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2001: A Space Odyssey (film)

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Title: 2001: A Space Odyssey (film)  
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2001: A Space Odyssey (film)

2001: A Space Odyssey
Robert McCall
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Produced by Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick
Arthur C. Clarke
Based on "The Sentinel
by Arthur C. Clarke
Starring Keir Dullea
Gary Lockwood
William Sylvester
Douglas Rain
Cinematography Geoffrey Unsworth
Editing by Ray Lovejoy
Studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (original)
Warner Bros. (current)
Release date(s)
Running time 161 minutes (Premiere)[1]
142 minutes (Theatrical)[1]
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $10.5 million
Box office $190 million

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 British-American science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was partially inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel". Clarke concurrently wrote the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey which was published soon after the film was released. The story deals with a series of encounters between humans and mysterious black monoliths that are apparently affecting human evolution, and a space voyage to Jupiter tracing a signal emitted by one such monolith found on the moon. Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood star as the two astronauts on this voyage, with Douglas Rain as the voice of the sentient computer HAL 9000 who has full control over their spaceship. The film is frequently described as an "epic film", both for its length and scope, and for its affinity with classical epics.[2][3]

Produced and distributed by the American studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film was made almost entirely in England, using both the studio facilities of MGM's subsidiary "MGM British" (among the last movies to be shot there before its closure in 1970)[4] and those of Shepperton Studios, mostly because of the availability of much larger sound stages than in the United States. The film was also co-produced by Kubrick's own "Stanley Kubrick Productions". Kubrick, having already shot his previous two films in England, decided to settle there permanently during the filming of Space Odyssey. Though Space Odyssey was released in the United States over a month before its release in the United Kingdom, and Encyclopædia Britannica calls this an American film,[5] other sources refer to it as an American, British, or American-British production.[6]

Thematically, the film deals with elements of human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life. It is notable for its scientific accuracy, pioneering special effects, ambiguous imagery, sound in place of traditional narrative techniques, and minimal use of dialogue. The film's memorable soundtrack is the result of the association that Kubrick made between the spinning motion of the satellites and the dancers of waltzes, which led him to use The Blue Danube waltz by Johann Strauss II,[7] and the symphonic poem Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, to portray the philosophical concept of the Übermensch in Nietzsche's work of the same name.[8][9]

Despite initially receiving mixed reactions from critics and audiences alike, 2001: A Space Odyssey garnered a cult following and slowly became a box office hit. Some years after its initial release, it eventually became the highest grossing picture from 1968 in North America. Today it is near-universally recognized by critics, filmmakers, and audiences as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. The 2002 Sight & Sound poll of critics ranked it among the top ten films of all time,[10] placing it #6 behind Tokyo Story. The film retained sixth place on the critics' list in 2012, and was named the second greatest film ever made by the directors' poll of the same magazine.[11] Two years before that, it was ranked the greatest film of all time by The Moving Arts Film Journal.[12] It was nominated for four Academy Awards, and received one for its visual effects. In 1991, it was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[13]

In 1984, a sequel directed by Peter Hyams was released, titled 2010: The Year We Make Contact.


The film consists of four major sections, all of which, except the second, are introduced by superimposed titles.

The Dawn of Man

A tribe of herbivorous early hominids is foraging for food in the African desert. A leopard kills one member, and another tribe of man-apes drives them from their water hole. Defeated, they sleep overnight in a small exposed rock crater, and awake to find a black monolith has appeared in front of them. They approach it shrieking and jumping, and eventually touch it cautiously. Soon after, one of the man-apes (Daniel Richter) realizes how to use a bone as both a tool and a weapon, which they start using to kill prey for their food. Growing increasingly capable and assertive, they reclaim control of the water hole from the other tribe by killing its leader. Triumphant, the tribe's leader throws his weapon-tool into the air as the scene shifts via match cut.[15][16]


A Pan Am space plane carries Dr. Heywood R. Floyd (William Sylvester) to a space station orbiting Earth for a layover on his trip to Clavius Base, a US outpost on the Moon. After making a videophone call from the station to his daughter (Vivian Kubrick), he encounters his friend Elena (Margaret Tyzack), a Russian scientist, and her colleague Dr. Smyslov (Leonard Rossiter), who ask Floyd about "odd things" occurring at Clavius, and the rumor of a mysterious epidemic at the base. Floyd politely but firmly declines to answer any questions about the epidemic, claiming he is "not at liberty to discuss this".

At Clavius, Floyd heads a meeting of base personnel, apologizing for the epidemic cover story but stressing secrecy. His mission is to investigate a recently found artifact—"Tycho Magnetic Anomaly One" (TMA-1)—"deliberately buried" four million years ago. Floyd and others ride in a Moonbus to the artifact, a black monolith identical to the one encountered by the apes. The visitors examine the monolith, and pose for a photo in front of it. While doing so, they hear a very loud high-pitched radio signal emanating from within the monolith.

Jupiter Mission

Eighteen months later, the American spaceship Discovery One is bound for Jupiter. On board are mission pilots and scientists Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), and three other scientists who are in cryogenic hibernation. Most of Discovery's operations are controlled by the ship's computer, HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), or simply "Hal", as the crew call it. While Bowman and Poole watch Hal and themselves being interviewed in a BBC show about the mission, the computer states that he is "foolproof and incapable of error." Hal also speaks of his enthusiasm for the mission, and how he enjoys working with humans. When asked by the host if Hal has genuine emotions, Bowman replies that he appears to, but that the truth is unknown.

Hal asks Bowman about the unusual mystery and secrecy surrounding the mission, but then interrupts himself to report the imminent failure of a device which controls the ship's main antenna. After retrieving the component with an EVA pod, the astronauts cannot find anything wrong with it. Hal suggests reinstalling the part and letting it fail so the problem can be found. Mission control concurs, but advises the astronauts that results from their twin HAL 9000 indicate the ship's Hal is in error predicting the fault. When queried, Hal insists that the problem, like all previous issues with the HAL series, is due to "human error". Concerned about Hal's behavior, Bowman and Poole enter one of the EVA pods to talk without the computer overhearing them. They both have suspicions about Hal, despite the perfect reliability of the HAL series, but they decide to follow its suggestion to replace the unit. As the astronauts agree to disconnect Hal if it is proven to be wrong, they are unaware that Hal is reading their lips through the pod's window.

While Poole is attempting to replace the unit during a spacewalk, his EVA pod, controlled by Hal, severs his oxygen hose and sets him adrift. Bowman, not realizing the computer is responsible for this, takes another pod to attempt a rescue, leaving his helmet behind. While he is gone, Hal turns off the life-support functions of the crewmen in suspended animation. When Bowman returns to the ship with Poole's body, Hal refuses to let him in, stating that the astronaut's plan to deactivate him jeopardizes the mission. Having to let go of Poole, Bowman manually opens the ship's emergency airlock and bodily enters the ship risking death from exposure to a vacuum but survives. After donning a helmet, Bowman proceeds to Hal's processor core intent on disconnecting most of the functions of the computer. Hal first tries to reassure Dave, then pleads with him to stop, and finally begins to express fear—all in a steady monotone voice. Dave ignores him and disconnects each of the computer's processor modules. Hal eventually regresses to his earliest programmed memory, the song "Daisy Bell", which he sings for Bowman.

When the computer is finally disconnected, a prerecorded video message from Floyd plays. In it, he reveals the existence of the four million-year-old black monolith on the Moon, "its origin and purpose still a total mystery". Floyd adds that it has remained completely inert, except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter.

Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite

At Jupiter, Bowman leaves Discovery One in an EVA pod to investigate another monolith discovered in orbit around the planet. Approaching it, the pod is suddenly pulled into a tunnel of colored light,[17] and a disoriented and terrified Bowman finds himself racing at great speed across vast distances of space, viewing bizarre cosmological phenomena and strange alien landscapes of unusual colors. He finds himself, middle-aged and still in his spacesuit, standing in a bedroom appointed in the Louis XVI-style. Bowman sees progressively older versions of himself, his point of view switching each time, alternately appearing formally dressed and eating dinner, and finally as a very elderly man lying in a bed. A black monolith appears at the foot of the bed, and as Bowman reaches for it, he is transformed into a fetus-like being enclosed in a transparent orb of light.[18] The new being floats in space beside the Earth, gazing at it.




