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A Clockwork Orange (1971) Movie Review & Summary

This cult movie should be on all movie lovers’ lists who enjoy top-level directing with attention to detail as we see the evolution of Alex from violence and tragedy to a civilized citizen with harsh psychological treatments.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven.

  • Genres: Crime, drama & sci-Fi
  • Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee & Michael Bates
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick


This masterpiece has everything! It is a synthesis of a masterful director, inspired and at his best, the adaptation of a novel like few others, remarkable music, good acting performances, and extraordinary photography. A clockwork Orange is truly a gem in the history of cinema.


  • Directing
  • Extraordinary cinematography
  • Remarkable music and acting
  • Brilliant art direction


  • Violence
Characters & Acting
Music & cinematography

The details


The story takes place in the UK in a dystopian future marked by violence and authoritarianism. Alexander Delarge, the protagonist, leads a gang of marginalized youth who spread chaos through unjustified acts of violence. After getting caught and sentenced to prison for his actions, he agrees to undergo a psychiatric treatment called Ludovico to reduce the time of his sentence, a therapy that is still in the experimental phase. Then everything takes an unexpected turn.


Young criminals, Alex (Malcolm McDowell), Dim (Warren Clarke), Georgie (James Marcus), and Pete (Michael Tarn) live in a futuristic English city and find themselves in a spiral of fights, beatings, assaults, and, as they call it, “ultra-violence.” This movie will trigger all sorts of emotions since it often takes dark turns featuring gory scenes of violence along with sexual assault and rape.

After Alex’s violent brawl against members of his same gang, he faces repercussions which lead him to be the target of multiple attacks and hate crimes. In his time in prison, he agrees to be the “guinea pig” in the experiment of new aversion therapy to lower his grief. When subjected to extreme violence, he takes a toll for the worse as he begins to feel the effects of aversion therapy. “It’s funny how colors in the real world only look real when we see them on a screen,” he says.

After a while, disgusted by the mere fact of seeing more violence, he is acquitted and integrates into the outside world. There he suffers atrocity after atrocity due to his past actions.


Adapted from the novel by author Anthony Burgess, the movie has 4 Oscars, including the Best Adapted Screenplay. The film captures all the satirical, violent and grotesque essence of the novel and one of the most violent and unbalanced characters in the history of cinema and literature.

Through some impressive images, which will be difficult for us to forget, Kubrick involves us in Alex’s life. From the first frame of the film to the last, you will be immersed in its style (we have to say that it became a pop icon). The solution ends the moral and ethics of our beloved protagonist, becoming a social tool to be used and abused by anyone. But all this is treated with humor in a unique style. We must say this is a very violent movie with sexual content, so viewer discretion is advised.

The movie is almost like a comic in its construction of the characters and situations. Kubrick regularly uses humor, which contrasts with the movie’s barbarism and brutality. In the movie’s most famous scene, we can see this contrast; Alex, singing “Singing in the Rain,” as he dances and tortures a woman.  This scene became one of cinema’s most famous scenes, having originated from a spontaneous decision by the magnificent director Stanley Kubrick on the set.

The dialogues are very well structured. The language is infused with the jargon, the Nadsat (the slang of the gang that Burgess created), defines the characters well. Likewise, we highlight the use of the voice-over by Álex to narrate and clarify some details of the story and turn it into a subjective story, seen from his deformed and particular point of view.

Characters and actors

The performances are remarkable, especially that of the dramatic Malcolm McDowell, who wrote his name in gold on the pages of cinema history. His masterful portrayal of the psychotic Alex moves successively from disgust to compassion. And it is not an easy task to embody such a complex character: Alex is brilliant, wicked, firm and determined; but he is not without feelings.

Curiously, someone like this is the product of gray parents, clumsy and straightforward to the point of stupidity. Malcolm McDowell overcomes the character brilliantly. He dedicated himself so strong to the role, one of his eyes got permanently damaged in one of the experiment scenes, but he did not stop. It is difficult to attend to other characters when all the attention falls on McDowell, but we must not forget Aubrey Morris, the great Patrick Magee, a priceless Michael Bates, and Alex’s “droogs” (James Marcus, Warren Clarke, and Michael Tarn). They all put on great performances, which elevate the movie to higher levels.

Music and cinematography

It is a film that adheres to the artistic trend of formalism, full of fantastic elements, unreal and grotesque environments, unusual situations and intense movement alterations, speed of shots, acceleration of scenes, camera movements, unnatural perspectives, and lighting, to give a vision of the dystopian world that helps the development of the story.

The setting and costumes are surprising, turning into a splendid futuristic environment. It is absorbing, enigmatic, fascinating, and highly influential both for the world of cinema and for popular culture. Few works in cinema history can claim to be as controversial and provocative as this one. In it, we find sequences that are among the most disturbing and original: the beating of the beggar, the attack with a penis-shaped sculpture, and, of course, the sessions of the terrifying experiment Ludovico, that just mentioning it already gives goosebumps.

The soundtrack plays a significant role in this film because the protagonist is a big Beethoven fan. His works follow one another during the story as Ludwig Van Beethoven’s music accompanies the images. Another important aspect is the choreography; Kubrick “disguises” the violence with dances to different musical sounds.

Still, the most important is, as we said, the one in the writer’s home since it is Alex himself who sings “Singing in the Rain” while he tortures a woman, dancing to the music which eventually comes back to haunt him.

Final verdict

Some films will always be valid in the history of the seventh art; one of them is “A Clockwork Orange.” The master Stanley Kubrick created a work of art in its entirety. Every detail has an ingeniously built significance in the movie, from the music to the characters’ words, from the make-up to the camera’s movement…

A film that provokes moral reasoning superior to the work of many philosophers, inspired so many generations of film-makers and artists in general; it is a must-watch for everyone!

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