Man has always been fascinated with a trip to the stars and made that curiosity abundantly clear in films dating back to the 1902 French silent film A Trip To the Moon. That sense of galactic adventure has continued unabated through numerous movies, including 1950’s Destination Moon, 1956’s Forbidden Planet, 1971’s Solaris, 1979’s Alien, 1981’s Outland, 1983’s The Right Stuff and 2006’s The Astronaut Farmer.
Apollo 13 (1995)
1995’s excellent space docudrama by Ron Howard stars Tom Hanks as command pilot Jim Lovell, along with Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon as astronauts Fred Haise and Jack Swigert. As the entire world watched in 1970, the Apollo 13 lunar mission was aborted due to an explosion on board, which slowly depleted the craft of its oxygen and electrical power. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, this film is technically incredible in its accuracy as the race to return these men home keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.
Space Cowboys (2000)
Veteran actors Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner star in this 2000 film directed by Eastwood as four aging test pilots called into action to repair a Soviet satellite. Finally realizing their dreams of going into space, the crew goes through a battery of tests readying them for spaceflight, delivering lots of laughs and an intriguing storyline along the way. Making it to space, the team encounters a whole new set of challenges that push their abilities to the limit. Overall it’s a really fun flick.
Based on the 1964 novel of the same name, this film was released just four months after the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Astronauts Jim Pruett (Richard Crenna), “Buzz” Lloyd (Gene Hackman) and Clayton “Stoney” Stone (James Franciscus) serve as the crew of a space station returning to Earth. After the main engine fails, the crew is left “marooned” in space. With famed actor Gregory Peck leading the all-star cast as Administrator Charles Keith, those back on Earth must figure out a strategy to save the crew. Winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, Marooned is a true classic of the space film genre.
Hidden Figures (2016)
This Oscar-nominated biographical drama about African-American female mathematicians working at NASA during the space race stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson respectively. Traversing a racially segregated field and the impending rise of electronic computers, the trio works to ensure the success of John Glenn’s 1962 orbital spaceflight. Nominated for numerous awards, including three Oscars, Hidden Figures is a feel good story all around.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Widely considered director Stanley Kubrick’s masterwork, this epic science fiction movie follows an astronaut’s journey to Jupiter alongside the sentient computer HAL. Tackling themes including human evolution and artificial intelligence, the film is considered groundbreaking for its depiction of space and special effects. Often placed highly on lists of the greatest films ever made, 2001 was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1991.
The Martian (2015)
This science fiction film starring Matt Damon depicts astronaut Mark Watney’s struggle to survive on Mars and journey to return to Earth after being abandoned by his crew in the year 2035. Based on the 2011 novel of the same name, The Martian has been praised for its scientific accuracy and it racked up numerous accolades including seven Oscar nominations and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy and Best Actor.