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3 years ago by Mike Wilkerson


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Everyone has looked up into a clear evening sky to conduct their own survey of
distant pinpricks in the regularly-occurring blackness. Passing aircraft, the stars and
that which is always largest in the night sky the Moon.
July 20, 2009, marks the 40th Anniversary of man landing on the Moon, and to
showcase a different flavor of that same obsession, Screen Rants newest writer
(yours truly), dons his newly-minted writing/explorer spacesuit to provide a listing
of the Top 5 Astronaut Movies a look back at the best storytelling that put you
into the shoes of those who have TRULY gone boldly where we hope many more
men (and women) will eventually go.

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Cultures that predate written records have told stories of the moon. From the
legendary tales of ancient African tribes, to the technology-laden yarns of NASA
and the men of Apollo, we have become familiar with the process of learning more
about the moon. Whether its the cyclic paragraphs of the moons perpetual chase
of the sun, or the detail conveying 12 brave men who set foot on the moon in the
late 60s and 70s, our obsession with the moon and human spaceflight continues to
this day, in the form of modern cinema.
Read on below and be sure to chime in with YOUR thoughts on other great
astronaut/space movies that make your heart soar even higher than a Saturn 5
rocket breaking Earths gravitational bond.
5.) Apollo 13 (1995):

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While I had only just been born when the events of Apollo 13 unfolded in real life,
this movie (courtesy of director Ron Howard, and a star-studded cast of root-for
actors) provides you with great (though at time dramatized) perspectives that
truly showcased what the American Space Program meant back then and how it
should serve as a shining sample of teamwork and problem-solving. The
soundtrack by revered composer James Horner serves as a double helping of
astronaut-based greatness that didnt win the Academy Awards that year, but
surely could have. Its a movie that captures the best of America, of technology
and the can-do spirit which might be why I love all of these human spaceflight
films in general.
SPECIAL MOMENT: When Tom Hanks (as Astronaut Jim Lovell) explains to his
youngest son not only how the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) will couple with the
Command Module (CM), but also explains how advances have been made to
ensure that another disaster like the one that befell the astronauts of Apollo 1 on a
crisp January morning never happened again. Magical.
4.) Magnificent Desolation (2005):

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Tom Hanks who has always been a dedicated and zealous human spaceflight
maverick himself provides you with what I can only WISH I had seen in IMAX
format. Magnificent Desolation offers up a quick, no-holds barred educational
immersion in the efforts of the American space effort that got us literally from The
Earth to The Moon, and conveys just about every aspect youll hear about
traveling to and from the Moon. With some landmark special effects and brilliant
voiceover work, this program is sure to make any American swell with pride,
understanding and the hope that we will eventually get our collective space-faring
asses back in suits and head to the stars.
SPECIAL MOMENT: One of the children that is a pseudo-host of the program
(and folks, I try DESPERATELY not to get caught in children-based emotional traps)
looks ahead to what awaits us on the Moon of the future. I didnt have a box of
tissue big enough, mostly because I have a 6-year-old daughter that not only
watches all of these great films with me but wants to BE that older child on the
moon when she grows up. Again, magical.

3.) The Right Stuff (1983):


Every now and then a movie comes along that truly shows you not only how well
great stories hold up, but how GREAT a pool of acting talent we had (and have) in
Hollywood. The Right Stuff provides you with firey moments: Not only from the
mechanized effort to get the experience and technology ready in order to get to
the moon but from the actors themselves, who convey the often-difficult choices
faced by every astronaut and astronaut family and even the decision makers
that want to get us from the Earth to the Moon. The acting meter is off the charts
for this film and it gives you a decidedly real taste of what it was like to be one of
the 7.
SPECIAL MOMENT: I cant possibly narrow down a single moment from the
cachophany of actors in this film, so Im going to go the special effects route. Not
so surprisingly, this film was done before Computer Generator Imagery (CGI) and
the F/X offerings here are some of the best of the time. The breaking the sound
barrier scene alone will provide at least 4-5 pints of brand-new oxygenated blood


2.) In the Shadow of The Moon (2007):

What did you think of 'The

Expendables 2'?

