One small step for man, one giant leap for man-made special effects. Stanley Kubrick forced the film industry to rethink what was possible with his mind-bending portrayal of evolution, two doomed astronauts and a talking computer named HAL. The aftershocks from what Steven Spielberg calls his film generation's "big bang" are still being felt in modern sci-fi flicks like "Inception" [source: Kazan].
With just 40 minutes of dialogue over nearly two-and-a-half hours of film. Kubrick relied on images, music and various audio effects -- most notably, a penetrating silence -- to guide viewers on their journey through outer space. Like "8 ½" before it, the film once again showed that a compelling narrative doesn't have to unfold in linear fashion [source: Suber].
The true impact of the film is not its story, but the visual and special effects used to tell it. Those techniques have since been picked up by a whole host of sci-fi filmmakers, from George Lucas in "Star Wars" to Ridley Scott in "Alien" [source: Kazan].
"After '2001: A Space Odyssey,' science fiction is dead," Scott famously said of the film's legacy, meaning that everyone imitated it. "There's nothing original. We've seen it all before. Been there. Done it" [source: Kazan].