Influence of Stanley Kubrick

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Stanley Kubrick is regarded by film critics and historians as one of the most influential directors of all time.[1][2] Leading directors, including Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Woody Allen, Terry Gilliam, the Coen brothers, Ridley Scott, and George A. Romero,[3] have cited Kubrick as a source of inspiration, and in the case of Spielberg, collaboration.[4][5] In an interview for the Eyes Wide Shut DVD release, Steven Spielberg comments that "nobody could shoot a picture better in history", and that Kubrick told stories in a way "antithetical to the way we are accustomed to receiving stories". Writing in the introduction to a recent edition of Michel Ciment's Kubrick, film director Martin Scorsese notes most of Kubrick's films were misunderstood and under-appreciated when first released, only to be considered masterpieces later on.

Orson Welles, one of Kubrick's strongest personal influences famously said: "Among those whom I would call 'younger generation' Kubrick appears to me to be a giant."[6] The directors Richard Linklater,[7] Sam Mendes,[8] Quentin Tarantino,[9] Joel Schumacher,[10] Taylor Hackford,[11] and Darren Aronofsky[12] have all mentioned Kubrick as having made one of their favorite films.


Kubrick continues to be cited as important to the artistic careers of several later directors, including Christopher Nolan,[13][14] David Fincher,[15] Guillermo del Toro,[16] David Lynch,[17] Lars Von Trier,[18] Michael Mann,[19] and Gaspar Noé.[20] Many filmmakers imitate Kubrick's inventive and unique use of camera movement and framing. For example, several of Jonathan Glazer's music videos contain visual references to Kubrick.[21] The Coen Brother's Barton Fink, in which the hotel itself seems malevolent,[22] contains a hotel hallway Steadicam shot as an homage to The Shining. The storytelling style of their Hudsucker Proxy was influenced by Dr. Strangelove.[23] Director Tim Burton has included a few visual homages to Kubrick in his work, notably using actual footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,[24] and modeling the look of Tweedledee and Tweedledum in his version of Alice in Wonderland on the Grady girls in The Shining.[25] Film critic Roger Ebert also noted that Burton's Mars Attacks! was partially inspired by Dr. Strangelove.[26] The video for The Killers song Bones (2006), Burton's only music video, includes clips from Kubrick's Lolita, as well as other films from the general era.

Use of music[edit]

Paul Thomas Anderson (who was fond of Kubrick as a teenager)[27] in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, stated "it's so hard to do anything that doesn't owe some kind of debt to what Stanley Kubrick did with music in movies. Inevitably, you're going to end up doing something that he's probably already done before. It can all seem like we're falling behind whatever he came up with."[28] Reviewer William Arnold described Anderson's There Will Be Blood as a stylistic homage to Kubrick, "particularly 2001: A Space Odyssey– opening with a similar prologue that jumps in stages over the years and using a soundtrack throughout that employs anachronistic music."[29]

Kubrick's influence on Todd Field was perhaps the most direct. After acting in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, Field immediately went on to make In the Bedroom. Arnold, in reviewing the film, wrote,

"Like Kubrick, Field's direction manages to feel both highly controlled and effortlessly spontaneous at the same time; and his lifting of the facade of this picturesque, Norman Rockwell setting is carried out with surgical precision ... also like Kubrick, Field doesn't make any moral judgments about his characters, and his film remains stubbornly enigmatic. It can be read as a high-class revenge thriller, an ode to the futility of vengeance or almost anything in between.."[30]

Although Michael Moore specializes in documentary filmmaking, at the beginning of shooting his only non-documentary feature film Canadian Bacon, he sat his cast and crew down to watch Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. He told them "What this movie was in the '60s, is what we should aspire to with this film." Moore had previously written Kubrick a letter telling him how much Bacon was inspired by Strangelove.[31]

Film director Frank Darabont has been inspired by Kubrick's use of music. In an interview with The Telegraph, he states that 2001 took "the use of music in film" to absolute perfection, and one shot employing classical music in The Shawshank Redemption follows Kubrick's lead. On the other hand, while Darabont has followed Kubrick in directing two Stephen King adaptations, Darabont shares Stephen King's negative view of Kubrick's adaption of The Shining and claims that 2001 is his greatest film.[32]

