Updated:
Original:
Year
1968
Month Day
April 06

“2001: A Space Odyssey” released in theaters

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey debuts in theaters on April 6, in 1968.

Kubrick, whose 1964 Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove had been popular with audiences and critics alike, was intrigued by science fiction but felt the genre rarely produced interesting films. He became determined to make one, using the sci-fi story The Sentinel as source material and enlisting its author, Arthur C. Clarke, as his co-writer. The film does feature a coherent plot, involving two scientists and a highly-intelligent computer sent to investigate a mysterious event near Jupiter, but several scenes—including the film’s now-legendary opening, which seems to depict hominids learning to use tools after the appearance of a mysterious monolith—are surreal and highly open to interpretation. Filming required the construction of a giant centrifuge to serve as the spaceship’s interior and numerous expensive visual effects, including a groundbreaking psychedelic sequence near the end of the film so complex that staff referred to it as the “Manhattan Project.” Kubrick is said to have removed over 15 minutes from the final cut, which nonetheless ran well over 2 hours.

Today, few would argue against the greatness of 2001, but on the night of its debut Kubrick felt he had failed. Lead actor Keir Dullea estimated that he saw 250 people walk out of the premier, while Clarke reported hearing a studio executive remark, “Well, that’s the end of Stanley Kubrick.” Some reviewers agreed, calling the film “plodding,” “immensely boring,” and even “a disaster.” Many reviews were glowing, however – Roger Ebert gave it four stars, while Charles Champlin of The Los Angeles Times called it the “ultimate statement of the science fiction film.” Audiences seemed to agree with Champlin, flocking to the film upon its release and creating such demand that many American theaters screened it regularly for over a year. The film went on to win an Oscar for Best Visual Effects and numerous other awards. Today, it is regarded not only as a seminal work of science fiction but as one of the defining films of the 20th century.

READ MORE: 11 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

Tags
terms:
Film

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Germany invades Yugoslavia and Greece

The German air force launches Operation Castigo, the bombing of Belgrade, on this day in 1941, as 24 divisions and 1,200 tanks drive into Greece. The attack on Yugoslavia was swift and brutal, an act of terror resulting in the death of 17,000 civilians—the largest number of ...read more

Peary’s expedition reaches North Pole?

On April 6, 1909, American explorer Robert Peary accomplishes a long elusive dream, when he, assistant Matthew Henson, and four Eskimos reach what they determine to be the North Pole. Decades after Peary’s death, however, navigational errors in his travel log surfaced, placing ...read more

Mormon Church established

In Fayette Township, New York, Joseph Smith, founder of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormonism, organizes the Church of Christ during a meeting with a small group of believers. Born in Vermont in 1805, Smith claimed in 1823 that he had been visited by a ...read more

First modern Olympic Games

On April 6, 1896, the Olympic Games, a long-lost tradition of ancient Greece, are reborn in Athens 1,500 years after being banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius I. At the opening of the Athens Games, King Georgios I of Greece and a crowd of 60,000 spectators welcomed athletes from ...read more

First modern Olympics is held

On April 6, 1896, the first modern Olympic Games are held in Athens, Greece, with athletes from 14 countries participating. The International Olympic Committee met for the first time in Paris in June 1894 and chose Greece as the site of the inaugural modern Olympiad. The ancient ...read more

Black Hawk War begins

Determined to resist the growing presence of Anglo settlers on traditional tribal lands, the Sauk warrior Black Hawk is drawn into war with the United States. Called Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak by his people, Black Hawk was born in 1767 in the village of Saukenuk in the present-day ...read more

Battle of Shiloh begins

The Civil War explodes in the west as the armies of Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston collide at Shiloh, near Pittsburgh Landing in Tennessee. The Battle of Shiloh became one of the bloodiest engagements of the war, and the level of ...read more