Film / A Clockwork Orange

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"I was cured, all right."
Alex

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 film by Stanley Kubrick based on the eponymous 1962 novella by Anthony Burgess.

In a dystopic future where street crime is rampant and youths are uncontrollable, teenage sociopath Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) and his "Droogs" prowl the night spreading terror and destruction wherever they go. By daybreak, Alex returns home to his vapid parents, who turn a blind eye to his activities, and enjoys his second favorite thing in the world: classical music. On one particular night, his gang brutalizes some people they find on the street, then steal a sports car and drive out to an isolated mansion to inflict torture and rape on the residents.

Alex ends up in prison for his crime soon after. When he discovers that the government is planning to test an experimental treatment on a prisoner in exchange for freedom, Alex jumps at the opportunity — until the treatment turns out to be a nightmare.

Infamously, the film cuts out the epilogue that was present in the original version of the story due to it being removed from many editions of the book in its early international release. It involved major Character Development and something resembling a Happy Ending for Alex. Though Burgess apparently contacted Kubrick towards the end of production, the director preferred the ending that he had planned, claiming the original diluted the message in the story. Burgess remained unhappy about the film adaptation, and later re-released the novel with added commentary about its hermeneutics.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Consent: In the book, Alex lures two ten-year-old girls to his flat and proceeds to drug and rape them, whereas in the film this is changed to Alex having consensual sex with two teenage girls around his age. This was probably because even Stanley Kubrick didn't think he could get away with depicting the scene as it appeared in the book on screen.
  • Adult Fear: The "Singing in the Rain" scene is designed to send chills down the spine of any adult. The themes of absolute evil and of a manipulative government attempting to rob people of free will and using the cover of mental health to silence dissidents are pretty chilling on a more subtle level as well, and were surely even more so during the Cold War era in which the film (and novel) were made.
  • Adults Are Useless: Alex's parents.
  • Age-Inappropriate Dress: Alex's mother dresses like a Carnaby Street mod.
  • Age Lift: Alex is 15 at the start of the book (in the film, he's 17). In the film, he's played by 27-year-old Malcolm McDowell, though he's supposed to still be of school age.
  • An Aesop: Human goodness must come from free will; as such it is intrinsically wrong to deny even the vilest of individuals their capacity for moral choice.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Mr. Deltoid seems just a tad too enthusiastic to hold Alex in his arms, cradle him on a bed, and grab his genitals, all whilst Alex is in incredibly tight briefs.
  • Anti-Hero: A very complex example after his ability to make a choice is taken away from him. Alex would be a clear-cut villain protagonist in most stories, but here the real villain is the government.
  • Anti-Villain: The government. We can certainly sympathize with their desire to cut down crime by any means necessary, but by robbing people of moral choice and then covering their own ass from the fallout they turn themselves into the villain.
  • Arch-Enemy: Alex DeLarge to Frank Alexander.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: One of the film's taglines.
    Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven.
  • Attempted Rape; Billy and his gang are about to rape a woman when Alex and his gang confront them.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: There's a reason why Alex is in charge of the Droogs, as Georgie and Dim (Pete didn't even fight) find out the hard way.
  • Ax-Crazy: Holy cannoli, Alex.
  • Bad Boss: Alex to his Droogs. It eventually backfires.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: George and Dim are as violent and vicious as cops as they were in their respective gangs. Also, the only scene in which they're shown (as cops) has them being concerned with revenge, as Alex was known to tolchock both of them repeatedly.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: Alex's ex-droogs Dim and Georgie, who are just as brutal and sadistic as cops as they were as gang members, except now they get paid for it and they get to inflict their brutality behind the veneer of the law. And it's implied that this is becoming an increasing occurrence in the police force in general.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: Alex and his gang frequent the creepy Korova Milk Bar, which dispenses drug-laced milk that sharpens him up for some good ol' ultraviolence. However, there are apparently some normies in the crowd, as evidenced by the opera singer and her friends, who are intimidated by Alex's squabble with his gang.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Apparently, Alex is at large, a sociopath again and is made a propaganda icon/martyr by the increasingly totalitarian government in a move to avoid or even reverse its downfall.
  • Behavioral Conditioning: The Ludivico Technique involves forcing Alex to watch videos of violence while being injected with drugs that induce nausea. As a result, the thought of violence makes him sick to his stomach. The story explores the moral ramifications of this kind of conditioning, even when accepted voluntarily.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": "SHUT YOUR BLEEDING HOLE!"
  • Bilingual Bonus: Much of the characters' slang is actually of Slavic origin.
  • Black Comedy: Kubrick's film, in comparison to the book, has an overt layer of black comedy, including a number of outright slapstick moments.
  • Blatant Lies: When Alex breaks into the Cat Lady's house in the film, his excuse for being there is that he is taking part in a contest to see which school can sell the most magazines.
  • Blipvert: The trailer
  • Book Ends: The film begins with a slow zoom out from Alex's face. Its penultimate shot is a slow zoom in on his face.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Alex is middle-class in upbringing, and he likes classical music and other stuff but he's also a vicious gang-leader who sports as a bad boy, and who enforces his authority over his droogs who are coded as being Lower-Class Lout next to their Wicked Cultured leader. Fittingly enough, when the droogs get old enough to find jobs, they become cops while Alex becomes a kind of media celebrity and accomplice and partner to the government.
