Ron Howard’s depiction of Apollo 13’s doomed 1970 mission is one of the classic space movies ever made and features an exquisite spaceship named Moya that perfectly balances tension, emotional drama and historical accuracy.
Jodie Foster plays Ellie Arroway, an SETI astronomer who is determined to discover extraterrestrial radio signals. Carl Sagan inspired this film adaptation.
The USCSS Nostromo was a working spaceship that responded to an urgent distress signal from LV-426 but never returned home. Starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, and Veronica Cartwright as actors; its plot revolved around an alien that created havoc aboard its decks.
Concept artist Ron Cobb designed the Nostromo to be nondescript, adding to its unsettling unprettiness. Bray Studios constructed three models to represent this ship: an 11-foot tugship model; four-foot medium model featuring illuminated engines for rear shots; and finally, smaller tugboat that pulled Kane’s body forward during its launch sequences.
Ridley Scott had these models initially painted yellow to conform with Cobb’s industrial designs, but shortly before filming started he requested they be repainted grey to imply years of deep-space wear and tear that would occur during its timeline. The name Nostromo comes from Joseph Conrad’s 1904 novel Nostromo; later the vessel would also serve as inspiration for other spacecraft like Narcissus and Sulaco from within the Alien franchise.
Christopher Nolan wowed audiences a year later with Interstellar, exploiting public fascination with spacecraft to craft an epic drama about humanity’s survival in space.
Nolan sought advice from veteran astronauts in crafting his film and ensured his cast looked the part. McConaughey and Hathaway donned silver spacesuits which combined elements from NASA’s historic rocket suits with those worn by Apollo astronauts during missions on the moon.
Nolan’s visual effects team, Double Negative, created one of the most accurate depictions of a black hole ever seen in film (consulting with Kip Thorne – Professor Brand’s inspiration – in Interstellar). Furthermore, Double Negative rendered waves 4,000 feet high that towered 4,000 feet above actors and spacecraft. While many science fiction movies result in frequent audience groans upon encountering historical, logical, or mechanical inaccuracies; Interstellar was tight enough to hold their attention even among well-educated audiences.
Salyut 7 (1985)
Based on actual events, this movie chronicles the rescue of Soviet space station Salyut 7 after it lost contact with Earth in 1985. Cosmonauts Vladimir Dzhanibekov and Viktor Savinykh (plus flight commander Valery Ryumin) can be recognized from their real-life diaries; however, at times the movie can become overdramatic by creating fictional incidents or exaggerating actual ones to add drama. When back on Earth they must contend with fear-mongering news commentators as well as bureaucracy that cares more about image than national security.
Director Klim Shipenko enhances tension through impressive zero-gravity acrobatics and intricate set design, yet takes time out for his crew to bond over vodka while worrying about loved ones back home. At an indirect geopolitical level as Russia attempts to assert itself again as one of the great powers, his film also provides insight into this subject matter.
The Right Stuff (1986)
Based on Tom Wolfe’s 1979 novel The Right Stuff, this film chronicles the early days of America’s space program with novelistic style and engaging drama. The astronauts in The Right Stuff are shown as both highly intelligent and deeply relatable individuals; one journalist at an launch speculates aloud as to what Alan Shepard might be thinking at any given time; John Glenn reported seeing fireflies during his first orbit aboard Friendship 7 according to John Glenn himself.
As you follow Shepard, Glenn, Cooper, Wally Schirra and Gus Grissom’s achievements of the Mercury seven – Shepard, Glenn, Cooper, Wally Schirra and Gus Grissom among them – the special effects will impress, but what really strikes home when watching their journey towards spaceflight and escape velocity can only be witnessed first-hand by viewing what has never been witnessed before is truly inspiring and should be watched over two sittings for optimal viewing experience. As it is quite long, viewing will enhance its full experience.
Space Camp (1980)
Space Camp was initially an unsuccessful box office failure but has become a VHS cult classic over time. Director Harry Winer–known for his work on TV shows like Charlie’s Angels and Starsky & Hutch as well as marrying one of its stars Kate Capshaw–says that people still approach him to say watching this film inspired them to become engineers or astronauts themselves.
Andie Bergstrom (Capshaw), a NASA-trained astronaut who’s frustrated she has yet to go into space, convinces her husband Zach to host a summer camp for teenagers including Kathryn Fairly, Rudy Tyler and Tish Ambrose; as well as Max Graham (Joaquin Phoenix formerly known as Leaf). Scenes were shot at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center while life-sized replicas of its flight deck and mid-deck were constructed specifically for the movie.