Stanley Kubrick is known as one of the most influential filmmakers in cinematic history, with his stunning array of films, precise directing, eye for detail and unique cinematography – one of which is known as the Kubrick Stare.
The Kubrick Stare sometimes referred to as the Kubrick Glare or â€œheavy-browed look of insanityâ€ was frequently used throughout Kubrick’s films, and has been referenced in countless others. The shot is primarily focused on a single actor with their head tilted down, only to look up slowly. Sometimes their teeth are exposed, but they always wear a menacing look on their face and have an evil or mad look in their eyes.Â
Some of the most well known Kubrickâ€™s stares are:
Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance – The ShiningÂ
As Kubrickâ€™s only horror film, it remains a masterpiece of the genre and as a film alone. Jackâ€™s slow turn to madness as the ghosts in the Overlook Hotel wrap his mind, turning him into a cold-blooded killer after his family is perfectly captured in the Kubrick Stare. Without any words, we can see the character descend into madness in a pure, creepy shot.Â
Malcolm McDowell as Alexander DeLarge – A Clockwork Orange
With his bowler hat, eye makeup and staring up into the camera, this is the quintessential Kubrick Stare. McDowell manages to perfectly capture this iconic shot, portraying the characterâ€™s sociopathic behaviour without a hint of conscience, and with a glint of cruel mischief.
Sue Lyon as Lolita â€“ Lolita
It isnâ€™t just the men who can accomplish the Kubrick Stare, women can too! Sue Lyon plays the nymphet Lolita and in her Kubrick Stare, she manages to portray the characterâ€™s disdain and anger, realising that the once loving Humbert is an overbearing tedious bore.Â
In most of Kubrickâ€™s work, you can find this iconic shot, but it isnâ€™t the only film itâ€™s showed up in.Â
The Avengers (2012) dir. Joss Whedon
Gladiator (2000) dir. Ridley Scott
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) dir. Quentin Tarantino
Donnie Darko (2001) dir. Richard Kelly
The Dark Knight (2008) dir. Christopher Nolan
When a show or film utilizes the look, it’s often a homage to Stanley Kubrick and his craft. Overall, the look is very ominous and terrifying. Depending on its context, the look can display a huge range of emotions. Including anger, fear, mischief, cunning, and even happiness.