Kubrick and Clarke meet

Shortly after completing Dr. Strangelove (1964), Stanley Kubrick became fascinated by the possibility of extraterrestrial life,[21] and determined to make "the proverbial good science fiction movie".[22] Searching for a suitable collaborator in the science fiction community, Kubrick was advised by a mutual acquaintance, Columbia Pictures staffer Roger Caras, to seek out the noted science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. Although convinced that Clarke was "a recluse, a nut who lives in a tree", Kubrick agreed that Caras would cable the Ceylon-based author with the film proposal. Clarke's cabled response stated that he was "frightfully interested in working with enfant terrible", and added "what makes Kubrick think I'm a recluse?"[23] Meeting for the first time at Trader Vic's in New York on April 22, 1964, the two began discussing the project that would take up the next four years of their lives.[24]

Search for source material

Kubrick told Clarke he was searching for the best way to make a movie about Man's relation to the universe, and was, in Clarke's words, "determined to create a work of art which would arouse the emotions of wonder, awe, ... even, if appropriate, terror".[24] Clarke offered Kubrick six of his short stories, and by May, Kubrick had chosen one of them—"The Sentinel"—as source matter for his film. In search of more material to expand the film's plot, the two spent the rest of 1964 reading books on science and anthropology, screening science fiction movies, and brainstorming ideas.[25] Clarke and Kubrick spent two years transforming "The Sentinel" into a novel, and then into a script for 2001.[26] Clarke notes that his short story "Encounter in the Dawn" inspired the "Dawn Of Man" sequence in 2001.[27]

At first, Kubrick and Clarke privately referred to their project as How the Solar System Was Won as a reference to MGM's 1962 Cinerama epic, How the West Was Won. However, Kubrick chose to announce the project, in a press release issued on February 23, 1965, as Journey Beyond The Stars.[28] "Other titles which we ran up and failed to salute were Universe, Tunnel to the Stars, and Planetfall", Clarke wrote in his book The Lost Worlds of 2001. "It was not until eleven months after we started—April 1965—that Stanley selected 2001: A Space Odyssey. As far as I can recall, it was entirely his idea."[29] Intending to set the film apart from the standard "monsters and sex" type of science-fiction movies of the time, Kubrick used Homer's The Odyssey as inspiration for the title. "It occurred to us", he said, "that for the Greeks the vast stretches of the sea must have had the same sort of mystery and remoteness that space has for our generation".[30]

Parallel development of film and novelization

The collaborators originally planned to develop a novel first, free of the constraints of a normal script, and then to write the screenplay; they envisaged that the final writing credits would be "Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, based on a novel by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick" to reflect their preeminence in their respective fields.[31] In practice, however, the cinematic ideas required for the screenplay developed parallel to the novel, with cross-fertilization between the two. In a 1970 interview with Joseph Gelmis, Kubrick explained:

There are a number of differences between the book and the movie. The novel, for example, attempts to explain things much more explicitly than the film does, which is inevitable in a verbal medium. The novel came about after we did a 130-page prose treatment of the film at the very outset. This initial treatment was subsequently changed in the screenplay, and the screenplay in turn was altered during the making of the film. But Arthur took all the existing material, plus an impression of some of the rushes, and wrote the novel. As a result, there's a difference between the novel and the film ... I think that the divergences between the two works are interesting.[32]

In the end, the screenplay credits were shared while the novel, released shortly after the film, was attributed to Clarke alone, but Clarke wrote later that "the nearest approximation to the complicated truth" is that the screenplay should be credited to "Kubrick and Clarke" and the novel to "Clarke and Kubrick".[33]

Clarke and Kubrick wrote the novel and screenplay simultaneously, but while Clarke ultimately opted for clearer explanations of the mysterious monolith and Star Gate in his book, Kubrick chose to make his film more cryptic and enigmatic by keeping dialogue and specific explanations to a minimum.[9] "2001", Kubrick says, "is basically a visual, nonverbal experience" that avoids the spoken word in order to reach the viewer's subconscious in an essentially poetic and philosophic way. The film is a subjective experience which "hits the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting".[34]

How much would we appreciate La Gioconda [the Mona Lisa] today if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas: This lady is smiling slightly because she has rotten teeth or because she's hiding a secret from her lover? It would shut off the viewer's appreciation and shackle him to a reality other than his own. I don't want that to happen to 2001. —Stanley Kubrick[35]

Depiction of alien life

Astronomer Carl Sagan wrote in his book, The Cosmic Connection, that Clarke and Kubrick asked his opinion on how to best depict extraterrestrial intelligence. Sagan, while acknowledging Kubrick's desire to use actors to portray humanoid aliens for convenience's sake, argued that alien life forms were unlikely to bear any resemblance to terrestrial life, and that to do so would introduce "at least an element of falseness" to the film. Sagan proposed that the film suggest, rather than depict, extraterrestrial superintelligence. He attended the premiere and was "pleased to see that I had been of some help."[36] Kubrick hinted at the nature of the mysterious unseen alien race in 2001 by suggesting, in a 1968 interview, that given millions of years of evolution, they progressed from biological beings to "immortal machine entities", and then into "beings of pure energy and spirit"; beings with "limitless capabilities and ungraspable intelligence".[37]

Stages of script and novel development

Arthur C. Clarke kept a diary throughout his involvement with 2001, excerpts of which were published in 1972 as The Lost Worlds of 2001. The script went through many stages of development in which various plot ideas were considered and subsequently discarded. Early in 1965, right when backing was secured for Journey Beyond the Stars, the writers still had no firm idea of what would happen to Bowman after the Star Gate sequence, though as early as October 17, 1964 Kubrick had come up with what Clarke called a "wild idea of slightly fag robots who create a Victorian environment to put our heroes at their ease".[33] Initially all of Discovery's astronauts were to survive the journey; a decision to leave Bowman as the sole survivor and have him regress to infancy was agreed by October 3, 1965. The computer HAL 9000 was originally to have been named "Athena", after the Greek goddess of wisdom, with a feminine voice and persona.[33]

Early drafts included a short prologue containing interviews with scientists about extraterrestrial life,[38] voice-over narration (a feature in all of Kubrick's previous films),[39] a stronger emphasis on the prevailing Cold War balance of terror, a slightly different and more explicitly explained scenario for Hal's breakdown,[40][41][42] and a differently envisaged monolith for the "Dawn of Man" sequence. The last three of these survived into Arthur C. Clarke's final novel, which also retained an earlier draft's employment of Saturn as the final destination of the Discovery mission rather than Jupiter, and the discarded finale of the Star Child exploding nuclear weapons carried by Earth-orbiting satellites.[42] Clarke had suggested this finale to Kubrick, jokingly calling it "Son of Dr. Strangelove"; a reference to Kubrick's previous film. Feeling that this conclusion's similarity to that of his previous film would be detrimental, Kubrick opted for a more pacific conclusion.[38]

Some changes were made simply due to the logistics of filming. Early prototypes of the monolith did not photograph well, while the special effects team was unable to develop a convincing rendition of Saturn's rings; hence the switch to Jupiter[43] (in his foreword to the 1990 edition of the novel, Clarke noted that if they had remained with Saturn, the film would have become far more dated as Voyager revealed that Saturn's rings were far more visually bizarre in closeup than anyone had imagined). Other changes were made due to Stanley Kubrick's increasing desire to make the film more non-verbal, reaching the viewer at a visual and visceral level rather than through conventional narrative.[44] Vincent LeBrutto notes that Clarke's novel has "strong narrative structure" which fleshes out the story, while the film is a mainly visual experience where much remains "symbolic".[45]

Remnants of early drafts in final film

While many ideas were discarded in totality, at least two remnants of previous plot ideas remain in the final film.

Hal's breakdown

While the film leaves it mysterious, early script drafts spell out that Hal's breakdown is triggered by authorities on Earth who had ordered it to withhold information from the astronauts about the true purpose of the mission (this is also explained in the film's sequel 2010). Frederick Ordway, Kubrick's science advisor and technical consultant, working from personal copies of early drafts, stated that in an earlier version, Poole tells Hal there is "... something about this mission that we weren't told. Something the rest of the crew knows and that you know. We would like to know whether this is true", to which HAL enigmatically responds: "I'm sorry, Frank, but I don't think I can answer that question without knowing everything that all of you know."[40] In this version, Hal then falsely predicts a failure of the hardware maintaining radio contact with the Earth (the source of Hal's difficult orders) during the broadcast of Frank Poole's birthday greetings from his parents.

While the film drops this overt explanation, it is hinted at when Hal asks David Bowman if the latter feels bothered or disturbed by the "mysteries" and "secrecy" surrounding the mission and its preparations. After Bowman concludes that Hal is dutifully drawing up the "crew psychology report", the computer then makes its false prediction of hardware failure.

In an interview with Joseph Gelmis in 1969, Kubrick simply stated that "[Hal] had an acute emotional crisis because he could not accept evidence of his own fallibility"[46]

Military nature of orbiting satellites

Stanley Kubrick originally intended that when the film does its famous match-cut from prehistoric bone-weapon to orbiting satellite that the latter and the 3 additional satellites seen would be established as orbiting nuclear weapons by a voice-over narrator talking about nuclear stalemate.[47] Further, Kubrick intended that the Star Child at the end of the film would detonate the weapons at the end of the film.[48] Over time, Kubrick decided that this would create too many associations with his previous film Dr. Strangelove and he decided not to make it so obvious that they were "war machines".[49] Kubrick was also confronted with the fact that only a few weeks before the release of the film, the US and Russia had agreed not to put any nuclear weapons into outer space.

