- A supreme visual and aural achievement—when combined with the utmost formal exactitude— it leaves us with one of the best three films of all-time
- If you still need more evidence of Kubrick’s genius— how about his post-production decisions on the soundtrack and casting for HAL. He changed it from a more Spartacus– like- adventure-like Alex North score to Strauss—brilliant. (North is great by the way- he did Spartacus as I mentioned- but also A Streetcar Named Desire, Cleopatra, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?—it just doesn’t fit here)– Kubrick had Martin Balsam doing the voice of HAL and replaced him with the incalculably valuable Douglas Rain
- The film is one of the greatest examples of formal perfection. Kubrick was fanatical. Things line up correctly in the opening (even before the “Dawn of Man” sequence)- the earth, moon, and sun—later the monolith joins in the wild Jupiter sequence to close. Theme and variation as this is alignment is repeated.
- Another key aspect of the formal elements is the reoccurring shot of the red light for HAL—it’s mind-blowing that Kubrick was able to craft such a great character here
- The dismantling of HAL- the reds and blacks- make up one of the 10 most beautiful sequences in cinema history. In fact, when talking about the most beautiful film ever made—many of them feature nature and exterior photography (whether it’s Lawrence of Arabia or the works of Terrence Malick)- 2001 is a candidate, perhaps the leading one, for the “most beautiful” award and it’s mostly man-made- it stands alone here as most of those are travelogue-like exterior heavy films
- Johann Strauss’s “Blue Danube”—poetry and grace- acoustic brilliance— such a pairing of the music and the detailed miniatures making of the visual (presented in 70mm photography by an ex-photographer)
- The austerity and coldness in the human interactions is purposeful from Kubrick
- There is a lineage here of the tracking shot from Paths of Glory to this to The Shining. It’s a mark of a supreme auteur- I’d love to see that supercut
- There are three Keir Dullea characters at the end- trilogy that comes up again and again. Three is the number for the film
- Sun/earth/moon alignment set up from the get-go before dawn of man
- Gorgeous 70mm landscapes shown with elliptical editing in dawn of man
- “Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 2 Mixed Choirs and Orchestra” György Ligeti—pairs with the monolith in a long crescendo. Haunting. Shot of the three aligned again- a wormhole to evolution is the monolith, advancement, destruction
- The famous graphic match edit- the bone to floating spacecraft- maybe the most famous cut in film history
- Again poetry and beauty- elliptical shots of space travel
- The set décor- red chairs- utterly dazzling mise-en-scene and photography in 70mm
- The two calls to home- one by William Sylvester’s Dr. Floyd to daughter and one from Dr. Poole to his family are so cold. Empty. Cold human interaction
- Primary colors in the suits- yellow, blue, red
- Moon set piece is astonishingly detailed- so is the singular shot of the dome opening on the moon from the inside- Wow
- Walking down to the monolith excavation- again- alignment and the “requiem” music
- The film is broken into three sections– Kubrick combines the Dr. Heywood Floyd sequence and the dawn of man and then goes with 2. Jupiter 18 months later as the second portion and the 3. Jupiter infinite and beyond as the third section. I think there are actually 4 parts (you have to break up the moon and the dawn of man sequence) but Kubrick seems fixated on the trilogy and keeping it with three sections even if the first two are divided (and the intermission- which is placed well) isn’t between the three
- To open the “Jupiter: 18 months later” section we have the gorgeous tracking shot of Frank Poole jogging. It mirrors Kirk Douglas in the trenches or Danny later on the bike in The Shining
- It’s odd- I’ve watched hundreds if not thousands of films from this era and have never seen these characters in anything else (Keir Dullea is in the 2010 sequel). I take that more of a sign of Kubrick’s brilliance than the weakness of the acting here.
