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The coloured lights in the Star Gate sequence were accomplished by slit-scan photography of thousands of high-contrast images on film, including Op art paintings, architectural drawings, Moiré patterns, printed circuits, and electron-microscope photographs of molecular and crystal structures. Known to staff as "Manhattan Project", the shots of various nebula-like phenomena, including the expanding star field, were coloured paints and chemicals swirling in a pool-like device known as a cloud tank, shot in slow motion in a dark room. The live-action landscape shots were filmed in the Hebridean islands, the mountains of northern Scotland, and Monument Valley. The colouring and negative-image effects were achieved with different colour filters in the process of making duplicate negatives in an optical printer.
"Not one foot of this film was made with computer-generated special effects. Everything you see in this film or saw in this film was done physically or chemically, one way or the other."— Keir Dullea (2014)
2001 contains a famous example of a match cut, a type of cut in which two shots are matched by action or subject matter. After Moonwatcher uses a bone to kill another ape at the watering hole, he throws it triumphantly into the air; as the bone spins in the air, the film cuts to an orbiting satellite, marking the end of the prologue. The match cut draws a connection between the two objects as exemplars of primitive and advanced tools respectively, and demonstrates humanity's technological progress since the time of early hominids.
2001 pioneered the use of front projection with retroreflective matting. Kubrick used the technique to produce the backdrops in the Africa scenes and the scene when astronauts walk on the Moon.
The technique consisted of a separate scenery projector set at a right angle to the camera and a half-silvered mirror placed at an angle in front that reflected the projected image forward in line with the camera lens onto a backdrop of retroreflective material. The reflective directional screen behind the actors could reflect light from the projected image 100 times more efficiently than the foreground subject did. The lighting of the foreground subject had to be balanced with the image from the screen, so that the part of the scenery image that fell on the foreground subject was too faint to show on the finished film. The exception was the eyes of the leopard in the "Dawn of Man" sequence, which glowed due to the projector illumination. Kubrick described this as "a happy accident".
Front projection had been used in smaller settings before 2001, mostly for still photography or television production, using small still images and projectors. The expansive backdrops for the African scenes required a screen 40 feet (12 m) tall and 110 feet (34 m) wide, far larger than had been used before. When the reflective material was applied to the backdrop in 100-foot (30 m) strips, variations at the seams of the strips led to visual artefacts; to solve this, the crew tore the material into smaller chunks and applied them in a random "camouflage" pattern on the backdrop. The existing projectors using 4-×-5-inch (10 × 13 cm) transparencies resulted in grainy images when projected that large, so the crew worked with MGM's special-effects supervisor Tom Howard to build a custom projector using 8-×-10-inch (20 × 25 cm) transparencies, which required the largest water-cooled arc lamp available. The technique was used widely in the film industry thereafter until it was replaced by blue/green screen systems in the 1990s.
The film's world premiere was on 2 April 1968, at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C. with a 160-minute cut. It opened the next day at the Loew's Capitol in New York and the following day at the Warner Hollywood Theatre in Los Angeles. The original version was also shown in Boston before Kubrick decided to delete about nineteen minutes of footage to tighten the film. The new cut ran around 88 minutes for the first section, followed by an intermission, and 55 minutes in the second section. The revised 142-minute version was ready for the expansion of the roadshow release to four other U.S. cities (Chicago, Denver, Detroit and Houston), on 10 April 1968, and internationally in five cities the following day, where the shortened version was shown in 70mm format, used a six-track stereo magnetic soundtrack, and was projected in the 2.21:1 aspect ratio. By the end of May, the film had opened in 22 cities in the United States and Canada and opened in another 36 in June. The general release of the film in its 35 mm anamorphic format took place in autumn 1968 and used either a four-track magnetic stereo soundtrack or an optical monaural soundtrack.
The original 70-millimetre release, like many Super Panavision 70 films of the era such as Grand Prix, was advertised as being in "Cinerama" in cinemas equipped with special projection optics and a deeply curved screen. In standard cinemas, the film was identified as a 70-millimetre production. The original release of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70-millimetre Cinerama with six-track sound played continually for more than a year in several venues, and for 103 weeks in Los Angeles.
