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10 awe-inspiring designs from Kubrick classics

From Spartacus to A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick was one of the world's most influential, enlightening and controversial movie directors. With each film, he continued to experiment with various techniques and consistently made an impact on the movie world.

Kubrick brought out the best in the actors, producers, artists, and designers that he worked with - often via brutal and well-documented techniques - with many going on to receive Academy Awards for their work. Here, we take a look at 10 ground-breaking designs from Kubrick movies, and reveal why they're still making an impact today.

01. The Shining: Overlook Hotel set design

Prepare to have your mind blown. Did you ever think that the hotel in The Shining seemed a little off? In the video above, Rob Ager discusses how Kubrick used Escher-styled spacial awareness and set design anomalies to confuse and disorientate the audience. This clever design by Roy Walker soldified the film's horror status and helped ease it into an instant classic. Truly breathtaking.

02. 2001: A Space Odyssey: HAL

Kubrick experimented with many forms for HAL 9000, the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey that more or less steals the movie from under the noses of the human leads with its eerily evil statements, voiced by Douglas Rain.

Early designs for HAL included a mechanical, moving robot, before Kubrick settled on the unblinking red eye, which remains to this day one of sci-fi movie history's most evocative and iconic images.

This was long before the days of multibillion-dollar budgets, and the lens of HAL was purchased by Chris Randall for five shillings in a junk shop in Paddington, London. The key to HAL's Brain Room was also bought from the same shop. All round, a successful shopping trip.

03. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Spaceship interior

It's no wonder that designers Anthony Masters, Harry Lange and Ernest Archer cleaned up in the Oscar and BAFTA awards for Best Art Direction in 1968 for their set design of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The interior design needed to stay true to Arthur C Clarke's descriptions, focusing on the crew members' shrinking environment and boredom whilst also adhering to Kubrick's unique vision. It was an unfamiliar environment but with aspects that could easily be slipped into our future everyday lives. Many cite the relationship between machine and man was a pivital part of the design and the entire film.

The inside of the spacecraft was created using a 30-ton rotating wheel, costing around $750,000 and crafted by Vickers-Armstrong Engineering Group. The actors had to walk or run in synch as the wheel rotated to give the illusion that they were walking across the spacecraft, whilst still keeping them safely at the bottom.

04. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Star Gate sequence

Kubrick was one of the first directors to use front projection with retroreflective matting in a mainstream film. This particular technique went on to influence many filmmakers, and led to Kubrick winning his first and only Academy Award.

In the scene, astronaut Bowman finally reaches Jupiter when an artifact sweeps him into the 'Star Gate'; Bowman is hurled through space, before finally being transported to another part of the galaxy. The sequence was created using a technique called slit-scan photography, which consists of thousands of images, drawings, moire patterns and crystal sculptures. At the time of its release, these special effects were groundbreaking and continue to influence filmmaking today.

05. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Monolith

Originally created within Arthur C Clarke's novel, the Monolith has gone on to become a pop culture icon in its own right. Its sleek, simple, yet thoroughly imposing design made it an instant sci-fi classic. Plus, it was pretty important to the plot of the entire movie.

The Monolith is black, entirely flat, non-reflective rectangular solid with dimensions a precise ratio of 1:4:9 (the squares of the first three integers). These dimensions are the main source of debate about the simple external design of the monoliths. It is suggested in the novel that this number series does not stop at three dimensions.

Since its debut in Kubrick's movie, it has gone on to appear in several video games, The Simpsons, anime and more. There is also a reference suggested in the 2005 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, using an upstanding chocolate bar.

06. A Clockwork Orange: Costume design

Surprisingly, Kubrick was given an almost miniscule budget for the production of A Clockwork Orange. Although the film is an adaptation of the novel written by Anthony Burgess, a screenplay was never written. Instead, Kubrick worked it out scene by scene, asking his cast to work directly from the book.

The costumes were an integral part of the film, as they represented the uniform of the movie's sadistic gang: the droogs. Alex DeLarge and his droogs were dressed by Academy Award winning Italian designer Milena Canonero. She was the regular costume designer for many of Kubrick's films, including Barry Lyndon, which won her an Academy Award in 1976.

