3. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Fifteen years later, some still don’t know what to make of Kubrick’s final film, despite having ample time to reconcile their own desires for another 2001 or Full Metal Jacket with the fact that Kubrick spent his last years focusing on some of the most mundane and the most persistently troublesome aspects of our everyday existence. Eyes Wide Shut is a clear-eyed vision of stunted masculine sexuality and a particularly perceptive examination of the sexual power dynamics within a marriage. There’s a specific irony to the fact that Kubrick, a man said to be cold and distant, ended his career with an un-anambigious invocation of sex as an all-encompassing communication between this troubled couple. (Given Kubrick’s nature, I fully expect that was a deliberate action on his part.) Nicole Kidman’s delivery of the final line — “Fuck.” — may be one of the heaviest single-word statements in cinema.

Rewatch it For:
Tom Cruise, as this is among the most adroit uses of Cruise’s particular screen personality. Cruise is a movie star who has been called the sexiest man alive (thanks, People Magazine!) but whose roles are often curiously chaste. Kubrick uses him as a guy who has no idea how to handle sexual impulses, and whose journey through a dreamlike night of escalating sexual situations challenges not only the character, but the very image of Cruise as sex object.


2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
Comedy is the ultimate tool in fiction — a raw, brutal drama will challenge audiences and might turn away as many people as it attracts, but even the most savage comedy seems easier to swallow. Strangelove is an exceptionally savage comedy — and a wildly funny one — and a film in which Kubrick’s skill as a director fully comes into focus. This is his first truly commanding work, with masterfully-pitched tone, an impeccable eye for detail, and and a satirical spirit that is every bit as trenchant now as it was fifty years ago. There’s no single moment in comedy that sums up the totally blinkered insanity of politics like the delivery of “Gentlemen you can’t fight in here, this is the war room!”

Rewatch it For:
The minor key comic perfection of Sterling Hayden, whose performance not only stands up against Peter Seller’s exuberant grandstanding and George C. Scott’s bigger-than-big delivery, but creates a portrait of a scarily whacko authority figure which is unsettlingly believable.


1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
There’s a point at which we have to set aside personal preference and subjective experience to understand pure achievement, and there isn’t much pure achievement in cinema to rival 2001. Developing the story with Arthur C. Clarke, Kubrick reached to the furthest reaches of potential human experience, and together they are able to take any willing audience to both the beginning and end of humanity as we understand it. Kubrick’s film and Clarke’s novel are perfect paired companions, but on its own 2001 is a unique achievement, a piece of cinema that encompasses every aspect of filmmaking known at the time, from the utterly mundane to the experimental and the technologically advanced. The visual conception of that journey is dazzling; the compression of nearly all of human history and achievement into a single cut is sublime; the vision of a potential expanded consciousness is extraordinary.

Rewatch it For
The deep perspective on our own place in the universe. Kubrick and Clarke take blankly objective stock of where we come from while also remaining optimistic that there are evolutionary paths yet to explore.

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