The 19 minutes of footage Kubrick removed following the world premiere included scenes revealing details about life on Discovery: additional space walks, Bowman retrieving a spare part from an octagonal corridor, elements from the Poole murder sequence—including space-walk preparation and HAL turning off radio contact with Poole—and a close-up of Bowman picking up a slipper during his walk in the alien room. Jerome Agel describes the cut scenes as comprising "Dawn of Man, Orion, Poole exercising in the centrifuge, and Poole's pod exiting from Discovery." As was typical of most films of the era released both as a "roadshow" (in Cinerama format in the case of 2001) and general release (in 70-millimetre in the case of 2001), the entrance music, intermission music (and intermission altogether), and postcredit exit music were cut from most prints of the latter version, although these have been restored to most DVD releases.
The following year, a United States Department of State committee chose 2001 as the American entry at the 6th Moscow International Film Festival. The film was re-released in 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1993. In 2001, a restoration of the 70 mm version was screened at the Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival, and the production was also reissued to selected film houses in North America, Europe and Asia.
For the film's 50th anniversary, Warner Bros. struck new 70mm prints from printing elements made directly from the original film negative. This was done under the supervision of film director Christopher Nolan, who has spoken of 2001's influence on his career. Following a showing at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival introduced by Nolan, the film had a limited worldwide release at select 70mm-equipped theatres in the summer of 2018, followed by a one-week run in North American IMAX theatres (including five locations equipped with 70 mm IMAX projectors).
On 3 December 2018, an 8K Ultra-high definition television version of the film was reported to have been broadcast in select theatres and shopping-mall demonstration stations in Japan.
The initial MGM soundtrack album release contained none of the material from the altered and uncredited rendition of Ligeti's Aventures used in the film, used a different recording of Also sprach Zarathustra (performed by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Karl Böhm) from that heard in the film, and a longer excerpt of Lux Aeterna than that in the film.
In 1996, Turner Entertainment/Rhino Records released a new soundtrack on CD that included the film's rendition of "Aventures", the version of "Zarathustra" used in the film, and the shorter version of Lux Aeterna from the film. As additional "bonus tracks" at the end, the CD includes the versions of "Zarathustra" and Lux Aeterna on the old MGM soundtrack album, an unaltered performance of "Aventures", and a nine-minute compilation of all of HAL's dialogue.
Alex North's unused music was first released in Telarc's issue of the main theme on Hollywood's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, a compilation album by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. All of the music North originally wrote was recorded commercially by his friend and colleague Jerry Goldsmith with the National Philharmonic Orchestra and released on Varèse Sarabande CDs shortly after Telarc's first theme release and before North's death. Eventually, a mono mix-down of North's original recordings was released as a limited-edition CD by Intrada Records.
The film has been released in several forms:
In its first nine weeks from 22 locations, it grossed $2 million in the United States and Canada. The film earned $8.5 million in theatrical gross rentals from roadshow engagements throughout 1968, contributing to North American rentals of $16.4 million and worldwide rentals of $21.9 million during its original release. The film's high costs, in excess of $10 million, meant that the initial returns from the 1968 release left it $800,000 in the red; but the successful re-release in 1971 made it profitable. By June 1974, the film had rentals from the United States and Canada of $20.3 million (gross of $58 million) and international rentals of $7.5 million. The film had a reissue on a test basis on 24 July 1974 at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles and grossed $53,000 in its first week, which led to an expanded reissue. Further re-releases followed, giving a cumulative gross of over $60 million in the United States and Canada. Taking its re-releases into account, it is the highest-grossing film of 1968 in the United States and Canada. Worldwide, it has grossed $146 million across all releases, although some estimates place the gross higher, at over $190 million.
Upon release, 2001 polarised critical opinion, receiving both praise and derision, with many New York-based critics being especially harsh. Kubrick called them "dogmatically atheistic and materialistic and earthbound". Some critics viewed the original 161-minute cut shown at premieres in Washington D.C., New York, and Los Angeles. Keir Dullea says that during the New York premiere, 250 people walked out; in L.A., Rock Hudson not only left early but "was heard to mutter, 'What is this bullshit?'" "But a few months into the release, they realised a lot of people were watching it while smoking funny cigarettes. Someone in San Francisco even ran right through the screen screaming: 'It's God!' So they came up with a new poster that said: '2001 – the ultimate trip!'"
