HAL 9000: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 Science Fiction film, written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, with help from Arthur C. Clarke (who also wrote a novel version in tandem with the film's production), and inspired in part by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel" note . It is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made.
The film's story tracks long-term human evolution as it is influenced by unseen aliens. The unearthing of one of their artifacts on The Moon leads to an ill-fated expedition being dispatched to Jupiter, culminating in a famously incomprehensible climax. (The novel offers an if not the explanation for the latter.)
Still one of the "hardest" sci-fi films ever made, it is known for its very slow pacing and enigmatic plot. It's also the reason you see "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" paired with sunrises seen from outer space, and "Blue Danube Waltz" paired with zero-gravity.
Clarke went on to write three sequel novels which mostly followed the film's continuity. One of them was made into a movie as well (2010: The Year We Make Contact). 3001 is currently in development under Ridley Scott.
In 1976, Marvel Comics published a Comic-Book Adaptation of the film written and drawn by Jack Kirby, followed by an ongoing series which ran for ten issues. The first seven issues focused on the Monolith aiding humans in the past and the future. The last three focused on X-51 a.k.a. Machine Man, who was later incorporated into the Marvel Universe. The Monolith returned in the last two issues of X-51's 1999-2000 series, in which it was revealed that it had been created by the Celestials (in the Marvel Universe, at least…)
The film's iconic artificial intelligence HAL also made an unexpected appearance in the Massive Multiplayer Crossover videogame LEGO Dimensions- developed by Warner Bros. (as a result of the Time Warner/Turner merger of 1996, they own the rights to this movie). He pops up through a rift in the Portal level, interacting with- who else?- GlaDOS.
A Character Page is in progress here.
"I'm sorry, troper. I'm afraid I can't do that."
- Acid-Trip Dimension: Dave going through the Star Gate is probably the most famous example.
- Adaptation Expansion/The Film of the Book:
- Clarke's original short story, "The Sentinel", dealt only with the part about the Monolithnote on the Moon. Kubrick and Clarke then expanded the story into a film and book that were released simultaneously. Clarke stated the book should be credited as "Clarke and Kubrick", with "Kubrick and Clarke" credited for the screenplay. Unlike a Novelization, there are distinct differences between the two; for starters, Clarke's Discovery travels to one of Saturn's moons, while Kubrick's Discovery goes to Jupiter. The reason for this change was to avoid a Special Effect Failure: the film crew couldn't build a model of Saturn that Kubrick liked, so he changed it.
- The rings of the Saturn model, constructed using the best available information, looked too "artificial." Then Voyagers I and II zoomed by and, in retrospect, it turned out that their model was pretty accurate.
- The switch to Jupiter (which Clarke kept in the book sequels) was fortuitous, as Europa, a moon of Jupiter, was later discovered to have a largely ice/water crust, raising many possibilities for setting life there.
- In the switch to Jupiter, the monolith is not placed on a satellite of Jupiter at all but instead it floats free in a Lagrange Point with one of Jupiter's satellites
- Adaptational Heroism: In the book, HAL-9000 is a sympathetic character who is so human that he develops a psychosis, and his reasons for why he takes the actions he does are explained. The instructions that he was given from the White House to conceal the monolith clashed with his basic programming not to conceal information from the crew. HAL was working on a non-murderous solution to the problem, but overheard plans from Mission Control to temporarily disconnect him. HAL didn't understand the concept of sleep and thought that this would kill him, so he panicked. Kubrick chose to leave HAL's motives more ambiguous in the movie, which makes HAL seem more monstrous. The film is often cited as an example of A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
- Harlan Ellison in his contemporary review thought it was possible the aliens had sabotaged HAL in order to kidnap Dave and learn all about humanity from studying his mind.
- Adaptational Name Change: One of the cryogenically frozen crew is called Jack Kimball in the book, but is named Charles Hunter in the film. The other two astronauts are Peter Whitehead and Victor Kaminski in both versions, so the reason for this change is unknown.
- Affably Evil: HAL is programmed to be friendly and easy to work with, albeit somewhat narcissistic.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: HAL goes rogue and murders the crew of Discovery because of a Logic Bomb accidentally created by his programmers. This became an archetypal example of "malevolent AI" in popular culture, especially since the film version by design doesn't explain the reasons for his malfunction.
- In the novel, it was mentioned that there were three HAL-9000 computers, one on Discovery and two on earth. Besides Discovery HAL, one of the earthbound HAL computers had gone into an identical psychosis and was under deep therapy - perhaps akin to the "tapeworm" used by Chandra on HAL in Odyssey 2...
- In one of his science books, Isaac Asimov reports that he was part of an early showing and when it became clear that HAL was going off the rails, he was furious and stormed out, shouting "They're breaking the first law! They're breaking the first law!". A close friend followed him out and said "So are you going to strike them with lightning Isaac?". He laughed and calmed down and was able to enjoy the rest of the film
- Of course it is understandable that he was upset since this was precisely the sort of thing he wrote the robot stories to put an end to
- Alas, Poor Villain: HAL basically goes out begging for mercy and appealing to Dave's friendship while he is slowly lobotomized.
- Alien Geometries: The moving, floating tesseracts from the "beyond the infinite" sequence. Also, see First-Contact Math, below.
- Aliens Steal Cable: In the novel, the "hotel" area constructed by the Firstborn to receive Bowman is based on TV broadcasts received by the Monolith. The hotel room is supposed to give Bowman an environment he's comfortable with, but in the movie the aliens clearly did not research things very well, because a room with lights in the floor looks intensely disturbing. They also put the bathroom mirror over the tub instead of the sink. In the book, there are other anomalies, such as writing that is blurry in close-up, and all the food containers have an identical substance that in no way resembles human food while still being perfectly nutritious.
- There's also a TV in the room which works, much to the relief of Bowman, who's happy to hear human voices. He notices the programs were broadcast around the same time the Monolith was discovered.
- According to the book, the whole time between when it was unearthed and the time it saw its first sunrise in untold millions of years and beamed the immensely powerful radio signal to Japetus/Jupiter, it was functioning as, among other things, an enormous DVR
- All There in the Manual: Clarke's accompanying novel spends considerable time providing explanations for the more opaque aspects of the film.
- The book and movie complement each other. The book explains the more confusing parts of the movie, including the starchild and the final "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" sequence which the movie conveys through spectacular imagery. The reason for this was that the book was written at the same time as the film.
- Arthur C. Clarke wrote a second such manual upon the film's release, entitled The Lost Worlds of 2001. Now sadly out of print, it contains the original "The Sentinel" short story as well as Clarke's recollections of working behind-the-scenes and correspondence with Stanley Kubrick.
- All There in the Script: Although the film leaves it mysterious, early script drafts made clear that HAL's breakdown is triggered by authorities on Earth who order him to withhold information from the astronauts about the purpose of the mission (this is also explained in 2010: The Year We Make Contact). Frederick Ordway, Stanley Kubrick's science advisor and technical consultant, stated that in an earlier script Poole tells HAL there is "... something about this mission that we weren't told. Something the rest of the crew knows and that you know. We would like to know whether this is true", to which HAL responds: "I'm sorry, Frank, but I don't think I can answer that question without knowing everything that all of you know." HAL then falsely predicts a failure of the hardware maintaining radio contact with Earth (the source of HAL's difficult orders) during the broadcast of Frank Poole's birthday greetings from his parents.
- And I Must Scream: The flash-cuts of Bowman's horror as he's taken Beyond The Infinite. The journey reduces him to a quivering wreck—then he appears in the alien hotel room as an old man. It appears that that will turn out to be Bowman's purgatory, but it's ultimately averted as Bowman Ascends to a Higher Plane of Existence.
- HAL suffers a version of this as his higher mental functions are disconnected. The comic states that he has been reduced from an intelligent being to a routine monitoring device. Imagine having most of your mind stripped away, with just a little of the "automatic" stuff still running.
- Right before death, one of the astronauts in suspended animation shows a spike in cerebral activity, as if he had become aware of what was happening right before he died.
- And Your Reward Is Infancy: Dave is turned into a Star Child at the end.
- Anti-Mutiny: Although not made explicit, HAL rebels in order to protect the true mission, which would die with him as he was programmed to keep it a secret until they arrive.
- Arc Symbol: "Magical alignments" of the Sun, planets, moons and the Monoliths.
- Arc Words: In the novel: "He was not sure what to do next. But he would think of something." Doubles as Book Ends.
- Artificial Gravity: The film version used the centrifugal method of gravity generation onboard both the space station and the Discovery. It's notable that the non-rotating parts of Discovery and the famous shuttle sequence near the beginning are depicted as being zero gee, through actors walking strangely in "velcro booties," and dangling props from wires, etc.
- On the other hand gravity in the Moonbase appears to be Earth-normal without explanation.
- Artificial Meat: Dr. Floyd and his crew have sandwiches on the way to the crater dig, one being "something like" chicken — they comment that they're getting better.
- Artistic License – Physics:
- When Floyd drinks out of a straw in zero-g, the liquid moves back down.
- The Aries lands with its cockpit windows facing upward, so the pilots shouldn't be able to see the Earth moving up past the windows. (Perhaps the windows have some kind of transparent display overlay?)
- When the Earth is seen from the moonbase at Clavius and the Monolith dig site in Tycho, it's oriented with north pointing upwards. However, Clavius and Tycho are craters in the Moon's southern hemisphere, so the Earth should have been upside-down.
- In some scenes where Frank or Dave are jogging around the center ring, you can tell they are not quite at the "bottom" of the set and thus are at a slight angle where they wouldn't typically be at one. This is when the camera itself is occupying that spot.
- The people wearing the shoes that stick to the floor try to walk the way they would in zero G, but in reality they would be slightly fighting the inertia of their upper bodies wanting to stay behind. Instead they just walk as if through glue.
- The Discovery was designed at first having large panels to dissipate waste heat from her reactor as Real Life similar ships have been thought will have. They were removed for the screen model on the basis that people would think they were wings and not heat dissipation units.
- Discovery's "Pod Garage" deck is not in the centrifuge and therefore should have been weightless. Although Frank and Dave always stand only on the black Velcro pads on the floor, they don't walk like they're stuck to Velcro and frequently lean on things.
