Stanley Kubrick and the Rationale Behind Incessant Takes

Some directors say "we got it" when they do not, in fact, "got it." Those directors are not Stanley Kubrick.

Full Metal Jacket Stanley Kubrick takes
Twentieth Century Fox

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about why Stanley Kubrick shot so many takes.


Water’s wet, the sun rises, and Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist.

Only, “perfectionism” was a label that Kubrick himself rejected. And once you dig into the “why” of Kubrick’s notorious habit of shooting many, many takes, it becomes clear that, while unconventional, perfectionism doesn’t quite define his methods. Methods which some actors have described as torturous, with the number of takes at times catapulted into the hundred range.

As the video below explains, there was never any concrete idealized version of how Kubrick wanted things done. Indeed, by his own admission, Kubrick rarely knew what he wanted but was exacting about what he didn’t want. His shooting schedules may have been lengthy, but that was no accident. Kubrick allotted time to get what he needed out of actors. Namely: for them to “be” their characters rather than to “make choices.” And that, depending on the actor, takes time.

Whether the ends (a string of bonafide masterpieces) justify Kubrick’s means (which were at times quite mean) is a different story. But, at the risk of getting lost in the auteur sauce, there’s certainly something to be gained by demystifying Kubrick’s approach. Leave it to Kubrick to put “wait for actors to learn their lines” in a budget.

Watch “Why Kubrick did so many takes in Full Metal Jacket“:

Who made this?

Brooklyn-based CinemaTyler has been providing some of the most in-depth analysis of auteur-driven cinema on YouTube for some time now. You can check out their YouTube channel here. CinemaTyler’s scholarship on Stanley Kubrick, particularly 2001: A Space Odyssey, is noteworthy, and absolutely worth seeking out.

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(Senior contributor)

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