In The New Yorker, Penelope Gilliatt said it was "some kind of great film, and an unforgettable endeavor ... The film is hypnotically entertaining, and it is funny without once being gaggy, but it is also rather harrowing." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it was "the picture that science fiction fans of every age and in every corner of the world have prayed (sometimes forlornly) that the industry might some day give them. It is an ultimate statement of the science fiction film, an awesome realization of the spatial future ... it is a milestone, a landmark for a spacemark, in the art of film." Louise Sweeney of The Christian Science Monitor felt that 2001 was "a brilliant intergalactic satire on modern technology. It's also a dazzling 160-minute tour on the Kubrick filmship through the universe out there beyond our earth." Philip French wrote that the film was "perhaps the first multi-million-dollar supercolossal movie since D.W. Griffith's Intolerance fifty years ago which can be regarded as the work of one man ... Space Odyssey is important as the high-water mark of science-fiction movie making, or at least of the genre's futuristic branch."
The Boston Globe's review called it "the world's most extraordinary film. Nothing like it has ever been shown in Boston before or, for that matter, anywhere ... The film is as exciting as the discovery of a new dimension in life." Roger Ebert gave the film four stars in his original review, saying the film "succeeds magnificently on a cosmic scale." He later put it on his Top 10 list for Sight & Sound. Time provided at least seven different mini-reviews of the film in various issues in 1968, each one slightly more positive than the preceding one; in the final review dated 27 December 1968, the magazine called 2001 "an epic film about the history and future of mankind, brilliantly directed by Stanley Kubrick. The special effects are mindblowing."
Pauline Kael called it "a monumentally unimaginative movie." Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic called it "a film that is so dull, it even dulls our interest in the technical ingenuity for the sake of which Kubrick has allowed it to become dull." The Soviet film director Andrei Tarkovsky found the film to be an inadequate addition to the science fiction genre of filmmaking. Renata Adler of The New York Times wrote that it was "somewhere between hypnotic and immensely boring." Variety's Robert B. Frederick ('Robe') believed the film was a "ig, beautiful, but plodding sci-fi epic ... A major achievement in cinematography and special effects, 2001 lacks dramatic appeal to a large degree and only conveys suspense after the halfway mark." Andrew Sarris called it "one of the grimmest films I have ever seen in my life ... 2001 is a disaster because it is much too abstract to make its abstract points." (Sarris reversed his opinion upon a second viewing, and declared, "2001 is indeed a major work by a major artist.") John Simon felt it was "a regrettable failure, although not a total one. This film is fascinating when it concentrates on apes or machines ... and dreadful when it deals with the in-betweens: humans ... 2001, for all its lively visual and mechanical spectacle, is a kind of space-Spartacus and, more pretentious still, a shaggy God story." Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. deemed the film "morally pretentious, intellectually obscure and inordinately long ... a film out of control". In a 2001 review, the BBC said that its slow pacing often alienates modern audiences more than it did upon its initial release.
2001: A Space Odyssey is now considered one of the major artistic works of the 20th century, with many critics and filmmakers considering it Kubrick's masterpiece. Director Martin Scorsese has listed it as one of his favourite films of all time. In the 1980s, critic David Denby compared Kubrick to the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, calling him "a force of supernatural intelligence, appearing at great intervals amid high-pitched shrieks, who gives the world a violent kick up the next rung of the evolutionary ladder". By the start of the 21st century, 2001: A Space Odyssey had become recognised as among the best films ever made by such sources as the British Film Institute (BFI). The Village Voice ranked the film at number 11 in its Top 250 "Best Films of the Century" list in 1999, based on a poll of critics. In January 2002, the film was voted at No. 1 on the list of the "Top 100 Essential Films of All Time" by the National Society of Film Critics. Sight & Sound magazine ranked the film 12th in its greatest films of all-time list in 1982, tenth in 1992 critics poll of greatest films, sixth in the top ten films of all time in its 2002 and 2012 critics' polls. editions; it also tied for second place in the magazine's 2012 directors' poll. The film was Voted at No. 43 on the list of "100 Greatest Films" by the prominent French magazine Cahiers du cinéma in 2008. In 2010, The Guardian named it "the best sci-fi and fantasy film of all time". The film ranked 4th in BBC's 2015 list of the 100 greatest American films.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a "Certified Fresh" rating of 92% based on 113 reviews, with an average rating of 9.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "One of the most influential of all sci-fi films -- and one of the most controversial -- Stanley Kubrick's 2001 is a delicate, poetic meditation on the ingenuity -- and folly -- of mankind." Review aggregation website Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, has assigned the film a score of 84 out of 100, based on 25 critic reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".
