Ranking Stanley Kubrick’s Films From Worst to Best

If there is a Mount Rushmore of film directors, even some of the greatest directors are putting Stanley Kubrick on that mountain. A visionary who found there were no limits to the art of film making, he brought us some of the most iconic films in cinema history that have since inspired nearly every film maker after him.

Infamously a perfectionist, the stories and conspiracy theories run rampid with the ideas of Kubrick’s involvement with the “faking” of the Moon landing among other things. When you get rumored to have faked one of the world’s largest moments in history then you are doing something right, but what Kubrick did right nearly every time was make films and this list will rank his worst films to his best films.

Starting with….

Killer’s Kiss (1955)

Starting the list is a film noir of the 1950’s I doubt people outside of the film world have seen. Shot on a budget of only $40,000 it delivers a seedy and grim story about a boxer who falls in love with a dancer who is stalked by an unsettling former employer. The film – even on the small budget it had – holds up very well and is a great hour-long noir for those interested in seeing the genre at it’s peak, but for Kubrick’s standards, which is insanely high, does not put it past his other films.

Fear and Desire (1953)

Kubrick early on proved his talents for visual film making as well as a great story teller and all of these elements are seen through one of his other early film about the horrors of war and psychological break down of soldiers and the turmoil one faces when they feel conflicts of desire and duty. It’s a unique character study that felt way ahead of its time and on another small budget to make all the more impressive.

The Killing (1956)

Noir’s and dark tales of crime and punishment are all too familiar with Kubrick and his impressive career. For the whole shooting of the film, Kubrick went unpaid and took out out countless loans just to get the film going and the rest is history. The Killing is a classic look into the genre of film noir that we rarely see in this day and age and proves that film making takes love and commitment or it will crumble and amazingly this didn’t crumble Kubrick’s career.

Paths of Glory (1957)

This film pretty much confirmed that Kubrick hated war, but loved complex narrative.

Barry Lyndon (1975)

I just love this movie for the sheer fact he uses natural light – similar to what The Revenant did – and nothing more. Just a sh** ton of candles and really beautiful direction of a story of rising to the top of nobility at whatever stakes are needed. It’s such a unique period piece in only a way that Stanley Kubrick can come up with. The shooting was apparently hell though because of what Kubrick made them go through all the time on set. Ya know, the being in the dark thing.

Lolita (1962)

Obsession over teenage girls is only cool when you’re a teenager yourself, otherwise, stay away from that stuff. The film leaves a lot of things for the imagination (thank God) and was hampered and censored due to the restrictions of the MPA and also because the book itself which the film is based off of it highly graphic in content. It’s another character study that makes you question the human psyche and fear for the people around you, but it’s quite a good film.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Iconic and mad like the director himself, A Clockwork Orange is one of the few book adaptations Kubrick chose to attack to make into a film. Hard hitting on taboo subjects and some of the most visceral imagery and depictions of ultra violence and sexual assault make for a tough viewing the first time, but a viewing nonetheless that will have you thinking about the film long after the movie ends. It’s a crazy book too.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Though RottenTomatoes has this ranked as one of his least fresh films, it’s gorgeously realized and shot by a man with nads of steel. Erotic and more or less taboo in some scenes (orgies anyone?) it has a maturation of a director who mastered boldness in subtly and subtly in boldness. it delves into the deep seeded sexual desires of people and has a young Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as the leads. Being one of the last films before he died, he left us with an impressive visual spectacle that many consider bold and brash, but beautiful.

The Shining (1980)

We all know Stephen King considers this his least favorite adaptation of one of his many successful novels, but what it is as a film is technical brilliance – I’ll be saying that a lot – and has Jack Nicolson at his finest and craziest while the director delivers us a horror masterpiece that has the most iconic tracking shot in film history (the scene with the kid on his tricycle) as well as one of the boldest horror films in mainstream media.

Spartacus (1960)

“I am Spartacus!” doesn’t get more iconic. People forget this was a Kubrick masterpiece and it’s understandable. The guy who brought us mostly film noir’s prior and nearly everything else afterwards, throwing Spartacus in there should be a shocker. Back in my high school days (I’m not even that old) I remember my teacher throwing in Spartacus after tests or just for the hell of it and being a kid with little film knowledge or respect at the time, you don’t take the film for what it truly is, and it’s one of the best films ever made.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Hard to believe, but this is one of Kubrick’s most subtle films he ever directed and often that translates to more repeat value and that’s what Full Metal Jacket is. With characters we all quote and mimic throughout our lives, Kubrick comes back to the war commentary of his films like previous years but only this time it takes place during the war in Vietnam. It’s funny, shocking, and an all around impressive war epic of sorts without mimicking other films with the same subject matter.

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

An absolutely underrated classic that hits social issues with humor and intellect unlike anything you’d expect from a Kubrick directed film, but it only furthers the argument that Kubrick is without a doubt one of the most diverse directors of all time. The Cold War is a unique and sometimes boring time in history to see simply because there are no bullets fired, but making it a political satire is the perfect way to grip us with a story of it’s type.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The magnum opus of a director whose career will never be forgotten. Shown in film classes around the globe, Kubrick’s innovation alone makes him a legend, but for it to be such an introspective film as well makes it even more impressive. The coloration to the chamber in which the film was set makes it a remarkable visual spectacle and is iconic through a unique villain and it’s quiet character throughout. 2001 has inspired nearly all space films beyond 1968 and continues to do so without films even knowing it.




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