Skip to content

The 10 Best Kubrickian Films Not By Stanley Kubrick

05 April 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Andrew Post

Kubrickian films

From early work with Paths of Glory to Lolita, to his coffee-black comedy Doctor Strangelove, the droog dystopia A Clockwork Orange, and later with The Shining and the unblinking stare into the Vietnam War with Full Metal Jacket, and in 1999, his final film, Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick is one of the most well-known names in cinema of all time.

He is remembered for his Hobbesian outlook on the human condition, a sober and cold quality to telling his stories, and his masterful, singular technique. He was an early adopter of the Steadicam and personally invented the handheld eyepiece for choosing which lenses he wanted to use.

Apart from urban legends about being involved from everything from faking the moon landing to having been assassinated for revealing too many of the Illuminati’s secrets with Eyes Wide Shut, there are many, many stories about his directing style and how he treated his actors during shoots—having Shelly Duvall, while shooting The Shining, close a door dozens of times before she did it, according to Kubrick, “just right,” settling arguments with his actors with chess matches, and earning Eyes Wide Shut the Guinness Book of World Record title of longest shoot at four hundred days.

Today, Stanley Kubrick’s influence remains strongly felt in modern cinema. He is still inspiring many current filmmakers. Here are ten of the best Kubrickian films.

 

10. Birth (2004)

Birth (2004)

Featuring one of Nicole Kidman’s greatest, underrated performances, Birth is a delicately unsettling and quiet film that owes as much to Kubrick as it does, perhaps, to Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.

When Anna (Kidman), a young widow, is approached by a ten-year-old boy claiming to be her reincarnated late husband, what follows is an unsettling, mesmerizing journey for Anne. Her new fiancé (Danny Houston) rejects the idea outright, like any sensible person, but Anne wants to believe.

She misses her husband tremendously, and as the boy (who is also named Sean) begins to reveal certain things he “remembers,” Anne begins to let go of her initial doubts. Is Sean actually Sean? Or is he just a clever kid seeking attention?

Directed by Jonathan Glazer with incredible restraint, Birth showcases stellar performances—especially from an early performance from Cameron Bright as Sean—as well as some great, very Kubrickian use of Steadicam and a heavy dose of quiet coldness. Many scenes center around lush New York City apartments will recall Eyes Wide Shut, which also starred Nicole Kidman with then-husband Tom Cruise.

 

9. Melancholia (2011)

Melancholia

In a handful of days the titular planetoid is set to collide with Earth, destroying all life in the process. Starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as sisters Justine and Claire, Justine is due to get married but her mounting depression drives a wedge between her fiancé, causes her to lose her job, and results in only her sister Claire, alone, as the only one who refuses to give up on her.

They are complete opposites in their outlook—one refuses to look away from the approaching doom and the other believes desperately and naively that there must be some way to avoid it. With a breathtaking ending that analyzes people’s willingness for pacification as well as acceptance in the face of destruction, Melancholia—it should come as no surprise—isn’t exactly a feel-good time.

Lars von Trier has been quoted as saying he was dealing with depression at the time of writing Melancholia, which for anyone who has seen it likely picked up on that straightaway. He borrows a great deal from Kubrick here, with some deft camerawork and choices of classical music. Melancholia is a heavy, harrowing experience anyone who appreciates Kubrick’s cold stare into the eye of the abyss should not pass up.

 

8. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

GERMANY BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL 2014

With long takes, single-point perspectives, and symmetrical framing, the way Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick compose their shots is incredibly analogous. Colorful and fun, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to be the culmination of Wes Anderson’s skills and many years of practice aligning perfectly for one film, executed with absolute brilliance.

The story itself is a light-hearted yarn about a hotel concierge lothario and his good-hearted lobby boy trying to recover a painting, “Boy with Apple,” from a corrupt wealthy family—complete with the sort of high-jinks and one-liners that any fan of Anderson comes to expect from his inimitable humor.

The film itself is a feast for the eyes, with some techniques that, since the advent of CGI, are rarely seen on screen anymore—miniatures, rear-projection, and puppets.

Though the stories they tell couldn’t be more dissimilar; one could argue Wes Anderson is what Kubrick could’ve been if he’d had a happier childhood—spent more time building forts outside than poring over doorstop-sized books about Napoleon. Highly recommended.

