2001: A Space Odyssey

1968

2001: A Space Odyssey

Critics Consensus

One of the most influential of all sci-fi films -- and one of the most controversial -- Stanley Kubrick's 2001 is a delicate, poetic meditation on the ingenuity -- and folly -- of mankind.

93%

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Total Count: 104

89%

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User Ratings: 298,641
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Movie Info

A mind-bending sci-fi symphony, Stanley Kubrick's landmark 1968 epic pushed the limits of narrative and special effects toward a meditation on technology and humanity. Based on Arthur C. Clarke's story The Sentinel, Kubrick and Clarke's screenplay is structured in four movements. At the "Dawn of Man," a group of hominids encounters a mysterious black monolith alien to their surroundings. To the strains of Strauss's 1896 Also sprach Zarathustra, a hominid invents the first weapon, using a bone to kill prey. As the hominid tosses the bone in the air, Kubrick cuts to a 21st century spacecraft hovering over the Earth, skipping ahead millions of years in technological development. U.S. scientist Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) travels to the moon to check out the discovery of a strange object on the moon's surface: a black monolith. As the sun's rays strike the stone, however, it emits a piercing, deafening sound that fills the investigators' headphones and stops them in their path. Cutting ahead 18 months, impassive astronauts David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) head toward Jupiter on the spaceship Discovery, their only company three hibernating astronauts and the vocal, man-made HAL 9000 computer running the entire ship. When the all-too-human HAL malfunctions, however, he tries to murder the astronauts to cover his error, forcing Bowman to defend himself the only way he can. Free of HAL, and finally informed of the voyage's purpose by a recording from Floyd, Bowman journeys to "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite," through the psychedelic slit-scan star-gate to an 18th century room, and the completion of the monolith's evolutionary mission.With assistance from special-effects expert Douglas Trumbull, Kubrick spent over two years meticulously creating the most "realistic" depictions of outer space ever seen, greatly advancing cinematic technology for a story expressing grave doubts about technology itself. Despite some initial critical reservations that it was too long and too dull, 2001 became one of the most popular films of 1968, underlining the generation gap between young moviegoers who wanted to see something new and challenging and oldsters who "didn't get it." Provocatively billed as "the ultimate trip," 2001 quickly caught on with a counterculture youth audience open to a contemplative (i.e. chemically enhanced) viewing experience of a film suggesting that the way to enlightenment was to free one's mind of the U.S. military-industrial-technological complex. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

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News & Interviews for 2001: A Space Odyssey

Critic Reviews for 2001: A Space Odyssey

All Critics (104) | Top Critics (28) | Fresh (97) | Rotten (7)

  • Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is the picture which science-fiction enthusiasts of every age and in every corner of the world have prayed (sometimes forlornly) that the industry might one day give them.

    Jun 28, 2019 | Full Review…
  • The film is a journey through outer space, but it is also a journey through cinematic space. It conjures the future by making you sit through its vision of the future, spending time just being in it.

    May 21, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Speculation and ambiguity are fine, but it does rather look as if Kubrick and his co-writer, Arthur C. Clarke, just haven't thought it through.

    May 3, 2018 | Full Review…

    Richard Roud

    Guardian
    Top Critic
  • Aa whimsical space operetta, then frantically inflates itself again for a surreal climax in which the imagery is just obscure enough to be annoying, just precise enough to be banal.

    Apr 5, 2018 | Full Review…
  • A small sphere of intellectuals will feel that Kubrick has said something, simply because one expected him to say something. ... Most moviegoers will only wish that Mr. Kubrick would come back down to earth.

    Apr 3, 2016 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • I shall go and see it again as soon as possible, for one thing is clear. Man has shrunk space, but Kubrick has expanded the cinema.