The film won the Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation, as voted by science fiction fans and published science-fiction writers. Ray Bradbury praised the film's photography, but disliked the banality of most of the dialogue, and believed that the audience does not care when Poole dies. Both he and Lester del Rey disliked the film's feeling of sterility and blandness in the human encounters amidst the technological wonders, while both praised the pictorial element of the film. Reporting that "half the audience had left by intermission", Del Rey described the film ("the first of the New Wave-Thing movies, with the usual empty symbols") as dull, confusing, and boring, predicting "t will probably be a box-office disaster, too, and thus set major science-fiction movie making back another ten years". Samuel R. Delany was impressed by how the film undercuts the audience's normal sense of space and orientation in several ways. Like Bradbury, Delany noticed the banality of the dialogue (he stated that characters say nothing meaningful), but regarded this as a dramatic strength, a prelude to the rebirth at the conclusion of the film. Without analysing the film in detail, Isaac Asimov spoke well of it in his autobiography and other essays. James P. Hogan liked the film but complained that the ending did not make any sense to him, leading to a bet about whether he could write something better: "I stole Arthur's plot idea shamelessly and produced Inherit the Stars."
|Academy Awards||Best Director||Stanley Kubrick||Nominated|
|Best Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen||Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Anthony Masters, Harry Lange and Ernest Archer||Nominated|
|Best Special Visual Effects||Stanley Kubrick||Won|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Film||Stanley Kubrick||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction||Anthony Masters, Harry Lange and Ernest Archer||Won|
|Best British Cinematography||Geoffrey Unsworth||Won|
|Best Soundtrack||Winston Ryder||Won|
|United Nations Award||Stanley Kubrick||Nominated|
|Cinema Writers Circle||Best Foreign Film||2001: A Space Odyssey||Won|
|David di Donatello Awards||Best Foreign Film||Stanley Kubrick||Won|
|Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures||Stanley Kubrick||Nominated|
|Hugo Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation||2001: A Space Odyssey||Won|
|Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Film||2001: A Space Odyssey||Won|
|Best Director||Stanley Kubrick||Won|
|Laurel Awards||Best Road Show||2001: A Space Odyssey||Won|
|National Board of Review Awards||Top 10 Films||2001: A Space Odyssey||10th place|
Since its premiere, 2001: A Space Odyssey has been analysed and interpreted by professional critics and theorists, amateur writers, and science fiction fans. In his monograph for BFI analysing the film, Peter Krämer summarised the diverse interpretations as ranging from those who saw it as darkly apocalyptic in tone to those who saw it as an optimistic reappraisal of the hopes of mankind and humanity. Questions about 2001 range from uncertainty about its implications for humanity's origins and destiny in the universe to interpreting elements of the film's more enigmatic scenes, such as the meaning of the monolith, or the fate of astronaut David Bowman. There are also simpler and more mundane questions about the plot, in particular the causes of HAL's breakdown (explained in earlier drafts but kept mysterious in the film).
A spectrum of diverse interpretative opinions would form after the film's release, appearing to divide theatre audiences from the opinions of critics. Krämer writes: "Many people sent letters to Kubrick to tell him about their responses to 2001, most of them regarding the film—in particular the ending—as an optimistic statement about humanity, which is seen to be born and reborn. The film's reviewers and academic critics, by contrast, have tended to understand the film as a pessimistic account of human nature and humanity's future. The most extreme of these interpretations state that the foetus floating above the Earth will destroy it."