- An all-timer of a shot is the shot of Dullea in red suit walking through to replace the unit with white paneling- it’s no surprise they used it for the IMAX re-release poster
- The trademark reflecting of the panels onto the face
- A ridiculously detailed mise-en-scene. Kubrick is so formally sound- deliberate in the telling. Rigorous
- The ominous red light- again and again
- For a film that isn’t known for its screenplay/dialogue and certainly that isn’t Kubrick’s focus- there are a number of wonderful stand-alone lines like HAL’s “this conversation can no longer serve any purpose” and the ominous “human error”
- The death of HAL—- what else can you say about it—a masterstroke of lighting and photography and a thematically haunting scene with the voice fading and dying to “Daisy”
- HAL as IBM moving the letters one
- The third section is “Jupiter: infinite and beyond”- again- alignment and order in the monolith (which now joins the moon/earth/sun. The worm-hole freeze-frames show distortion on Dullea’s face- so avant-garde
- The lighting under the floor in the future world finale—it’s gorgeous lighting as mise-en-scene (like Welles, Pakula, Fincher and Soderbergh but it’s the floor instead of ceiling)
- We have three Dullea’s or David’s—the man in the suit, the man eating and the man dying and
- The last alignment includes the star child as the last evolutionary move
- A masterpiece of course
Watched it again last night. Such a beautiful film, Extremely rewarding but at the same time so incredibly complex. Impossible to keep with everything happening there, pretty cool that you have managed to pin it down here.
(1) There were 3 men asleep on the mission, Red was the predominant color when they were killed. Such coldness, there was no violence but as brutal a scene one would see. Parts of the film work well as horror.
(2) I could be dead wrong here but near the end, The Man in the Suit looked like Ape Man, before we get a close up of him.
(3) The finest edited film of all time imo, the scenes through his eyes were fantastic. The flower petal like opening , I could go on.
(4) Everyone has their favorite shot (there are so many), him pointing to the Monolith lying on the bed would be my choice.
As far as the bone to floating supercraft being the famous: Hitchock and Psycho send their regards. Haha.
I didn’t have it at the Top Spot, but it is perhaps the Greatest Film Ever made. Less is more never made more sense.
@AP. Thanks for the comment. It’s always a special night when I get to 2001 again. Thank you for sharing your thoughts– you make some excellent points here- some nice food for thought for me and whomever else visits this page when the watch it again. LOL on the bone/spacecraft edit vs. Psycho’s show drain edit. great work from you! haha. I think a few cinephiles will also add the edit of Peter O’Toole blowing out the match in Lawrence of Arabia. All great choices.
This is my favorite film of all time and kubrick is my favorite director of all time. Hollywood movies are BY FAR the best. No other country even comes close.
Well that’s more than a little myopic. I would agree that in the aggregate, American cinema is probably the greatest national cinema, but I don’t see what is gained by demeaning the many other wonderful films and auteurs from around the globe.
I never demeaned any other country’s national cinema. I was actually praising Hollywood by saying that all of countries make great masterpieces but American cinema is next level. My comment was meant to be a compliment for Hollywood and not an insult for other countries’ national cinema
@Azman and Matt Harris— Yeah, I don’t really think about what country each film comes from. I’m interested in the filmmaker usually. What I find interesting is when they come in waves like the italians in the 40’s, french in the 60’s, germans in the 70’s, and more recently with our big 3 mexican auteurs (won like 5 of the 10 best director oscars this past decade) and this movement in south korea with some great filmmakers.
Do you think in the near future 2001 or Joan of arc ( my 2 favorites) could maybe top the searchers??
@Azman– I don’t know to be honest. I think I consider all four films (Apocalypse Now included) nearly tied
What are in your opinion some very bad but at the same time well known and professional critics?
Hello, this is the movie that I have fought the most times to defend it, says more about the person who criticizes him, many say it is a masterpiece but it is boring to die.I’ve heard that part of it is a shallow, smug, hollow, and very pretentious movie that its director thinks is god (he’s god). I am certainly amazed to find a place that loves the movie as much as i do.I deviated a bit but, most often, you do not identify with any character and that is the great complaint of many.Just go through metacritic and read any that don’t have 100
@Cinephile– others can add their thoughts but I think Rex Reed is very bad. He’s good at spotting a fine story and acting film (I remember his #1 film of 2013 was Philomena— Philomena– in a year as loaded as 2013). Historically Pauline Kael is maybe the most famous critic outside of Ebert and although she’s a great writer (and when she’s right about a film it’s absolutely worth a read) she’s wrong so often I can’t call her a good critic. Everybody misses on films– but Kael was loud and wrong and wrong often and refused (famously) to see anything twice.