  • Bound and Gagged: Alex and his droogs improvise ball gags out of rubber super balls and cellophane tape when they break into Frank Alexander's house. Works real horrorshow, too.
  • Brainwashed Alex is strapped down and forced to watch violent scenes while a drug that induces nausea is pumped into him to make him feel repulsion for violence. And sex. And Beethoven's music (because the film included it in the background).
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The opening shot shows Alex giving a Kubrick Stare directly into the camera, which is one of the film's most iconic images. A few scenes later, he whistles to the soundtrack music while walking home.
  • Broken Aesop: The film's message is broadly that it's wrong to rob the free will of any man, even the most evil, and that society in the pursuit of justice and/or revenge can lead victims to potentially become as bad as their oppressors and start The Chain of Harm. The point falls flat for the following reasons:
    • Alex gets beaten and attacked after being robbed of his free will (when he is weak) rather than when he is strong and can fight back. This ends up saying that it's wrong to attack the weak but not that it's wrong to attack period, as opposed to if Alex was attacked when he was strong and able to fight back on his own (which would send a more pacific message, fitting with the Christian themes of the film).
    • Likewise, post-Ludovico Alex gets attacked by a drunk beggar and his fellow gang-members, and the writer, but is never attacked and assaulted by any of his female rape victims who have a much stronger claim for justified revenge and self-righteous retribution, and as such this makes the film's sympathy rather more easily achieved.
    • The writer is likewise painted as a hypocrite and a caricature of the same (a facet not introduced in the earlier scene) to make it easier to root for Alex, when it would send a stronger message if he was really righteous, insisting that it would be wrong even for him to do this.
  • Brown Note: Due to it being used as the background music to his treatment, Alex ends up associating his favorite song, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, with the violence of the procedure. This causes him to become severely ill and virtually paralyzed whenever he hears it, the same effect as if he had attempted violence.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: The amiable warden and the harsh, yelling-prone chief guard fulfill this role.
  • Captive Audience: Alex's reeducation involves him being strapped into a chair and forced to watch scenes of violence that are set to classical music as part of his reeducation.
  • Cassette Futurism: The film uses Brutalist architecture, which features stark, blocky and concrete shapes, to represent the future. Fashions are also very bizarre, with colorful wigs and bodysuits being fairly common. Alex plays music on a microcassette.
  • Chain Pain: Dim uses a chain as a weapon rather than the canes favored by the rest of the droogs.
  • Character Signature Song: Despite being a Beethoven fan Alex is seen singing "Singin' In The Rain" twice. It's this that causes him to be recognized by one of his former victims.
  • Classy Cane: Alex carries a cane that possesses a knife hidden within.
  • Collapsed Mid-Speech: Alex falls face-first into his pasta after being slipped a mickey by the writer whose wife he and the Droogs gang-raped in the beginning of the film.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The prison chaplain believes Alex is finding religion. Alex discusses how he likes the parts of the Bible where folks fight and murder each other before sleeping with their wives' handmaidens. He didn't like the whole "preachy" part of the book.
  • Concepts Are Cheap: Characters prattle on about free will, choice, and control as well as law and order but all it adds up to is a variant on Blackstone's Maxim, to paraphrase, "Better to let ten men rape in total choice and freedom, than risk one man being robbed of their free will".
  • Contrived Coincidence: In a single succession of events, the day Alex is released from treatment he's kicked out of his parents' house, is found and assaulted by the vagrant, the two policemen who are about to help him are his former cronies who then proceed to brutalize him more, and he finally limps and takes refuge in the house of the writer. It works well when viewed as compressed narrative setting up a Humiliation Conga.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Alex is forced to sit with his eyes peeled open while watching films about Nazis and violence to pay for his crimes of murder, rape, torture, statutory rape, and drug-taking via milk. Aversion therapy is used to make him sick at the sight of violence— and as a side-effect, the doctors administering the punishment used his beloved classical music to enhance the emotional effect, making him unable to enjoy the music either.
  • Cool Car: The "Durango 95." In the film they use a Probe-16, a real supercar built in 1969.
  • Cool Hat: Alex and his Droogs share a diverse set of hats between each other: Alex and Georgie wear bowler hats, Dim has a top hat, and Pete sports a flat cap. Some of the films during the Ludivico treatment show similar gangsters with an even wider variety of hats.
  • Costume Porn: The Droogs wear white shirts and pants, combat boots, huge codpieces over padded briefs, suspenders, and somewhat effeminate makeup, and all but Dim wield heavy walking sticks as weapons. Dim's weapon is a bicycle chain wrapped around his waist. Everyone also has a different Nice Hat. Alex's cufflinks are styled as bloody eyeballs, and Dim's suspenders have a pattern of blood spatters worked into them. A rival gang with whom they brawl has a Nazi/military sartorial theme.
  • Crapsack World: Great Britain is a crime-ridden violent country and is ruled only very inefficiently by an all too weak version of The Government.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Well, she's not so much "crazy" as she is ill-tempered and into really kinky art.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: Alex has blue eyes of the "Grade-A psycho" variety.
  • Cult of Personality: Alex adores Beethoven.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Apart from genuine orchestral music the score also provides Electronic Music renditions of Classical Music, composed by Wendy Carlos.
  • Dastardly Dapper Derby: Alex and his droogs wear bowlers.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Alex is masturbating when he's listening to his Beethoven in the first act. The hints are subtle but they're there.
