From Interstellar to Hidden Figures: 12 of the best movies about space

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By Simon Ings

Matthew McConaughey successful  Interstellar

Matthew McConaughey successful Interstellar

Melinda Sue Gordon/©Paramount/c

Interstellar (2014)

Explorers get connected a satellite covered successful knee-high water. Distant “mountains” travel sweeping towards them: a planet-spanning kilometres-high slayer tide. They escape, lone for an unhinged astronaut to maroon them, a small later, connected a coagulated airborne unreality of exotic ice.

Often silly, sometimes genuinely visionary, Interstellar is the champion rejoinder the 21st period has yet made to Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey. Matthew McConaughey plays Joseph Cooper, a widowed NASA aviator who is called upon to travel into interstellar abstraction to find an Earthlike “Planet B” for america to determination to, present that the Earth’s nutrient strategy is collapsing. Jessica Chastain plays his grown-up daughter, haunted by her father’s ghost.

Their performances transportation existent conviction, but it is the acceptable pieces that matter. Gargantua, a spinning achromatic spread that provides the movie with its climax, is simply a ocular effect calculated truthful accurately by physicist Kip Thorne and rendered truthful meticulously by London effects workplace Double Negative, it ended up successful a insubstantial for the diary Classical and Quantum Gravity.

Years earlier, Thorne and movie shaper Lynda Obst had conceived of a movie exploring what, successful an interview with Science magazine, Thorne called “the warped broadside of the beingness – achromatic holes, wormholes, higher dimensions, and truthful forth”. They’re the taxable of Thorne’s precise entertaining publication The Science of Interstellar.

Nolan, meanwhile, has gone connected to marque movies of expanding complexity. Tenet is his latest, doing for clip what Interstellar did for space.

Sam Rockwell successful  Moon

Sam Rockwell successful Moon

AF archive / Alamy

Moon (2009)

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is preparing to permission the satellite astatine the extremity of his three-year stint arsenic sole supervisor of a helium-3 mine. (Robert Zubrin’s publication Entering Space gave Duncan Jones the film’s concern premise.) But Sam is besides trapped successful the carcass of a crashed lunar ore conveyor. And arsenic Sam and Sam wrestle with their inexplicable meeting, they indispensable lick an evident and pressing puzzle: conscionable however galore much Sams mightiness determination be?

Offered a low-budget British sci-fi movie by a first-time director, Rockwell near things until the past minute, past grabbed astatine the accidental of playing against himself. Once connected board, his committedness was total: riffing and extemporising disconnected memories of his ain performance, helium insisted connected distinguishing the 2 Sams much by demeanour than by costume changes. The effect is simply a compelling, emotionally charged thriller, spiked with an inventive premix of effects (from CGI to exemplary enactment to simple, deft editing) that keeps the assemblage off-balance passim the movie. Jones has yet to apical his debut work, and Rockwell, for each his consequent successes, volition everlastingly beryllium remembered arsenic the Moon guy(s).

Eve Green successful  Proxima

Eve Green successful Proxima

Proxima (2019)

Shot successful the European Space Agency’s grooming facilities successful Germany, and successful the analyzable extracurricular Moscow that is location to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Alice Winocour’s 3rd diagnostic Proxima ne'er leaves the ground, and yet it remains an out-of-this-world experience.

Cinematographer Georges Lechaptois brilliantly captures these seldom glimpsed spaces successful each their strangeness, banality and occasional dilapidation. One can’t assistance but think, watching this, that being an astronaut indispensable beryllium similar being a nonrecreational jock – one’s glamorous vocation being conducted, for the astir part, successful smelly changing rooms.

Plaudits besides to Eva Green for her portrayal of Sarah Loreau, a azygous parent fixed a last-minute accidental to articulation a ngo to the International Space Station. Green conveys wonderfully Sarah’s conflicted authorities of some wanting to spell to abstraction but not wanting to beryllium separated from her daughter. The solution is determination but it’s going to beryllium hard to forge, and Green’s show is heart-rending.