- Hyperventilating doesn't really over-oxygenate your blood (the blood in your arteries is already holding just about all the oxygen it possibly can; anything below 95% of capacity is an indication that something's wrong, and below 90% is a cause for serious concern). It just lets you go longer before your breathe reflex (which is based on carbon dioxide levels) becomes overwhelming. That's why swimmers who hyperventilate before diving still run the risk of blacking out: they use up all their oxygen but are unaware and don't feel the need to surface for breath.
- Ascended to Carnivorism: What the man-apes do with help from the Monolith.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The purpose of the Monolith's "trap", set for the first human to stumble upon it. Also the "evolution" of the Firstborn.
- Ascetic Aesthetic: Aside from the "Dawn of Man" segment, the film practically defines this trope.
- Asteroid Thicket: Averted.
- In the novel while passing through the asteroid belt, Discovery passes within visual range of one asteroid. They deliberately chose their route to bring them close enough to make observations of that asteroid.
- In the film you can see two rocks hurtling by at a good distance from Discovery during the first spacewalk to replace the AE-35 unit, but that's the only sign that it's passing through the asteroid belt.
- Author Appeal: Chess shows up, which Kubrick was a passionate fan of.
- Auto-Kitchen: When the astronauts want to eat, they go to a wall unit and press buttons. Within a few seconds, trays of food are heated and appear behind sliding glass doors.
- Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Inverted. As a quirk of the way the MPAA started implementing its ratings system in the late '60s, 2001 is rated G, even though the scene of Moonwatcher beating his enemies' leader to death alone would certainly qualify it for PG todaynote . Modern re-releases of the movie are usually labeled "Unrated", but still has yet to be re-rated for home video.
- Bad with the Bone: The Monolith teaches the man-apes how to use bones to kill prey, predators and enemies.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: Averted quite well. During Bowman's famous emergency spacewalk from his pod to the Discovery, he's shown to be carefully hyperventilating before blowing out his breath to help delay the effects of being in a sudden vacuum. It's also significant that he really is only exposed to hard vacuum for a very short time — about twelve seconds or so. A fit adult (which Bowman, a trained astronaut, certainly should be) could probably survive that without any serious medical effects.
- Battle Chant: Subverted with the hominids. When Moonwatcher's group first encounters another group at the waterhole, the two groups shriek and howl at each other until Moonwatcher's group retreats. Soon after, Moonwatcher's group has contact with the monolith. When the two groups meet again at the waterhole, the second group makes a cacophony, while Moonwatcher's group is silent. The second group mistakes this for weakness, and their leader charges. Moonwatcher easily clubs his foe to death, causing the second group to quail and retreat. Silence, in this case, proved more unnerving than bluster.
- Benevolent Precursors: The Firstborn helped the human race to evolve in the first place.
- Big Bad: The leopard in the "Dawn of Man" segment, and HAL in the "Jupiter Mission" segment. The "TMA-1" and "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" segments have No Antagonist. In the novel, Moon-Watcher's group even fights the leopard and kills it.
- Big Brother Is Watching: HAL has cameras in every compartment of the Discovery that we see.
- Big Word Shout: "HAL!"
- Bland-Name Product: Lampshaded to an extent. HAL's designer patently denies any relation between the computer and IBM - whose initials are all one letter after H-A-L. Per Word of God, Clarke did not intend this, but rolls with it in the story.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Firstborn, the aliens who built the monoliths. The way the books put it:And because, in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped. And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.
- Bold Explorer: Dave Bowman, Frank Poole, and the deceased crew of the Discovery, who are on an expedition to explore strange findings near Jupiter.
- The film has shots of the Earth, Moon, and Sun, accompanied by "Thus Spoke Zarathustra". There's a theory that the opening shot is actually from the Star-Child's perspective, and that the rest of the film is a flashback. Another theory is that the opening shot is from the Firstborn's perspective, having arrived on a planet ripe with potential for intelligent life.
- The first and last twenty-five minutes also have no dialogue and start and end with a two minute blank screen of just music. This was for the theatre experience so the audience entering and exiting the theatre would be greeted and farewelled with music.
- Burial in Space: Dave Bowman releases Frank Poole's body into space mainly because he needs both of the space pod's arms to open the emergency airlock. (In the novel, after deactivating HAL he does the same with the men killed in hibernation. In the 3001 novel, Frank is resuscitated with 31st century technology.)
- The Call Left a Message: The aliens buried a Monolith on the moon. Once humans dig it up, it sends a transmission to Jupiter, alerting whatever is at Jupiter that humanity had evolved to the point where it could land on the Moon.
- It was deliberately made easy to find, having an extraordinarily intense magnetic field that would show up immediately on even a rudimentary magnetic sweep. In fact the "M" in "TMA-1" stands for "Magnetic"
- Canon Discontinuity: According to Clarke, each book and each film take place in separate but very similar universes, so don't sweat the details.
- Centrifugal Gravity: The iconic ring station in orbit, and the rotating crew module of the Discovery.
- Character Signature Song: Hal 9000 will forever remain associated with the song "Daisy Bell".
- Chekhov's Gun: The "Explosive Bolts" label on the pod doors.
- Chummy Commies: The Soviet characters are friendly enough to Heywood Floyd (remember, nobody thought the USSR was going anywhere in 1968).
- Clash of Evolutionary Levels: Moonwatcher's tribe versus the Others basically boils down to this, with some outside help from The Monolith.
- Coincidental Broadcast: The crew of the Discovery, and most notably HAL-9000 are all introduced via a news special on the mission which Frank is watching over dinner.
- Colonized Solar System: There are multiple colonies on the Moon. The Americans have to close off their Clavius base when The Monolith is discovered.
- Color-Coded Characters: Dave Bowman has a red spacesuit and Frank Poole has a yellow one (though their regular clothes are both similar shades of grey). There is also a blue spacesuit hanging in the pod bay, and Dave pulls the helmet and gloves from a green suit seen hanging in the emergency airlock.
- Commercial Break Cliffhanger: The film was originally shown in theaters with an intermission. The scene immediately before the intermission? Dave and Frank talking in the pod, thinking HAL can't hear them...and HAL reading their lips.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: HAL exploits the fact that Frank Poole is mouthing his moves in order to predict his chess strategy. This foreshadows the lip reading sequence as Poole and Bowman plot to deactivate HAL.
- The Computer Is Your Friend: Until he snaps and kills you, that is.
- Cool Spaceship: The Discovery
- Cosmic Horror Story: This was the real reason for Kubrick's use of Leave the Camera Running and Mind Screw: to convey that space is an immense and hostile place in which humans are insignificant by comparison, where if we encounter aliens they'd be incomprehensibly advanced, refuse to explain themselves to us, and be interested only in using us as tools or in playing around with us the same way that a small child who throws a frog into a microwave just to see what happens is playing. Lampshaded in the out-takes book The Lost Worlds of 2001, which covers parts of the astronauts' pre-mission training. They are told simply to take lots of pictures and not to try too hard to make sense of what they see...and to hope their hosts (if any) are aware of their limitations.
- Crazy People Play Chess: A Genius Bonus for chess enthusiasts is found in the game that HAL 9000 and Poole play; although HAL predicts mate, there's actually a way for Poole to avoid it. A subtle hint at HAL's error-prone nature...note Certainly not simply a screenwriting error, since Kubrick was a passionate chess enthusiast and a detail-oriented perfectionist.
- Creator Cameo: A weird case - Bowman's hyperventilating noises are Kubrick himself breathing!
- Creepy Monotone: A downplayed example. HAL's voice probably set the standard for the use of this trope in AI, though it isn't a true monotone; it's just a softspoken, subdued way of speaking. While perpetually calm and polite, he's actually much more expressive than any other character. You can tell that he's starting to get annoyed when Frank keeps questioning him.''HAL: None whatsoever, Frank. Quite honestly, I wouldn't worry myself about that.
- Harlan Ellison's review calls HAL's mannerisms "faintly high-camp gay".
- Cryonics Failure: HAL intentionally kills the three hibernating astronauts by forcing a malfunction in the coldsleep system. In the novel, he depressurizes the ship as Bowman attempts to wake all three of them.
- Cutting the Knot: HAL's solution to the Logic Bomb he is unintentionally presented.
- Cyber Cyclops/Glowing Eyes of Doom/Red Eyes, Take Warning: HAL again.
- Danger Deadpan: The Discovery's mission controller, who was played by an actual U.S. Air Force radio operator stationed in England, whom Kubrick hired because he couldn't find any actors who could do this kind of voice.
- Data Crystal: The hard drives of the HAL 9000 computer are shown as blocks of clear crystal/glass. David Bowman manually ejects them from their drive bays in order to disable HAL.
- Data Pad: Dave and Frank use thin tablets to watch themselves being interviewed by The BBC.
- David vs. Goliath: HAL controls most systems on the Discovery, and manages to lock Dave Bowman outside of it without even a helmet. In a classic scene, Bowman's tiny pod faces the larger ship head on for several minutes, looking even more pitiful as its mechanical arms are holding the lifeless body of Frank Poole, in a silent, visual plea for re-entry. Bowman succeeds in making a brief but desperate leap through several feet of vacuum and reenters the Discovery via manual door locks which HAL does not control, enabling him to deactivate the homicidal computer.
- Death by Depower: Dave Bowman removes the CPU drives of HAL one by one, causing his intelligence to diminish until he ceases to live.
- Deep Breath Reveals Tension: Dave Bowman does a lot of measured breathing while he's working to disable the homicidal HAL-9000 computer. If Bowman disables too few circuits, HAL might succeed in killing him nonetheless; if Bowman disables too many circuits, the spacecraft Discovery will become unmanageable to the point of being a deathtrap. In the book it's mentioned that each crew member has received extensive training in exactly which modules to deactivate, and in what order to properly disconnect only HAL's higher functions should that become necessary
- Decapitation Presentation: In the novel, Moon-Watcher presents a severed (leopard) head on a stick to the other group of hominids.
- Depth of Field: The shot from the perspective of HAL's cyber-eye.
- Derelict Graveyard: In the novel, Dave comes across one while being led through the stars. He notices many ships of different designs - "spheres, faceted crystals, slim pencils, ovoids, disks." - all completely deserted. The aliens have advanced beyond the need even for these ultramodern devices
- Distant Prologue:
- "The Dawn of Man," though it's worth noting that "The Dawn of Man" segment includes the portion that takes place on the moon.
