Among the most important science fiction writers during 20th century was Arthur C. Clarke, the writer of the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as the book of the same name that was written simultaneously. The work between Kubrick and Clarke on this science fiction epic is noted for being one of the first accurate portrayals of space flight in cinema. This film depicts a future in which interplanetary travel is a reality, and follows a voyage to Jupiter controlled by a sentient computer called Hal 9000, who carries a group of scientists on a critical mission that will potentially affect future human evolution. 2001: A Space Odyssey leaves a lot to be explained and understood, and was described by Kubrick as “basically a visual, non-verbal experience”, but it nonetheless remains one of the most important films of the science-fiction, or indeed any, genre.
Arguably, Kubrick’s most controversial film was A Clockwork Orange, an adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novella of the same name. Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is the protagonist and leader of a small and violent gang in a dystopian future Britain. The film’ss narration by Alex is in Nadsat, a fictional slang, created by Burgess, which employs Russian influences and cockney rhyming slang. The film follows Alex and his gang on their horrific crime spree and the subsequent consequences. Kubrick’s work was criticised, as it was extremely violent and had the potential to affect society and even cause copycat crimes. However, Kubrick responded by arguing that it was inappropriate “to try and fasten any responsibility on art as the cause of life”. This film remains another of Kubrick’s cult-classics, influencing cinema and popular culture ever since.
One of the most chilling roles of Jack Nicholson’s career was in Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, written by supernatural fiction and horror writer Stephen King. Nicholson plays writer and recovering alcoholic, Jack Torrance, who moves with his wife Wendy and son Danny to a hotel in Colorado to become the winter caretaker and have the opportunity to write in solitude while the hotel is snowed-in. Danny is revealed to have developed a supernatural telepathic ability, and has horrifying premonitions about the hotel. After being trapped in the hotel due to the weather, Jack’s mental health starts to deteriorate, leaving him and his family in danger. The Shining has been established as a classic of cinema, and the themes and symbolism within the film has been deeply analysed, making it another of Kubrick’s cult-classics.
The penultimate film of Kubrick’s career was released in 1987, 12 years before his death. It follows the story of a platoon of the US Marines in Vietnam in 1967, a year that saw a huge escalation in the fighting. Full Metal Jacket is an adaptation from a chilling semi-autobiographical novel written by U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gustav Hasford, which gives an insight into the real experiences faced by soldiers during this brutal conflict. This film gained critical acclaim for being a superbly made piece that vividly describes the more subtle and personal challenges faced by soldiers during each stage of their involvement in the war, from training to the actual fighting.
The last film of Kubrick’s career starred the then married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in an erotic thriller loosely based on Traumnovelle, a novella by Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler. This dark and unsettling film chronicles the strange experiences of Dr. Bill Harford, which go against his own sense of morals as he finds himself in dream-like scenarios wherein he is accidentally involved in abnormal sexual rituals. Eyes Wide Shut was recognised by the Guinness World Records for having the longest constant movie shoot, lasting 15 months, something that can be attributed to Kubrick’s intense attention to detail and perfectionism.