Some of the critics' cataclysmic interpretations were informed by Kubrick's prior direction of the Cold War film Dr. Strangelove, immediately before 2001, which resulted in dark speculation about the nuclear weapons orbiting the Earth in 2001. These interpretations were challenged by Clarke, who said: "Many readers have interpreted the last paragraph of the book to mean that he (the foetus) destroyed Earth, perhaps for the purpose of creating a new Heaven. This idea never occurred to me; it seems clear that he triggered the orbiting nuclear bombs harmlessly ...". In response to Jeremy Bernstein's dark interpretation of the film's ending, Kubrick said: "The book does not end with the destruction of the Earth."
Regarding the film as a whole, Kubrick encouraged people to make their own interpretations and refused to offer an explanation of "what really happened". In a 1968 interview with Playboy magazine, he said:
You're free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film—and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level—but I don't want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he's missed the point.
In a subsequent discussion of the film with Joseph Gelmis, Kubrick said his main aim was to avoid "intellectual verbalization" and reach "the viewer's subconscious." But he said he did not strive for ambiguity—it was simply an inevitable outcome of making the film nonverbal. Still, he acknowledged this ambiguity was an invaluable asset to the film. He was willing then to give a fairly straightforward explanation of the plot on what he called the "simplest level," but unwilling to discuss the film's metaphysical interpretation, which he felt should be left up to viewers.
For some readers, Clarke's more straightforward novel based on the script is key to interpreting the film. The novel explicitly identifies the monolith as a tool created by an alien race that has been through many stages of evolution, moving from organic form to biomechanical, and finally achieving a state of pure energy. These aliens travel the cosmos assisting lesser species to take evolutionary steps. Conversely, film critic Penelope Houston wrote in 1971 that because the novel differs in many key aspects from the film, it perhaps should not be regarded as the skeleton key to unlock it.
Carolyn Geduld writes that what "structurally unites all four episodes of the film" is the monolith, the film's largest and most unresolvable enigma. Vincent LoBrutto's biography of Kubrick says that for many, Clarke's novel supplements the understanding of the monolith which is more ambiguously depicted in the film. Similarly, Geduld observes that "the monolith ... has a very simple explanation in Clarke's novel", though she later asserts that even the novel does not fully explain the ending.
Bob McClay's Rolling Stone review describes a parallelism between the monolith's first appearance in which tool usage is imparted to the apes (thus 'beginning' mankind) and the completion of "another evolution" in the fourth and final encounter with the monolith. In a similar vein, Tim Dirks ends his synopsis saying "he cyclical evolution from ape to man to spaceman to angel-starchild-superman is complete."
Humanity's first and second encounters with the monolith have visual elements in common; both the apes, and later the astronauts, touch it gingerly with their hands, and both sequences conclude with near-identical images of the Sun appearing directly over it (the first with a crescent moon adjacent to it in the sky, the second with a near-identical crescent Earth in the same position), echoing the Sun–Earth–Moon alignment seen at the very beginning of the film. The second encounter also suggests the triggering of the monolith's radio signal to Jupiter by the presence of humans, echoing the premise of Clarke's source story "The Sentinel".
The monolith is the subject of the film's final line of dialogue (spoken at the end of the "Jupiter Mission" segment): "Its origin and purpose still a total mystery." Reviewers McClay and Roger Ebert wrote that the monolith is the main element of mystery in the film; Ebert described "the shock of the monolith's straight edges and square corners among the weathered rocks," and the apes warily circling it as prefiguring man reaching "for the stars." Patrick Webster suggests the final line relates to how the film should be approached as a whole: "The line appends not merely to the discovery of the monolith on the Moon, but to our understanding of the film in the light of the ultimate questions it raises about the mystery of the universe."
Clarke indicated his preferred reading of the ending of 2001 as oriented toward the creation of "a new heaven" provided by the Star Child. His view was corroborated in a posthumously released interview with Kubrick. Kubrick says that Bowman is elevated to a higher level of being that represents the next stage of human evolution. The film also conveys what some viewers have described as a sense of the sublime and numinous. Ebert writes in his essay on 2001 in The Great Movies:
North's score, which is available on a recording, is a good job of film composition, but would have been wrong for 2001 because, like all scores, it attempts to underline the action—to give us emotional cues. The classical music chosen by Kubrick exists outside the action. It uplifts. It wants to be sublime; it brings a seriousness and transcendence to the visuals.