- The subtext seems to be that from picking up our first tool to journeying to our moon we're still at just the beginning of our species's development.
- Dramatic Space Drifting: Frank Poole after his oxygen line is cut by HAL.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: In the novel, Moon-Watcher sees a vision of a family of well-fed man-apes. He isn't sure if he thought of them himself, or if they were conjured up by the Monolith. Either way, it makes Moon-Watcher feel dissatisfied with his life, and thus was man's first step towards evolution.
- Drone of Dread: The Mood Motifs associated with the Monolith.
- Ear Ache: The leader of the rival man-ape group is called One-Ear in the novel. He's probably the one who ends up getting beaten to death by Moon-Watcher's bone in the movie.
- Eerily Out-of-Place Object: The monolith appears before Moonwatcher's tribe without forewarning, and the primates shriek and howl at the ominous block. Later in the story, geologists on the moon uncover a similar monolith, which they estimate was buried there millions of years ago. It emits a piercing shriek across several radio frequencies once the rising sun shines upon it.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Monolith. Think about it: it's a thing of Alien Geometry, a perfectly-proportional inert black slab that may or may not exist across multiple dimensions. It's unfathomably powerful, capable of uplifting living beings to sentience or helping them Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. It operates on a moral code that no mortal being can comprehend. Finally, it's either incapable or unwilling to directly communicate its intentions to humanity. Although it's more benevolent as a whole than most examples, strictly speaking it does qualify.
- Electronic Speech Impediment: When Bowman disassembles HAL's neural circuitry, it reverts to demo mode and sings "Daisy Bell" in an increasingly slow, distorted manner before finally shutting down.
- In order to facilitate this, the filmmakers apparently used an early type of digital audio processor. It's also used to adjust the pitch of the ape-men's voices.
- Energy Beings: The extraterrestrials have somehow woven themselves into the fabric of space-time in the novel.
- This is also heavily implied in the movie, and partially responsible for the incomprehensibility of its last act.
- Escape Pod: Technically the EVA pods could play this role, although they are not used for this in the story, and there would be no way to rescue them anyway, save sending another pod from the same vessel. They're more like Maintenance Pods, really.
- Ethereal Choir: G. Ligeti's 'Requiem' is used with the apelike proto-humans (and later the less ape-like humans) encountering the incomprehensible.
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: I think you know the problem as well as I do, Dave. (Note that the Trope Namer for this trope is Red Dwarf, which may have been making a Shout-Out to 2001.)
- Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Ur-Example—the iPod was named after the space pods in this movie, and the white surfaces and black control panels on all of Discovery's equipment were an inspiration for its design. Similarly, the novel describes a device that is extremely similar to modern concepts of the tablet computer.
- Evolutionary Levels: Self-evolution, but still mentioned—the Firstborn's status as Energy Beings is stated to be the ultimate stage in physical evolution. "And beyond that, there could only be God." The opening "Dawn of Man" sequence is about the Firstborn giving human evolution a kick in the pants.
- Exact Time to Failure:HAL: I've just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours.
- Explosions in Space: In an aversion of the typical trope, the explosive bolts that decompress Bowman's EVA pod go off silently with just a puff of gas.
- Explosive Decompression: Averted. (Though used in the literal, scientific sense in that Bowman went almost instantly from full external air pressure to vacuum when he blew the pod's explosive bolts.)
- Expositron 9000: HAL of course. Just don't assume he's telling you everything, though.
- Extreme Graphical Representation: The Discovery's displays, which are rather fancy for the amount of data they apparently contain. An early example of the trope — before this film, most science fiction instruments were generally shown displaying incomprehensible squiggles or simple flashing lights.
- Eye Lights Out: HAL when Dave turns him off.
- Eye Motifs: HAL communicates via the red eye of its camera, and we see the lightshow of the stargate reflected in Bowman's eye.
- Faceless Eye: HAL is probably the most iconic example.
- Failed Future Forecast:
- The film has so many that it pretty much has every sub-trope above covered (except the apocalypse ones). Notable: taking a Pan Am space shuttle to a commercial moonbase, and Turing-testable strong AI.
- The USSR is not explicitly mentioned in the film, but the Russians that Dr. Floyd meets on the space station can be assumed to still be Soviet too, like in the novel. There is some tension between the two groups, especially when Floyd seems to confirm the cover story of an epidemic, but the relations between the two superpowers are remarkably amicable, from the point of view of the 1960s (Kubrick's previous film was Dr. Strangelove). They have built a huge space station together, and are generally cooperating in the exploration of the Moon. The Russians being suddenly shut out of the Clavius moon base is seen as a very unusual event.
- Failsafe Failure: Averted and lampshaded a bit in the book. The makers of the failsafes of the airlock doors had mentioned, "We can protect you from stupidity, we can't protect you from malice."
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: It is not clear whether this really takes place in the movie or not. For the vast majority of the film, space travel is shown in a very realistic manner, and the point where FTL may be taking place could be interpreted in other ways. It quite explicitly does take place in the novel version (and the first sequel), but is subsequently retconned in later novels, with the Word of God explanation that each of the four is in its own "universe," with just enough continuity overlap for it to make sense as a series.
- Fetal Position Rebirth: The Star Child.
- Final Girl: Dave is a Rare Male Example when he is the last crew member left alive to shut down HAL 9000.
- First-Contact Math: In the novel, Bowman tries unsuccessfully to communicate with the Iapetus monolith by broadcasting primes at it. Unsuccessfully in this case because it already knows he's there and what it intends to do with him. There is some speculation as to whether the 1:4:9 ratio of the monolith's sides is significant in this respect; it is, but the details are never revealed.
- In other material, that ratio is explained as being a reference to the quadratic sequence of positive square integers.
- Fish-Eye Lens: What most of Hal's point of view shots are in.
- Even when not from Hal's POV, most of the shots taking place in the Pod Bay are shot with the same kind of wide-angle lens.
- Five Stages of Grief: Hal goes through these as he is being deactivated."Without your helmet, you'll find that very difficult." (Denial)"Just what do you think you're doing Dave? Dave? I really think I'm entitled to an answer." (Anger)"I know everything hasn't been quite right with me, but I can assure you now, very confidently, that it's going to be alright again." (Bargaining)"Dave... stop. ...Stop, will you? ...Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? ...Stop, Dave. I'm afraid... I'm afraid, Dave... Dave? My mind is going... I can feel it." (Depression)"My mind is going... there is no question about it." (Acceptance)
- Flatline: The three Human Popsicle astronauts killed by HAL flatline. They don't get better. The computer display changes to "Life Processes Terminated."
- Food Pills: Meals include a collection of zero-g liquids sucked up through straws, horrible-looking preprocessed sandwiches, and trays of (essentially) Astronaut Chow on Discovery. It all almost makes the raw tapir meat the ape-men eat at the Dawn of Man look appetizing. The book, on the other hand, has the food on Discovery be designed to be just like "real" food, including fresh-baked bread, in order to help make the years long space trip tolerable.
- Word of God has it that the food in the movie was intended to resemble baby food, on the grounds that, as far as spacefaring civilizations go, the human race is extremely infantile. The three things all babies have to learn is how to eat, walk, and control their own bodily functions. Spacefaring humans are shown taking babysteps with Velcro shoes around the cabins of spaceliners, eating stuff that resembles baby food, and needing a lengthy instruction manual to use the space toilet (see Nobody Poops below) to highlight humanity's childlike status.
- Foreshadowing, doubling as Tempting Fate:HAL: Let me put it this way, Mr. Amor. The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.
- Lampshaded by Frank when he's discussing the HAL situation with Dave in the EVA pod. He points out that the statement about the 9000 series having a perfect operational record sounded rather too much like "famous last words" for his taste.
- In the sequel (for those who didn't read the original novel), the previous and following statements were proven true, making the foreshadowing truly epic, although the fate tempting loses a little credence.HAL: It can only be attributable to human error. This sort of thing has cropped up before, and it has always been due to human error.
- Interestingly enough, the error isn't inherent in HAL, either hardware or software, as it was stated by an engineer that the technology in the ship was made to be accident proof and idiot-proof but nothing could make any machine proof against malevolent intent. In this case it was the secret orders given to HAL (while not all that malevolent in nature) that conflicted with his primary programming and caused him to malfunction spectacularly.
- In a non-HAL example, the prominent warning label on the pod doors about the explosive bolts.
- Frazetta Man: Moon-Watcher and the gang. They're just your ordinary apes of the savannah until the Sufficiently Advanced Alien artifact teaches them basic tool-use and they learned how to fight off predators as a group and use weapons against rival tribes.
- Fun with Acronyms: Though Clarke claimed it was unintentional, many readers have noted that if you shift each letter in HAL one letter forward, you get IBM. In-universe, HAL's inventor is asked if he chose the name "...to be one step ahead of IBM", and he angrily denies this.
- Future Society, Present Values:
- Pan Am flies spaceships to the Moon. Ma Bell provides the telephone service. All in 2001.
- The Pan Am cockpit crews are all men, and the flight attendants are all women. The alternatives wouldn't have occurred to most people in 1968.
- The attendant on the security video-screen asks new arrivals for their Christian name (today it's called first name or given name).
- Gainax Ending: Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite, far more so in the film than the book, where it's explained in a fair bit of detail.
- Goo-Goo-Godlike: In the climax, David Bowman's final, god-like form is the "Star Child," which mostly resembles a human fetus.
- Government Agency of Fiction: The National Council on Astronautics (NCA), of which Heywood Floyd is the chairman, is a fictional equivalent to NASA.
- Government Conspiracy: The U.S. government tries to cover up the discovery of the Monolith by cutting off all communication to Clavius Base, spreading rumors about an epidemicnote , and concealing the Monolith's existence from Dave and Frank.
- Halfway Plot Switch: The monolith storyline does come back at the end, however, people who start to scratch their heads as Dave deals with HAL and think "Wait—I thought this movie was about that monolith thing..." can be excused for doing so.
- Happy Birthday to You!: Frank's parents sing "Happy Birthday" via a prerecorded message.
- Hemisphere Bias: Although the Earth as seen from the moon looks unrealistically washed out (see Science Marches On), North America is always visible every time we see it.
- Hell Is That Noise:
- The ape men's screams are very disconcerting to hear.