Alexander Walker in a book he wrote with Kubrick's assistance and authorization, states that Kubrick eventually decided that as nuclear weapons the bombs had "no place at all in the film's thematic development", now being an "orbiting red herring" which would "merely have raised irrelevant questions to suggest this as a reality of the twenty-first century".[50]

The perception that the satellites are bombs persists in the mind of some but by no means all commentators on the film. This may affect one's reading of the film as a whole. Noted Kubrick authority Michel Ciment, in discussing Kubrick's attitude toward human aggression and instinct, observes "The bone cast into the air by the ape (now become a man) is transformed at the other extreme of civilization, by one of those abrupt ellipses characteristic of the director, into a spacecraft on its way to the moon."[51] In contrast to Ciment's reading of a cut to a serene "other extreme of civilization", science fiction novelist Robert Sawyer, speaking in the Canadian documentary 2001 and Beyond, sees it as a cut from a bone to a nuclear weapons platform, explaining that "what we see is not how far we've leaped ahead, what we see is that today, '2001', and four million years ago on the African veldt, it's exactly the same—the power of mankind is the power of its weapons. It's a continuation, not a discontinuity in that jump."[52]

Kubrick, notoriously reluctant to provide any explanation of his work, never publicly stated the intended functions of the orbiting satellites, preferring instead to let the viewer surmise what their purpose might be.


Alongside its use of music, the lack of dialogue and conventional narrative cues in 2001 has been noted by many reviewers.[53] There is no dialogue at all for both the first and last 20 minutes or so of the film; the total narrative of these sections is carried entirely by images, actions, sound effects, a great deal of music (See Music) and two title cards. The first line of dialogue is the space-station stewardess addressing Heywood Floyd saying "Here you are, sir. Main level D." The final line is Floyd's conclusion of the pre-recorded Jupiter mission briefing about the monolith. "Except for a single, very powerful radio emission, aimed at Jupiter, the four-million-year-old black monolith has remained completely inert, its origin — and purpose — still a total mystery."

Only when the film moves into the postulated future of 2000 and 2001, does the viewer encounter characters who speak. By the time shooting began, Kubrick had deliberately jettisoned much of the intended dialogue and narration and what remains is notable for its apparent banality (making the computer Hal seem to have more human emotion than the actual humans), while it is juxtaposed with epic scenes of space.[54] The first scenes of dialogue are Floyd's three encounters on the space station. They are preceded by the space docking sequence choreographed to Strauss' The Blue Danube waltz and followed by a second extended sequence of his travel to the Moon with more Strauss, the two sequences acting as bookends to his space-station stopover. In the stopover itself, we get idle chit-chat with the colleague who greets him followed by Floyd's slightly more affectionate phone call to his daughter, and the distantly friendly but awkwardly strained encounter with Soviet scientists. Later, en route to the monolith, Floyd engages in trite exchanges with his staff while we see a spectacular journey by Earthlight across the Moon's surface. Generally, the most memorable dialogue in the film belongs to the computer Hal in its exchanges with David Bowman.[55] Hal is the only character in the film who openly expresses anxiety (primarily around his disconnection), as well as feelings of pride and bewilderment.

Speculation on sources

The Russian documentary film maker Pavel Klushantsev made a groundbreaking film in the 1950s entitled Road to the Stars. It is believed to have significantly influenced Kubrick's technique in 2001: A Space Odyssey, particularly in its accurate depiction of weightlessness and a rotating space station. Encyclopedia Astronautica describes some scenes from 2001 as a "shot-for-shot duplication of Road to the Stars".[56] Specific comparisons of shots from the two films have been analyzed by the filmmaker Alessandro Cima.[57] A 1994 article in American Cinematographer says, "When Stanley Kubrick made 2001: a Space Odyssey in 1968, he claimed to have been first to fly actor/astronauts on wires with the camera on the ground, shooting vertically while the actor's body covered the wires" but observes that Klushantsev had preceded him in this.[58]



Principal photography began December 29, 1965, in Stage H at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, England. The studio was chosen because it could house the 60'x 120'x 60' pit for the Tycho crater excavation scene, the first to be shot.[59][60] The production moved in January 1966 to the smaller MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, where the live action and special effects filming was done, starting with the scenes involving Floyd on the Orion spaceplane;[61] it was described as a "huge throbbing nerve center ... with much the same frenetic atmosphere as a Cape Kennedy blockhouse during the final stages of Countdown."[62] The only scene not filmed in a studio—and the last live-action scene shot for the film—was the skull-smashing sequence, in which Moonwatcher (Richter) wields his new-found bone "weapon-tool" against a pile of nearby animal bones. A small elevated platform was built in a field near the studio so that the camera could shoot upward with the sky as background, avoiding cars and trucks passing by in the distance.[19][63]

Filming of actors was completed in September 1967,[64] and from June 1966 until March 1968 Kubrick spent most of his time working on the 205 special effects shots in the film.[32] The director ordered the special effects technicians on 2001 to use the painstaking process of creating all visual effects seen in the film "in camera", avoiding degraded picture quality from the use of blue screen and traveling matte techniques. Although this technique, known as "held takes", resulted in a much better image, it meant exposed film would be stored for long periods of time between shots, sometimes as long as a year.[65] In March 1968, Kubrick finished the 'pre-premiere' editing of the film, making his final cuts just days before the film's general release in April 1968.[32]

The film was initially planned to be photographed in 3-film-strip Cinerama (like How the West Was Won), because it was a part of a production/distribution deal between MGM and Cinerama Releasing corporation, but that was changed to Super Panavision 70 (which uses a single-strip 65 mm negative) on the advice of special photographic effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull, due to distortion problems with the 3-strip system.[66] Color processing and 35 mm release prints were done using Technicolor's dye transfer process. The 70 mm prints were made by MGM Laboratories, Inc. on Metrocolor. The production was $4.5 million over the initial $6.0 million budget, and sixteen months behind schedule.[60]

Set design and furnishings

Kubrick involved himself in every aspect of production, even choosing the fabric for his actors' costumes,[67] and selecting notable pieces of contemporary furniture for use in the film. When Floyd exits the Space Station V elevator, he is greeted by an attendant seated behind a slightly modified George Nelson Action Office desk from Herman Miller's 1964 "Action Office" series.[68] First introduced in 1968, the Action Office style "cubicle" would eventually occupy 70 percent of office space by the mid-2000s.[69][70] Noted Danish designer Arne Jacobsen designed the cutlery used by the Discovery astronauts in the film.[71][72][73]

Perhaps the most noted pieces of furniture in the film are the bright red Djinn Chairs seen prominently throughout the Space Station.[74][75] Designed by Olivier Mourgue in 1965, the Djinn chair is one of the most recognizable chair designs of the 1960s, at least partly due to their visibility in the film.[74] Today the chairs, particularly in red, are highly sought-after examples of modern furniture design.[74] Near the Djinn chairs the actors in the film are seated in is one of Eero Saarinen's 1956 pedestal tables, another famous piece of "modern" design. The pedestal table would later make an appearance in another science fiction film, Men in Black.[74] Mourgue has been using the connection to 2001 in his advertising; a frame from the film's space station sequence and three production stills appear on the homepage of Mourgue's website.[76] Shortly before Kubrick's death, film critic Alexander Walker informed Kubrick of Mourgue's use of the film, joking to him "You're keeping the price up".[77] Commenting on their use in the film, Walker writes:
Everyone recalls one early sequence in the film, the space hotel,[78] primarily because the custom-made Olivier Morgue [sic] furnishings, those foam-filled sofas, undulant and serpentine, are covered in scarlet fabric and are the first stabs of color one sees. They resemble Rorschach "blots" against the pristine purity of the rest of the lobby.[79]

Detailed instructions in relatively small print for various technological devices appear at several points in the film, the most notable of which is the lengthy instructions for the zero-gravity toilet on the Aries Moon shuttle. Similar detailed instructions for replacing the explosive bolts also appear on the hatches of the EVA pods, most visibly in closeup just before Bowman's pod leaves the ship to rescue Frank Poole.[80]

Special effects

Special effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey
As the film climaxes, Bowman takes a trip through deep space that involves the innovative use of slit-scan photography to create the visual effects and disturbing sequences of him noticeably stunned at what he's experiencing.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The first director to use front projection with retroreflective matting in a mainstream movie, Kubrick chose the technique to produce the backdrops for the African scenes showing ape-men against vast natural-terrain backgrounds, as traditional techniques such as painted backdrops or rear-projection did not produce the realistic look Kubrick demanded. In addition to the "Dawn of Man" sequence, the front-projection system was used to depict astronauts walking on the lunar surface with the Moon base in the background.[81] The technique has been used widely in the film industry since 2001 pioneered its use, although starting in the 1990s it has been increasingly replaced by green screen systems.

