When compiling a list of space films, it is impossible to overlook George Lucas’s seminal tribute to Star Wars. Apart from the cheesy chimpanzee costumes, the film is still engaging and contemporary today.
Flying spacecraft, towering silver humanoids, and Bernard Herrmann’s legendary score have all become cultural icons. This film, unlike many other sci-fi spectacles, explores more profound concerns of faith and intellect.
Space movies have always been a fascinating cinematic subgenre, allowing filmmakers to explore big ideas like mankind’s place in the universe or the human desire for exploration. While some have been unremarkable, others – such as the campy Buck Rogers serials or Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – are true classics.
Christopher Nolan’s behemoth space epic is no exception, featuring a slew of impressive special effects and a haunting Hans Zimmer score. Its evocative visuals of intergalactic travel may sometimes feel corny or reiterative and its father-daughter narrative is hobbled by astronomy and physics seminars disguised as dialogue, but Interstellar is ultimately powered by the bottomless depths of paternal love. It also features some of the most viscerally exciting space footage ever seen on film. A must-see, especially in IMAX. — S.H.
The claustrophobic terror of space is a key element in the plot, as the crew of the commercial ship Nostromo are menaced by a hideous creature. The film boasts a superb cast of actors including Tom Skerrit and Sigourney Weaver. The monster itself is a perfect horror design, combining womb-like organics with cold mechanicals and revealing nothing of its emotions or intentions.
This is the movie that introduced many of us to a whole new level of horror. It was filmed five years before man first set foot on the moon. Paul Verhoeven combines stunning action spectacle, goopy horror romp and white-knuckle thriller in this movie about an alien bounty hunter and her vengeful snot-spewing henchmen. The pelispedia movie features amazing creature designs by HR Giger, including the chestburster scene. The movie also has an apocalyptic vision of humankind’s future.
3. Interstellar II
Featuring some of the most spectacular scenes of space ever committed to film, Interstellar takes us on an epic, action-packed voyage through the universe. Director Christopher Nolan is a master of landscape-scale action sequences, and his depiction of a spinning white vessel floating through the galaxy is breathtakingly impressive.
But it’s the film’s scientific and astronomical content that really sets it apart. Kip Thorne, the theoretical physicist who conceived of the movie with its producers, used real-world science to give shape to the story’s set pieces: wormholes, higher dimensions and Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity are all on show.
The film’s emotional core is a missive from father to daughter, and while it’s often clumsily handled (that ‘love transcends space and time’ monologue is a particularly bad offender), it’s still a heartfelt and memorable one. It’s also a testament to the power of human imagination.
4. The Martian
For decades, moviegoers have been fascinated with space. Some films have channeled this curiosity into classics, such as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or the 1969 Buck Rogers serials. Others have tried to make sense of our fascination with the stars, including the sci-fi thriller Interstellar and the animated time travel tale Lightyear.
Matt Damon’s thrilling turn as stranded astronaut Mark Watney in The Martian makes this film one of the best of the recent space-themed blockbusters. Ridley Scott regains the light touch that was missing from his misfires of recent years, and Drew Goddard’s script has the right mix of humor, action and drama to keep you rooting for Watney.
It also has plenty of NASA scheming (Jeff Daniels as a bureaucratic commander, Chiwetel Ejiofor as a Mars expert) and zero-g action sequences that suck the air out of your lungs.
Few recent sci-fi films have managed to capture the sense of wonder and awe that first greeted mankind’s rendezvous with the Moon. But Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie and director of Source Code) has succeeded with this meditative drama about a man whose three-year lunar stint mining Helium-3 for an energy company begins to take its toll on him.
Sam Rockwell delivers a virtuoso performance as the lone astronaut on the lunar surface, where mysterious lights and a hostile robot he calls GERTY keep him from being able to communicate with his family back home. This space thriller evokes the paranoia of an era that was worried about Big Brother as well as the threat of corporate greed and technological overreach.
Recreates the nail-biting thrill of Nasa’s daring Apollo 11 mission with quiet professionalism and a gripping cast led by Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and a just-holding-it-together Claire Foy as his wife.