If you’re going to make a list of space movies, it’s impossible to ignore George Lucas’s seminal ode to Star Wars. Iffy ape costumes aside, the movie still looks fresh and engrossing today.
Flying saucers, hulking silver humanoids, and Bernard Herrmann’s iconic score have become icons themselves. Unlike many sci-fi blockbusters, this one tackles deeper questions of faith and intellect.
1. 2001: A Space Movie Odyssey
The most ambitious and innovative science fiction film ever made, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece still stands as a profoundly thought-provoking experience. With its twirling orbits and star field backgrounds that dance to Beethoven’s Blue Danube, it is also an experience in the poetry of motion and a rich statement on cinema’s power.
The flixtor film opens with a vignette of pre-human evolution that eventually leads to the discovery of a monolith on the moon. A buried radio signal then leads to Jupiter, where Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) embarks on a journey with cryogenically suspended scientists and the ship’s sentient supercomputer, HAL 9000.
Despite its polarizing reception upon release, 2001 remains unsurpassed and transcendent. It eschews action and explosions in favor of a slow and cerebral adventure that demands the audience’s intelligence. A film that can only be appreciated with patience, it is a work of art that will remain timeless.
2. Space Movie: Children of Men
The infinite expanse of space has provided a backdrop for exploration, romance, horror and big ideas since the first rocket launched. From undisputed classics such as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to campy classics like Flash Gordon and Barbarella, the genre has also produced some of cinema’s best and worst.
Children of Men is no exception. While some critics have derided its bleak, prophecy-laden narrative, Alfonso Cuarón’s film is also loaded with social commentary about the current world, from the War on Terror to the Syrian civil war and Brexit. Plus, it features an unforgettable duel between Keir Dullea’s David Bowman and HAL 9000 that demonstrates just how far visual effects have come in the past 50 years.
Paul Verhoeven’s snot-spewing insect-haunted space thriller isn’t for the squeamish, but its gore-spattered corridors and tale of a misbegotten crew dovetailing into hell on a mysterious planet are sure to scare the pants off you.
3. Space Movie: First Man
With brass blasts, orchestral grandiosity and a soulful score by Justin Hurwitz, Damien Chazelle’s First Man uses claustrophobic close-ups and shaky camera work to immerse viewers in the tense, stressful, dangerous reality of the 1960s space race. The result is riveting.
La La Land star Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong, a man who appears almost robotically resolute to achieve his mission even when calculations don’t add up and test flights veer wildly off course. But the film avoids the heroic mythologizing often found in portrayals of America’s space program, instead focusing on the harrowing challenges and tragedies that were an essential part of its success.
There’s no denying that space travel is terrifying. But First Man also captures how much of the journey was hard work, teamwork, and collaboration — and how that struggle made the triumph all the more impressive.
4. Space Movie: Gravity
The story of a lone scientist ignored by his peers and then making a breakthrough is one of the oldest Hollywood plots, but few films have used it as effectively as this 2001 thriller. The film’s iconic soundtrack, visual effects, and sheer scope make it a classic in its own right.
Few movies have conveyed the sensation of weightlessness like Gravity. Directed by Trainspotting’s Alwin Kuchler, the film dips and dives and moves in close to let you feel what it’s like to be adrift in space. It’s not a perfect film, but the way it makes you feel is genuinely remarkable. This is a must-see for space lovers.
5. Space Movie: The Martian
Whether it’s Alfonso Cuarón’s dystopian visions or Ridley Scott’s claustrophobic sagas, cinema’s fascination with space hasn’t dimmed with time. While Interstellar took a grand view of the fate of humanity, The Martian focuses on saving one man and succeeds in making the bleakness of space feel both terrifying and enthralling.
Like Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Matt Damon’s NASA botanist is left to his own devices on the Red Planet after a sandstorm forces his crewmates to abort. The Martian is a testament to the power of science (it even boasts an ad campaign featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson) and should help inspire a new generation of astronauts.
Essentially High Noon in space with 100 percent more splattered heads, this cult sci-fi thriller is a thrilling ride that takes place above and below Jupiter’s moons. It’s cutting-edge effects and claustrophobic sets haven’t aged a day.