Critics occasionally detect a Kubrickian influence when the filmmaker acknowledges none. Critics have noticed the influence of Stanley Kubrick on Danish independent director Nicolas Winding Refn. Jim Pappas suggests this comes from Refn's employment of Kubrick's cinematographer for Eyes Wide Shut in his film Fear X, suggesting "it is the Kubrick influence that leaves us asking ourselves what we believe we should know is true".[33] The apparent influence of Kubrick on his film Bronson was noted by the Los Angeles Times[34] and the French publication Evene[35] When asked by Twitch about the very frequent comparisons by critics of the film Bronson to A Clockwork Orange, Refn denied the influence.[36] Refn stated

Of course if you put violence with classical music, people think it's obvious that's Clockwork Orange, because Kubrick used it very well and you always look at it as a reference. There are similarities between my Bronson and the Alex character from Clockwork Orange. There is kind of anti-authoritarian popculture iconish quality, but I stole every single thing from Kenneth Anger. Bronson is a mixture of [Anger's] Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) and Scorpio Rising (1964).

Kubrick's direction has impacted the field of rock music as well. American rock group the Byrds were inspired to cover Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" for their album Mr. Tambourine Man after hearing the song's use in Dr. Strangelove.


In 2000 BAFTA renamed their Britannia lifetime achievement award the "Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award".[37] Kubrick is among filmmakers such as D. W. Griffith, Laurence Olivier, Cecil B. DeMille, and Irving Thalberg, all of whom have had annual awards named after them. Kubrick won this award in 1999, and subsequent recipients have included George Lucas, Warren Beatty, Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, and Daniel Day-Lewis.[38]

Entrance to Kubrick museum exhibit at LACMA

A number of people who worked with Kubrick on his films created the 2001 documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, produced and directed by Kubrick's brother-in-law, Jan Harlan, who had executive produced Kubrick's last four films.[39] The film's chapters each cover one of Kubrick's films and Kubrick's childhood is explored in the introductory section.

On October 30, 2012, an exhibition devoted to Kubrick opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and concluded in June 2013. The exhibition, curated by Deutsches Filminstitut and Deutsches Architekturmuseum, was previously displayed in Frankfurt am Main, Germany (2004); Berlin, Germany (2005); Melbourne, Australia (2006); Ghent, Belgium and Zurich, Switzerland (both in 2007); Rome, Italy (2008); Paris, France (2011); and Amsterdam, Netherlands (2012).[40] Exhibits include a wide collection of documents, photographs and on-set material assembled from 800 boxes of personal archives that were stored in Kubrick's home-workplace in the U.K.[41] A number of celebrities attended and spoke at the museum's pre-opening gala, including Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Jack Nicholson,[42] while Kubrick's widow, Christiane, appeared at the pre-gala press review.[43]

On November 7, 2012, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in conjunction with the LACMA exhibition, celebrated Kubrick's life and career. Malcolm McDowell hosted, and along with other actors, including Paul Mazursky, Ryan O'Neal and Matthew Modine, discussed personal experiences of working with Kubrick.[44]

In October 2013, the Brazil Sao Paulo International Film Festival paid tribute to Kubrick, staging an exhibit of his work and a retrospective of his films.[45] The exhibit is also scheduled to open at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in late 2014.[46]

In popular culture[edit]

The TV series The Simpsons is said to contain more references to Kubrick films than any other pop culture phenomenon. References abound to many of his films, including 2001, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining.[47] When the Director's Guild of Great Britain gave Kubrick a lifetime achievement award, they included a cut-together sequence of all the homages from the show.[48]

In 2009, an exhibition of paintings and photos inspired by Kubrick's films was held in Dublin, Ireland, entitled 'Stanley Kubrick: Taming Light'.[49] In 2010, painter (and film storyboard artist) Carlos Ramos held an exhibition entitled "Kubrick" in Los Angeles, featuring paintings in a variety of styles based on scenes from Stanley Kubrick films.[50]

Among her multiple allusions to Kubrick in song and video, pop singer Lady Gaga's video for Bad Romance appeared to pay homage to Kubrick,[51] and her concert shows have included the use of dialogue, costumes, and music from A Clockwork Orange.[52]

Films about elements of Kubrick's life[edit]

In the early 1990s, a con artist named Alan Conway frequented the London entertainment scene claiming to be Stanley Kubrick, and temporarily deceived New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich, as well as multiple aspiring actors. Kubrick's personal assistant, Anthony Frewin, who helped track Conway down, wrote the screenplay for a film based on the Conway affair Colour Me Kubrick starring John Malkovich as Alan Conway. Kubrick's widow, Christiane Kubrick, was also a consultant for the film. The film contains several tongue-in-cheek homages to scenes from Kubrick's films. Conway was earlier the subject of a short documentary film The Man Who Would be Kubrick.

