Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, UK)

In Stanley Kubrick's influential, profound, visionary and awesome, genre-defying sci-fi masterpiece - a landmark, astounding science fiction classic - and probably the best science-fiction film of all time about exploration of the unknown; it was an epic film that contained more spectacular imagery (about what space looked like) and special effects than verbal dialogue. Kubrick's sci-fi experiment intended to present its story almost purely with visual imagery and auditory signals with very little communicative human dialogue.

The breathtaking, richly eloquent, and visually-poetic film - deliberately filmed at a slow pace - about the evolution of humanity, space travel, and the discovery of extra-terrestrial intelligence (many years before Star Wars (1977), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)), was based on the published 1951 short story The Sentinel, written in 1948 by English science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. Its original screenplay was co-authored by director Stanley Kubrick and Clarke from an expanded novelization, and the film was originally titled Journey Beyond the Stars.

A sequel was made years later: director Peter Hyams' 2010 (1984) (from a 1982 published adaptation titled 2010: odyssey two by Clarke).

  • in the opening visual image, the camera panned upward from the pock-marked surface of the Moon in the foreground; the perspective was from behind the Moon; in the distance was a view of the Sun rising over the Earth-crescent in the vastness of space; the image showed the heavenly bodies of the Earth, Moon, and Sun in a vertically-symmetrical alignment or conjunction; the opening bold trinitarian chords [C, G, and again C] of Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra accompanied and welcomed this striking shot of orbital and visual alignment; the credits then followed
  • in the first of the film's four major episodes (three were given titles) - "The Dawn of Man" episode - numerous man-apes' tableaux scenes were set in prehistoric Africa in the Pleistocene era - four million years ago (4,000,000 BC); the prehistoric herbivorous ape-men were vegetarians who foraged for grass and roots; they had not developed the tools or weapons necessary to attack and kill or eat the tapirs like other predators
  • at dawn, the apes were awakened to an eerie humming sound; the apes confronted the film's first mysterious and alien black monolith - [Note: In Arthur Clarke's novel, the mysterious monolithic stone slab was a technological machine belonging to aliens in space, one of hundreds of such monoliths sent to Earth to test, teach and transform the apes into higher-order, intelligent beings.] The apes herded and gathered around it and huddled by it, reaching out to touch it, just as another celestial alignment or configuration occurred; with the mysterious monolith in the foreground, the glowing Sun rose over the black slab, directly beneath the crescent of the Moon

Ape-Man Leader (Daniel Richter) Reacting to Eerie Humming Sound at Dawn

Apes Surrounding An Alien Black Monolith and Touching The Object

At The Moment of Celestial Alignment
  • in a slow-motion sequence during the alignment - accompanied by the slowly-building tone of Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra - the primeval leader ape-man (Daniel Richter) picked up an animal bone and used it to smash at and shatter a skeleton on the ground; it was a major evolutionary breakthrough - he would now be able to hunt for food and kill a tapir with his new utilitarian tool; in a sense, he became endowed with intelligence, and transitioned to a higher and more dominant order (as a carnivorous being) with the ability to reason and the power to use tools to survive and gather food
Apes Learning to Use Bones As Tools - To Kill Tapirs and Become Carnivorous
  • the next day at the waterhole to take control, the intelligent, domineering, carnivorous man-apes drove off the weaponless (and tool-less) neighboring creatures with their newfound strike power provided by bone-weapons - it was the first instance of warfare with the use of the bone as a club to attack, crush an opponent's skull and kill
  • afterwards, the victorious, exuberant and triumphant ape-man leader - in slow-motion - tossed his fragmented skeletal bone-weapon into the air; it flew and spun upwards, twisting and turning end-over-end; there was a marvelously audacious, seamless transition/edit from the bone-weapon into a futuristic, Earth-orbiting space satellite - one of the most famous jump-cuts in cinematic history - moving ahead four million years; the space object was another technological instrument, tool, weapon (orbiting nuclear platform) or machine from another era [Note: The toss of the ape-man's bone was metaphoric for a lift-off from Earth toward the Moon, and for the tremendous technological advances that had occurred in the interim]

