Top 10 Stanley Kubrick Images

by George Hickman on July 27, 2010

in Top 10s

Stanley KubrickYesterday would have been Stanley Kubrick’s 82nd birthday. Though his films were often met with mixed critical reception at the time of their release, he is today rightfully viewed as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

While still in high school, Kubrick became a professional photographer, and the seemingly innate talent he displayed behind the camera translated naturally to motion pictures. Regardless of which cinematographer he collaborated with, Kubrick’s distinctive approach to visuals links all his films, regardless of genre.

It is in fact Kubrick’s ability to capture a stunning image or stage an unforgettable scene that has made his work so enduring and yet, accessible. So in his honor, for today’s Top 10, we are looking at the 10 most striking images from Kubrick’s films.

10. The Killing (1956)

The Killing

Kubrick had a way of capturing people at their most emotionally vulnerable, and this near-final shot of “The Killing” is almost the anti-”Casablanca” in its hopelessness.

9. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Eyes Wide Shut

While there’s a lot of striking and beautiful imagery throughout the film, this shot captures the surreality of the plot and the naked insecurity of the protagonist (Tom Cruise) perfectly.

8. Lolita (1962)


This instantly iconic shot (of the title character, played by Sue Lyon) perfectly straddles the line between childhood and adulthood, and between innocence and sexuality.

7. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Full Metal Jacket

Out of all the traumatic moments scattered throughout this terrific film, its the haunting split-second before the suicide of Private Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) that seems to last forever.

6. Paths of Glory (1957)

Paths of Glory

Somehow, this shot of Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) atop the trench rallying his troops to face certain death captures the tragedy and injustice of “Paths of Glory,” along with its stubborn optimism.

5. Barry Lyndon (1975)

Barry Lyndon

In a film overflowing with evocative and almost painterly photography, this arresting moment in the final duel represents Kubrick at his most powerful.

4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A Clockwork Orange

Kubrick was master at ironic juxtaposition, as demonstrated by this beautiful but ominous shot of Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his droogs mocking an old drunk shortly before they attack.

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey

For all its breathtaking moments, the ethereal and the mundane that come together to make “2001″ such an unparalleled experience is best exemplified here, as a group of astronauts cautiously approach the proof of extraterrestrial life.

2. The Shining (1980)

The Shining

Has pure terror and dread ever been captured as well as it is here?

1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Dr. Strangelove

A cowboy riding an atomic bomb. Was there ever a more perfect indictment of the Cold War and the United States buildup of a nuclear arsenal than “Dr. Strangelove” and this scene in particular?

George Hickman

George Hickman is the first child conceived and raised by a sentient television and an anthropomorphic video store. He is a true Texan, in the sense that it is true that he lives in Texas. He spends his days making the Internet work and his nights surviving on the sustenance that only flickering lights and moving pictures can bring. There were no survivors.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 George Hickman July 27, 2010 at 11:07 am

There were SOOOOOO many more that I loved for each film that I wanted to include.

I think “the Shining,” “2001″ and “Full Metal Jacket” had the most contenders.

“Spartacus” almost made the cut, but considering its legacy and Kubrick’s general distaste for his experience making it, I think its exclusion is appropriate.


2 Greg July 27, 2010 at 11:24 am

Nice work. I have a confession, I’ve never seens Paths of Glory. I’ll remedy that soon.


3 George Hickman July 27, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Greg: Paths of Glory is the best. Seriously amazing.

It’s in my top 3 for favorite Kubrick films.


4 Greg July 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm

That, my friend, is a ringing endorsement! I knew I was likely missing out.


5 Gordon July 27, 2010 at 1:19 pm

What about the other most iconic image from A Clockwork Orange? The one shown the most often? Alex with his eyes opened as they try to brainwash him?


6 George Hickman July 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm

And it’s on Netflix Instant Streaming currently.


7 Greg July 27, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Thanks for the heads up. Full Metal Jacket, The Killing, and Barry Lyndon are also instant streaming upon further review. Awesome.


8 George Hickman July 27, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Yes, Alex with his eyes pried open was definitely one of the finalists for this.