In 2002, the French documentary film maker William Karel (occasionally referred to as "Europe's Michael Moore") made initial plans for a documentary on Stanley Kubrick, but changed course. Karel was fascinated by the pervading conspiracy theory that Kubrick had faked footage of the NASA moon landings during the filming of Space Odyssey, and chose to make a parody "mockumentary" entitled Dark Side of the Moon advancing the same thesis entirely in jest. He had the help of Kubrick's surviving family who both acted as consultants for the film and gave scripted fake interviews. In spite of clues that the film is a news parody, some test audiences believed the film to be sincere, including at least one believer in the moon landing conspiracy.

Kubrick has been portrayed on film by actor Stanley Tucci in the film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Although Sellers acted in two of Kubrick's films, the material here is almost wholly focused on their work together in Dr. Strangelove.

In 2012, the documentary film Room 237 was released, which speculates about overt and hidden meanings behind the The Shining. The film includes footage from that, and other Kubrick films, along with discussions by a number of Kubrick experts. The film includes nine segments, with each segment focusing on different elements within the film which "may reveal hidden clues and hint at at (sic) a bigger thematic oeuvre."[53]


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  4. ^ See Harlan 2001 for interviews with Scorsese and Spielberg.
  5. ^ See Greenwald 2007 for an interview with Scott.
  6. ^ LoBrutto, Vincent (May 7, 1999). Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. ISBN 0-306-80906-0. Retrieved November 24, 2011. 
  7. ^ "BFI | Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 | How the directors and critics voted". 
  8. ^ "BFI | Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 | How the directors and critics voted". 
  9. ^ Lucas (no date). Online at: 7 Classic Movies that Influenced Quentin Tarantino: Horror, Suspense, Film Noir – and Plenty of Laughs
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  11. ^ "BFI | Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 | How the directors and critics voted". 
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  14. ^ Biography for Christopher Nolan at the Internet Movie Database
  15. ^ Biography for David Fincher at the Internet Movie Database
  16. ^ Biography for Guillermo del Toro at the Internet Movie Database
  17. ^ Biography for David Lynch at the Internet Movie Database
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  19. ^ "A Mann's Man World Page 2 – News – Los Angeles – LA Weekly". [dead link]
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  25. ^ Geoff Boucher (February 10, 2010). "Tim Burton took a 'Shining' to Tweedledee and Tweedledum". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 15, 2010. Retrieved February 17, 2011.  Director Tim Burton erroneously refers to the Grady girls as twins.
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  32. ^ Mark Monahan (May 25, 2002). "Filmmakers on film: Frank Darabont". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved August 28, 2011. ; Darabont also echoes these criticisms
  33. ^ Jim Pappas (January 20, 2005). "Movie Review: Fear X". The Trades. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  34. ^ Mark Olsen (October 11, 2009). "'Bronson' shows inner chaos of violent British prisoner". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
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  36. ^ Paolo Gill (May 25, 2010). "A CONVERSATION WITH NICOLAS WINDING REFN". Twitch Film. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
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  42. ^ Sasha Bronner (29 October 2012). "LACMA Art + Film Gala 2012 Brought Out Big Stars And Fancy Clothes In Los Angeles (PHOTOS)". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
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  45. ^ "São Paulo Film Festival Opens With Stanley Kubrick Exhibit", Hollywood Reporter, Oct. 18, 2013
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  51. ^ Daniel Kreps (November 10, 2009). "Lady Gaga Premieres "Bad Romance," Her Craziest Video Yet". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 27, 2012. Kreps, Daniel (November 11, 2009). "Lady Gaga Premieres "Bad Romance," Her Craziest Video Yet". Rolling Stone (Jann Wenner) 1098 (32). ISSN 0035-791X
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