Stanley Kubrick: Movie Poster Reviews (1964 - 1999)
Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time.
He was born on July 26, 1928 and died on March 7, 1999.
He was known for his attention to detail and his ability to apply his craft to any genre.
This is a look at the films Kubrick made between 1964 and 1999 through the posters of those films.
Many people regard Kubrick as the greatest director of all-time. His body of work speaks for itself and he never did a film in the same genre.
Dr. Strangelove - 1964
Of the posters in this series, "Dr. Strangelove", although fairly simple, is easily the most graphically complex poster in the group. It's quite clear that as Kubrick aged and his name became more synonymous with greatness, the design of his posters was simplified down into one major image possibly because there was no need to distract the eye from his name, which by itself, was enough to drive audiences to his films.
I like that the design of this poster is cartoonish. It precisely evokes the tone of the movie - a silly comedy about a serious subject: nuclear war. In the poster, bombers fly overhead as the two leaders on the ground from the U.S. and Russia, negotiate over the phone. The arm hanging over the shoulder of the Russian leader would seem to indicate that there's something slightly silly going on.
This is a deceptive poster because at first it seems like not that much is going on, but it tells a pretty comprehensive story.
2001: A Space Odyssey - 1968
Looking back from a distance of more than 40 years, this does not look like a great poster. It says nothing about the movie at all. However, one wonders what its impact was like in its day since few movies had even dealt with space travel and the image of a space station was so new. Also, the fact that the U.S. space program was moving toward a trip to the moon must have given the poster a bit more gravitas.
There are lots of things we take for granted today in this poster that might have seemed incredibly novel to the viewer in 1968. Still, it doesn't seem like there's much to the poster. Nonetheless, it's very intriguing to think about how the significance of that image has changed in the public eye over time.
A Clockwork Orange - 1971
Where "Dr. Strangelove" used the images in the poster to convey the contrasting tones present in the film, the poster for "A Clockwork Orange" does the same thing with words. Although the image is arresting (and indicative of how all future Kubrick posters would look), it's really the words that catch the reader's attention: "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven." Obviously, rape and Beethoven don't seem to go together.
The other interesting element in the central image is how pointy everything is. There's the knife and the triangular shapes that all come to points. Perhaps that's a metaphor for something in the movie, like the message, but visually, it also drives the viewer's eye up toward the words, which are really the most interesting thing on the poster.
Barry Lyndon - 1975
The poster for "Barry Lyndon" is really a lesson in perfect simplicity. Almost entirely black-and-white, the message about the movie is fairly direct. Keep in mind that "Barry Lyndon" is one of the few Kubrick films I've never seen.
First of all, the picture of the person is from the waist down and it's broken to emphasize the boots. Both the gun and the boots suggest that the film is set in another time. The person is stepping on the rose, which is the only thing of color on the entire poster. As roses are often symbols of love, it would appear that the central character has a conflict with love. He's stepping on love and his gun is pointed directly at the rose. Add to this the broken image of his legs and you have a pretty strong indication the film is about a conflict over love.
The Shining - 1980
So, clearly not a very compelling poster on its own merits. However, Kubrick had not done a true horror film at this point in his career, so to link his name with a horror film would have been enough to compel any Kubrick fan to go see it.
The image in the "T" is not in the film as far as I can remember, so I'm not exactly sure what kind of point is being conveyed. Ghosts? The supernatural? It's hard to say. You would think more would be made of it being based on the Stephen King book, yet everything from Nicholson's name to King's name is in the same font.
The one curious thing about the poster is that it's in a similar shade of yellow to a number of other horror film posters. One of my favorite, little-known, horror films is "Torso", an Italian giallo from the early 1970's, and it's in this same shade of yellow. Usually with yellow one thinks of cowardice. Or perhaps the color is used to convey fear?
Full Metal Jacket - 1987
Like most of Kubrick's film posters, the central image has contrasting elements that raise questions in the viewer's mind. The helmet says "Born to Kill" and right next to that is a peace symbol and right next to that are bullets. So the peace symbol is wedged between the "born to kill" slogan and the bullets. Given what transpires in the film, this is the perfect image to convey the film's message.
What I'm not so fond of is the caption above the image: "In Vietnam the wind doesn't blow it sucks." I'm not sure this caption adds much. In fact, it kind of distracts from the image, which is much more powerful.
Eyes Wide Shut - 1999
Although "Eyes Wide Shut" is generally considered to be one of Kubrick's weaker films, this is actually a very arresting poster with a very compelling central image. Take away the elements of the image and you can begin to see what it's trying to convey.
Imagine, for instance, if the central image was just the Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise kissing. You'd be somewhat compelled by the fact that Kidman is looking away or at something else, but it wouldn't really be enough to cause much thought. Now add the element of the mirror.
The mirror immediately adds a disturbing voyeuristic element because technically, we're on the same side as Kidman and Cruise. So, is this supposed to be a reflection of the viewer? Is the intent of the movie to reflect behavior back on the viewer - to effectively declare that the viewer is complicit in what's going on? It's a very interesting image with a lot of possibilities.
- Stanley Kubrick - IMDb
- Stanley Kubrick - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Stanley Kubrick: Filmography in Posters (1953-1962)
A look at the early film posters of Stanley Kubrick films.
More by this Author
The top ten scary moments of all-time in film as picked by a former film critic and co-creator of Mr. Cranky Rates the Movies.
Test your knowledge with this great quiz, similar to those played in bars and pubs, or use the questions in your own game.
The history of the Vietnam War often gets boiled down to who won and who lost. Although it's a very complex subject, this article tries to answer a basic question from the U.S. point of view.