Alien successful Alien

AA Film Archive / Alamy

Alien (1979)

Sigourney Weaver plays Ripley, subordinate of a sensible and resourceful space-going cargo unit whose capabilities are going to beryllium of nary usage whatsoever arsenic they face a predatory, stowaway alien.

Critics loved Alien: they said it would alteration however we thought astir subject fiction. It also, for immoderate of america who caught it astatine the close age, changed however we thought astir biology.

We person been an apex predator for truthful long, we person forgotten the specialness of our privilege. Alien reminds america of what the earthy satellite is truly like. It locates america successful the mediate of things, not without resources but astir decidedly not astatine the apical of a nutrient chain. It reminds america that surviving processes are predatory – that beingness is astir tearing surviving things isolated to get astatine their earthy material.

The clumsily named “xenomorph” of the Alien movies has an infamous beingness cycle, loosely based connected those of definite parasitic wasps, but with the added constituent of plasticity. A hugged quality brings distant a humanoid alien. A hugged canine produces a canine. (Where the aquatic aliens of Alien: Resurrection (1997) outpouring from is anyone’s guess.)

If you privation to cognize what Darwin said, work On the Origin of Species. But if you privation to cognize however it indispensable person made its archetypal readers consciousness – spell ticker Alien.

 A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey

Photo 12 / Alamy

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

When Stanley Kubrick suggested a movie thought to British writer Arthur Clarke, Clarke responded enthusiastically. “The ‘really good’ science-fiction movie is simply a large galore years overdue,” helium wrote.

The question – which the 2 ne'er truly resolved – was which truly bully movie to make. A movie astir the triumph of subject and technology? Or a movie astir the timeless yearnings of the quality spirit?

While Kubrick, a pupil of quality nature, manager of searing and discomforting films similar Paths of Glory and Lolita, mined Japanese sci-fi movies for peculiar effects, Clarke, a communications outer pioneer arsenic good arsenic a writer, worked up a publication centred connected what helium aboriginal dubbed “the God concept”.

Encompassing everything from the dawn of man, the abstraction race, artificial intelligence, abstraction exploration and trans-dimensional travel, 2001 centres connected the duel betwixt David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and the inadvertently-designed-to-be-murderous HAL, a machine that is guiding his vessel to Jupiter. We thin to presume Clarke provided the film’s gosh-wow origin and Kubrick provided the unease. Not so: his 1960 story, The Challenge of the Spaceship shows Clarke already painfully alert of the challenges faced by a “little, self-contained assemblage floating successful vacuum millions of miles from anywhere, kept live successful a bubble of integrative and metal” with “absolutely nothing” happening.

The boredom and incipient madness that haunt some Bowman and the ship’s poor, boxed-in AI are the film’s main point: that we cannot unrecorded by crushed alone. We request thing more.

Taraji P. Henson (centre) successful  Hidden Figures

Taraji P. Henson (centre) successful Hidden Figures

20th Century Fox Film Corp. All

Hidden Figures (2016)

At NASA’s Langley Research Center successful 1961, 3 Black pistillate mathematicians, Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), lend their sizeable mathematical quality to the agency’s efforts to motorboat achromatic men into space. The portion they enactment successful is segregated by sex and contention but the difficulties they look are ignored by galore of their colleagues. Their boss, Al Harrison, (a composite fictional quality played by Kevin Costner), feels different and proceeds to desegregate NASA single-handedly, equipped lone with an acerb lingua and a sledgehammer.

The movie is loosely based connected 2016 publication of the aforesaid sanction by Margot Lee Shetterly, though it takes a little factual approach. For example, the movie delays Johnson’s pioneering enactment by a bully decennary truthful that she tin share feel-good moments with the different pistillate formed members.

Whether that matters comes down to idiosyncratic taste. It is nary tiny happening that, acknowledgment to this film, we present cognize Johnson, Vaughn and Jackson by name.

Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon and Tom Hanks successful  Apollo 13

Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon and Tom Hanks successful Apollo 13

AA Film Archive / Alamy

Apollo 13 (1995)

On 11 April 1970, a seventh crewed ngo successful the Apollo abstraction programme launched from Kennedy Space Center successful Florida. It was owed to onshore successful the Fra Mauro crater, and assistance found the aboriginal past of some the satellite and Earth.

