Happy Birthday, Stanley Kubrick! What's His Finest Cinematic Moment?

And so Movieline concludes today's birthday-celebration marathon -- previously spotlighting the finest film work of both Dame Helen Mirren and Sir Mick Jagger -- as any self-respecting movie site would: By commemorating the day 83 years ago when the world welcomed one Stanley Kubrick into existence. This would change everything.

You know what I mean. From Kubrick's early directing work in the 1950s until his death in 1999 at age 70 -- and, let's face it, into this very minute -- everyone's had plenty of time and opportunity to discuss, debate, disseminate and otherwise contemplate their own favorite moments of the genius Kubrick canon. So consider this your chance to raise a virtual glass to his memory, impact, and achievements, my own favorite of which came at the end of his 1957 anti-war masterpiece Paths of Glory. French army colonel Dax (played by Kirk Douglas), having struggled to defend three of his men through a kangaroo court-martial for cowardice, rejects a promotion from the high-ranking functionary who signed the trio's death warrants.

The scene plays a little hot under the scorching noir influence of co-writer Jim Thompson (joined by Kubrick himself and Calder Willingham), but it's pretty much the bedrock of Kubrick's humanity as a filmmaker, in which everything from Spartacus to 2001 to A Clockwork Orange to Full Metal Jacket (itself an anti-war classic) is anchored. I love these films as much as the next guy, but Dax and his doomed charges are the only characters in the Kubrick universe whose fates I've continued to sincerely care about.

But that's not even the best part: The real final scene of Paths of Glory, in which a captured German songbird (played by Kubrick's future wife Christiane) brings a barroom full of bloodthirsty French troops to tears, gets me every time. On a day when the saddest movie scene ever is a meme in the making, good luck beating this finale. Happy birthday, Mr. Kubrick. (And thanks to Roger Ebert for the reminder. Better late than never.)


  • CiscoMan says:

    In A Clockwork Orange, when Alex is being drowned by his cronies. It feels strange to say this is one of my favorite moments because, for me, it triggers so many conflicting emotions and thoughts, but that's basically the point, isn't it?
    Also, special shout out to Barry Lyndon. It's worth noting if only because Kubrick lit scenes by candlelight. Candlelight! And though its reputation relative to his other works is not good, it really is worth a watch.

  • AS says:

    The greatest filmmaker who ever lived! Sad he's no longer with us. His greatest moment? Impossible to pick. One of my favorites has always been the long zoom out with the devilishly humorous voiceover at the beginning of A Clockwork Orange ("A little bit of the old ultra-violence") . But the greatest moment in all of his films for me are the ironic endings. From The Killing to A Clockwork Orange to Eyes Wide Shut.

  • The Pope says:

    This is no time for modesty, so I'm going to grab the entire 180 minutes plus of BARRY LYNDON. That is his finest moment.

  • Trace says:

    Those long tracking shots from The Shining. Or that scene where Jack Nicholson grabs a baseball bat.

  • AS says:

    I think you mean axe.

  • TN says:

    The highway traffic jam in Nashville! Also julianne moore ironing bottomless in shortcuts. I would throw Barry Lyndon in, simply because it was one of the last movies to have Ryan O'Neal in it looking sexy, insted of saggy and creepy like he is now. Also Kubrick is looking handsome in the picture above.

  • tn says:

    i always mix up altman and kubrick. sorry everyone!

  • Chris says:

    Awww yeah you did. But it's ok, we won't judge, simply because i agree with your Ryan O'Neal comment.

  • Trace says:

    No, I mean the baseball bat. The scene where Wendy discovers his novel.

  • AS says:

    Your right, my bad. Completely forgot about that.

  • stan says:

    Eyes Wide Shut ripples into the future - what does the Murdoch scandal show us today that there really is a creepy, barely hidden ruling class with sinister preoccupations? Tom Cruise's vacant self-assurance is used to excellent effect. Dreamy and weird, it's not a movie many people want to watch again - but do it anyway!