just rewatched last night and i have been massively underrating it. so have you i think, by two spots haha. but really, it is an absolute visual masterpiece. it feels so crisp and clean and obviously the music gives it a sense of wonder you’ll never experience from any other film. this is probably the closest ill ever go to outer space. in my opinion in keeps getting better and better and each act of the film when i was watching i was saying to myself this is the best but i think that the jupiter with the stargate act is the best directed 20 minutes of cinema, ending witht the fetus. it was not at all boring. i think that besides from stargate the use of red might be best (after perhaps music and composition of shots.) also the white especially in the talking scene where they all siut down in those red chairs. it would be so cool to visit kubricks set. thi is why green screens suck, they have produced great films but can not replicate this, or frankly come close. also, i want to say people call this film cold, but the unplugging hal scene had much emotional power.
Haha. Great minds think a like. you have a lot of new favorite films. One time you said it was Blue Velvet, then raging Bull, then Wizard of Oz. It will be really interesting to know what your favorite films are? Maybe like 10 great films. However, as far as I am concerned for now, I agree 2001 is (maybe) the Goat. 2001 is slow(not the same as boring), epic cinema. Kubrick’s masterpiece.
i have a lot of favorites. all those aforementioned are great, ferris bueller also, metropolis (strong contender for goat ) school of rock, singing in the rain, llewyn davis, up, gone with the wind, harry potter. hard days night i saw recently only but i love the beatles. clockwork is perhaps my favorite kubrick even if not quite as good. joker is my favorite movie in the past few years.
my all time favorite though is probably the lord of the rings, in particular return of the king.
also one of the first i got into was when rediscovering hateful eight, a sam jackson movie called samaritan, fistful of dollars, vanilla sky, all great movies. the departed and taxi driver, cape fear (love scorsese.) spielberg’s ai is an all time masterpiece.
Absolutely stunning. I feel dwarfed and can scarcely comprehend the virtuoso genius of Kubrick. The obsessive formal detail and crafted mise en scenes, I’m only surprised this isn’t your best film of all time (in no way shading the other two).
Wonderful piece and dissection of this.. cinematic experience really. Truly transcendent and awe-inspiring.
I’m just curious, because I have seen very few movies, is there any movie structured, controlled and concluded quite like this?
Again thanks for this recommendation!
@JC- thanks for the comment. Happy to hear your thoughts here and how we’re both on the same page- in awe of Kubrick and 2001. Tough to recommend something that is structured, controlled, and concluded (well said!) like this one… certainly this film has inspired many. Tree of Life, Melancholia come to mind as somewhat recent films that share some (but not all) of the traits…and the work of Paul Thomas Anderson — certainly There Will Be Blood specifically feels like a nephew to 2001 in many ways. Of course, if you are impressed with 2001– I’d keep going studying Kubrick if you haven’t already. I’d start there
@Drake – spot on about PTA, who retains considerable formal rigour and that wonderful shot composition. But then, they are very different in various other ways (I feel PTA values actors’ performance a tad more).
Coincidentally, your review on There Will Be Blood was the first one I read and it sucked my into your website.
Really eager to catch those two movies, especially Tree of Life, but I do wanna watch Badlands as a run-up to it.
(Watching The Shining right now. Mesmeric.)
@JC – another great share- thanks again. Agreed on PTA valuing actors’ performance more. The Shining = mesmeric! love it. Indeed.
I don’t know how they didn’t mention it, but the nephew or relative would be Blade Runner.
Movies structured, controlled and concluded there are some the top 100 is full of them, Stalker, Apocalypse Now, In the Mood for Love, 7 samurai, rashomon etc.
@Aldo – thanks a lot, I’m waiting to watch Blade Runner, visuals look GORGEOUS. As for the rest, yet again my inferior knowledge on movies shines through ??♂️. Though I gotta say, having watched it – isn’t Apocalypse Now a little different, in the way that it is sprawling (a compliment to Coppola’s editing) and contains a plot ? An absolute marvel of a film though.
