2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)I am not generally a fan of Stanley Kubrick's. He has a cold directorial approach (with the great Paths of Glory being the exception that proves the rule) that just turns me off as a viewer. On occasion an approach like that works, such as when it lends an undercurrent of dread to The Shining, since we seem to be emotionally detached from the poor, doomed family and are helpless to do anything but watch the tragedy unfold. Other times it doesn't, like when we get nothing out of the oil painting-like compositions that make up Barry Lyndon, just an emotionless beauty. One of the other times that Kubrick's approach works is in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where being kept at a distance makes us care more about some of the doomed characters, because we can feel that they're in some sort of danger and they cannot, while also allowing us the intellectual stimulation of the grand story that Kubrick is telling us.
However, that story wasn't readily apparent on first viewing. In fact, I couldn't even finish the movie on first viewing. I struggled through the detachment while watching the "Dawn of Man" opening sequence. On second viewing, as I'd prepared myself for something much slower than I was used to, I found myself contemplating the simple yet ambitious story (the evolution of technology, how we use it, and how it affects us) while letting the images wash over me. I was less concerned about waiting for something to happen, and allowed my mind to work on the ideas slowly being revealed to me. I could continue talking about this movie for hours and hours and hours (and wrote a paper on it in college), but I'll conclude this little mini-overview of my thoughts by saying that awe is a feeling I rarely have while watching a movie. Only two movies really come to mind that fill me with awe (you'll see the other in the next spot ahead on the list), but the final section of this movie (after the "Beyond the Infinite" sequence, which is useful to show us traveling to another dimension and seeing things we've never thought about seeing in our own world, but goes on long after the point has been made) gives me goose bumps every time I watch it. It's the only movie on my list that I didn't take to immediately, but 2001 is most certainly one of the best movies ever made.