Ranking Stanley Kubrick’s Films [The Yellow Kubrick Road]

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We’ve finally finished my Stanley Kubrick odyssey, or should we say that we’ve reached the end of the yellow (Ku)brick road and it has been a rather lovely journey. It’s easy to see why he’s lauded with the title of the greatest filmmaker. There has been no other film director with such an obsessive eye for detail and ambition. Particularly towards the end of his career, he always aimed to make the very best film. He always made the definitive genre film whether it be sci-fi, period, war, horror or soft porn! Below is my personal ranking so you’ll probably very much disagree but if you don’t like it do your own bloody list! I’ve also left out Fear and Desire and Spartacus as Stanley basically disowned both films and so I’ll honour his wishes.

11. Killers Kiss

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This is the only Stanley film I disliked. It’s the last original film he came up with as the rest of his films are based on other source material. At only 60 minutes long it still manages to bore with its dull and conventional story. It is beautifully shot, especially considering the teeny budget, but the screenplay leaves a lot to be desired. Overall it’s very forgettable and definitely the black sheep of the Stanley filmography!

My rating: 4/10

10. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

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Yes, yes, yes I know it’s iconic and a reflection of the times etc. but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as his other offerings. I’m not a fan of political comedies or politics in general and so I was actually expecting to dislike the film, but to my surprise I quite enjoyed it. A lot of it is funny and Peter Sellers is excellent at doing an Eddie Murphy and playing three different characters at once. Unfortunately though, due to the lack of locations and strong characters it does go through some slow and unengaging patches.

My rating: 6/10

9. The Killing

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The Killing is like the ultimate heist film. It has had clear influences on the crime films of today with its tight and multi-angled plotting. Quentin Tarantino has confessed to the film influencing his output and it’s clear to see how. It’s a clever, entertaining film with a wonderfully ironic ending. Also, a big shout out to the hilarious acid-tongued mobster wife.

My rating: 7/10

8. Lolita

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Most folk find this a weak entry into Stanley’s canon but I enjoyed it a lot. It’s beautifully made, controversial and thoroughly engaging. It’s also very funny, although I did find Peter Seller’s character a little grating. Sue Lyons is perfect as the flirty Lolly though.

My rating: 8/10

7. Full Metal Jacket

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A film often described as one of two halves. The first training half is perhaps one of the greatest bits of film Stanley has ever done, which is why the second (longer) part suffers in comparison. You’ll go away remembering the dark destruction of Private Pyle and R Lee Ermey’s darkly comic performance rather than Private Jokers wandering around in Vietnam. The sniper finale is superb though.

My rating: 8/10

6. Paths of Glory

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Stanley’s first war film is often described as the greatest ever. It’s a supremely powerful and moving anti-war film about three soldiers being unjustly executed for cowardice. The whole film will make your blood boil and destroy your faith in humanity. It’s beautifully made and extremely well written with a haunting final scene.

My rating: 8/10

5. Barry Lyndon

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A three hour period drama starring Ryan O Neal? It doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of a good night out (unless you’re in your fifties and slightly menopausal) but somehow it’s really enjoyable. It features the best cinematography you could possibly get on an impressive scale. The film moves fairly slowly but it doesn’t bore for a second. I particularly enjoyed the second half which follows Barry’s dysfunctional family living it up in all their riches.

My rating: 8/10

4. Eyes Wide Shut

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A satisfying end to a glittering career. Stanley’s scary sex epic is possibly the most enigmatic and mysterious film he’s ever done. Is it trying to expose the illuminati? Or is it just trying to expose? Whatever he’s trying to say there’s no denying how well made Eyes Wide Shut is. The directing is phenomenal and the atmosphere is grippingly dark with the pivotal party scene being one of the highlights of Stanley’s directing career. It’s a dreamlike and hypnotic film with an unreal amount of attention to detail.

My rating: 9/10

3. A Clockwork Orange

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Controversy smothered this film when it was released thanks to the explicit material, irredeemable main character and somewhat playful atmosphere. After forty years now the shock value has rubbed off so that we can see it as the masterpiece it really is. Malcolm Mcdowell is electrifying as the despicable Alex De Large who revels in power, rape and ultraviolence. It’s one of the best character arcs in the history of cinema and features and endless array of iconic moments. It’s a masterclass.

My rating: 10/10

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey

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Don’t shoot me! I’ve been wrestling with putting this at the number one spot and I’m still not entirely sure if it should. I saw the film for the first time a few months ago and was suitably bowled over. Perhaps I will consider it the greatest Stanley film after a few more re-watches, but for now it’s my runner-up. It’s a spectacular cinematic experience full of sights and sounds which will pin you to your seat. The film is set at a glacial pace and has a very thin plot, yet something keeps you totally mesmerised. The final wordless half hour is truly magical.

My rating: 10/10

1.The Shining

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It’s a film I’ve lost count in the number of times of seeing it so I may be biased. I’m also a self-confessed horror addict so I am definitely biased towards The Shining. Everything about it is perfection from Jack Nicholson’s intense performance to the cold isolated atmosphere. Whether you’re into horror or not, The Shining is a terrifying and deeply mysterious masterpiece. Who in the world has not heard of the phrase “Heeeeeere’s Johnny!” or recognised the image of the twins standing in the hallway? No one! I can’t sing its praises enough.

My rating: 10/10

There’s my list like it or not. Please tell me why you don’t in the comments below.

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One thought on “Ranking Stanley Kubrick’s Films [The Yellow Kubrick Road]

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