  • Day of the Jackboot: Seems to be happening with the new government ushering in totalitarianism. The Minister muses that they're going to need prison space "for political offenders", the writer specifically mentions the government becoming totalitarian, and at the end the writer has become a political prisoner.
  • Demoted to Extra: Pete. In the book he shows up towards the end having moved on and having a normal life (he's even engaged). As the film cuts off the ending this is lost, so Pete's sole character moment was lost.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The last third of the film examines the complex moral footing of Alex's former enemies brutalizing him while he is unable to defend himself due to the Ludovico Treatment. Alex deserves punishment, but is this really justice?
  • Downer Ending: The film controversially removed the some might say vital last chapter of the novel, altering the message of the entire work substantially. In the novel, Alex voluntarily relinquishes his former life of ultraviolence and rape after having the effects of the brainwashing "Ludovico technique" reversed, and hence having his ability to act as an autonomous moral agent restored. In the film, he is implied to have simply returned to his previous vicious and amoral state, with the chilling final words "I was cured, all right".
  • Driven to Suicide: Attempted by Alex himself near the end, after a long period of suicidal feeling and the actions of some sick-minded former victims.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Alex and his droogs have a game they like to play, called "Hogs of the Road".
  • Drunk on Milk: Alex and his violent droogs are first seen with glasses of milk in their hands at their favorite hangout, the Korova Milk Bar. Alex's narration is quick to point out, however, that the milk is laced with various psychotropic drugs to "sharpen you up for a bit of the old ultraviolence."
  • Dystopia: A proto-totalitarian Teenage Wasteland threatened by rampaging teens on one hand and brutal government enforcers on the other.
  • Elderly Blue-Haired Lady: Alex's mother is shown with bluish-purplish hair. While audiences now might guess that she's a superannuated punk rocker, her color is an exaggerated blue rinse treatment. Likewise, the nurse that comes at the end with the slides.
  • Erotic Eating: The two girls Alex met in a record store were sucking on popsicles. Not just any popsicles, either; they're actually ... um ... anatomically correct popsicles.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The very first shot is Alex sneering into the camera while a synthetic funeral march blares on the soundtrack, establishing Alex's strong, hypnotic and thoroughly evil personality before the voice-over even mentions "the old ultraviolence."
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Alex's droogs leave him to be arrested by the police at the health farm, with Dim smashing a bottle of milk into Alex's face to incapacitate him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Alex is a rapist and sociopath overall, but he's thoroughly disgusted when his beloved Beethoven music is used over clips of Nazi Germany.
  • Evil Hero: While Alex is no angel himself, the fact that The Government would be willing to use nausea-enducing Pavlov related torture, basically stripping free will from the brain, on any human being makes you wonder if there are any real heroes left in the future world. How about the revelation that, in his absence, Alex's own "droogs" have somehow become cops, cops that hold no second thought on nearly drowning a comrade that they abandoned to the authorities in the first place, and getting away with it.
  • Extreme Doormat:
    • Thanks to the treatment, Alex becomes incapable even of reasonable self-defense.
    • Alex's parents. They blindly accept Alex's excuses for why he stays out all night and misses school, claiming he works a part-time job and has a headache.
  • Eye Scream:
    • During the treatment, Alex is attached to an apparatus that holds his eyelids open while he is forced to watch the movies. This is actually performed without special effects in the film. The doctor administering eyedrops to Malcolm McDowell onscreen was a real doctor, yet the clamps on McDowell's eyes scratched one of his corneas and temporarily blinded him.
    • Dim smashes a milk bottle in Alex's face, temporarily blinding him before they run off to leave the police to find him.
  • Fan Disservice: There are several quite explicit rape or near-rape scenes. As a result, rape footage is among the many scenes of violence Alex is forced to watch as part of The Ludovico Technique meant to "cure" him. The film also does this in a more pleasant way to Alex's consensual three-way with a couple of girls pre-Technique, which is sped up and set to the William Tell Overture with hilarious results that underscore how little sex means to him.
  • Fanservice Extra: Alex's fantasies tend to involve beautiful naked women. Then there's the very good-looking woman who's brought out onstage to demonstrate the effect of the Ludovico Treatment on Alex.
  • Fantastic Drug: Substances like "synthemesc" (presumably mescaline or a close analogue), "drencrom" (presumably adrenochrome) and "vellocet" (given the resemblance to "velocity", probably "speed"-like amphetamines) are all normally mixed into milk (thus why it's called ""milk plus", as in milk plus whatever you put in it.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: One piece of Alex's attire is a set of fake lashes on one eye.
  • Fast-Forward Gag: Used in the three-way sex scene.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Our humble protagonist often maintains a breezy, chipper and friendly personality, though it's just a facade. He's a ruthless sadist who enjoys toying with his victims and dominating his droogs.
  • The Film of the Book: An interesting example. Anthony Burgess's novel included a closing chapter in which Alex matures and grows out of his sociopathy. However, the American edition of the novel did not include that chapter, and that version is what Kubrick filmed. Most peculiar considering that Kubrick had already moved to England - where the novel was first printed - and lived there for more years than in his native America.
  • For the Evulz: More like "For a Bit of the Old Ultra-Violence". Alex, of course.
  • Forced to Watch: Alex's Droogs force Mr. Alexander to watch his wife being raped to "Singin' in the Rain".
