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2001: A Space Odyssey

...because no pun intended, "2001: A Space Odyssey" is universally considered the greatest science fiction film of all time. Never one to set the bar low, Stanley Kubrick developed the film’s script with science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke over five years as a way to examine humanity’s role in the cosmos. The film’s groundbreaking special effects took nearly two years to develop and created the most realistic depiction of outer space ever on film. Kubrick’s production design was in fact so detailed and convincing that people even believe he faked the moon landing footage.


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2001 earned Stanley Kubrick an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, as well as nominations for Best Director and Original Screenplay (shared with Arthur C. Clarke). Anthony Masters was also nominated for Best Art Direction. An honorary award was made to John Chambers in that year for his make-up work on "Planet of the Apes," and Clarke reports that he "wondered, as loudly as possible, whether the judges had passed over 2001 because they thought we had used real ape-men…"

Much of Kubrick’s reputation as a master director can be traced to his work on 2001. The film’s first act ends with perhaps the most famous cut in cinema history, with a primate’s bone tossed in the air matched up to a space ship orbiting earth. This seconds long transition sums up the entire history of humanity’s physical and technological evolution, while also setting up the film’s most important themes. Allegedly, Kubrick did not plan this edit until after he filmed the "Dawn of Man” sequence – he was inspired by a broomstick he was tossing in the air as he walked down a hallway. This combination of directorial vision, precision and whimsical inspiration show why Kubrick looms so large for fans of auteurism. Kubrick also notoriously paid careful attention to his production design. For example, to represent artificial gravity inside the Discovery spaceship, the crew rigged a 30 ton spinning drum that was then fitted with the astronaut’s furniture, food dispensers and control consoles. This set up proved so elaborate that for certain shots, the actors would have to film themselves in the set because there was no place for the camera crew.

Science fiction films before 2001 often featured campy and obviously fake special effects. This wouldn’t do for Kubrick. Working with a team of effects artists that included Douglas Trumbull, Kubrick spent years perfecting the technology that would create a realistic look for outer space. Using miniature models and front-projection images, the film revolutionized the look of science fiction films, influencing everything since from "Star Wars" to "The Martian." The film’s authentic designs dazzled audiences at the time, offering the most convincing portrayal of astronauts in outer space that rivals even today’s computer-laden spectacles. And of course, Kubrick and his effects wizards did such a good job that conspiracy theorists have suggested they faked the moon landing footage for the government. Didn’t you catch that whole sub-plot from "The Shining?"


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The Amazingly Accurate Futurism of 2001: A Space Odyssey

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The Complete Kubrick

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Script / Screenplay

2001: A Space Odyssey – Script

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2001: A Space Odyssey

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Room 237: Documentary

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The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey

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We’ll Meet Again – Musical Design in the Films of Stanley Kubrick

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Stanley Kubrick: Interviews

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Stanley Kubrick: A Biography

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The Making of Kubrick’s 2001

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Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

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Love and Death in Kubrick

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Michael Ciment’s – Kubrick

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The Wolf at the Door

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The Stanley Kubrick Archives

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