism student at Cal Poly Pomona, with a passion for writing news, sports and culture articles.