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851 Ratings

Fear and Desire

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
United States, 1953


Kubrick’s debut feature tells the story of a war waged between two forces. In the midst of the conflict, a plane carrying four soldiers crashes behind enemy lines. From here out, it is kill or be killed.

Our take

Famously, Stanley Kubrick spent decades suppressing this, his first feature. We think he was too hard on himself: Fear and Desire is a rough B-movie spiked with inspired ideas and imagery, and its long sought-after availability allows us to trace the origins of the master.

Fear and Desire Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Critics reviews

The cuts are severe, alienating, disruptive, confusing and jarring the narrative flow like hiccups. The wartime allegory is forced, the soldiers are a group of penny-ante philosophers, and the drama smothered in atmosphere. The script is laden, wet with languorous monologues dragged out of the post-synchronized voices. And yet, there is more to love here than in many of Kubrick’s other early films.
June 05, 2015
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Kubrick, an accomplished photographer since his teens, uses the woodland locations to atmospheric effect. (He shot and edited the film himself.) And especially in the scenes designed to convey the soldiers’ growing inner turmoil, the direction has a crude, off-kilter energy.
October 26, 2012
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It does Kubrick, one of the medium’s entrenched high artists, no favors to overrate his debut. While the surrealist, pseudo-Buñuelian setup of Fear and Desire as a barebones, modernist imagining of a war film immediately impresses itself in its novelty, the constraints of Kubrick’s $50,000 micro budget and sparse, skeleton crew are all too apparent as the film begins to wander, adrift like its own marooned GIs.
October 22, 2012
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What are people saying?

  • Jason's rating of the film Fear and Desire

    I have finally seen Kubrick's delightfully-titeld debut, and am happy to assert that it is leagues better than his subsequent feature. Many posters here take it to task for its editing, which perplexes me. I love the way it is cut. But the real show of force here is in the mise en scène. Kubrick has a staggeringly good eye. This is a pure abstraction of a Sam Fuller war movie. The opening voice-over excuses much.

  • Samuel Wells's rating of the film Fear and Desire

    I am a fan of all of Kubrick's films. This is certainly one of his lesser films and I cannot rank it near his greats. But I still found a lot to be admired within the film, observing the fragility of the human condition and containing some wonderful soliloquies for the players kept me invested through the concise running time. I am a sucker for any film that can reference The Tempest, overall an enjoyable film.

  • Duncan Gray's rating of the film Fear and Desire

    Sure, it sullies his record for perfection, but who wants perfection? I find the early amateur films of masters fascinating & inspiring. Don't compare this to 2001 or even The Killing—just look at other B war movies of 1953 and you'll see what Kubrick added: psychosexual dementia, Beckettian lunacy, brilliant close-ups, and bizarre dopplegangers. Awkward as hell but evocative. From the start he had something to say.

  • Matthew_Lucas's rating of the film Fear and Desire

    Stanley Kubrick's first feature film, about a group of soldiers who crash behind enemy lines, and after stumbling upon an enemy base, hatch a plot to assassinate the enemy general. A bit stiff, with a few awkward performances, but Kubrick's early interest in psychological deterioration and descents into madness is on full display. Great use of light and shadow as well as Soviet style editing.

  • dionysus67's rating of the film Fear and Desire

    Usually slated, this is a rudimentary gem bold enough to portray war with the utmost indifference, exposing the phenomenon itself as if it were placed 'beyond good and evil'. Such neutralization process does not shy away from portraying the horror in vacant gazes and nihilist despair. With a markedly anti-heroic approach it becomes a parable about social order's regression into a state of nature. An excellent debut!

  • Wee Hunk's rating of the film Fear and Desire

    It's not as horrible as that early one you had of Orson Welles. This is just something for the completists and historians. There might be a reason he didn't want it seen, and it's not like Kafka, who thought all his stuff should have been burned.

  • Michael H. CLAES's rating of the film Fear and Desire

    First film of one of the top movie director Stanley KUBRICK the famous author denied since, and this is understandable as it was so bad Fear and Desire est en effet le premier film de Stanley KUBRICK, que le célèbre auteur a renié depuis, et cela se comprend tant il était mauvais https://www.facebook.com/zyx.mhclaes/media_set?set=a.788239674565511.1073741936.100001384583310&type=3

  • msmichel's rating of the film Fear and Desire

    Kubrick was right in trying to bury his first effort realizing that the limited editing tricks and offbeat touches didn't compensate for the amateurish filmmaking and inane scripting. An interesting black mark on a stellar filmography. Might be more interesting to watch under the influence or perhaps a drinking game of some kind.

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