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Alex is melancholic, Georgie is choleric, Pete is phlegmatic, and Dim is Sanguine.
  • Freudian Threat:
    • Mr. Deltoid, a truancy officer, grabs Alex's crotch while warning him of the dangers of his skipping school.
    • However, his extremely creepy actions throughout this scene suggest he did this more because he's a pervert than because he was trying to frighten Alex.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Alex himself is this to the droogs. Eventually they set him up, smash his face and abandon him to the cops.
  • Future Slang: "Nadsat," a kind of future slang based largely on Russian (for example, one of Alex's favorite adjectives, "horrorshow," sounds a bit like Russian khorosho, "very good") ... but not as much as the book did. Burgess was a huge James Joyce nerd and wanted to follow his mentor in coming up with multilingual puns.
  • Gang of Hats: Alex and his droogs wear identical outfits, including codpieces, bowlers, and canes. This is intended to be the current fashion of his lifestyle group, as evidenced by fellow patrons of the Korova Milk Bar. Billy Boy's gang wears Nazi regalia and ruffled silk dress shirts. In the films used for Alex's treatment, we see a number of other gangs wearing strange and identical uniforms.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation/Heroic B.S.O.D.: There's a very unsettling low-angle shot of Frank Alexander's face contorting in horror when he realizes who Alex really is. This is no doubt part of his motivation for torturing Alex with Beethoven's Ninth. The actor, Patrick Magee, is said to have then told Kubrick "I feel like I just took a shit in front of everyone".
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Ludovico Treatment succeeding in suppressing his violent tendencies. Unfortunately, it worked a little too well as it left Alex unable to defend himself when he encounters all his former victims who were looking for payback.
  • Grapes of Luxury: In one of Alex's fantasies.
  • Gratuitous Russian: Sort of. A lot of the slang in the book is derived from Russian, but distorted. For example, "horrorshow" is derived from хорошо ("khorosho"), meaning "good."
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: After the gang betrays Alex, George smashes a full milk bottle across his face. Played at least somewhat realistically, as Alex drops to the ground in agony.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Mr. Deltoid punches Alex in the groin in his first scene.
    • Alex whacks Georgie in the groin with his cane as the droogs walk along the marina, then kicks him into the water.
    • In the police station, Alex gets a good shot in to the cop harassing him.
  • Guyliner: Alex wears false eyelashes on one eye when with his droogs.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Like the book, the film was specifically divided into three parts. The first introduces Alex and shows us the dystopian world in which he lives as we see him and his droogs go out and do all kinds of nasty things. Then we get to the second plot centered around the experimental rehabilitation technique, and finally the third story where Alex must deal with the effects of the technique.
  • Happily Ever Before: An example of the "cut the happier ending" variant. As noted, the book ended with Alex straightening himself out and settling down. The film strongly implies that he'll continue his criminal, sociopathic ways.
  • Heel–Face Brainwashing: Forced upon Alex himself.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: Subverted. The audience is set up to believe that Alex is experiencing a religious epiphany in prison, only to find that he is actually fantasizing about participating in the battles, tortures and sex described in parts of the Bible.
  • Hell Is That Noise: "I'm singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain..."
  • He's Back: Alex's smirk at the end, realizing that the Ludovico technique no longer affects him.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Frank Alexander really appears to take sadistic enjoyment out of torturing Alex.
  • Hide Your Children: The film changes Alex's encounter at the record store from the rape of two young girls of ten or twelve years of age to consensual sex with late teenagers or full grown women.
  • Hitler Cam: Seen in combination with P.O.V. Shot when Mr. Deltoid and the cops lean over Alex, who is cowering in the corner. Mr. Deltoid, who is only too glad to be rid of responsibility for Alex, leans in and tells him that the cat lady died from his bash on the head.
  • Hollywood Personality Disorders: Alex has Anti-Social Personality Disorder. He enjoys ultra-violence as a pastime and this is why he is conditioned to become violently ill if he tries it again. It was the only way to stop him.
  • The Horseshoe Effect: The whole message of the satire was that extremes eventually resemble each others, criminals and victims become indistinguishable and yesterday's rebels Sell-Out and become part of the establishment. The droogs become cops when it's their age to find a job and their methods don't change much when they shift outfits and Alex despite comporting himself as an outsider rebel is in fact a middle-class kid who finally becomes co-opted by the government as a Propaganda Hero.
  • Hospital Gurney Scene: A famous tracking shot shows Alex getting wheeled in on a gurney down a long hospital hallway.
  • Humiliation Conga: Alex goes through one when he gets released, though it might just have been karmic retribution. He did volunteer for the Ludovico experiment (failing to heed the warnings of the prison chaplain), although he had no idea what the experience would entail (namely, being conditioned to become violently ill whenever he feels horny, witnesses violence or tries to act violently, and worst of all when he hears his favorite piece of music, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony). But he certainly never intended to lose his pet snake, or for his parents to take in a boarder and allow the boarder to rent out Alex's room, and they even consider said boarder as their son. The homeless old Irishman gets a well-deserved Dog Bites Back moment at Alex's expense, but there is particular unfairness to Alex's mistreatment at the hands of a pair of crooked cops: the cops are none other than two of Alex's former thug friends, who were responsible for sending Alex up the river in the first place!
  • I Control My Minions Through...... Fear, Power and Sadism, by Alex (although it turns out his control doesn't last forever). Brainwashing and police brutality in the case of the government, and finally bribery.