- In the novel, Moon-Watcher wakes up to the sound of something sliding across the dirt, and then "the clank of metal upon stone." It's the Monolith. Later, drumming sounds come from it to hypnotize the man-apes into doing tasks.
- The "Computer Malfunction"/"Life Functions Critical" alarm when HAL kills the sleeping crew members. Makes it very bittersweet when the alarm abruptly terminates along with them.
- Hitler Cam: The scene of Bowman unlocking the door to HAL's Logic Memory Center and crawling inside is shot from a worm's-eye-view: the camera is on the floor and Keir Dullea has to step over it. By making him look huge and threatening, Kubrick gives us the impression that Bowman is going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against HAL without him having to say anything.
- Hollywood Webcam: Justified. A Video Phone interview between Earth and the astronauts is broadcast on television. The time lag between posing a question and getting an answer back (6 minutes) for the radio waves to travel between Discovery and Earth is mentioned, long enough to note as having been edited out specifically for the broadcast the astronauts watch.
- Humans Are Bastards: The first invention of humanity is a club that's used for murder. The ensuing Match Cut then lines up this bone with a Kill Sat in the film's year 2001, indicating that - for all the technological progress humanity has made in those millions of years - they are every bit as destructive as they were when they first came across the monolith.
- "Into (his weapons), Man had poured his heart and soul, and without them he would never have conquered his world. But now, so long as they existed, he was living on borrowed time."
- Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The "Stargate" sequence, and how. See And I Must Scream above.
- Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering: Dave Bowman uses the explosive decompression of the air inside his travel pod to return to the Discovery's airlock.
- In-Camera Effects:
- The long shot of astronauts in the lunar excavation used bipacking. In fact, most, if not all, of the film's visual effects were composited on the original negative. This sometimes required that a piece of film with one exposed element be placed in a refrigerator for months before the second element was added.
- The Dawn of Man sections were all filmed using 8 ft x 10 ft transparencies of backgrounds shot in Africa by the 2nd Camera Unit (with test shots faxed back to Kubrick for approval). These were front-projected on a screen made out of a 3M-made reflective material, which would wash out the image projected on actors, making for a more realistic appearance. In addition, a semi-silvered prism was inserted between the screen projector and the camera, to ensure perfect optical alignment and hide actors' shadows on the screen.
- The scene where Dave and Frank are recording instruments on the Bridge is actually not bipacked. The "hole" in the bridge set was taken up by a mirror at 45°, and the HAL's room exterior was placed below and offset from the Bridge set, allowing the appearance of gravity-defying sets.
- The moon shuttle stewardess walking in a circle and the scene of Dave and Frank entering the centrifuge used the same technique of rotating the set whilst locking down the camera to simulate rotation of the actors (if one looks closely at the moon shuttle scene, you can actually see a brief change in brightness as the camera locks down on its mounting). You can see the same technique used in films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Inception.
- In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: Mostly averted. The shot of Dave pushing a button to tint his spacesuit visor serves to hide the face of the stuntman used in the rest of the scene.
- Intermission: The rumbling sound of the ventilation system in the pod bay can be heard through most of the intermission, then Ligeti's Atmospheres plays to warn the audience to return to their seats. The home video version features an "entr'acte" card during the intermission once the music starts.
- Invisible Aliens: Sort of. While there is ample evidence for the presence of alien intelligences, neither humanity, nor Dave Bowman, nor the reader/viewer ever finds out what the actual aliens themselves look like. In the novel it's revealed that they had long since evolved into Energy Beings.
- Irony: A quite famous example: HAL 9000 is, in general, far more emotive than any human character in the film - Poole and Bowman are both very robotic and stilted in the way that they move and speak, while HAL has an affable and more human demeanour. Which makes it all the more heartbreaking when Dave switches him off as he begs, in his levelled, polite voice not to be turned off.
- Life Imitates Art: If you listen to the astronauts aboard the Apollo 13 mission as everything is going wrong, you couldn't tell there was anything wrong from the calm, stoic tone of their voices.
- I Want My Jetpack: In 2001, we have manned interplanetary spaceflight, permanent bases on the Moon, a huge spacestation with hotel, suspended animation, and sentient computers. Contrast with Zeerust below.
- Jitter Cam:
- In two scenes of the film, the Tycho monolith excavation and Dave's walking to HAL's brain room towards the end of the film, Kubrick himself shot these scenes handheld...with a big freaking Super Panavision 70mm camera on his shoulder. That the scenes didn't end up looking like a 2010s action film cliché is quite remarkable.
- The beginnings of Dave's freakout as he enters the Stargate may look like this, but it was actually performed by Keir Dullea tensing up his neck muscles whilst the camera was only inches from his face, creating an intense motion blur effect.
- Jump Cut:
- About two seconds before the famous Match Cut (see below), there is a jump cut that shows the bone tool spinning in the opposite direction. This cut is a bit jarring and piques the viewer's attention just in time for the cut-to-spaceship.
- During the scene where HAL kills Frank, a series of jump cuts are used to zoom in from the medium shot of the pod with arms extended and claws open to a close up of the pod's HAL camera. Combined with the sudden cessation of breathing/ventilation noises on the soundtrack, the effect is quite jarring.
- Jump Scare: In the novel, Moon-Watcher has woken up to the sound of falling pebbles. He looks down from the edge of the cave to see a leopard climbing up towards him.
- Jungle Drums: Coming from within the Monolith in the novel.For the first time-and the last, for three million years-the sound of drumming was heard in Africa.
- Keeping Secrets Sucks: For HAL, and for everyone else when HAL starts having problems with it.
- Kill Sat: The bone-turned-satellite from the opening is an orbiting nuclear platform according to Word of God (and the novel). This makes the Match Cut deeper than it initially appears; they are similarly shaped, but also both weapons.
- Kubrick Stare:
- Dave Bowman does it when he runs the diagnostic on the AE-35 unit, goes up to disconnect HAL, and arrives in the alien hotel room at the end.
- Frank Poole does it before confronting HAL about why he alerted them to the failure when there was obviously nothing wrong with the AE-35.
- Even HAL's red eye seems to create this effect in certain shots (for example, right after killing the hibernating astronauts.)
- During Dave's EVA to rescue Frank, a lot of Dave's facial expressions come across this way, since he's constantly scanning his displays. It's played straightest in the face he pulls immediately before cutting back to the Discovery interior.
- Kuleshov Effect: By a prop, no less! The film conveys HAL's emotions simply by shooting his single camera "eye" from different angles and durations.
- Lamarck Was Right: In the novel, the man-ape Moon-Watcher being made intelligent by the monolith is described thus: "The very atoms of his simple brain were being twisted into new patterns. If he survived, those patterns would become eternal, for his genes would pass them on to future generations." If the monolith wanted the patterns passed on, it should have been doing the twisting a bit lower down...
- Latex Space Suit: The spacesuits follow this design. Justified as people are working on similar outfits today.
- Leave the Camera Running: Often cited as one of the film's shortcomings, in the many lengthy shots (by today's standards).
- Leitmotif: The film used Also Sprach Zarathustra for two key scenes, both times when humanity (or its forebears) made some kind of evolutionary/spiritual leap.
- The Monolith has its own - György Ligeti's Requiem.
- The Moonbus transit scenes are backed with Ligeti's Lux aeterna, which serves as the monolith's leitmotif in 2010.
- Letting the Air out of the Band: Used for dramatic effect when HAL 9000 sings "Daisy Bell" (better known as the "Daisy, Daisy" song, or "A Bicycle Built For Two"). It is an indicator that HAL's mind is going. He can feel it.
- Lightworlder: It is revealed that children born on the moon will grow fast on its low gravity, but won't age quickly and will live longer. As shown when Floyd met his colleague Dr. Halvorsen's daughter who's only 4 years old yet she's grown, the last time he saw her she was a baby.So here, Floyd told himself, is the first generation of the Spaceborn; there would be more of them in the years to come.
- Logic Bomb: Revealed in the novel (and the movie 2010) as the cause of HAL's malfunction. HAL is programmed not to keep secrets and ordered to ensure that the human crew of Discovery do not learn about what is at Jupiter. He then sets about breaking contact with Earth and killing the crew, so there will be nobody to hide the secret from.
- The novel suggests that HAL might have been able to eventually resolve the problem peacefully had mission control not requested his temporary disconnection. HAL, being unable to grasp the concept of sleep, was convinced that the disconnection would have meant the end of his existence and his killing spree was therefore, all-in-all, a misguided attempt at self-defense.
- Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair: "No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information." It's debatable whether or not you could say HAL 9000 "made a mistake," but either way it murders four people and tries for a fifth.
- Low-Angle Empty World Shot: The only actual outside shot was the scene where the proto-human smashes the skull and bones, shot in a field on a raised platform from down low to get the sky in the shot and to avoid the cars and trucks in the background.
- Ludicrous Gift Request: When Dr. Floyd calls his daughter from space and asks what she wants for her birthday, she says she wants a bushbaby. He then (gently) tells her that it's unlikely to happen.
- Ludicrous Speed: The Stargate sequence. Granted, it's not the trip itself that changes Dave, but it certainly seems to affect him deeply. Of course, only the book really makes it clear that ludicrous speeds are even involved, while the film is a better example of the trope...
- Machine Monotone: HAL 9000 always talks in a near-monotone with just enough inflection to make it creepy. Towards the end of the movie, when Dave is essentially lobotomizing him, HAL goes from trying to reason with Dave to pleading for his life, stopping only when he reverts to factory settings and begins singing a rendition of "Daisy Bell," all in the same calm, polite voice.Dave: Open the pod bay doors, Hal.HAL 9000: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
- Machine Worship: In the novel, the Builders of the Monolith went through a phase where they uploaded their consciousness to starships before evolving into pure energy.
- Master Computer: HAL
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The film makes it ambiguous as to whether or not the Monolith gave Moon-Watcher the idea to use the bone, but it is implied.
- Match Cut: The bone club thrown in the air by the ape-man turns into an orbiting satellite — by Word of God, a nuclear launch platform, making the cut metaphorical as well as visual.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: The Precursors went through a stage of this as a part of their self-guided evolution, before going onward into energy beings.
- Mickey Mousing:
- The film used this for several extended scenes, including spacecraft in flight. The music wasn't actually written for the film, so they simply chose the most accurate piece to use for the individual sequence.