Using the Newfound Bone Weapon to Dominate Rival Creatures

The Triumphant and Victorious Ape Leader Tossing His Bone-Weapon Into the Air
The Jump Cut From the Skeletal Bone-Weapon to a Rectangular Space Satellite
  • in space between the Earth and the Moon in the year 2001, miniature models of spacecraft satellites (one rectangular and one cylindrical) were portrayed against the black, immense quiet and visual, weightless spendor of outer space; also, a winged, arrow-shaped Pan-Am space shuttle (named Orion) soared toward the Moon, bound first to stop at a circular, wheel-shaped Space Station 5 - a way-station for passengers traveling onto the lunar surface, to the accompaniment of Johann Strauss' waltz Blue Danube
  • in the weightless environment of the shuttle, the sole passenger American scientist Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) slept as the shuttle slowly docked with the gigantic circular Space Station 5; after docking and entering the space-station interior (the Orbiter Hilton), Dr. Floyd phoned his home with a Bell Picturephone to wish his daughter Squirt (director Kubrick's daughter Vivian) a happy birthday

Inside the Ultra-Modern Space Station 5

Dr. Floyd's Birthday Phone Call to His Daughter

Dr. Floyd Speaking to Curious Soviet Scientists
  • Floyd's ultimate destination - during a top-secret mission - was to the American moon-base on the Moon's crater of Clavius; while awaiting the next leg of his trip during a brief meeting with Soviet scientists, Dr. Floyd deflected questions and concerns about "odd things" occurring at the US outpost on the Moon (and rumors of an epidemic)
  • he continued on his journey via a spherical Aries lunar landing craft; there were two astounding visuals during the weightless flight - an attendant in a rotational elevator, and the humorous "Zero Gravity Toilet"; after landing on the lunar surface, Dr. Floyd spoke to other scientists in a conference board room about their "significant discovery" - a second monolith (a twin to the first one) unearthed on the surface of the moon at the crater, but declined offering details about the false "cover story" regarding a possible epidemic at the base
  • Floyd's next vehicular craft was a Moon Bus that took him to the Tycho crater excavation site during the lunar dawn; in the crater-pit on the Moon at the Clavius Moon Base (a lunar settlement), space-suited scientists viewed (and touched) a brightly-lit second monolith (a Tycho artifact), that had supposedly been buried four million years earlier; Dr. Floyd reached out and touched the monolith with his thick glove; as the scientists were having their picture taken, a ray of sunlight struck the monolith - signaling the end of the dark, 14-day lunar night
Discovery of Excavated Monolith on the Moon Crater of Clavius in the Year 2001, In a Giant Excavated Pit

Dr. Floyd Reaching Out and Touching the Monolith

Space-Suited Scientists Posing For a Picture In Front of the Monolith
  • there was another conjunctive orbital configuration of the glowing Sun, Moon and Earth; the monolith emitted a deafening, high-frequency radio signal directed toward the planet of Jupiter [Note: the signal from the ancient civilization that buried it on the Moon was to alert mankind that it was about to reach another more improved, advanced level of consciousness and intelligence]
  • the next segment (the film's third major episode, titled "Jupiter Mission, 18 Months Later") fast-forwarded to 18 months later during a nine-month, manned voyage of the spaceship Discovery One on a one half billion-mile journey to Jupiter from Earth (launching in the year 2002); its goal was to follow the path of the radio signal and to find the origin of the alien culture that had planted the monolith on the Moon and/or caused the unexplainable radio transmission
  • on board the completely-automated spaceship was an omniscient but faulty HAL 9000 computer (voice of Douglas Rain) identified by an anthropomorphic 'red eye', and two astronauts who were not in hibernation: Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) and David Bowman (Keir Dullea); three astronauts were also in cold-storage (cryogenic) suspended animation; in fact, only HAL knew the real reason for the mission-trip to Jupiter
  • in the circular habitat of the crew in the spaceship, Poole endlessly jogged and shadow-boxed around the interior treadmill in a memorable image; the emotionless astronauts appeared bored from the drudgery of their technological routine, and the bland, chemical space food (in a TV dinner type tray) and old video transmissions