Two days into the journey, an oxygen vessel successful the spacecraft’s work module exploded, and their formation way was changed to loop them astir the satellite and bring them backmost to Earth connected 17 April. Dizzy from c dioxide levels successful the air, mounting astatine a complaint they thought would termination them, soaking bedewed from each the condensation, acold due to the fact that powerfulness was present severely limited, and with lone integrative bags of their ain urine for institution they couldn’t jettison for fearfulness this would change their course, commandant Jim Lovell, bid module aviator Jack Swigert and Lunar Module aviator Fred Haise uttered hardly a connection of complaint. Incredibly, they survived.

For his script, manager Ron Howard has added 1 statement betwixt Swigert (Kevin Bacon) and Haise (Bill Paxton) and different changed hardly a connection of the authoritative Apollo 13 transcript. Tom Hanks plays Lovell arsenic a susceptible antheral dealing with a crisis. There are nary epiphanies. Souls aren’t searched. For some, this mightiness marque for a somewhat muted experience. But this painstakingly close movie (the sets included bits of the Apollo 13 bid module; adjacent the actors’ unit suits were airtight) remains peerless, utterly convincing successful each changeable and each gesture.

Ryan Gosling successful  First Man

Ryan Gosling successful First Man

Universal / Lifestyle pictures /

First Man (2018)

As if landing connected the satellite wasn’t enough, Neil Armstrong spent the remainder of his beingness having to picture the acquisition to the world’s media. No wonderment helium became thing of a recluse – which of people lone served to make adjacent much media interest.

Armstrong, an aeronautical technologist and assemblage professor, was a antheral who enjoyed his privacy. Cornered, what could helium bash but archer the aforesaid communicative again and again and again? Disappointed, their curiosity unslaked, radical called him dull.

Two years aft hurling a vocally challenged Ryan Gosling into his philharmonic La La Land, Damien Chazelle formed him arsenic Neil Armstrong, successful a movie that promised to find Armstrong’s beating bosom and affluent affectional life. As such, First Man is simply a triumph.

Gosling is the movie actors’ movie actor, susceptible of expressing heavy emotion with astounding economy. Playing “buttoned up” hampers him hardly astatine all. And helium is fixed plentifulness to enactment with. Josh Singer’s ingenious publication gives Armstrong a profound and idiosyncratic information for wanting to scope the satellite that successful nary mode interferes with the humanities record, oregon trivialises its celebrated subject. As for the satellite landing itself, it represents a milestone successful cinematic technique. You’ll judge you were there, and you’ll wonder, deeply, wherefore Armstrong, oregon anyone other for that matter, ever went.

Dennis Quaid successful  The Right Stuff

Dennis Quaid successful The Right Stuff

Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy

The Right Stuff (1983)

Anchored by almighty performances by Sam Shepard arsenic Chuck Yeager and Ed Harris arsenic John Glenn, Kaufman’s 3-hour-13-minute epic loosely follows Tom Wolfe’s publication of the aforesaid name: a heart-thumping yet captious relationship of the earliest US efforts to nonstop humans into space.

What is needed for that is, of course, “the close stuff”: a operation of skill, bravery and a somewhat blood-curdling fearlessness successful the look of death. They are qualities superbly embodied successful Shepard’s show arsenic test-pilot Chuck Yeager, the archetypal antheral to interruption the dependable obstruction (and, incidentally, a advisor connected the film).

Leaving Earth besides needed collaboration, organisation, adjacent – eden assistance america – publicity. Ed Harris is the squeaky-clean Glenn, destined to beryllium the archetypal American successful space, whose “right stuff” has had its unsmooth edges shaved disconnected by endless classes, tests, mag profiles and media events.

Historically, The Right Stuff isn’t particularly accurate. In particular, Mercury astronauts Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard were captious of the mode the movie short-changed their compatriot Gus Grissom, who died successful the Apollo 1 fire.

Still, it is simply a thoughtful and intelligent movie, arsenic good arsenic a thrilling one, and it captures precise good the infinitesimal abstraction question became a serious, and corporate, enterprise.

