Barry Lyndon Review

Barry Lyndon Poster

Barry Lyndon Poster



  • Run Time: 3 hours 5 minutes
  • Studio: Warner Bros. 
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Where to Watch: Prime Video ($)


Redmond Barry is a young Irishman with no future, no prospects, and no fortune to speak of. He has nothing but hopes for a better life. When he’s run out of town for attacking an Englishman, Barry enlists in the English Army to try and escape. But after his first taste of combat in the Seven Years’ War, Barry seizes an opportunity to improve his station. He steals an officer’s uniform and horse and begins his new career as a conman. But this does not last long, as he is exposed by a member of the Prussian military and is forced back into the armed services. After several more years of service, Barry has earned the Prussian’s favor and is given an intelligence assignment in the city. But Barry senses another opportunity to improve his situation and he begins his most sophisticated con yet. His new plan leads him to fame, fortune, and station beyond his wildest dreams, but there is always a cost.

Stanley Kubrick is one of the most recognized and prolific directors of all time. He’s responsible for so many impeccable movies like 2001, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and many more. Barry Lyndon fits in nicely in Kubrick’s filmography. It’s long, detailed, and beautifully composed. The costumes, set pieces, and dialogue are some of the most authentic I’ve ever seen in a movie. IMDb trivia will tell you that only natural light or candlelight was used to illuminate the sets for renowned cinematographer John Alcott, who won an Oscar for his work on Barry Lyndon. The 4K restoration makes even the blandest scenes in this three-hour runtime look incredible.

Kubrick’s adaptation of the obscure 1840’s novel Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray could be considered dull. It certainly is a long affair and there are a lot of period-specific elements that can be hard to follow at times. But if you can stick with the dialogue (maybe with the help of subtitles), Kubrick will take you on a journey through the 18th century filled with equal parts elegance and absurdity. Ryan O’Neal’s interpretation of the Irish rogue that is Redmond Barry is nothing short of amazing. O’Neal exudes an aura of greed, and jealousy that creates a character with an insatiable appetite for money, power, and station. O’Neal pours on the charm that a cunning conman like Barry would need and woos various other characters, including Marisa Berenson’s Lady Lyndon. The two of them together are like a sickeningly sweet dessert, they look great but you feel gross after you eat a slice. They are poison to one another and are responsible for the other’s ruin. Watching them spiral out of control as the story progresses into the third act is like watching the Hindenburg go down, you can’t look away.

The inability to look away is what makes Barry Lyndon so fun to watch, to a point. The decadence, wastefulness, and frivolity paired with such elegance and sophistication is a recipe for disaster in this bygone era. However, it does start to feel a little long after the second act starts because of all the political and social maneuvering required to position Redmond Barry for his transition to Barry Lyndon. Kubrick is known for his long movies, but this one doesn’t have nearly enough mystery or curiosity to justify such a long run time. As the narrator states so clearly, it is not long until his downfall would be complete. (I wish more movies would use a narrator like this in a similar capacity. It’s such a fun tool.) With the fate of Barry being so casually tossed out, it felt to me that it could have been wrapped up a little bit sooner. Or some of the excesses from the second act could have been trimmed out slightly.

Most moviegoers are no strangers to Kubrick, but Barry Lyndon is one of his works that continues to fly under the radar almost 50 years after its release. With the expected attention to detail, backbreaking realism, and elegance the likes of which can barely be contained, Barry Lyndon is truly a sight to behold. If you’re a fan of period-piece drama, then this is the story for you. Or if you’re a completionist and want to watch a lesser-known Kubrick masterpiece, Barry Lyndon is still worth your time. Just make sure you’ve set aside plenty of time for it.

Dylan M.
Dylan M.

Dylan created Movies Not Films as a fun project to stay occupied during the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He started with a simple movie diary on a spreadsheet and eventually transformed it into with a robust catalog of reviews, suggestions, and ranking lists. Currently living with his now-fiancé and two dogs, Dylan has a full-time career but still makes time to watch all the latest movies and most of the new TV shows.

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