The 6 Most Iconic Space Movies

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The 6 Most Iconic Space Movies

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2019 saw the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the historic mission in which Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first humans to land and set foot on the moon. This event captivated television audiences and has served as inspiration for some of the most iconic space movies. Even before Aldrin and Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing, filmmakers produced films with space as the backdrop and setting. To this day, audiences remain captivated by space movies, where humans are often pitted against the enigmatic, unknown, and often unforgiving realms of the universe.



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These movies are produced across multiple genres, from action movies to drama. Regardless of the genre, these movies tend to draw in audiences and have a broad appeal. Many space movies released in the past fifty years have captured the mysterious aspects of space, and the dangers that can arise. The possibilities are endless as to what kind of movies can be produced with space as the setting.

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‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)

One of Stanley Kubrick’s best directorial efforts, 2001: A Space Odyssey is considered to be one of the best space and science fiction films. In the film, a crew is in the middle of their journey into space headed for Jupiter, along with HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain), the ship’s onboard computer. Along the way, the ship’s computer system begins acting strange and displays increasingly erratic behavior.l

Although most space films depict the dangers of space outside the safety of a spaceship, this film breaks through that comfort zone and endangers the entire crew from within.

‘Gravity’ (2013)

A film with an all-star cast, Gravity features Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts working in space. A passing debris field severely damages the shuttle the two astronauts are working out of, and results in Clooney’s character drifting off into the empty void of space, leaving Bullock’s character stranded in zero gravity.

As Bullock’s character fights to survive and get back to Earth on her own, the vast emptiness of space comes into the forefront, bringing audiences along for the terrifying ride.

‘Apollo 13’ (1995)

Directed by Ron Howard, and starring an all-star cast including Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, and Gary Sinise, Apollo 13 serves as a dramatized retelling of the aborted 1970 Apollo 13 space mission. In real life, the Apollo 13 mission was intended to land on the moon but instead experienced a malfunction in one of the ship’s oxygen tanks. With the moon landing aborted, the objective turned towards getting the men aboard home to Earth safely.

For the 1995 movie, Howard sought to make it as accurate as possible and turned to NASA to help train the cast in various astronautical terminologies. The end result is a movie that focuses less on the accident, but more on the ability to improvise in order to survive the journey back home.

‘Planet of the Apes’ (1968)

Based on the 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes was written for the screen by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, and starred Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, and Kim Hunter. In the film, a group of astronauts is awakened from hibernation and their ship crashes into an unknown planet in the year 3978, more than two thousand years after their departure from Earth in 1972. On the planet, the astronauts find the environment desolate and discover advanced, talking gorillas who are humanlike, and who oversee all aspects of life.

The ending of the film is a complete shock to Heston’s character and is cemented in movie history. Planet of the Apes is considered to be one of the best sci-fi films of all time, from the performance of the cast to the work by director Franklin J. Schaffner.

‘The Martian’ (2015)

Directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Matt Damon, The Martian finds his character stranded on the surface of Mars after his team evacuates in the aftermath of a dust storm. His character is presumed dead and is left behind, completely alone on the planet.

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Although The Martian isn’t set predominantly in space, it shows how isolating other planets can be, and how quickly and suddenly disasters can strike on any planet.

‘Alien’ (1979)

Alien follows seven crew members aboard the spaceship Nostromo who are returning to Earth. Detecting a distress signal from a nearby planet, the crew decides to land. When Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt) touches an egg, an alien creature attacks him and attaches itself to his face. This leads to a literally explosive discovery aboard the ship when another creature, known famously as a Xenomorph, explodes out of his chest and escapes the crew. A search ensues for the increasingly growing and dangerous alien creature.

As the last surviving member of the crew, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is able to escape the alien. Directed by Scott, the movie depicts the crew in space as isolated, and far away from any sort of outside help or intervention, earning the movie its famous tagline, “In space, no one can hear you scream.”

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