A Clockwork Orange is back in cinemas this month but is it Stanley Kubrick’s best film?

A Clockwork Orange makes a return to UK cinemas this month as part of the BFI’s Stanley Kubrick season. It began showing again yesterday on April 5 and will continue to screen across the month at a range of locations. The film was directed by the great, aforementioned Stanley Kubrick and it remains his most controversial work; quite a feat when one considers the range of topics the filmmaker explored across his remarkable career. 

He is often regarded as the greatest filmmaker of all time, spoken in the same breath and Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa and Andrei Tarkovsky. Not that this degree of consideration is meant to prompt or infer comparison, as all of these filmmakers were truly their very own. Merely, it is meant to convey just how important the auteur is in cinematic terms. Beginning a career in feature-film with 1953’s Fear and Desire, Kubrick quickly built on his potential with his sophomore effort and first film noir project, 1956’s Killer’s Kiss; in fact, he pretty much disowned his debut. Since his origins, we have seen him deliver such great films as The Killing2001: A Space OdysseyBarry Lyndon and many more. 

When reflecting upon his career, one cannot help but admire the sheer ambition of the man. He really strived to achieve the impossible and present it on film for audiences to treasure for a lifetime. As long as cinema exists, the name “Stanley Kubrick” will sustain its utmost importance. 2001: A Space Odyssey is often considered his best film, and while it’s indisputably his most mind-blowing and ambitious, an increasing number of people voice their preference for the arguments and provocations platformed in 1971’s A Clockwork Orange.

It was actually banned under the director’s request, for fear that it was encouraging the degree of violence to which the film depicts. Following this, screenings across university campuses and beyond were organised and shut down. In the wake of his passing on March 7, 1999, the film returned to screens to be rediscovered. 

It’s a film that – like much of his work – we urge ourselves to revisit and reinterpret again and again. Based on Anthony Burgess‘ 1962 novel of the same name, Kubrick’s dystopian drama follows Alex, a charismatic and frighteningly bright young teenager who spends his time committing atrociously violent criminal acts with his gang of droogs. However, in wake of his capture, we chronicle his time in prison and into a facility which promises to cure him of his dark impulses. It is from this treatment that greater, moral questions surface. 

On the surface, A Clockwork Orange appears tame in relation to today’s standards. However, thematically it remains just as startling, confrontational and essential as the day it was released. It’s obvious why public fascination with the film has continued for so long because it truly feels important and timeless in its influential treatment of science-fiction tropes. The moral dilemma at its core still possesses the power to stir thorough and engaging discussion, and in terms of sociological consideration, it remains the most entertaining Kubrick film to debate and analyse. So, is it his best?

With most filmmakers, it’s pretty easy to select a favourite. With Kubrick, however, it’s genuinely a strain. Of course, it all comes down to personal opinion, and in this case, it’s always a priority to highlight that Barry Lyndon – although its reputation grows with every passing year – remains criminally underacknowledged by general audiences. It’s his most beautiful film but also his most brutal in many ways, which may come as quite of a shock considering we’ve just been discussing A Clockwork Orange. 2001 remains a technical marvel and perhaps the very best film to see on the big screen ever made, but then there is The Killing, one of the most entertaining noir’s to return to frequently. 

Stanley Kubrick has made so many phenomenal films. With its recent re-release, maybe more UK audiences than ever before will argue A Clockwork Orange as the director’s best work. There will be many great points raised in favour of such a statement, but equally, you could argue strongly in favour of most of his films – they’re just so special. One of a kind. Eternal. 

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