 

7. Eraserhead (1977)

eraserhead

Cited as Kubrick’s favorite film, David Lynch’s career-making 1977 masterpiece in surrealism shares some DNA with The Shining, especially in the later half when things in the Overlook Hotel begin to go off the rails.

There is a tightly wound aspect to Henry that’s not too dissimilar from that of Jack Torrance; though Henry is being cut off from the world by his deformed baby, Jack’s mounting cabin fever (and the evil spirits of the hotel) is tearing him away from his family.

Both films are about isolation and family and how the two, combined, can sometimes lead to growing out of touch with reality. Just in Henry’s case, he doesn’t freeze to death in a hedge maze. But, there is always the reassurance that in heaven, everything is fine.

 

6. Enemy (2013)

Enemy

The 2013 mind-bender from director Denis Villeneuve has Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam, a feckless college professor, who notices his exact double in the background of a movie and swiftly becomes obsessed with tracking down his lookalike. When Adam manages to meet his fledgling actor, he discovers the two men couldn’t be more dissimilar despite their startlingly carbon-copy outward similarities.

The two become twisted up in one another’s lives, assuming one another’s parts like little kid twin brothers might, but instead of simply confusing their teacher, it leads to disastrous results. And a puzzling ending that divided critics and audiences alike—not too dissimilarly to how upon release, many of Kubrick’s films were treated.

It’s easy to think that something considered a masterpiece now was always considered such, but while Enemy will unlikely go down in the annals of film quite like anything of Kubrick’s, when it was first released most of his films were met with mixed receptions.

With an eerie opening scene featuring high-heeled women in a dark room stepping on spiders for a clandestine audience’s pleasure, it’s twisty plot, and a serious head-scratcher of an ending, Enemy requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate—or, if you’re lacking time, search for an in-depth breakdown on YouTube.

It’s a maze well worth your time, albeit one that needs to have every corner thoroughly scoured before any hard truth can hope to be found.

 

 

Pages: 1 2


   

Other Brilliant Movie Posts On The Web
   

Like Our Facebook Page and Get Daily Updates
   
  • Leo Chester Trudel

    The Grand Budapest Hotel is only similar to Kubrick’s films for its use of symmetrical compositions. Saying it’s Kubrickian is quite a bold statement.

    • BK207

      In case of Symmetrical Compositions in almost every frame of an Wes Anderson there’s parallel lines, not like Kubrick used to do but different more “raw” Imo

    • Gines Velazquez

      You are right… i think compare Wes Anderson symmetrical composition with Kubrick´s composition is simply preposterous and seem like a neophyte comparison…

    • Dave Teves

      I quite agree

  • Unkle Amon

    Wes Anderson again and no Gaspar Noe or N.W. Refn?

    • Gines Velazquez

      Unkle Amon is right… Enter the void is so much inspired by Kubrick films that the press kit say something like “the 2001 of the 2000´s” For me ETV is a great film an should be on a list like this…

      from an interview in cannes (i just search): “Without wanting to compare myself to these geniuses, this time I thought more of certain sequences in Kubrick’s 2001 or of Kenneth Anger’s work.” Gaspar Noe

      ETV I so Kubrik that the first tribute to Kubrick is the title sequence and you know it at first sight…

    • Nikos Ikonomidis

      It’s amazing,these are the two examples I thought about myself!

  • Excellent post though I sort of disagree on Melancholia which I think is more influenced by Andrei Tarkovsky rather than Stanley Kubrick.

    • Gines Velazquez

      I never imagine melancholia like a kubrick inspired film… as Steven F. say… is evidently much more close to Tarkovsky´s films… and i can´t see how Eraserhead could be on this list…

  • BK207

    No order: Valhalla Rising, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Dogville, American Psycho, Birdman, Sicario, Looper, Moon, Gone Girl, The Babadook

  • Gines Velazquez

    El Abrazo de la Serpiente is a really good Kubrick inspired film

  • sailor monsoon

    Everything by carol reed

  • CaseX

    Hey…”Under the Skin”…again… What a surprise.

    Do you guys own stock in that film?

