2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. It was co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, partially inspired by Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel”. 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.
Financed and produced 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) 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 America several months before its release in England, and Encyclopædia Britannica calls this an American film, other sources refer to it as an American, British, or American-British production.
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 that is open-ended to a point approaching surrealism, sound in place of traditional narrative techniques, and minimal use of dialogue.
The film has a memorable soundtrack—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, and the famous symphonic poem Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, to portray the philosophical evolution of Man theorized in Nietzsche’s work of the same name.
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 release, it eventually became the highest grossing picture from 1968 in North America. Today it is recognized by many 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, and in 2010, it was named the No. 1 greatest film ever made by The Moving Arts Film Journal. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, and received one for 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.
In 1984, a sequel directed by Peter Hyams was produced entitled 2010: The Year We Make Contact.