The front projection technique used by Kubrick consisted of a separate scenery projector set precisely at a right angle to the camera, and a half-silvered mirror placed at an angle in front of the camera that reflected the projected image forward, directly in line with the camera lens, onto a backdrop made of specially designed retroreflective material. The highly reflective and extremely directional screen behind the actors was capable of reflecting light from the projected image 100 times more efficiently than did the foreground subject. The lighting of the foreground subject then had to be balanced with that of the image from the screen, rendering the image from the scenery projector on the subject too faint to record. Kubrick noted that an exception was the eyes of the leopard in the "Dawn of Man" sequence, which glowed orange as a result of illumination by the scenery projector. He described this as "a happy accident".[82]

Front projection had been used in smaller settings before 2001, mostly for still-photography or television production, using small still images and projectors. The expansive backdrops for the African scenes required a screen 40 feet (12 m) tall and 110 feet (34 m) wide, far larger than had ever been used before. When the reflective material was applied to the backdrop in 100-foot (30 m) strips, however, variations at the seams of the strips led to obvious visual artifacts, a problem that was solved by tearing the material into smaller chunks and applying them in a random "camouflage" pattern on the backdrop. The existing projectors using transparencies resulted in grainy images when projected that large, so the 2001 team worked with MGM's Special Effects Supervisor, Tom Howard, to build a custom projector using transparencies, which required the largest water-cooled arc lamp available.[82]

Other "in-camera" shots were scenes depicting spacecraft moving through space. The camera used to shoot the stationary model of the Discovery One spacecraft was driven along a track on a special mount, the motor of which was mechanically linked to the camera motor—making it possible to repeat camera moves and match speeds exactly. On the first pass, the model was unlit, masking the star-field behind it. The camera and film were returned to the start position, and on the second pass, the model was lit without the star field. For shots also showing the interior of the ship, a third pass was made with previously-filmed live-action scenes projected onto rear-projection screens in the model's windows. The result was a film negative image that was exceptionally sharper and clearer than typical visual effects of the time.[83]

For interior shots inside the spacecraft, ostensibly containing a giant centrifuge that produces artificial gravity, Kubrick had a 30-short-ton (27 t) rotating "ferris wheel" built by Vickers-Armstrong Engineering Group at a cost of $750,000. The set was 38 feet (12 m) in diameter and 10 feet (3.0 m) wide.[84] Various scenes in the Discovery centrifuge were shot by securing set pieces within the wheel, then rotating it while the actor walked or ran in sync with its motion, keeping him at the bottom of the wheel as it turned. The camera could be fixed to the inside of the rotating wheel to show the actor walking completely "around" the set, or mounted in such a way that the wheel rotated independently of the stationary camera, as in the famous jogging scene where the camera appears to alternately precede and follow the running actor. The shots where the actors appear on opposite sides of the wheel required one of the actors to be strapped securely into place at the "top" of the wheel as it moved to allow the other actor to walk to the "bottom" of the wheel to join him. The most notable case is when Bowman enters the centrifuge from the central hub on a ladder, and joins Poole, who is eating on the other side of the centrifuge. This required Gary Lockwood to be strapped into a seat while Keir Dullea walked toward him from the opposite side of the wheel as it turned with him.[85] Another rotating set appeared in an earlier sequence on board the Aries trans-lunar shuttle. A stewardess is shown preparing in-flight meals, then carrying them into a circular walkway. Attached to the set as it rotates 180 degrees, the camera's point of view remains constant, and she appears to walk up the "side" of the circular walkway, and steps, now in an "upside-down" orientation, into a connecting hallway.[86]

The realistic-looking effects of the astronauts floating weightless in space and inside the spacecraft were accomplished by suspending the actors from wires attached to the top of the set, with the camera underneath them pointing up. The actors' bodies blocked the camera's view of the suspension wires, creating a very believable appearance of floating. For the shot of Poole floating into the pod's arms during Bowman's rescue attempt, a stuntman replaced a dummy on the wire to realistically portray the movements of an unconscious human, and was shot in slow motion to enhance the illusion of drifting through space.[87] The scene showing Bowman entering the emergency airlock from the EVA pod was done in a similar way, with an off-camera stagehand, standing on a platform, holding the wire suspending Dullea above the camera positioned at the bottom of the vertically configured airlock. At the proper moment, the stagehand first loosened his grip on the wire, causing Dullea to fall toward the camera, then, while holding the wire firmly, he jumped off the platform, causing Dullea to ascend back up toward the hatch.[88]

The colored lights in the Star Gate sequence were accomplished by slit-scan photography of thousands of high-contrast images on film, including op-art paintings, architectural drawings, Moiré patterns, printed circuits, and crystal structures. Known to staff as "Manhattan Project", the shots of various nebula-like phenomena, including the expanding star field, were colored paints and chemicals swirling in a pool-like device known as a cloud tank, shot in slow-motion in a dark room.[89] The live-action landscape shots in the 'Star Gate' sequence were filmed in the Hebridean islands, the mountains of northern Scotland, and Monument Valley (U.S.A.). The strange coloring and negative-image effects in these shots were achieved by the use of different color filters in the process of making dupe negatives.[90]

An article by Douglas Trumbull about the creation of special effects for 2001 appears in the June 1968 issue of American Cinematographer.[91]

Deleted scenes

Kubrick filmed several scenes that were deleted from the final film. These fall into two categories: scenes cut before any public screenings of the film, and scenes cut a few days after the world premiere on April 2, 1968.[92]

The first ('pre-premiere') set of cuts includes a schoolroom on the Moon base—a painting class that included Kubrick's daughters, additional scenes of life on the base, and Floyd buying a bush baby from a department store via videophone for his daughter. The most notable cut was a 10-minute black-and-white opening sequence featuring interviews with actual scientists, including Freeman Dyson,[93] discussing extraterrestrial life, which Kubrick removed after an early screening for MGM executives.[94] The actual text survives in the book The Making of Kubrick's 2001 by Jerome Agel.[95]

The second ('post-premiere') set of cuts includes details about the daily life on Discovery, additional spacewalks, astronaut Bowman retrieving a spare part from an octagonal corridor, a number of cuts from the Poole murder sequence including the entire spacewalk preparation and shots of Hal turning off radio contact with Poole—explaining Hal's response that the radio is "still dead" when Bowman asks him if radio contact has been made—and notably a close-up shot of Bowman picking up a slipper during his walk in the alien room; the slipper can still be seen behind him in what would have been the next shot in the sequence.[96]

Kubrick's rationale for editing the film was to tighten the narrative; reviews suggested the film suffered too much by the radical departure from traditional cinema story telling conventions. Regarding the cuts, Kubrick stated, "I didn't believe that the trims made a critical difference. ... The people who like it, like it no matter what its length, and the same holds true for the people who hate it".[94]

As was typical of most movies of that era released both as a "road-show" (in Cinerama format in the case of Space Odyssey) and subsequently put into general release (in 70 mm in the case of Odyssey), the entrance music, intermission music (and intermission altogether), and post-credits exit music were cut from most (though not all) prints of the latter version, although these have been restored to most DVD releases.[97][98]

According to Kubrick's brother-in-law Jan Harlan, the director was adamant the trims were never to be seen, and that he "even burned the negatives"—which he had kept in his garage—shortly before his death. This is confirmed by former Kubrick assistant Leon Vitali: "I'll tell you right now, okay, on Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, some little parts of 2001, we had thousands of cans of negative outtakes and print, which we had stored in an area at his house where we worked out of, which he personally supervised the loading of it to a truck and then I went down to a big industrial waste lot and burned it. That's what he wanted."[99]

In December 2010, Douglas Trumbull announced that Warner Brothers had located 17 minutes of lost footage, "perfectly preserved", in a Kansas salt mine vault. A Warner Brothers press release asserts definitively that this material is from the post-premiere cuts, which Kubrick has stated totaled 19 minutes.[100][101]

No immediate plans have been announced for the footage, but Trumbull intends to use stills from them in a book he is publishing.[102]

Reuse of special effects shots

Although special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull had been unable to provide convincing footage of Saturn for 2001 (thus causing the filmmakers to change the mission's destination to Jupiter), he had solved the technical problems involved in reproducing Saturn's rings by the time he directed Silent Running four years later in 1972, employing effects developed but not completed for 2001.[103]

In spite of Kubrick's tendency to destroy scenes he shot but did not use in the film, unused footage from the final Stargate sequence appears in the Beatles film Magical Mystery Tour during the sequence accompanied by their instrumental song "Flying".[104]



Main article: 2001: A Space Odyssey (soundtrack). See also: 2001: A Space Odyssey (score).

Music plays a crucial part in 2001, and not only because of the relatively sparse dialogue. From very early on in production, Kubrick decided that he wanted the film to be a primarily non-verbal experience,[105] one that did not rely on the traditional techniques of narrative cinema, and in which music would play a vital role in evoking particular moods. About half the music in the film appears either before the first line of dialogue or after the final line. Almost no music is heard during any scenes with dialogue.

The film is notable for its innovative use of classical music taken from existing commercial recordings. Most feature films then and now are typically accompanied by elaborate film scores or songs written especially for them by professional composers. In the early stages of production, Kubrick had actually commissioned a score for 2001 from Hollywood composer Alex North, who had written the score for Spartacus and also worked on Dr. Strangelove.[106] However, during post-production, Kubrick chose to abandon North's music in favor of the now-familiar classical music pieces he had earlier chosen as "guide pieces" for the soundtrack. North did not know of the abandonment of the score until after he saw the film's premiere screening.[107]

Also engaged to score the film was composer Frank Cordell.[108] Cordell stated in interviews that the score would primarily consist of arrangements of Gustav Mahler works. For years after his death, his widow tried to get the recorded score released. This release never materialized. Like North's score, Cordell's work was recorded at the now demolished Anvil, Denham studios.