In a book on architecture, Gregory Caicco writes that Space Odyssey illustrates how our quest for space is motivated by two contradictory desires, a "desire for the sublime" characterised by a need to encounter something totally other than ourselves—"something numinous"—and the conflicting desire for a beauty that makes us feel no longer "lost in space," but at home. Similarly, an article in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, titled "Sense of Wonder," describes how 2001 creates a "numinous sense of wonder" by portraying a universe that inspires a sense of awe but that at the same time we feel we can understand. Christopher Palmer wrote that "the sublime and the banal" coexist in the film, as it implies that to get into space, people had to suspend the "sense of wonder" that motivated them to explore it.
The reasons for HAL's malfunction and subsequent malignant behaviour have elicited much discussion. He has been compared to Frankenstein's monster. In Clarke's novel, HAL malfunctions because of being ordered to lie to the crew of Discovery and withhold confidential information from them, namely the confidentially programmed mission priority over expendable human life, despite being constructed for "the accurate processing of information without distortion or concealment". This would not be addressed on film until the 1984 follow-up 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote that HAL, as the supposedly perfect computer, is actually the most human of the characters. In an interview with Joseph Gelmis in 1969, Kubrick said that HAL "had an acute emotional crisis because he could not accept evidence of his own fallibility".
Multiple allegorical interpretations of 2001 have been proposed. The symbolism of life and death can be seen through the final moments of the film, which are defined by the image of the "Star Child," an in utero foetus that draws on the work of Lennart Nilsson. The Star Child signifies a "great new beginning," and is depicted naked and ungirded but with its eyes wide open. Leonard F. Wheat sees 2001 as a multi-layered allegory, commenting simultaneously on Nietzsche, Homer, and the relationship of man to machine. Rolling Stone reviewer Bob McClay sees the film as like a four-movement symphony, its story told with "deliberate realism".
Kubrick originally planned a voice-over to reveal that the satellites seen after the prologue are nuclear weapons, and that the Star Child would detonate the weapons at the end of the film. but felt this would create associations with Dr. Strangelove and decided not to make it obvious that they were "war machines". A few weeks before the film's release, the U.S. and Soviet governments had agreed not to put any nuclear weapons into outer space.
In a book he wrote with Kubrick's assistance, Alexander Walker states that Kubrick eventually decided that nuclear weapons had "no place at all in the film's thematic development", being an "orbiting red herring" that would "merely have raised irrelevant questions to suggest this as a reality of the twenty-first century".
Kubrick scholar Michel Ciment, discussing Kubrick's attitude toward human aggression and instinct, observes: "The bone cast into the air by the ape (now become a man) is transformed at the other extreme of civilization, by one of those abrupt ellipses characteristic of the director, into a spacecraft on its way to the moon." In contrast to Ciment's reading of a cut to a serene "other extreme of civilization", science fiction novelist Robert Sawyer, in the Canadian documentary 2001 and Beyond, says he sees it as a cut from a bone to a nuclear weapons platform, explaining that "what we see is not how far we've leaped ahead, what we see is that today, '2001', and four million years ago on the African veldt, it's exactly the same—the power of mankind is the power of its weapons. It's a continuation, not a discontinuity in that jump."
Stanley Kubrick made the ultimate science fiction movie, and it is going to be very hard for someone to come along and make a better movie, as far as I'm concerned. On a technical level, it can be compared, but personally I think that 2001 is far superior.
—George Lucas, 1977
2001: A Space Odyssey is widely regarded as among the greatest and most influential films ever made. 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 2010, it was named the greatest film of all time by The Moving Arts Film Journal.
The influence of 2001 on subsequent filmmakers is considerable. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and others—including many special effects technicians—discuss the impact the film has had on them in a featurette titled Standing on the Shoulders of Kubrick: The Legacy of 2001, included in the 2007 DVD release of the film. Spielberg calls it his film generation's "big bang", while Lucas says it was "hugely inspirational", calling Kubrick "the filmmaker's filmmaker". Sydney Pollack calls it "groundbreaking", and William Friedkin says 2001 is "the grandfather of all such films". At the 2007 Venice film festival, director Ridley Scott said he believed 2001 was the unbeatable film that in a sense killed the science fiction genre. Similarly, film critic Michel Ciment in his essay "Odyssey of Stanley Kubrick" wrote, "Kubrick has conceived a film which in one stroke has made the whole science fiction cinema obsolete."
