- Directors: Stanley Kubrick
- Producers: Stanley Kubrick
- Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C Clarke
- Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi
- Actors: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Leonard Rossiter, Douglas Rain
DVDs of this film restore the blank screen musical prelude that appeared in the original road-show release though this was not seen in the wider theatrical release of the film or early VHS releases. The viewer sees a blank screen while the theme music “Atmospheres” plays (the same music played during the final StarGate sequence). After about three minutes the music dies out and the MGM logo appears. The title sequence then begins with an image of the Earth rising over the Moon, while the Sun rises over the Earth, all in alignment. (This is the first of three occurrences in the film of the iconic “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” theme. See music section for further discussion of the use of music in the film.)
Over images of an African desert, a caption reads “The Dawn of Man.” A tribe of herbivorous apes is foraging for food. One of them is attacked and killed by a leopard. They are driven from their water hole by another tribe. Defeated, they sleep overnight in a small exposed rock crater. Waking at sunrise, they find that a black monolith has appeared in front of their shelter. They approach it shrieking and jumping. Soon after that, one of the apes (Daniel Richter) realizes how to use a bone as both a tool and a weapon. The apes have now learned how to kill, and are seen eating meat in a subsequent scene. The next morning, they wrest control of the water hole from the other tribe, killing its leader in the process. Triumphant, the ape leader throws his bone into the air, which switches via match cut from a close-up of the bone to a long shot of an orbital satellite millions of years in the future. This satellite and three more immediately following it are generally identified as orbiting nuclear weapons.
Dave leaves the Jupiter ship in an EVA pod, and encounters another monolith in orbit around Jupiter. Approaching it, he finds himself suddenly traveling through a tunnel of colored light (termed the â€œStar Gateâ€ in the novel by Clarke) racing at great speed across vast distances of space viewing strange astronomical phenomena, concluding with landscapes with altered colors. He eventually finds himself in a bedroom containing Louis XVI-style decor. He repeatedly sees older versions of himself, with the film’s points of view each time switching to the older Dave. Finally an elderly and dying David Bowman is lying on the bed. At its foot a monolith appears. It transforms him into a fetus-like being enclosed in a transparent orb of light (termed the â€œStar-Childâ€ in the novel by Clarke). The final shot shows the â€œStar-Childâ€ floating in space next to the Earth.