Astronaut Poole Jogging Inside Discovery

Processed Meals and Video Transmissions

Poole Under a Sunlamp For a Sunbath

Poole's Electronic Chess Game Against HAL
  • during the voyage, early in the year 2003, HAL 9000 expressed concern about "odd things" in the mission - a significant sign that the perfect mechanized computer was possibly deteriorating, failing, or showing signs of diminished responsibility (due to its knowledge of highly-classified information) - and that the infallible computer was breaking down; simultaneously, HAL informed the astronauts that a component of the ship would soon malfunction in 72 hours, an AE35 antenna unit, and it needed repair/replacement
  • during an observational space-walk trip in a small egg-shaped, one-man EVA (extra-vehicular activity) space pod with long mechanical arms, astronaut Bowman during a spacewalk replaced the defective Alpha-Echo-35 (AE35) communications unit with a spare before it could fail, and returned to the main ship; he was confused about HAL's warning since diagnostics showed the original unit was not defective; even Mission Control in Houston reported that preliminary findings indicated that HAL, the on-board 9000 computer was "in error predicting the fault"
  • in one of the film's best scenes, the astronauts decided to privately speak to each other in a sound-proofed, sealed space pod, to be out of the computer's earshot; they discussed how HAL had become unreliable and irrational regarding the faulty AE35 antenna unit; HAL - represented by a big red eye, was revealed to be malevolently eavesdropping on them by reading their lips, in a marvelous, fast cross-editing sequence
  • Bowman sent Poole out in the EVA to reinstall the original A35 unit; if it didn't fail as HAL had predicted, HAL would clearly be at fault and would be disconnected to prevent any continuing flaws; while Poole was conducting the reinstallation during a spacewalk, HAL deliberately severed his oxygen life-line with the mechanical clawed arms of the space pod; Poole helplessly floated out into space - dead; Bowman suspected that HAL was the faulty unit - and had engineered the deadly "accident" in order to take over the spaceship
HAL Severing Poole's Oxygen Line With Clawed Arms of Space Pod
  • Bowman (carelessly without his spacesuit helmet) again left the spaceship in a second pod in a vain attempt to rescue Poole, who was already dead; meanwhile, the malevolent HAL - in order to take control of the spaceship, also methodically murdered the three hibernating crew members - with flashing warnings: COMPUTER MALFUNCTION, LIFE FUNCTIONS CRITICAL, and then LIFE FUNCTIONS TERMINATED
  • when Bowman returned in the pod to the closed entry doors, HAL ignored Bowman's frantic attempts to re-enter the spaceship with increasingly-stern commands: ("Open the pod bay doors, HAL"); the icy-voiced, uncooperative, malevolent HAL justified his attempt to kill the final living astronaut because of the threat of disconnection, and because the astronauts ultimately threatened the goal of the mission; to outwit the computer, Bowman was able to daringly re-enter through the small, emergency air-lock hatch by ejecting himself from the pod into the double-doored airlock chamber, and then closing the doors
  • to retaliate against HAL, Bowman took a slow walk to the computer's reddish-toned "brain room" to slowly debrain and disconnect the computer's core (a mechanical lobotomy on the computer's logic and memory circuits); HAL became suspicious ("Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?") and pleaded: "I feel much better now. I really do"; one by one, Bowman ejected components of HAL's auto-intellect panels (shaped like tiny white monoliths) to reduce the computer to manual control, while HAL calmly responded and protested as he was slowly 'dying': ("Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it"); with slowed and drugged speech as HAL's 'mind' deteriorated, he sang one of the first songs he ever learned - Daisy, or A Bicycle Built For Two - in a child-like manner
Bowman Lobotomizing HAL-9000's Circuits
  • as HAL disconnected and the spaceship approached Jupiter, a pre-recorded televised briefing recorded prior to the Discovery's departure (by Dr. Floyd) was triggered to play - it provided crucial information about the discovery of the monolith on the moon and the true purpose of the Jupiter mission: "Eighteen months ago, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered. It was buried forty feet below the lunar surface, near the crater Tycho. Except for a single, very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter the four million year old black monolith has remained completely inert, its origin and purpose still a total mystery" -- in other words, the mission was to follow the alien, high-frequency radio signal beamed directly to Jupiter from the monolith found on the Moon and to explore the possibility of extra-terrestrial life
  • in the film's fourth and final episode, "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite," astronaut Bowman continued alone on his flight to Jupiter to find the life-force of the universe - he encountered a third much larger monolith circling Jupiter amongst Jupiter's other moons; the giant planet Jupiter (lit up as a bright crescent shape) and its many moons, the spaceship Discovery, and the Sun, were all lined up with this third monolith
  • in a thrilling light-show ride activated by the monolith, Bowman left the Discovery in a space pod to journey through both inner and outer space as his pod was sucked into and sent racing down a swirling vortex, corridor, or tunnel of speckles of colored light - it was the ultimate trip through space and various landscapes ("the Stargate") toward Jupiter and into another dimension; during Bowman's passage, he was mysteriously transfigured (or "reborn") into a higher form of intelligence or universe of evolutionary life on his way to the alien planet
The Light-Show Stargate Sequence
  • in an enigmatic and surrealistic sequence, the astronaut's space pod landed and came to a halt somewhere beyond Jupiter in semi-familiar surroundings created out of his own subconscious memories by the aliens; it came to rest in a decorated, light-green and glacially-white 'cosmic bedroom' or ornate Victorian hotel suite/bedroom chamber; Bowman emerged from the space capsule, and saw himself as he drastically aged through various stages of life; he saw himself hunched-over, wearing a dark dressing gown while dining at an elegant, table-clothed cart in the middle of the room, and appearing as an elderly, senile white-haired gentleman
  • then in a final stage of life on his own deathbed, the bedridden invalid Bowman looked toward the foot of his bed and pointed at the film's fourth giant black monolith in the center of the room; as he reached out, the camera moved toward the blackness of the monolith and he was seemingly reborn (or evolved and was transcended); he dissolved into a glowing, hazy, translucent fetus or embryo in utero that rested on the bed; a blast of the musical chords of Also Sprach Zarathustra - signaling a decisive transformation - was heard for the last time
The Ornate Bedroom With the Monolith and an Aging Bowman on His Deathbed, Pointing at the Monolith (4th)
  • Bowman distinctly re-emerged within the embryo, with his own serene and wise-eyed features as an ambiguous Star Child; he was reborn as a cosmic, innocent, orbiting "Star Child" that traveled through the universe without technological assistance
  • the last enigmatic, open-ended image of the film was of the large, bright-eyed (with pin-pointed, glowing stars for pupils), luminous embryo in a translucent uterine amnion or bluish globe - an enhanced, reborn superhuman floating through space above the Earth in an orb of light, and the last stage of his cosmic evolution
Rebirth of a "Star Child"

