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A Look at the Complete Poster Collection for the Movies of Stanley Kubrick

Updated on August 15, 2020
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I wrote film reviews for over a decade in a variety of formats.

Stanley Kubrick: Great Director

Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time. Many of his films stand among the best in their genre and among the best films of all-time. Like many filmmakers, the posters that represented his movies were a mixed bag. Here's a look at a collection of his posters from his early years.

Fear and Desire - 1953

I love older movie posters, like from the 1960's and earlier. They always seem so much more interesting than newer posters. The colors are more vibrant, the images frequently more compelling.

Here, with Kubrick's first film, we don't really get a lot of information. However, with the little we do get, context is pretty interesting.

So we have a soldier holding his hand over the mouth of a woman, implying a certain amount of violence. Given it's 1953 and the end of the Korean War, this adds another interesting element in that fear of the returning soldier has always been a strong element in American culture and affected films since their inception as a popular medium.

The design of the poster itself is not particularly compelling, which allows the images to dominate.

Killer's Kiss -1955

This is just a fantastic poster - classic noir style, beautiful color, and a caption that could hardly be better and more provocative.

"Her soft mouth was the road to sin-smeared violence." Man, does a caption get any better than that? If I could find an original copy of this poster, or even a remake, I'd buy it. And seriously, the person (is that a man or woman?) with the ax - truly alluring.

If you're a Kubrick fan, this seems like classic Kubrick provocation. For a 1955 poster, it would seem to be over-the-top compared to others of the era, though many noir posters had strong implications.

The Killing - 1956

Not as good a poster as "Killer's Kiss", but compelling and interesting nonetheless.

The images aren't as good, but the words certainly get one's attention and it would appear as though they're trying to sell the movie primarily with the words. It's interesting that it's comparing this movie to two films that were twenty-five and twenty-four years old respectively in "Little Caear" and "Scarface". That's a long time without a violent movie and tells you something about the impact of the Depression and World War II on movies. War movies obviously weren't considered violent in the same way as noir. Like many posters from film noir, this one has lots of great color. For whatever reason, I'm always drawn to posters with a yellow background.

Paths of Glory - 1957

This poster looks like it's from a re-release possibly given the title on top, though it's possible the image itself was the original image. Another great Kubrick poster as the central image delivers a very strong message.

There's an obvious contrast between the title "Paths of Glory" and the path the main character is taking that involves stepping in a pool of blood. Furthermore, the expression on the characters face does not exactly convey triumph or victory. More like misery.

The text to the right reads: "Now the screen blasts open: the bombshell story of a Colonel who led his regimen into hell and back - while their maddened General waited for them - with a firing squad."

I'm not sure if it's just this poster, but the colors do seem muted intentionally.

Spartacus - 1960

Like many posters from this era, it's hard to know which one was the most commonly seen by most people. I originally posted another poster for this film, but frankly, it was so boring that I searched around for another poster that seemed plausible. The first one was simply the stars faces on coins on a red background. Very dull.

This one at least features an image that tells the viewer something.

The image of Kirk Douglas holding the sword with a broken shackle on his wrist tells us immediately that he's broken free and he's likely on the attack. Not as compelling as some, but certainly decent enough.

I don't particularly care for the colors chosen. The tan and the red don't contrast well.

Lolita - 1962

Like many movies, there are several different posters for "Lolita". This is the one most people know best.

If you knew nothing of the Nabokov book, I suppose there might not be as much to get from this poster, though clearly the poster uses the few words on it to suggest adult subject-matter. I think the poster assumes the reader is familiar with the story otherwise it would not ask the question: "How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?" Though if one hadn't read the book, the small print at the bottom "For persons over 18 years of age" would tell you that something is up.

What I think is not quite clear from the poster is the fact that the girl is supposed to be 12-years-old. If you don't know that, you assume she's older as her sexuality would suggest. If you know she's 12, then it's rather arresting how she's dressed: the heart-shaped sunglasses and lipstick (in 1962, it would have been even more controversial, for sure). That she's sucking on a lollipop could convey sexuality to the voyeur, but not necessarily be the intention of the girl.

Sure, Lolita is the title character, but is the movie about the girl, Humbert Humbert, or Humbert's fascination with the girl? Let's remember, Humbert's relationship with Lolita is statutory rape, so there's a lot of contrasting feelings associated with this image. Is it sexist? Certainly. But one wonders whether that's intentional to create controversy.

An iconic poster.

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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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Allen Donald


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