@JC. Make sure you watch Final cut, it’s the best version.
Drake said the tree of life when you asked about “movie structured, controlled and concluded quite like this” and i would say that also has no plot.
So I don’t know what you mean, if you mean the plot or not.
Aldo – Yes I’m really sorry about that, my description was waay too broad.
However, in re Apocalypse Now, despite the overshadowing themes it deals with (and brings on to screen so magnificently), in my opinion it is the plot of the extermination of Colonel Kurtz which remorselessly furthers the film and brings out the sheer lunacy of war and mission that has been entrusted to Captain Willard unlike 2001, where the main objective is to create awe and wonderment of space. I may be wrong about this of course. Thanks a lot for the tip, I’ll make it a point to watch the final cut.
As for my question, let me rephrase it.
Is there any movie out there that eschews conventional narrative structures or have parallels with this movie in terms of style, aim, execution or themes?
@JC. This is much easier, the tree of life precisely avoids conventional narratives, i would say all of Tarkovsky’s work too, Rashomon, 7 samurai. Breathless, maybe 8 ½ it is the first movie that i think of when they say auteur cinema
Aldo – Great list, thanks a lot.
I really wanna watch the movies you mentioned apart from Tarkovsky. I believe his movies, though visually peerless, might be too dense for me, both thematically and formally. So I really wanna work my way up to it, watching slightly more accessible work. That way (hopefully) I can truly appreciate Tarkovsky.
@JC Dont be afraid of Tarkovsky. Ivan’s childhood is fairly straightforward and mirror is somewhat like tree of life but only 90 minutes long. Even Andrei Rublev has a conventional narrative. (Sort of)
If you’ve seen tree of life, tarkovsky should be a bit easier.
@Azman – As you made out, I’m more than a little intimidated by Tarkovsky. So yes, I’m planning to watch the two Malick movies (Badlands/Days of Heaven and Tree of Life) and then perhaps delve into Tarkovsky. Thing is, I don’t wanna spoil my view of his movies by rushing into them. Thanks for the head up! With luck, Ivan’s childhood will be my first Tarkovsky (they are so hard to come by).
@JC – Others may disagree. But I think the first viewing of a film is the least important viewing of it you’ll ever have. The best works get better with each viewing. Dive in. haha.
For all movies or just Tarkovsky?
Certainly, this isnt true for all movies right? Some movies blow you away on first viewing (La La Land for you), other take a bit more time to process(Tarkovsky) and a few others even drop off a bit (Pans Labytinth and Duck Soup for you).
In my experience, it is somewhat true for Tarkovsky. I hated mirror first viewing. Then several months later I watched Rublev. I absolutely loved it upon first viewing. So i decided to rewatch mirror and i absolutely adored it on 2nd watch.
@Azman- all movies
@Drake – As a person who loves rewatches, I couldn’t agree with you more, and I’ll definitely get down to it asap.
@Azman, don’t you feel that’s the case with most movies? I’m trying to acquaint myself with the classics and I find that those movies give so much more with each viewing and have this wonderful sense of comfort, allowing more freedom for your eyes to wander and truly soak in the brilliance of the auteur in question.
P. S. Hope I’m not cluttering the comments section @Drake ?
@Azman. This made me laugh, how the mirror is the tree of life in 90min? nobody has a style similar to Tarkovsky, he is unmatched.
@JC. Just yesterday I finished my study of Tarkovsky, this should be the order in which you should see them (from easier to more difficult)
1. Ivan’s childhood
4. Andrei rublev
5. The sacrifice
6. The mirror
You said Solaris is more accessible than Andrei Rublev and mirror. That’s not true.
Tree of life and Mirror are very different but they share similarities. The non linear narrative, the mother influencing the son. The feeling in the movie.
Mirror and 2001 influenced him.
Obviously the two movies are very different but Tree of Life isnt more accessible than Mirror in my opinion. If you can watch Tree of Life, you can also adjust to Mirror.