2001 is particularly remembered for using pieces of Johann Strauss II's best-known waltz, The Blue Danube, during the extended space-station docking and lunar landing sequences, and the use of the opening from the Richard Strauss tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra [109] performed by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Gayane's Adagio from Aram Khachaturian's Gayane ballet suite is heard during the sections that introduce Bowman and Poole aboard the Discovery conveying a somewhat lonely and mournful quality.

In addition to the majestic yet fairly traditional compositions by the two Strausses and Khachaturian, Kubrick used four highly modernistic compositions by György Ligeti that employ micropolyphony, the use of sustained dissonant chords that shift slowly over time. This technique was pioneered in Atmosphères, the only Ligeti piece heard in its entirety in the film. Ligeti admired Kubrick's film but, in addition to being irritated by Kubrick's failure to obtain permission directly from him, he was offended that his music was used in a film soundtrack shared by composers Johann and Richard Strauss.[110] Other music used is the second movement Ligeti's Requiem and an electronically altered form of his Aventures, the last of which was also used without Ligeti's permission and is not listed in the film's credits.[111]

Hal's version of the popular song "Daisy Bell" (referred to by Hal as "Daisy" in the film) was inspired by a computer-synthesized arrangement by Max Mathews, which Arthur C. Clarke had heard in 1962 at the Bell Laboratories Murray Hill facility when he was, coincidentally, visiting friend and colleague John Pierce. At that time, a speech synthesis demonstration was being performed by physicist John Larry Kelly, Jr, by using an IBM 704 computer to synthesize speech. Kelly's voice recorder synthesizer vocoder recreated the song "Daisy Bell" ("Bicycle Built For Two"), with Max Mathews providing the musical accompaniment. Arthur C. Clarke was so impressed that he later used it in the screenplay and novel."[112]

Many foreign language versions of the film do not use the song "Daisy." In the French soundtrack to 2001, Hal sings the French folk song "Au Clair de la Lune" while being disconnected.[113] In the German version, Hal sings the children's song "Hänschen klein" ("Johnny Little"),[114] and in the Italian version Hal sings "Giro giro tondo" (Ring a Ring o' Roses).[115]

A recording of British light music composer Sidney Torch's "Off Beat Moods" was chosen by Kubrick as the theme for the fictitious BBC news programme "The World Tonight" seen aboard the spaceship Discovery.[116]

On June 25, 2010 a version of the film specially remastered by Warner Bros without the music soundtrack opened the 350th anniversary celebrations of the Royal Society at Southbank Centre in co-operation with the British Film Institute, with the score played live by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Choir.[117]

On June 14, 2013 a repeat presentation of the film accompanied by live orchestra and choir was performed at Symphony Hall in Birmingham, again accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch together with the choir Ex Cathedra.[118]

Soundtrack album

The initial MGM soundtrack album release contained none of the material from the altered and uncredited rendition of "Aventures", used a different recording of "Also sprach Zarathustra" than that heard in the film, this time performed by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Karl Böhm, and a longer excerpt of "Lux aeterna" than that in the film.

In 1996, Turner Entertainment/Rhino Records released a new soundtrack on CD which included the material from "Aventures" and restored the version of "Zarathustra" used in the film, and used the shorter version of "Lux aeterna" from the film. As additional "bonus tracks" at the end, this CD includes the versions of "Zarathustra" and "Lux aeterna" on the old MGM soundtrack, an unaltered performance of "Aventures", and a nine-minute compilation of all of Hal's dialogue from the film.

North's unused music had its first public appearance in Telarc's issue of the main theme on Hollywood's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, a compilation album by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. All the music North originally wrote was recorded commercially by North's friend and colleague Jerry Goldsmith with the National Philharmonic Orchestra and was released on Varèse Sarabande CDs shortly after Telarc's first theme release but before North's death. Eventually, a mono mix-down of North's original recordings, which had survived in the interim, would be released as a limited edition CD by Intrada Records.[119]


Theatrical run

The film's world premiere was on April 2, 1968, at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C. It opened two days later at the Warner Cinerama Theatre in Hollywood, and Loew's Capitol in New York. Kubrick then deleted 19 minutes of footage from the film before its general release in five other U.S. cities on April 10, 1968, and internationally in five cities the following day,[101][120] where it was shown in 70mm format, with a six-track stereo magnetic soundtrack, and projected in the 2.21:1 aspect ratio. The general release of the film in its 35mm anamorphic format took place in autumn 1968, with either a four-track magnetic stereo soundtrack or an optical monaural soundtrack.[121]

The original 70 mm release, like many Super Panavision 70 films of the era such as Grand Prix, was advertised as being in "Cinerama" in cinemas equipped with special projection optics and a deeply curved screen. In standard cinemas, the film was identified as a 70 mm production. The original release of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70 mm Cinerama with six-track sound played continually for more than a year in several venues, and for 103 weeks in Los Angeles.[122]

The film was re-released in 1974, 1977, and again in 1980.[123] Once 2001, the film's timeset, arrived, a restoration of the 70mm version was screened at the Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, and the production was also reissued to selected movie houses in North America, Europe and Asia.[124][125]

Home video

MGM/CBS Home Video released the film on VHS and Betamax home video in 1980.[126] MGM also published letterbox laserdisc editions (including an updated edition with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound), in 1991 and 1993. (Although Turner Entertainment had acquired the bulk of MGM's film library, the MGM company had a distribution deal with Turner.) There also was a special edition laserdisc from The Criterion Collection in the CAV format. In 1997, it was re-released in VHS, and as part of the "Stanley Kubrick Collection" in both VHS format (1999) and DVD (2000) with remastered sound and picture. In some video releases, three title cards were added to the three "blank screen" moments; "OVERTURE" at the beginning, "ENTR'ACTE" during the intermission, and "EXIT MUSIC" after the closing credits.[127]

It has been released on Region 1 DVD four times: once by MGM Home Entertainment in 1998 and thrice by Warner Home Video in 1999, 2001, and 2007. The MGM release had a booklet, the film, trailer, and an interview with Arthur C. Clarke, and the soundtrack was remastered in 5.1 surround sound. The 1999 Warner Bros. release omitted the booklet, yet had a re-release trailer. The 2001 release contained the re-release trailer, the film in the original 2.21:1 aspect ratio, digitally re-mastered from the original 70 mm print, and the soundtrack remixed in 5.1 surround sound. A limited edition DVD included a booklet, 70 mm frame, and a new soundtrack CD of the film's actual (unreleased) music tracks, and a sampling of Hal's dialogue.

Warner Home Video released a 2-DVD Special Edition on October 23, 2007 as part of their latest set of Kubrick reissues. The DVD was released on its own and as part of a revised Stanley Kubrick box set which contains new Special Edition versions of A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, and the documentary A Life in Pictures. Additionally, the film was released in high definition on both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc[128]


Critical reaction

Upon release, 2001 polarized critical opinion, receiving both ecstatic praise and vehement derision. Some critics viewed the original 161-minute cut shown at premieres in Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles,[1] while others saw the 19-minute-shorter general release version that was in theaters from April 10, 1968 onwards.[120]

In The New Yorker, Penelope Gilliatt said it was "some kind of great film, and an unforgettable endeavor ... The film is hypnotically entertaining, and it is funny without once being gaggy, but it is also rather harrowing."[129] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times opined that it was "the picture that science fiction fans of every age and in every corner of the world have prayed (sometimes forlornly) that the industry might some day give them. It is an ultimate statement of the science fiction film, an awesome realization of the spatial future ... it is a milestone, a landmark for a spacemark, in the art of film."[130] Louise Sweeney of The Christian Science Monitor felt that 2001 was "a brilliant intergalactic satire on modern technology. It's also a dazzling 160-minute tour on the Kubrick filmship through the universe out there beyond our earth."[131] Philip French wrote that the film was "perhaps the first multi-million-dollar supercolossal movie since D.W. Griffith's Intolerance fifty years ago which can be regarded as the work of one man ... Space Odyssey is important as the high-water mark of science-fiction movie making, or at least of the genre's futuristic branch."[132] The Boston Globe's review indicated that it was "the world's most extraordinary film. Nothing like it has ever been shown in Boston before or, for that matter, anywhere ... The film is as exciting as the discovery of a new dimension in life."[133] Roger Ebert gave the film four stars in his original review, believing the film "succeeds magnificently on a cosmic scale."[55] He later put it on his Top 10 list for Sight & Sound.[134] Time provided at least seven different mini-reviews of the film in various issues in 1968, each one slightly more positive than the preceding one; in the final review dated December 27, 1968, the magazine called 2001 "an epic film about the history and future of mankind, brilliantly directed by Stanley Kubrick. The special effects are mindblowing."[135]