I am a professional podcaster and have been for 5 years. Im terribly familiar with
the power of first-person perspective storytelling and this film, In the Shadow of
the Moon, offers some of the best ever perspective storytelling from the people
that were actually DOING THE THINGS WE ONLY DREAM OF. Hearing people tell
tales that sound like science fiction that are actually real accomplishments is more
than magical it transports you to a time, a date, and series of events that held
the attention span of everyone on our planet. The perspectives of Michael Collins
and Gene Cernan in particular are moments that will stay with me until I die not
because theyre so important but because they inspire me to be more than I am
and to convey things that are important so others can learn from my efforts,
mistakes and perspective.
SPECIAL MOMENT: You will NOT BELIEVE the visually stunning real-time mission
elements that are used in this presentation. They are one-of-a-kind and could all be
posters that I would like to adorn every single inch of space in my home with. For
those of you that have any interst in space, astronauts, rockets and more, you
have something special that awaits you with this film.

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1.) From the Earth to the Moon (1998):

It might be that this series from HBO came out when I was going through one of
the most difficult times in my life (a terrible car accident leaving me disabled for 3
months), but this series of 12 episodes offers some of the most captivating,
inspirational and educational stories in entertainment ever. This series continues
to guide me while Im working on projects, working in the yard or dare I say it
compiling a listing of all-time greatest Human Spaceflight-inspired entertainment.
The brilliance of all of this series isnt just that its about space its not even that it
conveys the inner-workings of the Astronaut corps. The brilliance of From the Earth
to the Moon is that it provides a sense of TRUE TEAMWORK working towards a
common goal, whether it be in your personal life, in your community or in your
career, where the decisions you make really do mean something. The soundtrack
here is also something to revel in. Mason Daring (who provided much of what you
hear in this series) is well showcased and while Ive overused the word magical in
this review already, his compositions here make every single episode not only start
and end with brilliance, but pushes the pulse of every episode in a direction that
requires you tend to it.
SPECIAL MOMENT: (exhales) Damn me for only allowing ONE MOMENT for a 12part series! Probably the most played disc of the series (in my house) is disc 2,
featuring an episode called SPIDER that details the culmination of thought, work
and real-life must-dos to get men on the moon in the Lunar Excursion Module
(LEM). I admire this episode mostly because it showcases what I wish I could have
more of in my life - both in my workplaces and beyond: planning and teamwork.
Ive been a pioneer of a lot of hard work and projects in my time, but the sense of
accomplishment, growth, and success that I see in this episode is something I will
truly cherish when I achieve it for myself. Those of you that have not yet been
graced with the viewing of this series are in for a real treat. The closed-captioning
provided in From the Earth to the Moon is some of the best ever, conveying not
only the dialog, but sound effects, music lyrics and environmental sounds that help
to push this series to the top of my listing.
And thus, you now have at least enough to keep you entertained on a real-life trip
TO the Moon, as well as enough education required to complete a series of
equipment-cycling maneuvers during a real human spaceflight (ok, so maybe not
the latter). As this review closes, I wonder (to mirror the narrating words of Tom
Hanks towards the end of From The Earth to the Moon), When will we go back?
Chime in with your thoughts on the list, as well as other Astronaut-inspired films
that I may have missed and thanks again for taking the itme to read my column

here at Screen Rant.

Tags: Apollo 13, From The Earth To The Moon

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3 years ago

You forgot For All Mankind, a magnificent 1989 documentary by Apollo 13 co-writer Al
Reinert. Definitely better than In the Shadow of the Moon (which is very good, btw).

John "Kahless" Taylor

3 years ago

I wouldnt worry Vic; Ken doesnt realize that he was the T-800 that went back in time
and stopped himself from making those comments.

Bob Dashman

3 years ago

If you would like to buy The Right Stuff, Amazon has it on sale in the 2 for $10 DVD
area. If you buy it by itself, it $5.99. I ordered it this morning.

Ken J

3 years ago

I know, I was kidding around, but those messages did post, I even refreshed the page
and they were there, then they were gone, very strange. But I know you wouldnt just
censor someone especially without emailing me telling me what an idiot I was for
posting something worth deleting, lol. I dont know what happened, but didnt really
think you deleted them.