“Nobody has a similar style to Tarkovsky”. Please could you explain this in more detail?
@Azman. I put Solaris because it lasts less, Andrei Rublev lasts 3h25min, I think Solaris is much more understandable than the mirror, did you really understand everything?
I don’t think I need to explain, the style of Tarkovsky is unique, Can you tell me some who try to imitate it, but nobody makes movies like Tarkovsky
@aldo. I guess Malick made meditate slow films with long takes in a way. Forrest gump has 2-3 shots that would make Tarkovsky proud. Spielberg has several shots in his oeuvre that are Tarkovsky esque.
Also, Please tell me what stylistic elements you think Tarkovsky uses that makes him completely unique from all directors in cinematic history? Is it his camera work? Cinematography? Has no one done what he has done?
@Azman. Those that you mention, although i did a study, I’m not an expert.
The recurring theme of women, flashbacks, combination of color sections and black and white, his mother, the readings, the poetry, the man and why he is here, loneliness, the meaning of life, I notice that there is a certain misogynistic element in his films, in Andrei Rublev they mention how their duty as a woman is to be for the man and that should be her pride, I don’t know what mean levitation in the mirror and sacrifice.
I regret not being able to explain it well, but his films have many different interpretations, depending on the viewer
The “feeling” in Tarkovsky movies is also present a bit in The Tree of Life. The way it is shot, nature shots, mother theme etc.
Many movies have different interpretations based on the viewer. The ending of Andrei rublev is similar to 2001 stargate sequence in terms of abstractions.
@Aldo, mixing color and black white footage (qbout the wat)is common in some movies too( F for fake). I dont think tarkovsky was a misogynist at all; people in Andrei Rublev’s time were hence the misogynistic elements in the movie.
“The man and why he is here, the lonliness”. That has been explored so many times in movies ( Taxi driver.).
The Tree of life also has poetic elements.
Anyways; what is your favorite movie of Tarkovsky?
The 2 I like the most are Mirror and Andrei Rublev.
Mirror is a movie about a man who has been rude to his mother and his wife. The share similar qualities so to him, they are the same person(played by the same character). The man is rude to them his entire life. His wife divorces him too. At the end of the movie, the doctor literally says that he feels guilty. Mirror is a story of a man who is rude to his wife and mother but realised it when he is about to die.(rewatch the ending,the movie is on YouTube. you’ll see they say he is guilty-likely because of the way he has treated the women who love him).
Mirror also has memories of an entire family intertwined so we can see how they think too. The level of ambition is rarely copied but its is present in a handful of movies like The Tree of Life, 2001 and maybe even Forrest Gump etc.
@Azman. Tarkovsky’s films are very different from Malick’s, it seems that we will agree not to agree.
F for fake is a documentary, right?
Not only in that movie are there misogynous elements, I will look for the article, but Tarkovsky thought that and subtly appears in his films, really nothing serious was a twentieth century person.
My favorite is without a doubt the mirror, it is so fascinating and rare, then i would go with Stalker and Solaris.
In what sense is Forrest Gump ambitious?
Well the Malick thing maybe doesnt make sense to you because you still havent described to me what makes Tarkovsky unique from every director. Whatever. Forget that.
Forrest gump has certain images that Tarkovsky would love. I liked that it tried to retell a huge part of American history through Forrest’s point of view. That is a bit ambitious but nowhere near as ambitious as 2001 or Mirror or something like that.
@Azman. I’m not trying to be a fool or something like that, I only i think that some directors have a unique style, widely copied, imitated, but never equaled.
Hitchcock-imitated to satiety, the closest thing to equal would be De Palma
Kubrick-the same, you can try a movie “Kubrickian” that does not mean it is.
Antonioni-No one is as obsessed with the composition of a single shot as he.
Leone-there are many imitators, but none of these films is as good as Leone’s
Ok that makes sense. I agree that very few directors reach the level of the directors you mentioned.
I was fortunate enough to catch this in 70mm in 2018 for its 50th anniversary. What a mind-blowing experience – it wasn’t the first time I had seen it, but it was the most revelatory. I haven’t revisited it since because I’m so worried watching it on my TV at home will dull the experience. But it’s only a matter of time. I don’t think I can hold off on a rewatch for much longer.