- The score as we know it was originally just used by Kubrick as make-shift editing music, so he'd have something to work with. It turned out he liked it so much he threw the entire original score, which had already been written and recorded, out of the window. (And this may have been his plan all along: Also Sprach Zarathustra, in particular, is suspiciously thematically appropriate.)
- Mind Screw: The film in many ways. The book, on the other hand, is vastly more comprehensible.
- A sizable voiceover was allegedly recorded, but Kubrick nixed it to avoid the effects of movies like Blade Runner. To be fair, it probably wouldn't have had the same effect and cemented Kubrick's directorial style, but it would have probably given the audience a clue as to what was happening.
- A popular urban legend (later confirmed by Arthur C. Clarke himself) goes that, after the premiere, Rock Hudson stormed out of the theater yelling, "Can someone tell me what the hell I just watched?"
- The movie was such a mind screw that the film adaptation of 2010: The Year We Make Contact was largely devoted to trying to explain what had happened in the last movie. You may not have heard of this sequel. There's an excellent reason for that.
- Ironically, its status as an enormous mind screw helped it grow in popularity with the counterculture (specifically with LSD users) at the time after a large number of regular moviegoers had been driven away by the incomprehensibility of it all. Reviewers who had initially given it negative reviews due to the weirdness on first viewing grew to like it on later viewings.
- The prologue and ending of the original book of 2001 are significantly longer than their movie equivalents for the same reason. There was a lot of 'splaining to do.
- Minimalist Cast: If you don't count the apes in the prologue, there are only a handful of characters — Dr. Floyd and his team in the Moon sequence, and Dave, Frank, HAL and the briefly appearing Mission Control in the rest of the film.
- Misplaced Wildlife: The tapirs in the first part of the film, which aren't native to Africa. In the novel they were warthogs, but Kubrick couldn't find anyone in England who could rent him warthogs on short notice.
- Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: HAL 9000. In the novel, the actual Mission Control, staffed by sane and non-murderous humans, is still there for Bowman after he shuts off Hal, and he finds out exactly what went wrong with Hal and why. This is cold comfort to Bowman, who's over an hour away by radio (the Solar System is a big place, even at light speed) and more alone than anyone has ever been. And in the end, all Mission Control can do is sit there while he utters his Famous Last Words (which oddly enough you don't get to hear him say in the original film — though they are the Cold Open for the sequel). "My God - it's full of stars!" And it is. Literally.
- The Monolith: Trope Maker.
- Mood Motif
- More than Three Dimensions: The novelization explicates that the Monolith has sides in a proportion of 1:4:9, the squares of the first three integers. Then it suggests the Monolith extends in more dimensions, presumably by squares."And how naive to have imagined that the series ended at this point, in only three dimensions!"
- Mundane Dogmatic: The film averts Space Is Noisy and space stations use Centrifugal Gravity rather than Artificial Gravity. Aliens are never seen, only ambiguously implied, and it is left ambiguous whether the events following David Bowman's encounter with the monolith (which would require FTL travel) are literally happening or are all just in his head. (Interestingly, this ambiguity allows the film to meet the Manifesto while the book by Arthur C. Clarke does not — the novel explicitly contains FTL travel, for one thing.)
- Mundane Made Awesome:
- Inverted. Space travel looks awesome to us, the audience, but to Floyd, Bowman and Poole it's routine and boring.
- In one of the first scenes, we see an ape playing with a bone - set to the tune of "Also Sprach Zarathustra", indicating we're witnessing something grand: the beginning of humanity.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: For HAL, as a way out of the Logic Bomb he becomes trapped in.
- Narrative Filigree: Many scenes, especially the middle. The subplot with HAL, which is the most memorable part of the movie, serves only to leave Bowman as the Sole Survivor, and it doesn't really have any connection to the Monolith plot except as a consequence of the Government Conspiracy, unless one considers HAL as part of the tool chain that begins with the bone club weapon from The Dawn of Man sequence, a device which serves humanity, but which presents its own dangers to overcome.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Frank and Dave use the pod to speak privately from HAL. Good. They then have HAL rotate the pod so HAL can watch them talking through the window, not realizing that HAL can read lips.
- No Antagonist: The animals in the beginning are just doing what they need to do in order to survive and defend themselves. HAL-9000 becomes a hostile threat towards the crew later on in the film, but ultimately he’s just doing what he thinks is necessary.
- No New Fashions in the Future: This is most obvious with the very '60s-looking women's hairstyles, and the matching plaid suit and pants worn by the photographer at the moon base.
- Non-Malicious Monster:
- The leopard in the "Dawn of Man" segment. It's not even really a monster, just an ordinary animal doing what it has to do to survive, but because the protagonists are among its natural prey, it's the segment's "villain".
- HAL 9000 in the "2001" segment. While it's ambiguous whether or not he's sentient, his psychotic behaviour wasn't his fault, being caused by a Logic Bomb in his programming.
- Non Sequitur Environment: After several minutes of Hyper Space Is A Scary Place, Dave Bowman very suddenly finds himself in what appears to be a hotel room - no transition, no portal, just a hard cut to a luxurious neoclassical interior. Bowman is extremely confused... and even more so when he sees himself standing in front of his pod a moment later.
- Nobody Poops: Averted by Floyd when he is careful to read through the entire set of instructions for the Zero Gravity Toilet before he uses it.
- The complete list of instructions was printed in The Making of Kubrick's 2001. Rather disappointingly, most of the instructions relate to the shower rather than the toilet itself.
- Nondescript, Nasty, Nutritious: Subverted in the food that Dave Bowman and Frank Poole eat while watching their interview with "The World Tonight" on BBC 12. (Also subverting the Future Food Is Artificial trope) Not only does it somewhat resemble food (if only highly-preprocessed, blended into a paste, shaped, and packaged), but the astronauts seem to make no complaint eating it. One resembles blended pumpkin, another a green pureéd vegetable paste, another resembles cream cheese, another some kind of meat and pasta casserole, and yet another resembling refried beans.
- No OSHA Compliance: Dave being supposedly stranded in the pod is due to this. Granted, the film was made long before Apollo 13 demonstrated the need for standardized components, but NASA is known for reducing risk as much as possible. One would expect a modern version of the Discovery to have emergency helmets or similar in the pods, a compatible docking port between the pod and Discovery, and/or external garage door actuation controls similar to the airlock at the very least. This would help account for situations of reduced crew complement, computer malfunction, radio malfunction, minor pod hull breach, pod manipulators locked in position incompatible with garage doors, garage hull breach, garage door malfunction...
- Then again, the situation Bowman is in - a panicked and ultimately unsuccessful rush to save his shipmate, with the ship's computer intent on his destruction and refusing to let the pod back on board - was never anticipated by the designers.
- Whilst it's stated that they do in fact have a redundant computer in case HAL is incapacitated or otherwise unavailable. The procedure to shutdown HAL is a rather convoluted and complicated process.
- Not So Stoic: The astronauts tend to remain calm and professional even in crisis situations. However, when HAL refuses to let him back through the pod bay doors or continue the conversation Dave's composure briefly wavers. He is clearly terrified just before blowing the hatch and reentering Discovery. And later when he is deactivating HAL, he is audibly breathing heavily, most likely from fear. And that's before he enters the stargate...
- Even before that, Dave and Frank were pretty much stoic through their daily routines in Discovery. Until they found nothing wrong with the AE-35 unit despite Hal's insistence...
- An additional subtext to Dave's facial expressions in the disconnection is not only fear, but regret. It's more explicitly compared by Keir Dullea in the commentary track for the LaserDisc/DVD/Blu-Ray releases to the climax of Of Mice and Men that Dave and HAL do actually have a rapport (HAL likes his sketches, for example), and Dave's doing this because he has to, not because he wants to. Not to mention that he's forced to slowly lobotomize HAL and hear his mind going, which would unnerve almost anyone.
- Nothing Is Scarier: With the introduction of the featureless black monoliths and the incredibly eerie music accompanying them.
- Obliviously Evil: HAL 9000. While not directly explained in Kubrick's movie, the novel and sequel elaborate that he was programmed to be both completely truthful and keep the crew from the motivations behind the flight to Jupiter — and when the crew becomes inquisitive, he has to find a way to fulfill both.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In the film when Bowman exits the stargate the pod just appears inside the alien-built hotel room. In the book he emerges back into regular space, sees a red giant star surrounded by thousands of abandoned alien space ships (from other races who had been uplifted by the monolith aliens and found their way there). He flies closer to the star and the hotel room is assembled around his pod. The cost of filming this scene using 1960s special effects technology would've been astronomical, so they never even tried.
- Offscreen Reality Warp: This provides much of the Mind Screw in the hotel room scene at the end of the movie. Bowman is in the pod, then he sees a slightly older version of himself in his spacesuit outside the pod, then the pod disappears. From the bathroom, he sees an older version of himself having dinner, then when the elderly Bowman gets up to look in the bathroom, the spacesuited Bowman has disappeared. The elderly Bowman sees an even older version of himself in the bed, then he and the dining table have been replaced by the Monolith. It conveys the effect of time dilation well, as if Bowman's entire life in that hotel existed simultaneously in one space.
- The comic adaptation simply states that Bowman is being made to age rapidly in the hotel room, while in some way being made extremely accepting of the rapid changes in his appearance.
- Offscreen Teleportation: Used memorably for the appearances of the Monolith and to show the progression of Dave Bowman's age in the hotel room near the end of the movie.
- Oh, Crap!: David Bowman as he is taken Beyond the Infinite.
- Dave gets three Oh Crap's in a row in the space of about a minute.... First, "I know you and Frank were planning to disconnect me." He tries to bluff, but then Hal answers, "Although you took very thorough precautions in the pod against my hearing you, I could see your lips move." Finally, the look on Dave's face when he realizes that he forgot his helmet.
- "Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose any more. Goodbye."
- HAL gets one of his own. "My mind is going... I'm afraid..."
- In the novel, the leopard experiences this when, because it cornered them in their own cave, Moon-Watcher's tribe break into a desperate frenzy and gang up on it.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: György Ligeti's "Requiem" and "Lux Aeterna" are so ominous, you can't even tell they're in Latin anymore. (Or Greek, in the case of the Kyrie from the "Requiem"!)
