Kubrick Through The Ages: A List of the Top Five Greatest

This controversial film-maker changed cinema, Joe Rafferty gives a run down of his top 5 Kubrick classics.

Joe Rafferty
23rd October 2017

No. 5 – A Clockwork Orange 

Based on Anthony Burgess’ novel of the same name, the story is set in a dystopian Britain, and follows a young gang leader named Alex (Malcolm McDowell), whose interests include classical music, rape, and a “bit of the old ultra-violence”. This was a difficult choice, because there was a period in my life where I absolutely hated this film. While I personally don’t have a problem with dark material, I thought the film was sadistic and gratuitous. However, I have recently come to appreciate the film for it’s visual merits, compelling story and the disturbing nature of its characters. 

No. 4 – 2001: A Space Odyssey 

Consistently praised as one of the most influential and technologically ground-breaking science-fiction films of all time. Cited by George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott as having informed their own sense of style, as well as laying the groundwork for the standard of science-fiction in modern cinema. In my opinion, the strongest aspect of this film, is its ability to convey both the existential nature of space exploration and also fear of the unknown, through incredibly minimalist techniques. And who can forget the iconic character of HAL, whose calm voice is enough to send a chill down anyone’s spine. 

 No. 3 – Full Metal Jacket 

The dead know only one thing, it is better to be alive”. Full Metal Jacket chronicles a platoon of U.S. Marines during their time in boot camp at Paris Island, to their eventual deployment into the combat zone in Vietnam. Without a doubt one of the most visceral and harrowing war films ever made. The performance of former USMC drill instructor R. Lee Ermey, gives a vicious insight into the psychological impact of military recruits training for war. Also the film contains several crucial themes including, the reality of war, military brainwashing and a soldier’s journey into an unknown world.

 The performance of former USMC drill instructor R. Lee Ermey, gives a vicious insight into the psychological impact of military recruits training for war

No. 2 – Paths of Glory 

This film perfectly embodies the words of Georges Clemenceau, “war is too important to be left to the generals”. Set during World War I, the story follows French Army Colonel Dax, as he attempts to save some of his men from being executed for cowardice. The portrayal of the French General Staff resorting to scapegoating in order to cover for their own failures, is a theme that resonates around the world, about how war is conducted by those entrusted to keep us safe. The ending scene is also in my opinion one of the most emotional moments in cinema history. 

No. 1 – Dr. Strangelove 

Finally, the number one position has to go to the phenomenal Dr. Strangelove. When a mentally unstable U.S. Air Force General orders a bomber crew to carry out a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, the duty falls on the President of the United States, his advisors, and an RAF officer to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. Kubrick’s ability to satirise many Cold War themes, such as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and the possibility of World War III, are a testament to his calibre as a director. Furthermore, Peter Sellers performance serves as the pinnacle of the film’s comedic brilliance. 

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