  • I Kiss Your Foot: Lick, in Alex's case, to demonstrate just how tamed he is.
  • Iconic Outfit: Alex's boots, pajamas, jockstrap, bowler and fake eyelash on one eye.
  • Instant Convertible: Averted. They're already in a convertible, and it suffers no damage whatsoever when it goes under a truck.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: The violence and rape is played out among images of nudity. You know the bit in the book where Alex beats the woman to death? He uses a plaster penis as the weapon in the movie.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: The film doesn't use a nursery rhyme, but it uses the next best thing: "Singin' in the Rain".. Alex sings this song while he and his droogs torture an old writer and rape his wife.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Joe, the lodger, was particularly mean and critical towards Alex, who was feeling the effects of his treatment. However, Joe was right in that Alex's crimes were sickening.
    • The priest is portrayed as naive, preachy, and a possible molester based on his talk of 'urges' and how touchy he gets with Alex. However, he is also the only person at the Ludovico Technique demonstration who raises any kind of complaint or objection as to its morality.
    • The shouty prison guard when he describes Alex as a "right brutal bastard" and sees through his cosying up to the prison chaplain by feigning interest in the Bible.
  • Karma Houdini: Alex's droogs avoid any punishment for the crimes they commit with him at the start of the movie, and two of them end up with cushy jobs in the police, where they are free to abuse their authority.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Zig-zagged. Alex gets away with much of what he does in the first part of the film. Then, he is arrested and is 'rehabilitated' until he cannot defend himself, getting his ass kicked in the process. In the end, he becomes cured, leaving him free to commit more atrocities.
  • Kick the Dog: The first act of the film is one sustained kick the dog moment for Alex. In the second and third acts, Alex is the dog.
  • Knight Templar: The government when pushing the Ludovico treatment, being more concerned with reining in crime than the moral costs.
  • Kubrick Stare:
    • This film is one of the trope namers. The opening shot is a close-up of Alex's face, sneering at the camera from beneath his eyebrows while a synthesized funeral march blares in the soundtrack.
    • An interesting inversion appears near the end, with Frank Alexander making a similar facial expression while looking up at the room where Alex is being tortured. This was specifically done to seem reminiscent of portraits of Beethoven.
  • Kung-Shui: The fight between the droogs and Billy Boy's gang is a long sequence of prop chairs, bottles and sheet glass breaking over people's heads. In a bit of meta-humor, they're fighting in a theater.
  • Large Ham:
    • The chief prison guard yells every single word.
    • Patrick Magee as the writer, Mr. Alexander, seems to develop a cornucopia of nervous tics after being beaten half to death and watching his wife's rape/murder. Kubrick instructed Magee to exaggerate further and further with every take, to the point that he once leaned over between takes to ask Malcolm McDowell: "I think I'm overdoing it — is this really what he wants? It feels to me like I'm trying to take a massive shit this whole time!"
    • Mr. Deltoid the social worker with his Verbal Tic and Ambiguously Gay behavior towards Alex.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: The Tagline:
    Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven.
  • Leave the Camera Running: It's a Kubrick film, what did you expect? Notable instances include the opening shot of Alex and his droogs in the milk bar, the walk along the river when Alex attacks his mates, and the Undercranked sex scene, they all have the camera locked down for one long long shot. (Of course, Tropes Are Not Bad.)
  • Left the Background Music On: A synthesized version of the Funeral of Queen Mary is heard in the Korova milk bar, first during the intro and in a later scene where Alex and his droogs make a second visit. In the latter, Alex mentions in his narration that said music is actually coming from the bar's sound system, and as he describes its disc coming to a halt, a woman there starts singing a piece from Beethoven's 9th, much to Alex's delight. Some other scenes show tapes and reels being played, serving as the background music; one of them plays a pivotal role during the Ludovico Treatment, making Alex paralyzed whenever he hears the 9th.
  • Lighter and Softer: For all of its reputation for shocking violence, the film is actually lighter than the book. In the book, Alex is even younger and more violently depraved. Most notably, the sex scene in the film was originally Alex raping two 10-year-olds (whereas in the film they are clearly the same age as Alex and have consensual sex with him). The film also lightens things up with occasional slapstick humor. Likewise, in the book after he is free from the Ludovico treatment he fantasizes about rampaging around the world committing ultraviolence, whereas in the film he imagines having sex with one woman.
  • Leitmotif: The synthetic cover of "The Funeral of Queen Mary" in the opening scene is perhaps one of the most iconic film scores of all time.
  • Loud of War: Mr. Alexander tortures Alex by locking him in a room and playing Beethoven at him.
  • The Ludovico Technique: The Trope Namer scene where Alex is brainwashed into becoming non-violent, with a rig keeping his eyes open (and him being tied with a straightjacket) and needing someone to apply drops to his eyes (and interestingly, at one point during filming the rig nearly hurt Mc Dowell's eyes). Nowadays often given a Shout-Out as a method of brainwashing or torture.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Alex strips off when he is processed on his first day in prison.
  • Male Gaze: As part of the Ludovico treatment, Alex is faced with a naked woman on stage. The camera lingers on her breasts from his POV.
  • Matter of Life and Death:
    Alex: Missus! It's a matter of life and death!
  • Meaningful Name: Dim is both Book Dumb and Dumb Muscle.