As it stands, this my #1 film. I still have several more among your top 100 to get to, but it will take something massive to knock this off its perch.
Man, how lucky are you, that wasn’t Cannes? very happy for you although i can not help feeling envy.
Seems like i’m the only guy on the site that has never seen 2001 in the theater, Azman, Drake, Matt Harris i feel like a loser.
I must say that you must be with a more open mind, if you go with the idea that nothing will bring it down, there is no way to prove that 2001 is # 1 of all, in the same way that there is no way to prove that 7 samurai is the best or Vertigo or Tokyo Story etc.
No it wasn’t at Cannes, it was just at Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Sydney. They have great events there, it’s my favourite place to go to for those sorts of experiences.
I don’t think I’m against anything bringing 2001 down a spot or two – if anything I look forward to finding something else so spectacular that might make that happen.
@Declan- thanks for sharing! Sounds amazing
[…] 2001: A Space Odyssey – Kubrick […]
I wonder if we’ll ever see a film of this quality again. Perhaps Kubrick set the bar too high for future filmmakers.
@Finn – The Tree of Life is one of the few films to possibly match 2001 in terms of scope and ambition although if forced to pick I would lean toward 2001, interesting quote from Ebert’s review of TTOL
“Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” is a film of vast ambition and deep humility, attempting no less than to encompass all of existence and view it through the prism of a few infinitesimal lives. The only other film I’ve seen with this boldness of vision is Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and it lacked Malick’s fierce evocation of human feeling. There were once several directors who yearned to make no less than a masterpiece, but now there are only a few. Malick has stayed true to that hope ever since his first feature in 1973.”
I think Ebert hits the nail on the head regarding his point about ambitious directors, I could be wrong and I have no empirical data to back this statement up but I feel that auteur cinema is not in as high demand as it once was which makes a film like 8 1/2, 2001, or Seven Samurai less likely to be made but again I could be way off base.
Drake, what do you think about the film actually being centered around quartets, instead of trios? There are four chapters, four monoliths, four Dr. Bowmans at the end (in the pod, standing outside, eating and in bed), and the alignment could be thought of as monolith, Earth, Sun and Moon, though maybe that’s a reach. Or I’m just trying to find rigid patterns in a film that isn’t that rigid.
However, that last monolith could be the one orbiting Jupiter and the three-chapter structure actually fits best – and it’s perfect for the three-body alignment. Hmm, perhaps three is better. Who knows. This is just a ridiculous conversation with myself now.
@Pedro- Very interesting, Pedro. Thanks for sharing. This is something I’ll look for on the next viewing.
I came across something I wrote a little while ago, thought I might share:
“Incredibly creative and rigorously formal 4 act structure. Act I starts with the dawn of humanity. Our race at our most primitive state. The monolith shows up and teaches the apes how to use tools and weapons. This is step 1 in our anonymously-assisted evolution. Act II begins (with one of the greatest cuts ever) where there is a mysterious object on the moon. It’s of course the monolith which points humanity into the direction of Jupiter. This is step 2 in our anonymously-assisted evolution. Act III is about the journey to Jupiter. When they arrive to Jupiter, once again the monolith is there. Step 3 in our anonymously-assisted evolution is about to commence. The 4th and final Act, Act IV starts with the monolith sucking Bowman into a “vortex of coloured light” where “Bowman is carried across vast distances of space, while viewing bizarre cosmological phenomena and strange landscapes of unusual colours”. He arrives into what is essentially a human zoo, where he lives out the rest of his life before the Monolith makes a 4th and final appearance. The Monolith turns Bowman into a Star Child, a being that transcends beyond humanity, and sends Bowman back to earth to supposedly help the rest of humans evolve into the enlightened Star Child. Step 4, and the last step (as far as the film is concerned), in our anonymously-assisted evolution. It’s perfect form. Rigorous structure. Every act ends with the Monolith making an appearance and moving humanity along its evolutionary path.”
Kubrick, the Formal Master.
@Matthew- Absolutely love this- thank you.