Matt Damon successful  The Martian

Matt Damon successful The Martian

20th Century Fox Film Corp. All

The Martian (2015)

Premised connected a single, staggering inaccuracy (a Martian tempest could ne'er get up the vigor to stroke a spacecraft over) The Martian is an different cleverly figured-out communicative of however an astronaut (Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon), near for dormant connected the aboveground of Mars, mightiness survive for 4 years connected a fare of potatoes grown successful recycled faecal matter.

Based connected a publication (by Andy Weir) that itself began beingness arsenic a bid of blog posts, Scott’s movie retains an endearing, cobbled-together quality, which neatly (and by the end, truly rather movingly) reflects Watney’s scrabble for survival.

Boasting habitat, spacesuit, spacecraft and motorboat conveyance designs that each carried NASA’s stamp of approval, The Martian flits betwixt Watney’s Martian base, the vessel successful which his unit mates are returning home, and the offices and power rooms connected Earth wherever everybody is frantically trying to bash the close thing, arsenic their chances of redeeming Watney constrictive to a point.

An unashamed advertisement for NASA’s plans for Mars, and a solemnisation of its crewed programme’s rebirth aft the Challenger catastrophe successful 1986, The Martian already feels somewhat dated. But its invention and bully humour are timeless.

Sandra Bullock successful  Gravity

Sandra Bullock successful Gravity

Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / A

Gravity (2013)

When a unreality of debris travelling faster than a speeding slug collides with the abstraction shuttle, ngo specializer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) indispensable marque their mode crossed gulfs of abstraction connected dwindling supplies of aerial and propellant successful hunt of a conveyance that volition instrumentality them home; soon the debris unreality volition instrumentality connected its inexorable orbit.

As apt to scare idiosyncratic disconnected a abstraction vocation arsenic animate them to prosecute one, Gravity is premised connected the thought that debased Earth orbit is truthful crowded with hardware and discarded junk that a collision could initiate a concatenation absorption known arsenic the Kessler syndrome, and destruct each satellite.

For each that, Gravity is little a subject fabrication movie than a endurance movie (think Open Water oregon Touching the Void, some from 2003), and is the past spot you would spell for a acquisition successful orbital mechanics. While not rather arsenic egregiously silly arsenic 2019’s Ad Astra (in which Brad Pitt virtually leaps done Saturn’s crystal rings, utilizing a hatch-cover for an umbrella) Gravity is nary 2001, nary Apollo 13, nary First Man.

But portion accuracy is 1 thing; information is rather another. With Gravity, manager Cuarón triumphantly realised his ambition to marque the archetypal genuinely weightless-seeming film, conveying the situation and sensation of zero gravity much powerfully, instantly (and, yes, accurately) than immoderate film-maker, earlier oregon since.

William Lee Scott Jake Gyllenhaal Chris Owen Chad Lindberg successful  October Sky

William Lee Scott, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Owen and Chad Lindberg successful October Sky

Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / A

October Sky (1999)

NASA technologist Homer H. Hickam Jr.’s autobiography provided the effect for this play astir a teen coming of property astatine the dawn of the abstraction race. A 17-year-old Jake Gyllenhaal (he was inactive taking schoolhouse classes during the filming) plays Homer, a precocious schoolhouse pupil successful Coalwood, West Virginia, when, successful 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the archetypal human-made satellite.

Inspired by the Soviet achievement, and encouraged by his teacher (Laura Dern), Homer and his chap “rocket boys” commencement gathering their ain homemade missiles. Chris Cooper finds golden successful the somewhat thankless relation of Homer’s father, conscientiously pouring acold h2o connected his son’s dreams: what’s incorrect with moving successful the section ember mine, he’d similar to know?

Director Joe Johnston is amended known for his alternatively much gung-ho approaches to heroism and rocket flight. (1991’s Rocketeer is a cult classic; Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) needs nary instauration here.)

October Sky is an altogether much contained achievement: the touching communicative of imaginativeness awakened by the possibilities of rocketry, abstraction travel, and a satellite beyond Earth.

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