  • Mickey Mousing: Several instances of music punctuated action:
    • "La Gazza Ladra" goes together with the tremendously violent action during the fight of Alex and his droogs against a rival gang in an abandoned theatre.
    • During the "Singin In The Rain" scene, the line "I am ready for love" is ominously repeated several times and Alex does some Punctuated Pounding, kicking the writer in perfect sync with several beats of the song.
  • Mind Rape: The Ludovico Treatment is nicely summed up by this trope; Alex is tortured mentally to the point where his ultra-violent hobbies cause him pain, to achieve a form of brainwashing that will "reform" him.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The droogs to Alex himself.
  • Monochrome Casting: Despite the fact that Britain had already become a multiracial society by the 1970s, and that this film is set in the far future, only two black characters are seen: a gang member in the Korova Milk Bar and one of the inmates at the prison.
  • Mood Dissonance: Horrible violence and classical music.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • When the Chaplain is giving his sermon in prison, he announces very dramatically and ominously the reality of Hell, saying there’s proof: he saw it. In a dream.
    • The story is ultimately a tremendous, social ordeal with plenty of heinous and/or pointless crimes committed by both Alex and the government, but it all ends in a chirpy note with Gene Kelly's original, uplifting version of Singing in the Rain.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Alex may be evil incarnate, but haven't you heard? Evil Is Sexy.
  • Murder Simulators: A gang sang "Singin' in the Rain" during a rape, arguably as a result of the film's influence. Apparently, it also inspired a murder known as "The Clockwork Orange Murder", where a boy killed his best friend in his backyard. Indignant over the allegations, Kubrick had Warner Brothers withdraw the film from distribution in Britain until after his death.
  • Mythology Gag: An LP for the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey is front and center in the record store.
  • Naked Freak-Out: A young woman is stripped by Billy's gang, and she runs off naked when Alex and his crew arrive on the scene looking for a fight.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Very much subverted thrice (two of them in the first 20 minutes). And played straight in a sped-up montage of a menage a trois.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the novel Alex has no surname given but at one point, he calls himself "Alexander the Large" in an allusion to his penis after he injected himself with an aphrodisiac. However the film makes DeLarge an actual surname, revealed while he's in custody being processed for prison. In a form of creator allusion, the newspapers report his name as Alex Burgess.
  • Nice Hat: Alex and Dim have bowler hats. Georgie (The Dragon) wears a top hat, and Pete sports a beret. In one of the films Alex is forced to watch while in prison, an actor playing a thug and rapist wears a pirate hat.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: What Alex and his droogs do to the drunken homeless guy at the beginning of the film. After his treatment, Alex receives one from a group of bums as well as his former droogs.
  • No Woman's Land: Dystopic Britain is a lawless world with Medieval-Victorian attitudes to women. Teenage boys rape women walking alone at night, attack those who live alone, and even those who are married (and commit suicide after being raped), while the government and legal institutes more or less tacitly accept women as objects and sex toys, with Alex at the end being "cured".
  • Number of the Beast: During the scene where Alex is being dragged into the woods to be beaten by Dim and Georgie, we see that on either side of him, their Police collar numbers read #665 and #667, respectively.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Alex, when he bumps into Georgie and Dim, who are now police officers. Made worse for Alex when he's in no position to defend himself and Georgie and Dim want to enact their revenge on their former leader.
    • The Cat Lady, right before Alex bashes her skull in with the phallic sculpture.
    • Alex again when he finds that Beethoven is being played during the test. He was ok with having the violent and sexual imagery taken from him, but he flips out when that piece of music is used, knowing what will happen.
    • After being carried into the writer's home by the bodyguard, and explaining to him what had happened, the writer suddenly exclaimed "I know you!" But it's because he recognized Alex's picture in the papers that morning, rather than recognizing him as the rapist of his wife.
  • Oireland: The drunken tramp who is beaten by Alex and his gang in the film's first action sequence.
  • The Oner:
    • In one scene, Alex's head is forced into an (obviously full) water trough while he is brutally beaten (complete with zany 'bong' sound effects). Apparently there was actually a breathing apparatus under the water, but it failed to work properly and McDowell did, indeed, nearly drown.
    • The film's opening shot is one of the most iconic oners in film history, showing Alex giving a menacing, unblinking Kubrick Stare to the viewer as the camera slowly pans out and he gives a voiceover monologue.
  • Only Sane Man: The prison chaplain.
  • Out-Gambitted:
    • Frank Alexander drives Alex to suicide in hopes of using his death as a symbol of the government's corruption. Not only does Alex survive, but then the government decides to use him as their new poster boy, effectively destroying Alexander's credibility.
    • Alex's goal in getting himself chosen for the Ludovico treatment is to fool the doctors into thinking he's been reformed so that he can be released from prison. He doesn't count on the treatment being as effective as it is.
  • Over-the-Shoulder Carry: Mrs. Alexander is slung over Dim's shoulder while Alex gags her and sings "Singin' in the Rain".
  • Pet the Dog: Alex with Basil, his pet snake, though the trope only kicks in at the start of the third act when Alex shows concern and sadness for the animal. Curiously, Basil was added to the plot when Stanley Kubrick found out Malcolm McDowell had a fear for reptiles.
  • Phallic Weapon: In this case, the weapon is literally a [sculpted] phallus.
  • Photo Op with the Dog: The last scene with the press photo shoot at the hospital. The Minister arrives to have a well publicized chat with the now victimized Alex.