    Feb 16, 2016 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for 2001: A Space Odyssey

  • May 02, 2016
    A masterpiece in its own right, 2001 is a sharp, cinematic film that drags itself out and fails to stay engaging for the duration.
    Sean T Super Reviewer
  • Apr 10, 2016
    It's always hard to achieve something. To capture people. To entertain people. But Stanley Kubrick always managed to do that with his movies and having now watched "2001: A Space Odyssey" a couple of times, I can officially say that I understand what Kubrick did with this movie. Do I like it? Oh, yes. This is an amazing movie. You are constantly wondering about what's happening on the screen and your mind is constantly working at full speed. You are taken through many different decades and for every decade we go through, we achieve a little more knowledge about how our species are evolving. This is by far the most technically advanced movie that Kubrick has ever made - and even though he also made great movies like "Full Metal Jacket" and "Dr. Strangelove" - this movie also has the best plot of all them if you are able to see through the very trippy aspects of this masterpiece. You just need to believe that you can understand this movie, and then in the end: you will...
    Lasse G Super Reviewer
  • Feb 04, 2016
    Over two hours; tons of groundbreaking visual effects; a psychedelic stargate sequence; and interiors that look like something out of almost every film it's influenced. Now here's why I'm such a fan of it. 2001: A Space Odyssey came out a whopping 14 months before Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins won the space race for the United States via Apollo 11. It was a film that was made roughly over the course of a tenuous three years in which Stanley Kubrick proved himself one of the 1960s most quintessential directors with this film alone (yes, I'm aware of Spartacus, Lolita, and Dr. Strangelove but i'm talking on a reputation level). 2001 isn't as much of a film as it is a visual symphony which explores the ideas of the interstellar at a time when the world's interest in space was at an all-time high due to the all-mythical space race nearing it's last sprint. I believe it would be outright mentally deranged to say that the world's enthusiasm for outer space at the tail-end of the '60s didn't help this film's reception at all, but I also think that Odyssey was such a success because for all it's hype and praise it's gotten over the years, it really IS as good as many people say. Over the two and a half hour runtime, we see Kubrick's direction in full bloom, first via the surprisingly abstract prehistorical sequence involving tribes of man-apes fighting over a water hole, and then through the following three clusters of the film; the Moon journey, the Jupiter mission, and finally Beyond Jupiter where we see the enigmatic ending which has been discussed and dissected over and over again in the pantheon of pop culture (I myself subscribing to the film being a giant painting of evolutionary theory, but that's not the point, here). Two and a half hours where viewers across the world were introduced to elaborate space sequences, clinically futuristic sets, and visual effects which went beyond matte paintings and using backgrounds to simulate car chases. And that's exactly why this film is so hallowed, it was the first motion picture to do so many things that others had either shied away from, or didn't have the technology or the vision to do, but perhaps most importantly Kubrick paints a realistic picture of space both with dozens of minute-spanning shots, and the lack of sound during most of the shots excluding the film's score which emphasize the isolation, loneliness and barren terrain of outer space. All of these accomplishments help the film pioneer a path that would continue being forged and widened in the coming decades with dozens of other films carrying on in it's footsteps (*cough cough Star Wars, anyone). The two other elements which particularly come to mind that cause it to stand out as a masterpiece are the production design and acting. The design of the film in retrospect fits perfectly with the cinematography and compliments it further with sparsely-decorated sets which paint space in a picture that no film until Star Wars has. The Discovery One and the other space shuttles and stations all share these qualities which paint the future in a very cool, calculated, and machine-centric way, which all of science fiction has seemingly taken after since. However, in terms of the film's acting, I have a polarized view. For such a grandiose film, the acting is quite remarkably unremarkable. Part of this is because of the monstrous amount of dialogue Kubrick decided to drop from the script and also because the story itself relies on the image before the substance to a large degree and therefore William Sylvester, Keir Dullea, and Gary Lockwood are relegated nearly to fixtures of the film itself, not because they are particularly lousy at acting, but because they had so little to work with in terms of dialogue. And the irony of this is that it melds perfectly with Stephen King's observation that Kubrick ultimately was not without fault and that he "thought too much and felt too little." The final beauty of 2001 is that it's a film that leaves much open to the imagination of the viewer. Why did HAL suffer such a malfunction? What is the monolith? What's the significance of the stargate sequence? Is the fetus child indeed Bowman and if so what is it's purpose? You can come to your own conclusions but the bottom line is that this film is as true of a masterpiece as many say it is.
    Kal X. A Super Reviewer
  • Sep 26, 2015
    Some movies get acclaim in their time, but then years later they do not seem so great. For the first hour while rewatching 2001, particularly the moon base sequences, I was wondering if this is really an all-time great movie. But after the mission to Jupiter begins, the show starts and it does not feel dated. If anything, it gets better on repeat viewings, with more to pick up. 2001 is full of exemplary pioneering spirit and does deserve to be called one of the all-time greats.
    Robert B Super Reviewer

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