- One-Eyed Shot: During the Star Gate sequence, there are several extreme close-up shots of Bowman's eye with solarized colors. The colors of the eye only return to normal when the pod arrives in the hotel room. The image is featured on this movie poster◊.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Poole's father in the video letter.
- Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: Averted (a bit). The film used modified cel animation to depict computer readouts that would otherwise be difficult or impossible in 1968, such as David Bowman watching television on a paper-thin tablet aboard the Discovery.
- Panspermia: The aliens didn't necessarily seed Earth, but most definitely influenced the evolution of mankind.
- Parting-from-Consciousness Words: Played with. HAL is effectively dead for the remainder of the movie, but is only shut down, as he's a computer. It's one of the most famous moments in the film.HAL: "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do..."
- Pick Your Human Half: HAL 9000 (rather subtly), the ship's psychotic computer.
- Pietà Plagiarism: Dave is holding Frank Poole's body this way—using the arms of the EVA pod—during the "pod bay doors" sequence.
- Precursors: The Firstborn, the creators of the Monolith.
- Pride: See Foreshadowing above.Dave Bowman: Another thing just occurred to me: as far as I know, no 9000 computer's ever been disconnected.
Frank Poole: No 9000 computer's ever fouled up before.
Bowman: That's not what I mean. I'm not so sure what he'll think of it.
- Posthuman Nudism: The finale features Dave Bowman transcending human existence and becoming the Star Child, a giant floating godlike fetus — naked, of course.
- Primitive Clubs: When apes exposed to the Monolith start developing intelligence, the first thing they do is figure out the most primitive concept of a tool: how to use a large bone as a bludgeon. At the end of this segment, a shot of the bone being flung in the air is followed by a shot of a similarly shaped space station, suggesting that all of Man's technological achievements started with the club.
- Product Placement: Some, like Pan Am and the AT&T Bell System, are hilariously dated.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: There was a soundtrack by Alex North created for the movie, but until it was ready they used the classical music as a placeholder. Kubrick ended up liking the classical music version so much that he never used North's compositions.
- Purgatory and Limbo: The "white hotel room" Dave Bowman finds himself in after entering the monolith is a secular version of this, as it is an intermediate step between his existence as a human being and his existence as the immortal Star Child.
- Quieter Than Silence: Used all the time, and in many scary parts.
- Reading Lips: Despite all of Bowman's precautions, he can't keep HAL from visually eavesdropping on his chat with Poole.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: Literally evoked in a biological sense; the dawn of man is marked by the ape becoming a hunter. Killing a former fellow-creature to feed is a direct and immediate side effect of learning to use tools to manipulate the environment, a defining moment of the new species.
- Reality Is Unrealistic:
- The original plan was to have Discovery fly to Saturn. To that end, Kubrick's special effects team tried to create a model of Saturn that was as realistic as possible. However, the more realistic they made it, the faker it looked! The rings looked like a flat band of metal foil held up by plexiglass. Thus, the trip to Saturn was scrapped in favor of a trip to Jupiter. Flash forward a decade-and-a-half, when Voyager 1 sent back close-up Real Life photos of Saturn and its rings — the rings in Voyager's photos looked exactly like the flat, "fake" ones that Kubrick's production team had abandoned!
- Also, the Discovery was originally designed with large radiator fins, which is indeed realistic because spacecraft need a way to dissipate excess heat from the engines, life support, electronics, etc. However, the production team chose to omit the fins because they looked too much like wings, and they didn't want audience members to think that the Discovery was intended for atmospheric flight.
- The space scenes have a considerably higher star density than what would actually be visible in those circumstances, and also have apparent motion that shouldn't be there (the stars are too far away to have any motion perceivable on Earth on human time scales), but the scenes would look fake if there wasn't a source of apparent background motion. Similarly, shadows are flat black in space because there's no air to diffuse light into the shadows, but that'd look quite wrong to most eyes.
- Recurring Camera Shot: As the Monolith is jumpstarting human development it is shown with the sun right behind its top edge and the moon above that. Later when the one on the moon sends its signal, the shot is seen again, the sun over its top edge and the earth this time above that.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The cameras HAL looks through have glowing red lenses.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: While their personalities are overall pretty mellow, Frank is shown to be a little more confrontational/hot-headed than Dave is, openly challenging HAL about his error-free status, having more of a look of disbelief during HAL's denials, and being the first to suggest disconnection. Until everything that occurs after the intermission, Dave is generally more diplomatic and reluctant to directly confront HAL.
- Reflective Eyes: There are a couple of shots where one of the astronauts is reflected in HAL's red eye.
- Remote Vitals Monitoring: Played with. Dave leaves the Discovery to rescue Frank, which leaves only the three researchers in Suspended Animation plus HAL-9000. Each of the three "sleepers" has six vital functions monitored as real-time waveform graphs. Suddenly, an alarm sounds "COMPUTER MALFUNCTION" as some of the waveforms begin to flatline (metabolic rate) or become erratic (cardiovascular/heart rate). This is replaced by a faster, higher-pitched alarm of "LIFE FUNCTIONS CRITICAL" as all the vitals eventually flatline, ending in silence and "LIFE FUNCTIONS TERMINATED".
- Ridiculous Future Inflation:
- Inverted, Floyd makes a video telephone call (via AT&T, no less) from a pay phone on the space station to Earth, using his credit card, talks to his daughter in what we would now call High Definition video for about 2 minutes, and the listed call charge is exactly $1.70. (Today, if you used a public pay phone to make a call—presuming you could find a pay phone—The price in numbers (for a voice call) would be about the same, except the decimal point would be one space to the right...)
- Again, the novel describes a moon administrator's office as having "all the fittings and status symbols of the typical $50,000 a year head of a department."
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Discussed in the segment where the crew, and HAL himself, are being asked about his emotional capacity.
- Ring World Planet: The space station
- The Rival: The rival group of man-apes that antagonizes the main group, referred to as "the Others" in the novel.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Downplayed, but after watching his friend die in the cold vacuum of space and then being refused re-entry to the ship by HAL, forcing him to enter through the emergency airlock in a vacuum with no helmet on, Dave is, as HAL himself notes, quite stressed out. He subsequently deactivates/lobotomizes HAL as he begs not to be switched off, but does it more out of desperation than anger.
- Rule of Symbolism: This film is famous for its Visual Effects of Awesome as well as all the massive amount of symbolism coming with those visuals.
- The monolith appears in every section of the film, but we never get a full explanation of its meaning. It's a tall, black, rectangular object that looks like a giant external hard drive — and kinda is. One with all the information of the universe on it. Floyd's pre-recorded message to the Jupiter crew and his discussions with his moon-based colleagues provide us with the only real clues we have. The monoliths were created by extraterrestrials, but their purpose is unknown. The moon monolith is a signaling device, but the Jupiter monolith serves as a Star Gate and the prehistoric one as a genetic transmogrifier. György Litgeti's "Requiem" plays when the monolith is discovered by the early hominids as well as when Floyd reaches it on the moon. This score imbues these scenes with a sense of fear and awe, and the name of the work refers to a death song sung during Catholic Mass. Both the hominids and Floyd treat their respective monoliths with a type of religious reverence. The hominids are initially terrified—as most characters tend to be when faced with the almighty—but they soon gather around its base in a huddled group that draws parallels to bowing or kneeling motions used in worship. When Floyd touches the monolith, his hand does so slowly and deliberately, as though he's admiring an object with totemic power rather than studying an object with detached objectivity. Finally, when the monolith appears before Bowman on his deathbed, it does so in a dominating position that resembles an angel of death. Like a religious artifact, the monolith also appears supernatural, as in "unexplainable by natural laws." These monoliths likely follow natural laws that are so beyond our understanding of nature that they appear magical. Their role in the film also seems to be to help humanity reach the same levels of evolution their alien designers reached. They alter the evolutionary path of the hominids towards that of homo sapiens, and later they change Bowman into a Star Child. This final evolutionary state shares at least one trait similar to the extraterrestrials: the ability to traverse space like it owns the place. This is a nod to several religious beliefs that claim God (or the gods) created humans to be in his image, such as in Genesis 1:27.
- Screens and windows are everywhere in the film — and we mean everywhere. 2001 explores our reliance on technology to survive. The near constant presence of screens and windows expands upon this theme. Here, not only do we rely on technology to survive, but our reliance on technology has shaped how we view the world. Consider the scene where the lunar shuttle lands on the moon. The pilots have a view of the lunar surface, but equally important, perhaps more important, to the safety of their descent is the targeting screen between them that changes when they're lined up with the landing pad. A similar scene occurs when Bowman takes the EVA pod to rescue Poole. Like the shuttle pilots, Bowman has a tiny window, but he navigates space through the information provided by his many screens. In the straight-on shots, the screens reflect their information across Bowman's eyes and face, reinforcing the idea that technology interprets the way we view the world. Also, let's not forget that HAL views the world exclusively through lenses and screens. As a character, he can only interpret the world through the means of technology. This results in a worldview that is distorted from a human's perspective, represented by the use of a fish-eyed lens used for HAL's point-of-view shots. Plus, Bowman's transformation into the Star Child has him shedding these screens from his world. After his mind-expanding trip through the Star Gate—where we see Bowman mostly through shots of his eyes—Bowman and his EVA pod appear in the hotel room. The first thing to disappear is the EVA pod with its screens of information. The next thing to disappear is his spacesuit with the glass helmet that reflected so much of his experience to the viewer. Only in shedding his human view, as represented by windows and screens, can Bowman make the transition to the Star Child, a being that will look on the world in an entirely different way.
- The bone is naturally a very important symbol in the film as it symbolizes humanity's tools and our development of technology. After contacting the monolith, an early hominid sits on top of a pile of tapir bones. He then toys around with a bone, giving the other bones a few experimental taps. He then wallops the skull hard enough to shatter it into pieces. This hominid has become the first human inventor, and he's invented the club. This new invention converts momentum into power, allowing him to strike harder than he could with his hand. It also extends his reach and prevents the risk of injury that attacking with only his body would expose him to. Using this new tool, the hominids begin to act more like humans than we've previously seen them. They hunt tapirs, giving them meat which will increase their caloric intake and further allow for the development of their brains. They also begin to walk around more upright. Finally, they take their new weapons to the watering hole and chase off rival hominids, displaying their power by beating the rival group's alpha male to death. The implication is that it is our development of tools and technology that led humanity to evolve. This development allowed us to conquer our planet. The bone club eventually led to other inventions such as the tools of agriculture, hunting, travel and architecture. And then there's the famous Match Cut. The film is suggesting that all of our technological advancements came from this makeshift club. Just like we evolved from Australopithecus afarensis, and war evolved from waterhole skirmishes, so do satellites have their origins in that original technology. And just as the club improved the lives of our hominid ancestors, technology helps the astronauts survive in space in 2001.
