- Awesome Music: Also sprach Zarathustra. Even though it wasn't created for the movie. Also the Blue Danube Waltz and Gayaneh Ballet Suite Adagio, with all three pieces achieving their latter-day fame through their use in this movie. In fact, they were only supposed to be stand-ins for actual movie music before it was ready for release, but they were deemed so fitting, they were left in.
- The Requiem that plays when we see the monoliths.
- Dave getting from the pod back to the ship, without his helmet. Even more so in that the scene occured in total silence, just as it would naturally, being as space is a vacuum.
- If you look carefully, after the airlock starts to pressurize, Dave gets a big grin on his face, as if to say, "Gotcha, you bastard!" And just to nail it home, the film cuts to HAL's eye. It's also an awesome moment for Stanley Kubrick, who used the Kuleshov Effect to get a very effective Oh, Crap!... from a red light.
- The story begins with a tribe of apes who are easy prey for rival tribes, and leopards. Then the Monolith teaches them about tools, and the next confrontation goes a lot differently.
- The scene where an ape discovers how to use a bone as a tool and uses one to obliterate a skeleton would just be "cool" if "Also Sprach Zarathustra" wasn't playing as BGM. It goes from cool to legendary.
- The bone-to-spaceship cut, the greatest Match Cut of all time.
- For added context: the satellite that the movie cuts to from the shot of the bone is stated in the script to be a nuclear weapons platform. Four million years of technological advances, and man is, at his core, still a violent species.
- You have to admit, HAL's revelation about how he knew Dave and Frank were planning to shut him off is pretty awesome: Dave and Frank had their conversation in one of the pods and made it so HAL couldn't hear what they were saying. What they didn't count on was that HAL was reading their lips.
- The Stargate. Imagine the sky simply opening and you find yourself barreling down a tunnel made of streaks of light in colors the human eye wasn't meant to see. And you start going faster and faster and faster...
- There is also the concluding montage afterward with Dave as the guest of the aliens of the Monolith. It might be slow and hard to understand, but it has the feel that you are not watching simply a popular film, but a genuine work of true art that is intelligent, challenging and important. Given that this was released at the beginning of the New Hollywood era, it was an awesome portent of what artistic possibilities what American commercial filmmakers were ready to explore.
Awesome / 2001: A Space Odyssey