In a documentary made about A Clockwork Orange, Milena stated that Kubrick didn't want to make a futuristic film in a traditional science fiction way; he wanted to create something that was tomorrow - something far closer to today - making the movie timeless. She intended to create costumes that were possible to re-create, as street gangs in reality create the look themselves with clothes they already own. And this is where she succeeded - the costumes have remained timeless.

Watch this! Making 'A Clockwork Orange'

07. A Clockwork Orange: Set design

Due to the low budget, and Kubrick's vision of creating a futuristic 'tomorrow', many of the locations of the film were scouted out in buildings already standing in London (although the film is vaguely set in Northern England - due to the accents). And according to production notes, Kubrik only needed to construct one set - The Milk Bar.

The set designs within these buildings were an absolute triumph. The overindulgence of erotic, often obscene, art and sculptures suggests a futuristic era of desensitisation: one of the movie's key themes. Kubrick's set design combined the fantastic and obscene, whilst still keeping it recognisible enough to keep the 'future' close at hand. And that's what made the film truly disturbing.

Read the full list of A Clockwork Orange film locations.

08. Dr Strangelove: War Room

Kubrick's nuclear black comedy went on to become one of his greatest works. The film was based upon the Cold War novel 'Red Alert' by Peter George - which was by no means a comedy. The set design was put in the very capable, yet somewhat inexperienced hands of Ken Adams. It was one of his first projects after studying architecture, but after the success of Dr Strangelove he would go on to become one of the world's most renowned production designers (known mainly for his work on the James Bond films throughout the 60s and 70s).

The first mock-up by Ken for the infamous War Room was actually rejected by Kubrick. After much research and experimentation, and with Kubrick standing closely behind, Adams came up with the triangular structure of the building. The triangle was to be created with reinforced concrete, to which Kubrick remarked: "Like a giant bomb shelter?". After that, Kubrick was sold and the war room was born.

09. Spartacus: Costume design

When Spartacus began filming, it was veteran Anthony Mann in the director's chair (after David Lean had turned it down). After a week of filming, and not satisfied with his work, Kirk Douglas fired Mann - even though Mann had already filmed the opening sequence. Kubrick took over at the tender age of 30. With only two feature-length films under his belt, he was a risky choice but Spartacus went on to become a massive hit.

The costumes throughout the film are recognised as a turning point in costume design. They were created by the legendary Arlington Valles, who went on to win an Academy Award for his efforts. His costumes first appeared in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, before working on the likes of The Picture of Dorian Gray and In the Good Old Summertime. Sadly, Spartacus was Valles' last project before he passed away on April 12th, 1970.

10. Barry Lyndon: Lighting

Often claimed as one of Kubrick's finest works, Barry Lyndon was the first film to be shot using only natural lighting. Kubrick is known for his innovative approach to filmmaking, with 2001: A Space Odyssey a forerunner in special effects and The Shining's use of steadicam. The cinematography for Barry Lyndon was in the very capable hands of John Alcott, who like many other Kubrick collaborators, went on to win an Academy Award for his efforts.

In the video above, we learn of Kubrick's desire to avoid electrical light. He wanted to steer clear of the shiny, over-indulged period dramas that had already been created. In order to do so, he built specific cameras using different lenses and film stock. The minimalist lighting is said to be likened to 18th Century paintings, which of course was perfect for the film.

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What's your favourite Stanley Kubrick design? Have we missed anything out? Let us know in the comments box below!

The Creative Bloq team is made up of a group of design fans, and has changed and evolved since Creative Bloq began over a decade ago. The current website team consists of five people: Editor Kerrie Hughes, Deputy Editor Rosie Hilder, Deals Editor Beren Neale, Senior News Editor Daniel Piper, and Staff Writer Amelia Bamsey. The 3D World and ImagineFX magazine teams also pitch in, ensuring that content from 3D World and ImagineFX is represented on Creative Bloq.