9 Reed July 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Fantastic, George. Really well done.


10 George Hickman July 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Thanks Reed!

I just found this Stanley Kubrick quote and I feel it’s very appropriate:

“Thinking of the visual conception of a scene at the script stage can be a trap that straitjackets the scene. I find it more profitable to just try to get the most interesting and truthful business going to support the scene and then see if there’s a way to make it interesting photographically. There’s nothing worse than arbitrarily setting up some sort of visual thing that really doesn’t belong as part of the scene”


11 Meg July 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Beautiful tribute, sir! Every single entrant in your top ten list was striking, yet magnificently eerie because of how easily I was able to visualize all the moments from the films I have seen listed with a more appreciated clarity. (I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not too easy to recognize a film strictly by a screenshot- obvious exceptions removed).

Before I started down the list I was wondering whether or not I’d get an image of the Monolith, but from those expertly selected, I am okay with its omission now. Also, I am still haunted by DiNofrio’s final scene in Full Metal Jacket and I was excited it made the cut.

Kudos kudos!

As lame as this is- even while typing!- what about a follow-up list of top ten iconic quotes from Kubrick films. An extra way for us to pay homage to the epic director?


12 George Hickman July 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Meg, thanks for the kind words.

If you look a little more closely at the 2001 image you actually can see the Monolith between the two astronauts closest to the left.

And for his birthday next year I was considering doing top ten quotes, or maybe even top ten scenes. We’ll see.


13 Meg July 27, 2010 at 11:55 pm

You are too welcome, senor.

Then promise me you will heed in mind the quote from “Full Metal Jacket”, “Life’s a big shit sandwich, so open up and take a big bite”. I use it often in conversation and, unfortunately, have yet to come across anyone who has been able to place it. -sad face-


14 Saurabh July 28, 2010 at 8:11 am

Absoluely in love with the opening scene of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. The smirk on the face and half eyelashes….it could have made the cut. But great list anyways.


15 George Hickman July 28, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Saurabh, you’re right the opening of A Clockwork Orange is a great image; it also almost made the cut.

Maybe I should do like a flickr album of all the screencaps I took when I was compiling this…

Also here is another Stanley Kubrick quote which is appropriate.

Here is he talking about his early experience as a photographer:

“There is a much quoted aphorism that when a director dies he becomes a photographer. It’s a clever remark but it’s a bit glib, and usually comes from the kind of critic who will complain that a film has been too beautifully photographed. Anyway, I started out as a photographer. I worked for Look magazine from the age of seventeen to twenty-one. It was a miraculous break for me to get this job after graduation from high-school. I owe a lot to the then picture editor, Helen O’Brian, and the managing editor, Jack Guenther. This experience was invaluable to me, not only because I learned a lot about photography, but also because it gave me a quick education in how things happened in the world. To have been a professional photographer was obviously a great advantage for me, though not everyone I subsequently worked with thought so. When I was directing Spartacus, Russel Metty, the cameraman, found it very amusing that I picked the camera set-ups myself and told him what I wanted in the way of lighting. When he was in particularly high-spirits, he would crouch behind me as I looked through my viewfinder, holding his Zippo cigarette lighter up to his eye, as if it were a viewfinder. He also volunteered that the top directors just pointed in the direction of the shot, said something like, “Russ, a tight 3-shot,” and went back to their trailer.”


16 George Hickman July 28, 2010 at 6:17 pm

And one more:

“I think there is virtually no point putting camera instructions into a screenplay, and only if some really important camera idea occurs to me, do I write it down. When you rehearse a scene, it is usually best not to think about the camera at all. If you do, I have found that it invariably interferes with the fullest exploration of the ideas of the scene. When, at last, something happens which you know is worth filming, that is the time to decide how to shoot it. It is almost but not quite true to say that when something really exciting and worthwhile is happening, it doesn’t matter how you shoot it. In any event, it never takes me long to decide on set-ups, lighting or camera movements. The visual part of film making has always come easiest to me, and that is why I am careful to subordinate it to the story and the performances.”


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