Opening Visual Image: Conjunction of Moon, Earth, and Sun

Episode One: The Dawn of Man

Herbivorous Ape-Men Before Contact With a Monolith

Transition to Cylindrical Earth-Orbiting Satellites

Wheel-Shaped Circular Space Station 5

Needle-Shaped, Dart-Like Pan Am Shuttle Orion Soaring Toward Space Station 5

Docking of the Pan Am Shuttle in Space Station 5

Spherical Aries Lunar Landing Craft Soaring Toward the Moon

Attendant in Rotating Elevator

Zero Gravity Toilet

Landing of the Ares in a Domed Hangar on the Moon's Surface

Dr. Floyd Speaking to Assembled US Scientists in Conference Room of American Moonbase

Moon Bus Transportation From the Moonbase to US Excavation Site

Another Orbital Conjunction of the Glowing Sun, Earth, and Moon

Film's Third Major Episode

Discovery 18 Months Later On a Mission to Jupiter

HAL-9000s Ubiquitous Glowing, Watchful Red Eye

Bowman's Space-Walk to Replace 'Defective' A35 Antenna Unit

HAL Observing the Testing of the Unit - Declared Not Defective

HAL Listening to Two Scheming Astronauts Through Lip-Reading

Bowman's Vain Attempt in a Pod to Rescue Poole in After His Oxygen Had Been Cut by HAL

Hibernating Crew Members Killed by HAL

Bowman: "Open the pod bay doors, HAL"

Bowman Blasting Himself Back Into Air-Lock

Dr. Floyd's Pre-Recorded Video Message

On Bowman's Way to Jupiter - Another Alignment of the Jupiter Planet and Its Moon, Sun, and 3rd Monolith

Pod Landed in Bedroom (An Observation Chamber?)

Bowman Gray-Haired and Aging


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