  • Playing Sick:
    • Alex easily avoids school and fools his parents by feigning a pain in the gulliver so he can fully commit to his nocturnal activities.
    • Inverted later in the middle of the treatment. Alex starts to put on his fake, harmless and meek façade and pretends to be sane and cured. The doctors are not fooled by the act.
  • Police Brutality: Alex gets roughed up when he's arrested for murder. Much later Dim and Georgie get jobs as policemen so they can get paid to beat people up. It's implied this is being encouraged by a government that is hiring young roughs to tackle criminality.
  • Police State: It's strongly implied that the government is devolving into one of these. The "cure" itself even comes about because they need to free up space for future political prisoners, and the government starts recruiting street thugs as police (including Alex's former "droogs").
  • Posthumous Narration: Kubrick makes fun of this trope and the problem it usually presents.
    Alex: But I did not snuff it, if I had snuffed it I would not be here to tell what I have told.
  • Power Walk: Occurs near a lake, and gets interrupted by Alex disciplining his droogs.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The other droogs begin to get tired of their sociopathic lifestyle and of Alex's leadership, but only because they want a more profitable return for their acts of ultra-violence.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "Ho ho ho! Well if it isn't fat, stinking, billygoat Billyboy in poison! How art thou, thou globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip oil? Come and get one in the yarbles — if ya have any yarbles, ya eunuch jelly, thou!"
  • Psychotic Smirk / Slasher Smile: Alex is quite fond of these.
  • Power Walk: With a twist: the power walk suddenly degenerates into a fight, while everything is still in slow motion and cool music keeps playing (and is synchronized with the fight for added coolness).
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The entirety of the soundtrack comprises classical pieces (fittingly, since the protagonist is expressly stated to be a classical music buff, which even becomes a plot point), some of them arranged for a Moog synthesizer to lend them a surreal, nightmarish quality.
  • Putting on the Reich:
    • The cops at the prison dress vaguely like concentration camp guards, and one particularly sadistic guard, who despises Alex, sports a strikingly Hitler-like moustache.
    • The biker gang who nearly rape the girl in the theater also favor Nazi paraphernalia.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Alex has a pet snake, Basil. Of course a monster like Alex would not own something cute and cuddly. It's subverted when Alex returns home and is sympathetically upset to learn that his parents have killed Basil. Kubrick supposedly included the snake because McDowell was afraid of them, and when filming the scene where Alex takes Basil out of the drawer for some fresh air, Basil had somehow escaped, causing everyone to freak out.
  • Restraining Bolt: The Ludovico treatment.
  • Rooting for the Empire: In-universe, Alex aligns himself with the torturers and the sinners of The Bible.
  • Sadist: Alex, who is also a Softspoken Sadist.
  • Satire: The film is a satire of the battle against violence in society. Like in any satire, everything is exaggerated for effect and made grotesque. The cops are caricatures of authority, exceedingly pompous in rituals and obvious hypocrites, the doctor and nurse take a while to respond to the patient because they are having quickie sex behind a patient's curtain, and the writer Alexander is an obvious strawman hypocrite.
  • Scenery Censor: Subverted. When Alex is being checked in to the prison, he is stark naked with a box in front of the camera at groin level... then they remove the box.
  • Scenery Dissonnance: Type 1. A lot of the ultraviolence in the film takes place in picturesque surroundings: the abandoned casino, the writer's modernist house, the cat-lady's art gallery...
  • Science Is Bad: Played with, the new treatment attempts to erradicate the plague of criminality but does so by erasing moral choice and freedom. On the other hand, the doctors are just tools and eventually scapegoats used by the politicians.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slasher Smile: Alex whenever he gets deep into the old ultraviolence.
  • Sleazy Politician: The minister of the Interior, outwardly tough on crime, allies with Alex -an unrepentant sociopath and murderer- because he can spin his story in favour of The Government. Additionally he's also a key figure of an implied Government that sends its political adversaries to prison.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: EXTREMELY cynical.
  • Smug Smiler: Alex sports a pretty arrogant smile of his own.
  • The Sociopath: Alex might be the best example ever committed to film. He robs, rapes, and assaults innocent random people for his own amusement, and who simply throws the spoils in a drawer under his bed.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Alex inadvertently reveals himself when he sings "Singin' in the Rain" (which he also did during the rape scene) whilst taking a bath.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • Whenever Rossini's "Thieving Magpie" overture starts up on the soundtrack, you know some ultra-violence is coming. Also, the film's most infamous scene features the gang torturing a couple while Alex performs "Singin' in the Rain" While filming the scene, Kubrick decided on a whim to have Alex sing a song, and Malcolm McDowell chose the song simply because he knew all the lyrics.
    • In-universe, Alex strongly objects to the use of Beethoven's Ninth, and specifically the "Ode to Joy", as the soundtrack to the horrifiying scenes of rape and violence used in the Ludovico Treatment.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Georgie is killed while trying to rob someone in the book. Here, he's alive and well and working with Dim as a policeman.
  • Spinning Paper: The backlash against the government and the Ludovico treatment is shown via headlines.
  • Spiritual Successor: O Lucky Man! (1973), starring Malcolm McDowell, features numerous references to this film: The fact that the main character was reformed in prison and turned into a "good man", he undergoes medical experiments complete with crazy headgear, also he gets beaten by a mob of homeless people when showing goodwill.