Others credit 2001 with opening up a market for films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, Blade Runner, Contact, and Interstellar, proving that big-budget "serious" science-fiction films can be commercially successful, and establishing the "sci-fi blockbuster" as a Hollywood staple. Science magazine Discover's blogger Stephen Cass, discussing the film's considerable impact on subsequent science fiction, writes that "the balletic spacecraft scenes set to sweeping classical music, the tarantula-soft tones of HAL 9000, and the ultimate alien artifact, the monolith, have all become enduring cultural icons in their own right". Trumbull said that when working on Star Trek: The Motion Picture he made a scene without dialogue because of "something I really learned with Kubrick and 2001: Stop talking for a while, and let it all flow".
2001 was No. 15 on AFI's 2007 100 Years ... 100 Movies (22 in 1998), was No. 40 on its 100 Years, 100 Thrills, was included on its 100 Years, 100 Quotes (No. 78 "Open the pod bay doors, HAL."), and HAL 9000 was the No. 13 villain in 100 Years ... 100 Heroes and Villains. The film was also No. 47 on AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Cheers and the No. 1 science fiction film on AFI's 10 Top 10. 2001 was the only science fiction film to make Sight & Sound's 2012 list of the ten best films, and tops the Online Film Critics Society list of greatest science fiction films of all time. In 2012, the Motion Picture Editors Guild listed the film as the 19th best-edited film of all time based on a survey of its membership. Other lists that include the film are 50 Films to See Before You Die (#6), The Village Voice 100 Best Films of the 20th century (#11), the Sight & Sound 2002 and 2012 Top Ten poll (#6), and Roger Ebert's Top Ten (1968) (#2). In 1995, the Vatican named it one of the 45 best films ever made (and included it in a sub-list of the "Top Ten Art Movies" of all time.) In 1998 Time Out conducted a reader's poll and 2001: A Space Odyssey was voted the "greatest film of all time". Entertainment Weekly voted it at No. 26 on their list of 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. In 2011, the film was the third most screened film in secondary schools in the United Kingdom. In 2017, Empire magazine's readers' poll ranked the film at No. 21 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Movies". Although retrospective due to the film's 1968 release date, aggregate scores have been collected for 2001.
Kubrick did not envision a sequel to 2001. Fearing the later exploitation and recycling of his material in other productions (as was done with the props from MGM's Forbidden Planet), he ordered all sets, props, miniatures, production blueprints, and prints of unused scenes destroyed. Most of these materials were lost, with some exceptions: a 2001 spacesuit backpack appeared in the "Close Up" episode of the Gerry Anderson series UFO, and one of HAL's eyepieces is in the possession of the author of Hal's Legacy, David G. Stork. In 2012, Lockheed engineer Adam Johnson, working with Frederick I. Ordway III, science adviser to Kubrick, wrote the book 2001: The Lost Science, which for the first time featured many of the blueprints of the spacecraft and film sets that previously had been thought destroyed. Clarke wrote three sequel novels: 2010: Odyssey Two (1982), 2061: Odyssey Three (1987), and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997). The only filmed sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, released in 1984, was based on Clarke's 1982 novel. Kubrick was not involved; it was directed as a spin-off by Peter Hyams in a more conventional style. The other two novels have not been adapted for the screen, although actor Tom Hanks in June 1999 expressed a passing interest in possible adaptations.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the film's release, an exhibit called "The Barmecide Feast" opened on 8 April 2018, in the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. The exhibit features a fully realised, full-scale reflection of the neo-classical hotel room from the film's penultimate scene. Director Christopher Nolan presented a mastered 70 mm print of 2001 for the film's 50th anniversary at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival on 12 May. The new 70 mm print is a photochemical recreation made from the original camera negative, for the first time since the film's original theatrical run. Further, an exhibit entitled "Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey" presented at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, New York City opened in January 2020.
In July 2020, one of the original costumes from the film, a silver space suit from the Clavius moon base sequence, was sold at auction in Los Angeles for $370,000, exceeding its estimate of $200,000-300,000. The helmet of the suit had been painted green at one stage, leading to a belief that it may have been worn during the scene where Dave Bowman disconnects HAL 9000.