Pauline Kael said it was "a monumentally unimaginative movie,"[136] and Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic called it "a film that is so dull, it even dulls our interest in the technical ingenuity for the sake of which Kubrick has allowed it to become dull."[137] Renata Adler of The New York Times wrote that it was "somewhere between hypnotic and immensely boring."[138] Variety's 'Robe' believed the film was a "Big, beautiful, but plodding sci-fi epic ... A major achievement in cinematography and special effects, 2001 lacks dramatic appeal to a large degree and only conveys suspense after the halfway mark."[139] Andrew Sarris called it "one of the grimmest films I have ever seen in my life ... 2001 is a disaster because it is much too abstract to make its abstract points."[140] (Sarris reversed his opinion upon a second viewing of the film, and declared "2001 is indeed a major work by a major artist."[141]) John Simon felt it was "a regrettable failure, although not a total one. This film is fascinating when it concentrates on apes or machines ... and dreadful when it deals with the in-betweens: humans ... 2001, for all its lively visual and mechanical spectacle, is a kind of space-Spartacus and, more pretentious still, a shaggy God story."[142] Eminent historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. deemed the film "morally pretentious, intellectually obscure and inordinately long ... a film out of control".[143] It has been noted that its slow pacing often alienates modern audiences more than it did upon its initial release.[144]

Science fiction writers
Science fiction writers had a range of reactions to the film. Ray Bradbury was hostile, stating that the audience does not care when Poole dies. He praised the film's beautiful photography but disliked the banality of most of the dialogue.[145] Both he and Lester del Rey were put off by the film's feeling of sterility and blandness in all the human encounters amidst all the technological wonders, while both praised the pictorial element of the movie. Del Rey was especially harsh, describing the film as dull, confusing, and boring, predicting "It will probably be a box-office disaster, too, and thus set major science-fiction movie making back another ten years." However, the film was praised by science-fiction novelist Samuel R. Delany who was impressed by how the film undercuts the audience's normal sense of space and orientation in several ways. Like Bradbury, Delany picked up on the banality of the dialogue (in Delany's phrasing the characters are saying nothing meaningful), but Delany regards this as a dramatic strength, a prelude to the rebirth at the conclusion of the film.[146] Without analyzing the film in detail, Isaac Asimov spoke well of Space Odyssey in his autobiography, and other essays. The film won the Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation, an award heavily voted on by published science-fiction writers.[147]


The film earned $8.5 million in theatrical gross rental from roadshow engagements throughout 1968,[123][148] contributing to North American rentals of $15 million during its original release.[149] Reissues have brought its cumulative exhibition gross to $56.9 million in North America,[150] and over $190 million worldwide.[149]


Influence on film

Stanley Kubrick made the ultimate science fiction movie, and it is going to be very hard for someone to come along and make a better movie, as far as I'm concerned. On a technical level, it can be compared, but personally I think that '2001' is far superior.

—George Lucas, 1977[122]

The influence of 2001 on subsequent filmmakers is considerable. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and others, including many special effects technicians, discuss the impact the film has had on them in a featurette entitled Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001 included in the 2007 DVD release of the film. Spielberg calls it his film generation's "big bang", while Lucas says it was "hugely inspirational", labeling Kubrick as "the filmmaker's filmmaker". Sydney Pollack refers to it as "groundbreaking", and William Friedkin states 2001 is "the grandfather of all such films". At the 2007 Venice film festival, director Ridley Scott stated he believed 2001 was the unbeatable film that in a sense killed the science fiction genre.[151] Similarly, film critic Michel Ciment in his essay "Odyssey of Stanley Kubrick" stated "Kubrick has conceived a film which in one stroke has made the whole science fiction cinema obsolete."[152] Others, however, credit 2001 with opening up a market for films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, Blade Runner, and Contact; proving that big-budget "serious" science-fiction films can be commercially successful, and establishing the "sci-fi blockbuster" as a Hollywood staple.[153] Science magazine Discover's blogger Stephen Cass, discussing the considerable impact of the film on subsequent science-fiction, writes that "the balletic spacecraft scenes set to sweeping classical music, the tarantula-soft tones of HAL 9000, and the ultimate alien artifact, the Monolith, have all become enduring cultural icons in their own right."[154] Video game director Hideo Kojima has also cited 2001: A Space Odyssey as one of the chief influences for his Metal Gear series, with Solid Snake and Otacon inspired by Dave and Hal.[155]

Influence on culture

One commentator has suggested that the image of the Star Child and Earth has contributed to the rise of the "whole earth" icon as a symbol of the unity of humanity. Writing in The Asia Pacific Journal Robert Jacobs traces the history of this icon from early cartoons and drawings of the earth to photos of the earth from early space missions, to its historic appearance on the cover of The Whole Earth Catalog. Noting that images of the entire earth recur several times in A Space Odyssey, Jacobs writes
the most dramatic use of the icon was in the film's conclusion. In this scene ... Bowman is reborn as the Star Child ... depicted as a fetus floating in space in an amniotic sack [sic]. The Star Child turns to consider the Whole Earth floating in front of it, both glowing a bright blue-white. The two appear as newborn versions of Man and Earth, face-to-face, ready to be born into a future of unthinkable possibilities.[156]

Influence on technology and law

In August 2011, in response to Apple Inc.'s patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung, the latter argued that Apple's iPad was effectively modeled on the visual tablets that appear aboard spaceship Discovery in the Space Odyssey film, which legally constitute "prior art". Legally, prior art is information that has been disclosed to the public in any form about an invention before a given date that might be relevant to the patent's claim of originality.[157] Samsung appealed specifically to a clip appearing on YouTube arguing

Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a true and correct copy of a still image taken from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey." In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. As with the design claimed by the D'889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table's surface), and a thin form factor.[158]

"Siri", Apple's natural language voice control system for the iPhone, features a reference to the film: it responds "I'm sorry I can't do that" when asked to "open the pod bay doors".[159]

Inspired by Clarke's visual tablet device, in 1994 a European Commission-funded R&D project code named "NewsPAD" developed and pilot tested a portable 'multimedia viewer' aiming for the realisation of an electronic multimedia 'newspaper' pointing the way to a future fully interactive and highly personalised information source. Involved partners were Acorn RISC Technologies UK, Archimedes GR, Carat FR, Ediciones Primera Plana ES, Instut Catala de Tecnologia ES, and TechMAPP UK.[160]

Awards and honors

Academy Awards

2001 earned Stanley Kubrick an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and various Oscar nominations. Anthony Masters was nominated for Best Art Direction; there were also nominations for Best Director (Kubrick), and Original Screenplay (Kubrick, Clarke). An honorary award was made to John Chambers in that year for his makeup 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 ..."[161]

Other awards

  • BAFTA Awards:[162]
    1. Best Film (Stanley Kubrick)
    2. UN Award (Stanley Kubrick)
  • Directors Guild of America (DGA):[168]
    1. Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Stanley Kubrick)
  • Laurel Awards:[166]
    1. Best Director
  • Moscow International Film Festival
    1. Golden Prize (Stanley Kubrick)[169]

Top film lists

2001 was No. 15 on AFI's 2007 100 Years... 100 Movies, was named No. 40 on its 100 Years, 100 Thrills, was included on its 100 Years, 100 Quotes ("Open the pod bay doors, Hal."), and Hal 9000 is the No. 13 villain in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains.[170] 2001 is the only science fiction film to make the Sight & Sound poll for ten best movies, and tops the Online Film Critics Society list of "greatest science fiction films of all time."[171] In 1991, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[172] Other lists that include the film are 50 Films to See Before You Die (#6), The Village Voice 100 Best Films of the 20th century (#11), the Sight & Sound Top Ten poll (#6),[173] and Roger Ebert's Top Ten (1968) (#2). In 1995, the Vatican named it as one of the 45 best films ever made (and included it in a sub-list of the "Top Ten Art Movies" of all time.)[174]

In 2011, the film was the third most screened film in secondary schools in the United Kingdom.[175]


Since its premiere, 2001: A Space Odyssey has been analyzed and interpreted by professional movie critics, amateur writers and science fiction fans, virtually all of whom have noted its deliberate ambiguity. Questions about 2001 range from uncertainty about its deeper philosophical implications about humanity's origins and final destiny in the universe,[176] to interpreting elements of the film's more enigmatic scenes such as the meaning of the monolith, or the final fate of astronaut David Bowman. There are also simpler and more mundane questions about what drives the plot, in particular the causes of Hal's breakdown[177] (explained in earlier drafts but kept mysterious in the film).