  • Gavin Lawson

    I think if there is any director that is close in spirit and intelligence to Kubrick that is working today then it is Michael Haneke. As good as Nolan is visually, he just doesn’t stand up intellectually with Kubrick’s work, and I think the same goes for Glazer. To be Kubrickian doesn’t mean mimicking his work, it means to carry the same visual uniqueness and intellectual rigor in approach that he had, as well as an outstanding quality of the narrative he was telling. ‘The White Ribbon’ for me has all these attributes, as well as having the kind of grandeur that we associate with Kubrick’s films.

    Just a few comments on ‘Under the Skin’ the number 1 pick on this list. Kubrick would never make images that mimicked a surveillance camera like in Glazer’s film, Kubrick’s camera always had his authorial point of view, and he never had a female in the lead role either, it was masculinity that interested him. As much as 2001 seems like its about alien intelligence, it seems to me more to do with how humanity confronts and experiences that alien intelligence. I could never imagine Kubrick centering a film around an alien, it seems to irrational for his taste somehow, robots maybe, not aliens. The more I think about it, the more I realize Kubrick would never make a film like ‘Under the Skin’. Don’t get wrong, I like the film, its just not a Kubrick type film in my opinion.

  • Mark

    I’d like to debunk the myth that “Under the Skin” resembles anything remotely close to a Kubrick film. The camera work is an utter mess. Kubrick would scoff at the lack of technical prowess behind the film.

    Secondly, it lacks any staple themes so concurrent in his filmography: the duality of humanity, our obsessions with love and death, and moreover the absurd political organizations (the criminal, the military industrial, the ultra-rich, etc.) in society.

    “Under the Skin” doesn’t touch upon any of these themes. It also never challenges the status quo of cinema. To be Kubrickian is to be bold, intelligent and inventive – not meandering with glimpses into the weird.

    Because he made one science fiction film, people often associate him with movies about machines and surreal science fiction. His work explores humanity above all else. There was a reason his favourite filmmaker was Ingmar Bergman.

    In the words of Kubrick, “Those who say Kafkaesque usually have no idea of the works of Franz Kafka.” I feel this same quote applies here.

    • Ean Gurley

      I’d like to debunk the myth that “Under the Skin” doesn’t resemble a Kubrick film. Some of what you’re saying makes sense. It uses a lot of hidden cameras, interior car shots and an overall voyeuristic approach which is not Kubrick at all. It’s definitely not “an utter mess” but I suppose you’re entitled to that opinion. As far as the whole “lacking any staple themes” goes, I’d completely disagree. How does Under the Skin not deal with obsessions of love and death? I think maybe you need to give it another watch because that’s very much what the film is about. The third act in particular deals heavily with it. I mean, to be blunt about it, two of the songs on the OST are called “Love” and “Death”. Also it completely “challenges the status quo of cinema” as you put it. It brings up intelligent, bold ideas about humanity in a inventive way, through the narrative of an alien. You’re saying that Kubrick explores humanity above all else… which is kind of funny to me because you could say the same exact thing about Under the Skin. The film is much more focused on giving you a new perspective to look at humanity though than anything else in my opinion. Her character arc, the choices she makes, it forces us to look at humanity from the outside in a very cerebral way. If all you got out of Under the Skin is that it was “meandering with glimpses into the weird” then I think you misunderstood the film.

  • eneru

    Under the skin again…while I agree that visually it’s stunning, it lacks substance. It immitates it, it pretends to have it. A succession of beautiful images and a really general and loose concept are not enough if you want to create FILM.

    And people who claim they got “the bigger message” should try to stop impressing their girlfriends and move on to real cinema.

  • Oliver Matthew Bruce

    This list is wrong. Bronson is the most Kubrickian film not done by Kubrick.

  • Nikos Ikonomidis

    I probably disagree with almost all the choices;some other recent movies that might be decent candidates for the list,in my opinion,are Only god forgives and Love(the second has certain references to Kubrick,anyway).

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Upstream Color

  • jann1k

    Good list, but I guess you could’ve added “almost every PTA film ever”.

  • Palitoh

    This Top 10 is a fucking disgrace to the memory of Stanley Kubrick. Taste of Cinema, you’re doing it wrong.

  • Raging9

    Nicholas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon…should DEFINITELY be in this list..

  • Yeah, I agree with others saying that The Grand Budapest Hotel being Kubrickian is quite a leap, but I agree with nearly all the others.

    I’d add Robert Eggers’ The Witch.