The Colors of Stanley Kubrick — Color Theory from The Shining to 2001: A Space Odyssey and More

In this video essay, we’ll traverse Stanley Kubrick’s color palette across the color wheel. Once you see how much attention Kubrick gives to the colors in his mise en scene, you’ll see that the role it plays cannot be understated. Think of the overwhelming green in Full Metal Jacket, or the yellow Christmas lights in Eyes Wide Shut, or even the pronounced reds in Barry Lyndon.

It becomes clear that each film’s color palette plays a huge role in the overall mise en scene. In visual storytelling and mise en scene, we can find color in four distinct areas: sets & locations, props, costume/hair/makeup, and lighting.

In Stanley Kubrick movies, we can find the entire color wheel represented in each of those elements of mise en scene. As you approach color theory and color psychology in your own work, remember the lessons of filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick. There’s a reason we’re still obsessing over Stanley Kubrick movies decades later — his control of mise en scene, especially color palettes, is without equal.