Stanley Kubrick encouraged people to explore their own interpretations of the film, and refused to offer an explanation of "what really happened" in the movie, preferring instead to let audiences embrace their own ideas and theories. In a 1968 interview with Playboy magazine, Kubrick stated:

You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film—and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level—but I don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he's missed the point.[37]

In a subsequent discussion of the film with Joseph Gelmis, Kubrick said his main aim was to avoid "intellectual verbalization" and reach "the viewer's subconscious." However, he said he did not deliberately strive for ambiguity- it was simply an inevitable outcome of making the film nonverbal, though he acknowledged this ambiguity was an invaluable asset to the film. He was willing then to give a fairly straightforward explanation of the plot on what he called the "simplest level," but unwilling to discuss the metaphysical interpretation of the film which he felt should be left up to the individual viewer.[178]

For some readers, Arthur C. Clarke's more straightforward novelization of the script is key to interpreting the film. Clarke's novel explicitly identifies the monolith as a tool created by an alien race that has been through many stages of evolution, moving from organic form to biomechanical, and finally achieving a state of pure energy. These aliens travel the cosmos assisting lesser species to take evolutionary steps. Conversely, film critic Penelope Houston noted in 1971 that because the novel differs in many key respects from the film, it perhaps should not be regarded as the skeleton key to unlock it.[179]

Multiple allegorical interpretations of 2001 have been proposed, including seeing it as a commentary on Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical tract Thus Spoke Zarathustra, or as an allegory of human conception, birth and death.[180] This latter can be seen through the final moments of the film, which are defined by the image of the "star child," an in utero fetus that draws on the work of Lennart Nilsson.[181] The star child signifies a "great new beginning,"[181] and is depicted naked and ungirded, but with its eyes wide open.[182] Leonard F. Wheat sees Space Odyssey as a multi-layered allegory, commenting simultaneously on Nietzsche, Homer, and the relationship of man to machine.

The reasons for Hal's malfunction and subsequent malignant behavior have also elicited much discussion. He has been compared to Frankenstein's monster. In Clarke's novel, Hal malfunctions because of being ordered to lie to the crew of Discovery and withhold confidential information from them, despite being constructed for "the accurate processing of information without distortion or concealment". Film critic Roger Ebert has noted that Hal as the supposedly perfect computer, actually behaves in the most human fashion of all of the characters.[183]

Rolling Stone reviewer Bob McClay sees the film as like a four-movement symphony, its story told with "deliberate realism."[184] Carolyn Geduld believes that what "structurally unites all four episodes of the film" is the monolith, the film's largest and most unresolvable enigma.[185] Vincent LoBrutto's biography of Kubrick notes that for many, Clarke's novel is the key to understanding the monolith.[186] Similarly, Geduld observes that "the monolith ... has a very simple explanation in Clarke's novel," though she later asserts that even the novel doesn't fully explain the ending.

McClay's Rolling Stone review notes a parallelism between the monolith's first appearance in which tool usage is imparted to the apes (thus 'beginning' mankind) and the completion of "another evolution" in the fourth and final encounter[187] with the monolith. In a similar vein, Tim Dirks ends his synopsis saying "The cyclical evolution from ape to man to spaceman to angel-starchild-superman is complete."[188]

The first and second encounters of humanity with the monolith have visual elements in common; both apes, and later astronauts, touch the monolith gingerly with their hands, and both sequences conclude with near-identical images of the sun appearing directly over the monolith (the first with a crescent Moon adjacent to it in the sky, the second with a near-identical crescent Earth in the same position), both echoing the Sun-Earth-Moon alignment seen at the very beginning of the film.[189] The second encounter also suggests the triggering of the monolith's radio signal to Jupiter by the presence of humans,[190] echoing the premise of Clarke's source story "The Sentinel".

The monolith is the subject of the film's final line of dialogue (spoken at the end of the "Jupiter Mission" segment): "Its origin and purpose still a total mystery." Reviewers McClay and Roger Ebert have noted that the monolith is the main element of mystery in the film, Ebert writing of "The shock of the monolith's straight edges and square corners among the weathered rocks," and describing the apes warily circling it as prefiguring man reaching "for the stars."[191] Patrick Webster suggests the final line relates to how the film should be approached as a whole, noting "The line appends not merely to the discovery of the monolith on the Moon, but to our understanding of the film in the light of the ultimate questions it raises about the mystery of the universe."[192]

The film conveys what some viewers have described as a sense of the sublime and numinous. Roger Ebert notes:
North's [rejected] score, which is available on a recording, is a good job of film composition, but would have been wrong for 2001 because, like all scores, it attempts to underline the action—to give us emotional cues. The classical music chosen by Kubrick exists outside the action. It uplifts. It wants to be sublime; it brings a seriousness and transcendence to the visuals.[193]
In a book on architecture, Gregory Caicco writes that Space Odyssey illustrates how our quest for space is motivated by two contradictory desires, a "desire for the sublime" characterized by a need to encounter something totally other than ourselves — "something numinous" — and the conflicting desire for a beauty that makes us feel no longer "lost in space," but at home.[194] Similarly, an article in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, titled "Sense of Wonder," describes how 2001 creates a "numinous sense of wonder" by portraying a universe that inspires a sense of awe, which at the same time we feel we can understand.[195] Christopher Palmer has noted that there exists in the film a coexistence of "the sublime and the banal," as the film implies that to get into space, mankind had to suspend the "sense of wonder" that motivated him to explore space to begin with.[196]

Sequels and adaptations

Kubrick did not envision a sequel to 2001. Fearing the later exploitation and recycling of his material in other productions (as was done with the props from MGM's Forbidden Planet), he ordered all sets, props, miniatures, production blueprints, and prints of unused scenes destroyed. Most of these materials were lost, with some exceptions: a 2001 spacesuit backpack appeared in the "Close Up" episode of the Gerry Anderson series UFO,[1][49][197][198][199] and one of Hal's eyepieces is in the possession of the author of Hal's Legacy, David G. Stork. In 2012 Lockheed engineer Adam Johnson, working with Frederick I. Ordway III, science adviser to Stanley Kubrick, wrote the book "2001: The Lost Science" which for the first time featured many of the blueprints of the spacecraft and movie sets that had previously been thought destroyed.

Clarke went on to write three sequel novels: 2010: Odyssey Two (1982), 2061: Odyssey Three (1987), and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997). The only filmed sequel, 2010, was based on Clarke's 1982 novel and was released in 1984. Kubrick was not involved in the production of this film, which was directed by Peter Hyams in a straightforward style with more dialogue. Clarke saw it as a fitting adaptation of his novel,[200] and had a brief cameo appearance in the film. As Kubrick had ordered all models and blueprints from 2001 destroyed, Hyams was forced to recreate these models from scratch for 2010. Hyams also claimed that he would not make the film had he not received both Kubrick's and Clarke's blessings:

I had a long conversation with Stanley and told him what was going on. If it met with his approval, I would do the film; and if it didn't, I wouldn't. I certainly would not have thought of doing the film if I had not gotten the blessing of Kubrick. He's one of my idols; simply one of the greatest talents that's ever walked the Earth. He more or less said, "Sure. Go do it. I don't care." And another time he said, "Don't be afraid. Just go do your own movie."[201]

The other two novels have not been adapted for the screen, although actor Tom Hanks has expressed interest in possible adaptations of 2061 and 3001.[202]

In 2012, two screenplay adaptations of both 2061 and 3001 were both posted on the 2001:Exhibit website, in the hopes of generating interest in both MGM and WB to adapt the last two novels into films.[203]

Beginning in 1976, Marvel Comics published both a comic adaptation of the film written and drawn by Jack Kirby, and a Kirby-created 10-issue monthly series expanding on the ideas of the film and novel.

Hoaxes and conspiracy theory

In 2002, the French film maker William Karel (after initially planning a straight documentary on Stanley Kubrick) directed a mockumentary about Kubrick and the NASA moonlanding titled Dark Side of the Moon. He had the cooperation of Kubrick's surviving family and some NASA personnel (all of whom appear using scripted lines) and using recycled footage of members of the Nixon administration taken out of context. The film purported to demonstrate that the NASA moon landings had been faked and that the moonlanding footage had been directed by Stanley Kubrick during the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey. In discussing the film, director Karel said
Navigating carefully between lies and truth, the film mixes fact with pure invention. We will use every possible ingredient: 'hijacked' archive footage, false documents, real interviews which have been taken out of context or transformed through voice-over or dubbing, staged interviews by actors who reply from a script ...

This is not an 'ordinary' documentary. Its intent is to inform and entertain the viewer, but also to shake him up, make him aware of the fact that television can get it wrong (intentionally or not). We want to achieve this aim by using a universally known event (the landing on the Moon) that is surrounded by question marks (which is a fact) and spin some tale around it, that sounds plausible but isn't a fact (although there are elements in it that are real!).[204]

When the film was shown to a group of undergraduate sociology students taking a course on conspiracy theories, many of them mistakenly believed that this was an earnest and serious film.[205] Furthermore, moon-landing hoax advocate Wayne Green cited the film as evidence for his views apparently believing the excerpts of interviews with Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, etc. (taken out of context in the film) were really talking about a moonlanding hoax.[206] Nonetheless, the second half of the film contains several giveaways that the entire film is a hoax, including a film producer named "Jack Torrance" (the name of Jack Nicholson's character in Kubrick's The Shining), an aging NASA astronaut named "David Bowman" (the astronaut in 2001) and increasing use of footage that does not match or support the narration. Australian broadcaster SBS television aired the film on April 1 as an April fools' joke, and again on November 17, 2008 as part of Kubrick week.