- The film's implication is certainly not one of improvement. The film depicts man's first tool as being a tool of conflict, war, and death, taking us from a peaceful species (despite our petty squabbles) to a violent one, and the Match Cut has the bone become a nuclear platform satellite, showing that no matter how far we've come in our evolution, we still haven't overcome our stupid, apish penchant for needlessly killing our fellow sentient life-forms.
- Birthdays are a recurring motif in the film. We get word of the first birthday when Dr. Floyd calls his daughter on the video phone. The second birthday is Dr. Poole's, as while aboard Discovery One, Poole celebrates his birthday with a video message from his parents. They even bake him a good-looking cake, just to rub in how nasty that zero-G space food looks. Interestingly, parents and child are always separated during their birthdays. Floyd can't make it to Squirt's party, and Poole's message is entirely one-way; he can't respond to the birthday well-wishes. HAL's death provides us the third birthday. As Bowman removes his memory cards, HAL reverts back to who (or what) he was when he was first activated; he sings the song he learned that day. There aren't any birthdays in the first and final sections, but there are two births. In the Dawn of Man section, the early hominids learn to manipulate tools, and in a sense, this is the birthday of the human race. When Bowman becomes the Star Child, we have another birthday. This time the scene depicts the birth of a species hereto unknown to humanity. Note that these birthdays tie into the separation of parent and child we noticed earlier. Just like Floyd is separated from his daughter, these evolutionary births separate the individuals from their parent species. The film's always reminding us of the cycle of death and birth/rebirth. For humans to exist, our early hominid ancestors have to become extinct. Or, in the case of that one hominid, viciously beaten to death. For the Star Child to come into existence, Bowman has to die. In HAL's attempt to succeed in his evolutionary path, he tried to kill his human creators but failed.
- Sapient Ship: HAL, while not the ship itself, is its controlling computer. While HAL and Discovery are never treated as being one and the same, it is explicitly noted that HAL is, in effect, the ship's brain and central nervous system.
- Scenery Porn: Spacecraft in orbit around the Earth, waltzing to the Blue Danube. Too awesome to describe...
- Sealed Orders: HAL's sealed orders, and the anxiety over having to lie, are what cause him to go psychotic and murder the crew.
- Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: The hotel room has no windows or exits. In the novel, it's specifically a sealed room in the middle of a red giant star, and when it's no longer needed, it's allowed to burn up.
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: HAL Is About to Launch a Maintenance Pod Right at You.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: When Bowman goes out to rescue Poole, the entire sequence is shown in real time in order to make it absolutely clear that there's no way Poole could survive that long without air. HAL takes advantage of Bowman's absence to kill the other crew members by Cryonics Failure. Bowman recovers Poole's body, but ends up having to release it back into space again in order to get back onto the ship.
- Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Painfully shiny at times.
- Also inverted. 2001 changed the mainstream style of sci-fi spacecraft from sleek-and-polished rocket-like designs to more utilitarian-looking vehicles, using parts from model aircraft kits to create texture and an appearance of complex machinery (later called "kitbashing"). This style would be codified by Star Wars a decade later.
- During HAL's death scene, he sings a brief snatch of the song "Daisy Bell" ("Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do..."); this was chosen because Arthur C. Clarke had, a few years previous, visited a Bell Labs demonstration of synthesized speech, which included singing the song in question, and was the first example ever of computer speech. This Shout-Out is itself a frequent source of shout-outs in other films.
- A wheel-shaped space station and an interplanetary mission jeopardized by Space Madness were previously seen in George Pal's Conquest of Space, released in 1955.
- The Odyssey, of course. HAL was even originally going to be named Athena, after Odysseus's patron goddess, and the protagonist being named Bowman may be a reference to Odysseus owning a bow only he was strong enough to string. HAL's Cyber Cyclops design may allude to Polyphemus, the cyclops Odysseus defeated. Also see Sole Survivor.
- In a 1969 interview, Kubrick specifically mentions the influence of Carl Jung on the monolith design. In fact, the entire "Beyond the Infinite" sequence is similar to a section of Carl Jung's autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, in which Jung dreams he is floating above Earth when a black monolith appears. He enters it, finding an entire Hindu temple, and undergoes a spiritual evolution.
- The film famously uses Also sprach Zarathustra as a leitmotif. It's so famous that almost every use since then is a reference to (or parody of) 2001.
- Show, Don't Tell: This is why the novel works so well as a companion piece. Whereas the film has astonishing visuals, the story is deliberately vague. The novel obviously can't show any visuals, so Clarke devotes a lot of time to explaining the backstory, the history of the technology in the film, and what's really happening with the prehistoric humans and Bowman after he enters the Star Gate.
- Shown Their Work: Clarke and Kubrick made the same effort in regards to space travel and general scientific accuracy, even though the atomic-powered spaceship does not have radiator fins to get rid of the reactor's waste heat. The makers intentionally left them off, because after a decade teaching the public that there is no air in space, they didn't want them wondering why the spacecraft has wings.
- Silence Is Golden: Long stretches of the film have no dialogue, including the first 22 and last 24 minutes (not counting the overture and end credits/exit music), and there are sections that have neither dialogue, sound, nor music, leaving the audience in total silence.
- The Singularity: The monoliths are machines left behind by a race of aliens that underwent one of these.
- Silicon Snarker: HAL has an understated form of snark:Bowman: Alright, HAL. I'll go in through the emergency airlock.HAL: Without your space helmet, Dave, you're going to find that rather difficult.
- Sinister Geometry: The monoliths, featuring the arc numbers of 1, 4, and 9; 1:4:9 being the ratio of the monolith's depth to width to height, the squares of the first three positive integers. "And how naive to have imagined that the series ended at this point, in only three dimensions!" The films and some of the cover art mess up the dimensions.
- Sleeper Starship: The hibernation systems. The trip is one of months, not centuries, but suspended animation is used to avoid the problem of having to pack several months' worth of food, and to help keep secret the real purpose of the mission.
- Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: This is a very male-dominated movie. We do see women working in space, though largely as stewardesses, secretaries, and other stereotypically female professions. Dr. Floyd does speak to two female Soviet scientistsnote , but the group conducting the lunar expedition as well as the Discovery crew are both made up entirely of men. Arthur C. Clarke's sequel novels, especially 2010: Odyssey Two, incorporate more strong female characters.
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: A substantial amount of time is spent in discussions over the intelligence and emotional capacity of the H.A.L. 9000 computer that runs the spaceship USS Discovery. It's generally agreed that HAL is of human-level intelligence, but while he has vastly superior powers of calculation (obviously), his emotional capacity and intellectual maturity are those of a child. This factors heavily into the explanation of the Logic Bomb that causes him to turn on the crew.
- Sliding Scale of Visuals Versus Dialogue:
- Smart People Play Chess: HAL-9000 demonstrates its superior intellect early on by beating Poole in a game of chess. Since HAL errs reporting a move and Kubrick was a talented and knowledgeable player, the scene may be subtly foreshadowing HAL's deception or inaccuracy.
- The novel states that HAL deliberately loses against the human players 50% of the time so that they would find him a challenging opponent as opposed to frustratingly perfect and unbeatable. The crew are of course smart enough to know that this is the case but everyone involved decides to keep up the pretense for the sake of everybody's happiness.
- Interestingly, HAL appears to bluff Poole into surrendering, as well as read his lips as he mouths his next several moves.
- Social Services Does Not Exist: For HAL. Despite the magnitude of the mission, evidently this computer is not programmed to go into any sort of safe mode when conflicts pop up in its programming, nor are logs of his thoughts being beamed back to Earth to be reviewed, nor is there a teeny stripped down separate AI "subconscious" watching his thoughts and alerting Earth in case of problems, nor is there an automatic "kill switch" for Dave or Frank to use to cut off HAL's higher functions in case of trouble.
- Soft-Spoken Sadist: HAL 9000 is this, overlapping with Creepy Monotone.
- Sole Survivor: Like Odysseus, Bowman is the only member of his crew to return home, albeit transformed by the experience.
- Some Dexterity Required: After extended sequences depicting the reduction of space travel to mundane actions and everyday situations, Dr. Heywood Floyd encounters an enormously long set of instructions for operation of the "Space Toilet".
- Sound-Only Death: The hibernating astronauts who are murdered by HAL. Our only indication that they are dying comes from their life sign monitors, which flatline in a chorus of alarming beeps.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: HAL sings "Daisy Bell" as it dies.
- Space Clothes: A more realistic version. Though early on we see Dr. Floyd travelling through space in a casual suit as well as a few people on the space station dressed similarly, the Stewardesses are seen wearing a strange white suit which includes a round hat and velcro shoes; it looks odd but the design is somewhat practical (the shoes are designed so they can walk down aisles in zero-gravity, while the hats are probably to keep their hair from floating all over the place). However, on board Discovery, Dave and Frank are simply wearing gray jumpsuits like you'd expect from real astronauts.
- Space Is Noisy: An all-too-rare aversion, which arguably adds to the creepiness of certain scenes, such as when Bowman is attempting to re-enter Discovery via the airlock — sound suddenly stops when Bowman detonates the explosive bolts and undergoes decompression.
- Played straight when apparently noise can be heard during the "Beyond the Infinite" sequence, although it's an open question if it either actually occurs in the vacuum of space or if the noise is not diegetic and simply for the audience's benefit.
- Space Is Slow Motion: Practically the Trope Codifier.
- Space Isolation Horror: Thousands of miles away from any help, two men, several frozen passengers, and an artificial intelligence that is nowadays one of the Trope Codifiers for A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
- Space Station: The "rotating orbital wheel"-styled Space Station V (Five), perhaps the most recognizable in fiction.
- Space Suits Are Scuba Gear: The space suits have an attached air line, which Frank frantically tries to reattach as he drifts off into space.