  • Spiteful Spit: Alex's probation officer, Deltoid, spits on his face after he is arrested.
  • Spoofing in the Rain: Alex hits the writer in the balls and rapes his wife while singing "Singin' In The Rain". Kubrick went above and beyond with the hoax in that despite promises, he went cheap and never actually bought the song, which annoyed Gene Kelly greatly.
  • Stock Footage: Clips from Triumph of the Will and other Nazi newsreels and the like, shown to Alex during the Ludovico treatment. Includes scenes from the battle of Stalingrad, as shown by the sculpture of dancing schoolchildren in one clip.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: The "Nadsat" slang often involves unusual word order, conjugation and word choice in addition to the mostly Russian-based slang words. The film's version is less pronounced than the book's, since the viewer only has about 90 minutes to become accustomed to it.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Mrs. Alexander, the writer's wife who Alex and the droogs raped at the start, dies offscreen by plague or according to her husband, trauma from sexual assault. In either case, she exists to motivate Mr. Alexander's revenge.
  • Sword Cane: Dagger cane, actually, as Alex yanks a scary knife out of his walking stick and uses it to slice Dim's hand.
  • Tempting Fate: Alex is being interviewed while being fed by Mr. Alexander. During the interview, he says, "I get the feeling something bad is going to happen." Two seconds later, he's out like a light.
  • Tethercat Principle: The more heinous antics of Alex and his droogs are depicted in lengthy detail, and are abruptly cut away from mid progress. One example would be the droogs beating on the homeless man, with the lashings and the tramp's screams going along at a steady pace with no signs of stopping or slowing down.
  • Theme Naming: The Droogs are all named after Russian kings: George, Dimitri, Peter and Alexander.
  • This Cannot Be!: Alex is understandably dumbfounded to encounter George and Dim as policemen.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The Ludovico Treatment includes a lot of images of Nazis doing their thing during WWII.
  • Three-Way Sex: Played at high speed, to the tune of Rossini's "William Tell Overture".
  • Torture Always Works: Slightly ambiguous, but it seems to indicate that even if torture did work, would that really justify its use?
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Alex with his Milk Plus, which he drinks in preparation for a bit of the old Ultraviolence.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The film takes place in the near future. If the '95 model car is anything to go by, it is supposed to be in the mid-nineties at the earliest.
  • Undercrank: During the three-way sex scene, with the William Tell Overture as a soundtrack.
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Sociopathic Alex owns a pet snake. This detail was not in the novel and in fact Malcolm McDowell was frightened of snakes.
  • Vague Age: Apparently done deliberately in casting Malcolm McDowell as Alex. The character is revealed to be fifteen in the book, while -McDowell appears to be somewhere in the rage of late teens to early twenties.
  • Vapor Wear: Unlike most of the other women in the film, Mr. Alexander's wife does not wear underwear. Tragically, this only makes it easier for Alex to rape her.
  • Verbal Tic: Mr. Deltoid, yes? Poses every sentence as a question with the word "yes" at the end, yes?
  • Villain Protagonist: At first, Alex is a murderer, a rapist, and a thug utterly remorseless about his crimes. Then the government robs him of his freedom of choice and the categorization becomes murkier.
  • Villain Opening Scene: The (in)famous close-up of Alex at the Korova Milkbar.
  • Villain Song: Alex sings "Singin' in the Rain".
  • Villainous Rescue: The Droogs come across a rival gang about to rape a woman in an abandoned theater. They intervene just in time, so that they can fight. The woman escapes in the ensuing chaos, but only because the gangs were focused on each other. The Droogs were obviously motivated not by virtue, but by the opportunity to deny the rivals their pleasure and fight them as well.
  • Villains Out Shopping: One scene has Alex going to a record store to pick up an album he ordered, dressed in a posh Edwardian-era suit. He also uses the opportunity to invite some girls for a threesome.
  • Visual Innuendo: The popsicles being sucked by the two girls at the record store. Actually, this film is filled with examples of penis imagery that are in no way subtle.
  • Water Torture: Dim and Billy beat up Alex and then forcibly dunk his head in a pig trough filled with water for a minute, nearly drowning him to death.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never learn what became of Pete, Alex's other droog. Alex meets Pete in the final chapter of the novel; Pete has given up violence and now has a fiancee, which encourages Alex to give up his old ways too.
  • What Is Evil?: When Alex's uncle speaks to him of right and wrong he says, "Come now, you know that's just a matter of words."
  • Wicked Cultured: The Droogs travel throughout the city in what appears to be Victorian-era men's underwear, and they carry canes. In addition, Alex enjoys classical music and is known to employ gratuitously highbrow words in his vocabulary.
  • With Friends Like These...: Alex maintains his position in the gang with violence, threatening and attacking his underlings when they annoy him. Georgie tries to stage a coup, but Alex beats up the whole gang singlehandedly.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Alex pretends to be involved in a bloody car accident in order to break into people's houses. The cat lady is savvy about it because the newspapers aired the ruse.
  • You Are Number 6: Alex is addressed by his number in prison: Six Double-Five Three Two One. This is a slight modification of his number from the book.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Outlandish hair colors are fairly common in this verse. Most old women have purple hair for instance.
  • Zeerust: It kind of looks like the future, and it kind of looks like a really freaky 1970s. Alex plays his music on what is clearly a minicassette.

Viddy well little brother, viddy well.
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