Barry Lyndon (1975)

barry lyndon poster 1975 movie stanley kubrick
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking period piece

Snail's pace, Ryan O'Neal

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Barry Lyndon

Studio:   Warner Bros.

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   December 11, 1975 (Premiere)/December 18, 1975 (US)

MPAA Rating:   PG

barry lyndon fight ryan oneal

Don’t get excited…this is about all the action you’ll get (and you still have over two hours left)

Born in Ireland, Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) finds himself raised by his widowed mother and dreams of more.  In love with his cousin Nora Brady (Gay Hamilton), Redmond is tricked into leaving Ireland and finds himself caught in the war with Germany.  Barry seeks adventure and wealth and when he meets the married Countess of Lyndon (Marisa Berenson), Barry finds that he might be able to achieve his dreams!

Written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, Barry Lyndon is a period piece based on the William Thackeray 1844 novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon which was originally serialized in Fraser’s Magazine.  Following Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in 1971, the film was released to mostly positive reviews and lower than expected box office returns.  The movie won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Original Score, and Best Costume design with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

I love Kubrick, but Barry Lyndon is probably my least favorite Kubrick film (even lower than Eyes Wide Shut).  This is ironic in that it is also probably Kubrick’s best-looking film and the script does have a lot of merit…but it simply moves at a snail’s pace.

barry lyndon birthday party leon vitali ryan oneal marisa berenson

Clap for the opulence!

The story is deliberately slow but it doesn’t help me enjoy it.  It is a picaresque story with a good looking rogue who doesn’t always behave in best manner (like Tom Jones).  The movie has an epic feel with Lyndon always lucking out and making it despite looking like he is in a tough position with no chances.  This all comes collapsing down on Barry as he becomes more and more unlikable…and in a way you don’t care.  It doesn’t seem to balance out his bad behavior.

I am also not a huge fan of Ryan O’Neal which already pits me against the character.  I like him in movies like Paper Moon, and he does play a good “ass” type of jerky character that this film needs…but it feels like he doesn’t know if he’s playing the role melodramatic or realistic at points.  The female characters in the movie are really paper thin (probably also intentional since the narrator favors Barry) and Marisa Berenson never really grabs me.  I do like some of the smaller roles in the film and the supporting cast is generally strong.

barry lyndon 1975 duel bullingdon leon vitali ryan oneal

The intensity of watching paint dry!!!

Barry Lyndon is visually stunning.  The movie did a lot with natural light which is amazing, but it also has this very big looking world it inhabits.  The land and fields are bright green and fertile while the houses are decked out with giant classical Renaissance paintings that show the opulence of the world that Barry inhabits.  It is nice to look at but you are also looking at it for hours as the story creeps.

Barry Lyndon is a good movie, but it isn’t a very fun movie to watch.  It is like watching an episode (or ten) of Masterpiece Theater in one sitting with a much higher budget.  It is a good benchmark for other period pieces and a good example of how to get the look and style right.  Kubrick followed Barry Lyndon with The Shining in 1980.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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