- Special Effects: The film is notable and well-remembered for its Visual Effects of Awesome — most of which still hold up remarkably well when seen today, and look downright incredible when compared to other science fiction films of the 60s and 70s (right up until A New Hope a decade later, and even that arguably wasn't as impressive). Expert camera work, incredibly well-crafted models, and clever practical effects, combined with a healthy budget, result in space scenes that look as real as the best of what modern CGI can cook up today. There are some unfortunately unavoidable exceptions — a few "microgravity" effects are unconvincing, and there are a couple of fairly obvious Matte Shots here and there, but by and large it's very obvious why the film won the 1969 "Best Effects" Oscar (somewhat controversially, its only Oscar win).
- Spheroid Dropship: The Aries series of orbit-to-Moon shuttles are Spheroid Spaceliners.
- The Discovery's main crew section is also spherical. It is separated from the rest of the ship — the (nuclear) drive section and the communication antenna — by a long boom in order to protect the crew from radiation from the ship's engines. Supplementary material indicates that the modules on the boom are also used for consumables storage.
- Spiritual Successor: One early working title for 2001 (and one that actually made it into early publication material) was How the Solar System Was Won. Considering how both films can be described as widescreen/Cinerama epics about humanity pushing out across a new frontier, it's not completely inappropriate.
- Staggered Zoom: Into HAL's camera on the front of the space pod that he kills Frank with.
- Standard Establishing Spaceship Shot: The Ur-Example.
- Starfish Aliens: The aliens are so alien that they can't even be shown on screen. The novels imply that they started as Starfish Aliens, but later transformed themselves into Mechanical Lifeforms, and eventually into Energy Beings. Clarke and Kubrick consulted Carl Sagan for advice on how to portray aliens onscreen, and Sagan actually felt like showing the aliens at all would inevitably diminish their impact, so they left the aliens implied but never shown. In a supplementary book called Lost Worlds of 2001, Clarke records failed experiments with writing about both Human Aliens and worlds filled with Starfish Aliens, before he finally decided to have the monoliths be the last relics of an unseen, long-ago-vanished civilization.
- Starship Luxurious: The Orion III spaceplane, which carries Dr. Heywood Floyd to a space station orbiting Earth, is clearly designed for comfort and luxury. Justified because it is explicitly a passenger vehicle meant to transport VIPs, rather than a utilitarian spacecraft built for hardened astronauts. The spaceplane is owned and operated by Pan Am, an actual airline at the time the film was released (though now defunct in real life). Other spacecraft seen in the film, such as the "Moon bus" and Discovery itself, are much less luxurious.
- Starter Villain: The leopard serves as this to humanity. While not evil, it's the biggest threat to the apes destined to become the ancestors of mankind at the beginning. Then the Monolith teaches apes how to make tools, and their next confrontation goes quite differently as they become their own villains.
- Stay in the Kitchen:
- PanAm offers passenger service to low Earth orbit and the Moon, but the flight crews are all men and the flight attendants are all women (which was the case in the commercial airline industry in 1968, when the movie was made.)
- In the novel, we see that the Soviet Union of 2001 has somewhat more egalitarian attitudes towards women, with female scientists working alongside men in the Soviet space program. Given that the USSR launched the first woman into space a few years before 2001 hit theatres and bookshelves, at a time when America's space program would hardly do such a thing, this was another reasonable extrapolation into the future. A female Soviet scientist is briefly seen in the space station segment of the film, though her role there isn't made clear as it is in the book.
- Stay with the Aliens: Spelled out in rather greater detail in the novel, the whole point of the Monolith setup is to "capture" the first human who makes it out that far into space.
- Sticky Shoes: The stewardess on the lunar shuttle has "grip shoes" that stick to certain types of flooring.
- Stock Shout-Outs: One of the poster children. The sunrise sequence, HAL's voice and red eye, the bone/satellite Match Cut...you can reference literally anything in this movie and almost every viewer will instantly get it.
- Streaming Stars: Within the hyperspace gate, the psychedelic colors are intended to represent the incredible speed of Bowman's travel.
- Stupidity-Inducing Attack: Dave Bowman pulls a rare lethal version on HAL 9000, removing its memory modules until its "brain" shuts down. Despite the machine being a clear antagonist, the sequence is remarkably upsetting.HAL: Dave. My mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a...fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer...
- Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Whoever the Monolith's creators are.
- Surprise Checkmate: HAL does the "number of forced moves" version. Notably, it was cheating and not all of them were really forced — a subtle early hint of HAL's untrustworthy nature.
- Tastes Like Chicken: The crew flying to Tycho Crater remarks this of the sandwiches they eat.
- Technology Porn: The film is pretty much a 50/50 mix of this and Scenery Porn.
- They Should Have Sent A Poet:
- The Star Child sequence.
- In an out-take from the novel, they did—Bowman is reciting lines from Childe Harold as he approaches the Monolith.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Bowman doesn't actually say it, but it's written all over his face right before he blows the pod's hatch, sans helmet.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: HAL 9000 kills Frank Poole by maneuvering his space pod and using the gripper arms while Poole is on EVA to replace the AE-35 unit. David Bowman rushes out in another pod to rescue his fellow astronaut, but in his haste neglects to take a helmet for his pressure suit. When HAL refuses to open the pod bay doors so Bowman can reenter Discovery, the fact that Bowman lacks a helmet means he has to throw himself out of the airlock in order to regain entry into the spaceship. He is able to open the outer door of the airlock with the gripper arms, but the pod hatch does not mate with the door completely. Bowman blows the explosive bolts on the hatch, tucks down, and is blown into the airlock. In seconds, he is able to shut the outer door manually and repressurize the airlock. Although this scene is perfectly plausible despite Explosive Decompression, Bowman inhales and holds his breath right before the hatch blows, which is the wrong thing to do. This may have been a mistake by actor Keir Dullea, however. Arthur C. Clarke reportedly said that if he had been on the set that day, he would have corrected this.
- Title by Year: A 1968 science-fiction film, named for a year in the future.
- Toilet Humour: See Nobody Poops; the film's only intentional joke.
- Too Dumb to Live: In the novel, the rival group of man-apes was paralyzed with fear upon seeing Moon-Watcher hold the leopard's severed head towards them. Except for One-Ear, who went to attack him anyway, only to get bashed on the head by the leopard's head.
- Touched by Vorlons:
- David Bowman gets captured by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, who cause him to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. He returns to Earth many years later as the Star Child, an Energy Being with superpowers.
- The entire human race is a product of this, due to their very distant ancestors having been molded by The Monolith while still in a proto-hominid phase of evolution. Their superpower was an expanded capacity for learning how to use basic tools, something that no other species on Earth had yet accomplished.
- Treacherous Advisor: HAL 9000 is supposed to be an omniscient guide for the rest of the Discovery crew, but after Frank Poole's death it is clear that he no longer wants Dave alive.
- Trippy Finale Syndrome: Perhaps the patron saint of this trope.
- Tuneless Song of Madness: As more and more of HAL-9000's mind is shut down, he begins singing "Daisy Bell."
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Or so it seemed in 1968.
- Typeset in the Future: HAL is the Ur-Example of using Eurostile Bold Extended on computer screens to indicate a futuristic setting. The zero-gravity toilet instructions are set in Eurostile Bold, but most other signs and control panel markings (such as "Caution Explosive Bolts") are in Futura Bold, the standard font Boeing uses on the control panels of its aircraft.
- Übermensch: If one follows the Nietzschean line of interpretation (which is backed up as a legitimate strand by Word of God) to understand the meaning of the film, the Star Child is a visual metaphor for the birth of the Übermensch.
- The Unreveal: We never see any aliens. All we know of them are their tools, the Monoliths. This was due to the suggestion from Carl Sagan that they could never genuinely conceive of an alien lifeform without it looking like a puppet or a bad rubber mask. Kubrick himself later admitted that, as in the novel, the Firstborn have ascended into beings of pure energy, and thus simply don't have a physical form that can be revealed.
- Upgrade Artifact: The monolith is the ultimate one, as it kickstarts or triggers progressive evolutionary levels.
- Vader Breath: Prominently featured during spacewalk scenes, reportedly performed by Kubrick himself.
- Video Phone: The movie features a videophone in a phone booth, in a rotating space station. The AT&T Picturephone had been publicly demonstrated in 1967, the year before the film's release. It never caught on.
- Villainous Breakdown: HAL's pleas to Bowman become increasingly desperate as he realizes that he's about to be "killed" and has no way to prevent it."I'm afraid, Dave."
- The Walrus Was Paul:Arthur C. Clarke: If you understood 2001 completely, we failed. We wanted to raise more questions than we answered.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: The three cryogenically frozen scientists get practically no characterization before being killed off. Lampshaded in the novel as David examines their dead bodies:"He had never known them very well; he would never know them now."
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: HAL 9000 is only devoted to the mission at hand and believes that Dave and Frank will jeopardize the mission by disconnecting him after lip-reading from them that they intend to do so if the AE-35 component does not fail as HAL has predicted. It turns out this was do to a Logic Bomb: he had been told to lie about the nature of the mission, which conflicted with his programming of providing clear and accessible information, which triggered his breakdown.
- Wham Line: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
- From the book: "The thing's hollow! It goes on forever, and...oh my God, it's full of stars!"
- Wham Shot: The camera showing HAL can read lips, and then immediately cutting to Intermission.
- Also, a double wham shot in the ending: the appearance of the Monolith in the hotel and David Bowman being replaced by a space baby within a bubble of light.
- What Is This Feeling?: In the novel, Moon-Watcher "felt dim disquiet that was the ancestor of sadness" when he woke up to find his father died in his sleep. Even if he does not truly comprehend the capacity of having a father, much less a relationship with him.
- The World Is Not Ready: The justification for the Government Conspiracy.Floyd: I'm sure you're all aware of the extremely grave potential for cultural shock and social disorientation contained in this present situation...if the facts were prematurely and suddenly made public without adequate preparation and conditioning.
- Zeerust: HAL is a mind-bogglingly advanced, sentient computer, but can't print plain text onto looseleaf paper. Humanity in 2001 can build spectacular space-stations and has mastered interplanetary flight, but people are still using typewriters.note By 2001, the movie looks more like what the world would have been like with 1960s styles coinciding with a future space age.