9. The Killing (1956)
Kubrick’s third feature is the first working with a cinematographer, and in many ways this feels like a refinement of his prior feature, Killer’s Kiss. The subject matter is different — here, Sterling Hayden leads a crew of men who seek to rob a race track — but the feeling is much the same. The film is personified by a narrator who keeps a reporter’s distance from the story, but the separation between a cold narration and the increasingly violent events related to the robbery breaks down as we’re pulled into the gang’s inner workings. A sense of humor glimmers here and there, but Kubrick keeps things tamped down until the ending, in which fate is incarnated as an irascible, irritating little dog.

Rewatch it For
The playful use of non-linear storytelling, awkward as it may be, which is planned as meticulously as the robbery depicted in the film.


8. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
There’s little place for subtlety in a war film, and this split-hemisphere film is bound and determined that we get it. From the halved structure to the dual characters of privates Joker and Pyle right down to Joker’s conflicting peace sign and “Born to Kill” buttons, Full Metal Jacket is like a set of nesting dolls. Dig down deep to the center, to the image of what man can be at the core, and there’s just a tiny little thing, recognizably related to the outer shells, but stripped of any nuance or embellishment. It is a simple, brutal film in many respects, and bravura performances from Matthew Modine and Vincent D’Onofrio give it an irresistible energy.

Rewatch it For:
The second half of the movie, too-easily dismissed in favor of the more conventionally accessible boot camp narrative, in which Joker’s smug personality is tested as he finds exactly the thing he sought out of war.

a clockwork orange

7. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Kubrick’s adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel is an eye-opening visual achievement, with a sonic accompaniment that is almost as eccentric as the film’s costumes and environments. And while its depiction of youth gangs and the authoritarian methods considered to control crime is starkly reductionist, that works in the service of creating a horrific vision of a society that is bereft of ideas, and even totally inept in its attempt to achieve balance between the state and the impulses of an individual.

Rewatch it For
The wide-angle photography, which highlights the magnificent combination of locations and production design, but which also gives the film’s violence an uncomfortably grounded basis in reality.


6. Paths of Glory (1957)
Kurbick’s second war film is a searing anti-war document that contains some of the most devastating images of WWI put to film — both in scenes that take place on the battlefield, and in the courtroom where soldiers are tried for cowardice to cover failures at higher levels of command. There is even less hidden below the surface here than in Full Metal Jacket, as the script (a collaboration with crime author and The Killing co-writer Jim Thompson) is angrily didactic. But given the message at hand, it is impossible to consider that entirely a fault. Through technique that has grown in bounds since his debut, Kubrick keeps the proceedings tense and riveting.

Rewatch it For
The fusion of Kubrick’s first-phase documentary influence combined with the period recreation of trenches and WWI battlefields, which creates images of man-made catastrophe that are unforgettable.


5. The Shining (1980)
Horror is made of all the same stuff of drama, perhaps in different proportions. Kubrick cast aside much of Stephen King’s fairly balanced conception for The Shining, particularly elements of plot and character, in order to focus on atmosphere. Through his impeccable craft and patient eye, the result of that effort is a horror film that is close to pure experience. The Shining feels bigger than the screen that holds it as the Overlook Hotel could almost stretch off the sides of the screen to actually envelop the audience. The effect of The Shining‘s specific patterns of sound and image is like bridging zones of abstract and concrete thinking to create an all encompassing feeling of inescapable dread that goes beyond the experience of this family trapped in a remote hell.

Rewatch it For:
The use of space, always a hallmark of Kubrick’s work, but which here is a dominant characteristic, and a thing that is dramatically different from the style of horror that has evolved in the decades since this film was released.


4. Barry Lyndon (1975)
Kubrick never got to make his Napoleon movie, but his adaptation of the William Makepeace Thackeray novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon, a rambling tale of a dopey Irish rogue, serves in its stead as an adventure movie slash chamber drama in which Kubrick could indulge a meticulously recreated 18th Century period aesthetic. This film is the Eyes Wide Shut of the ’70s: a movie heralded by great anticipation that was received with disappointment on release, and relegated to an afterthought by those interested in only the most superficial aspects of Kubrick’s filmmaking. And, like Eyes Wide Shut it offers ample rewards for patient viewers, as the story of Barry’s rise in society — through events barely within his control — and his inevitable fall proves to be an observant character piece with ample opportunities for a giant cast to shine.

Rewatch it For:
The glorious light and the cinematography by John Alcott, which is the most beautiful work achieved by any of Kubrick’s collaborators.

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