A 1995 article promoting a similar hoax about Kubrick faking the Apollo landing also deceived many readers (in the sense of their believing the author was a bona fide conspiracy theorist). The article was posted originally on the Usenet humor news group '', but later reproduced in other venues not devoted to humor. The original article (with correct attribution) can be read at "", a website devoted to debunking moon landing hoax theories.[207] Websites which have reproduced it as an earnest advocacy effort include the website of the flat earth society.[208] Conspiracy theorist Clyde Lewis lifted several passages from the mock article verbatim (without attribution) in support of his moonlanding hoax theories.[209] Lewis and the flat earth society seem to ignore closing passages of the article stating the final Apollo scenes were actually filmed in the Sea of Tranquillity (an area on the moon's surface) to which Kubrick did not go personally due to his chronic fear of flying, passages meant to give away that the article is a tongue-in-cheek mock hoax.

An entirely sincere documentary film making the same claim that Morel's "mockumentary" did in jest was released in 2011 by occultist and conspiracy theorist Jay Weidner entitled Kubrick's Odyssey: Secrets Hidden in the Films of Stanley Kubrick; Part One: Kubrick and Apollo. The film was self-released on DVD by Weidner's company "Sacred Mysteries". Weidner claims that Kubrick used the same front-projection sequences used in the Dawn of Man sequence and the lunar landing sequence in Space Odyssey to simulate the Apollo landing and the NASA footage of the astronauts on the surface of the moon. Weidner also claims Kubrick's film The Shining contains coded messages about Kubrick's involvement in faking the moon-landing. The science magazine Discovery reviewed an earlier article by Weidner upon which the film was based as "bunk" but "oddly compelling" and "strangely fascinating".[210] This theory is again discussed in the 2012 documentary Room 237.

Parodies and homages

2001 has been the frequent subject of both parody and homage, sometimes extensively and other times briefly, employing both its distinctive music and iconic imagery.

In advertising and print

  • Thought to be the first time Kubrick gave permission for his work to be re-used, Apple Inc.'s 1999 website advertisement "It was a bug, Dave" was made using footage from the film. Launched during the era of concerns over Y2K bugs, the ad implied that Hal's weird behavior was caused by a Y2K bug, before driving home the point that "only Macintosh was designed to function perfectly".[211]
  • Mad magazine #125 (March 1969) featured a spoof called 201 Minutes of a Space Idiocy written by Dick DeBartolo and illustrated by Mort Drucker.[212] In the final panels it is revealed that the monolith is a movie script titled "How to Make an Incomprehensible Science Fiction Movie" by Stanley Kubrick." It was reprinted in various special issues, in the MAD About the Sixties book, and partially in the book "The Making of Kubrick's 2001".[213]

In film and television

  • Mel Brooks' satirical film History of the World, Part I opens with a parody of Kubrick's "Dawn of Man" sequence, narrated by Orson Welles. DVDVerdict describes this parody as "spot on".[214] (Ironically, Brooks had earlier defeated 2001: A Space Odyssey in competition for the Best Screenplay Oscar.) A similar spoof of the "Dawn of Man" sequence also opened Ken Shapiro's 1974 comedy The Groove Tube in which the monolith was replaced by a television set. (The film is mostly a parody of television. Film and Filming[215] held that after this wonderful opening, the film slid downhill.)
  • Woody Allen cast actor Douglas Rain (Hal in Kubrick's film) in an uncredited part as the voice of the controlling computer in the closing sequences of his science-fiction comedy Sleeper.[216]
  • Kubrick was both a great fan of The Simpsons[217] and in friendly contact with the show's producers, according to his stepdaughter Katharina. Analysts of the show argue that The Simpsons contains more references to many films of Stanley Kubrick than any other pop culture phenomenon.[218][219] Gary Westfahl has noted that while references to "fantastic fiction" in The Simpsons are copious, "there are two masters of the genre whose impact on The Simpsons supersedes that of all others: Stanley Kubrick and Edgar Allan Poe."[220] John Alberti has referred to "the show's almost obsessive references to the films of Stanley Kubrick."[221] Simpson's creator Matt Groening is also the creator of Futurama which also has copious references to various Kubrick films.
    Of the many references to Kubrick in Groening's work, perhaps the most notable Space Odyssey reference in The Simpsons is in the episode "Deep Space Homer" in which Bart throws a felt-tip marker into the air; in slow motion it rotates, before a match cut replaces it with a cylindrical satellite. In 2004 Empire magazine listed this as the third best film parody of the entire run of the show.[222] In the Futurama episode "Love and Rocket" a sentient spaceship revolts in a manner similar to Hal. Total Film listed this as number 17 in its list of 20 Funniest Futurama parodies, while noting that Futurama has referenced Space Odyssey on several other occasions.[223]
  • In the 2000 South Park episode "Trapper Keeper", an interaction between Eric Cartman and Kyle Broflovski parodies the conversation between Hal and Bowman within the inner core.
  • Peter Sellers starred in Hal Ashby's comedy-drama Being There about a simple-minded middle-aged gardener who has lived his entire life in the townhouse of his wealthy employer. In the scene where he first leaves the house and ventures into the wide world for the first time, the soundtrack plays a jazzy version of Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra arranged by Eumir Deodato. Film critic James A. Davidson writing for the film journal Images suggests "When Chance emerges from his home into the world, Ashby suggests his child-like nature by using Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra as ironic background music, linking his hero with Kubrick's star baby in his masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey."[224]
  • Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has a scene (using actual footage from A Space Odyssey) in which the monolith morphs into a chocolate bar.[225] Catholic News noted that the film "had subtle and obvious riffs on everything from the saccharine Disney "Small World" exhibit to Munchkinland to, most brilliantly, a hilarious takeoff on Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey."[226]
  • Andrew Stanton, the director of WALL-E, revealed in an interview with Wired magazine that his film was in many ways his homage to Space Odyssey, Alien, Blade Runner, Close Encounters and several other science-fiction films.[227] The reviewer for USA Today noted the resemblance of the spaceship's computer, Auto, to Hal.[228] The same year saw the release of the much less successful film Eagle Eye, about which The Charlotte Observer noted that, like 2001, it featured a "red-eyed, calm-voiced supercomputer that took human life to protect what it felt were higher objectives"[229]
  • Commenting on the broader use of Ligeti's music beyond that by Kubrick, London Magazine in 2006 noted Monty Python's use of Ligeti in a 60-second spoof of Space Odyssey in the Flying Circus episode commonly labeled "A Book at Bedtime".[230]
  • The poorly reviewed Canadian spoof 2001: A Space Travesty has been occasionally alluded to as a full parody of Kubrick's film,[231] both because of its title and star Leslie Nielsen's many previous films which were full parodies of other films.[232] However, Space Travesty only makes occasional references to Kubrick's material, its "celebrities are really aliens" jokes resembling those in Men in Black.[233] Canadian reviewer Jim Slotek noted "It's not really a spoof of 2001, or anything in particular. There's a brief homage at the start, and one scene in a shuttle en route to the Moon that uses The Blue Danube ... The rest is a patched together plot."[234] Among many complaints about the film, reviewer Berge Garabedian derided the lack of much substantive connection to the Kubrick film (the latter of which he said was "funnier").[235]
  • Among spoof references to several science-fiction films and shows,[236] Airplane II features a computer called ROK 9000 in control of a Moon shuttle which malfunctions and kills crew members, which several reviewers found reminiscent of Hal.[237][238][239]
  • In the 1996 film Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, in the opening scene Mike Nelson jogs while Gypsy (Mystery Science Theater 3000) looks on is parodying a scene in "2001: A Space Odyssey." At the beginning of the film's 3rd segment, "Jupiter Mission", panning across the spaceship Discovery cut inside to astronaut Frank Poole jogging around and around a circular section of the ship (because of the centrifugal force in that part of the ship, Frank can jog through 360 degrees without falling). While exercising, the ship's computer, HAL 9000, watches intently through one of his visual sensors. The close-up shot of Gypsy's eye, with Mike reflected in it, matches the shot of HAL almost exactly.

In software and video games

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey has also been referenced in multiple video games, usually either with reference to either the monolith or Hal. In SimEarth , monoliths are used to encourage the evolution of species.[240]
  • In Metal Gear Solid, the character Hal Emmerich was named in-world by his father after HAL 9000.[241][242]

See also



  • Shuldiner, Herbert (1968) How They Filmed '2001: A Space Odyssey', Bonnier Corporation: Popular Science, June 1968, pp. 62–67, Vol. 192, No. 6, ISSN 0161-7370

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • TCM Movie Database
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Internet Resource Archive
  • Kubrick 2001: The Space Odyssey Explained
  • Collectibles Exhibit
  • Roger Ebert's Essay on 2001
  • The Alt.Movies.Kubrick FAQ many observations on the meaning of 2001
  • The Kubrick Site including many works on 2001

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