3 years ago

I had the same thing happen to me, Ken, on the Indiana Jones 5 thread. I posted, it
appeared, then disappeared, so I thought I made a mistake, posted it again, it did not
appear, saying that I had already posted the comment.
So, I left it, and when I came back the next day, it was there! I thought I must have
said something naughty.
Maybe it was a glitch?

Ken J

3 years ago

Yah, most likely, except my comment still didnt come back, lol.

Lori Feldman

3 years ago

I am old enough to remember the space program and the incredible patriotism it
generated for all Americans. The closest Ive seen to that as an adult was in the
aftermath of 9/11. Its a lost generation of unbridled optimism and naivete that nothing
bad could ever happen to us with so much good we were accomplishing. Your post
really resonates that goodwill, Mike. In fact the magical teamwork you keep mentioning
was the essence of that patriotism. Americans were joined in a common vision that was
so profound that we all had to check in with one another nightly on our 3-channel news
or outside at a bbq with our neighbors just to make sure we didnt miss anything.
Engineers (like my dad) were way cool then. (They are today too but in more of a geeky
way- and I mean that affectionately). Thx for sharing your wonder. It makes me want
to go rent them all again and reread Tom Wolfes book, TRS, which I first read the
summer after I graduated college and was riveted. Id never for a moment realized how
much danger these astronauts deliberately inserted themselves into, not only for the
good of the program and b/c they were highly competitive w one another, but because
theylike wejust had to KNOW what was OUT THERE!

Vic Holtreman

3 years ago

Guys, sorry, I dont know whats happening there with the comments.


3 years ago

Why isnt Armageddon with Bruce Willis here?


Mike Wilkerson - 2GuysTalking

3 years ago

Hi Darren!
Thanks for taking the time to comment on The Top 5 Astronaut Movies of All Time here
at Screen Rant! we really appreciate it!
The reason you dont see Armageddon on the listing, is that we have 5 slots, and for
me and clearly a number of others it doesnt fare any better than the ones I listed in
the top 5 listing.

I remember seeing Armageddon in the theaters and wondering why every, single,
meaningless shot have to be moving. Theres something to be said for a dynamic
camera, but every now and again, watching things go by the frame with a static camera
also helps out a film.
Thanks for your question and have a great day!

Mike Wilkerson - 2GuysTalking

3 years ago

Thanks to the many of you that provided listings of other Astronaut films. Im glad that
youve helped me build a new listing of need to gets that include some more great
Astronaut movies.
Thanks to everyone for your comments and keep em coming!


3 years ago

what? No love for capricorn one, deep impact, space 1999



3 years ago

Great article and comments everyone!

Having grown up during the early space program era, and my dad being a test engineer
for the Titan2, Ive got much love for good space movies and documentaries. Your list
is great! But I do agree that Id put Apollo 13 a bit higher.
I ditto the comments that Dish and Capricorn One are fun also! To add to your list
of future space movie viewing, dont forget Moonshot a fantastic astronauts-eyeview documentary; and Robert Altmans Countdown a 1968 movie starring James
Caan and Robert Duvall that gets a bit hokey at times (in our space-educated
hindsight), but reflects the psychological aspects of training, family, health, and
competitiveness in the vein that FTETTM did, but within the actual zeitgeist of the era
(was VHS only, but just released on DVD)


3 years ago

Chill went down my spine when you mentioned spider as a special moment, this was my
favorite story in the series and am pretty sure i wore out a VHS tape prior to getting
the dvds.


3 years ago

I liked the Spider episode too. It was very touching when they played the lullaby
whenever the engineers were looking at the LEM. Growing up near Grumman there was
a lot of pride that it was one of the greatest vehicles ever made.
Like you I wish I could have been involved in something great in my career.

Mike Wilkerson - 2GuysTalking

3 years ago

David your post reminds me of a blog post I made now years ago referring to the very
music youre talking about. While you know that there is a From the Earth to the
Moon soundtrack, it includes only the smallest sampling of score from the film. Well,
BEHOLD, and be sure to stop by the Mason Daring website to thank them for posting
them, and HOPE against hope that theyll eventually release the score to From the
Earth to the Moon.
Thanks for chiming in and sharing your thoughts!


3 years ago

Can someone tell me why 2001: A Space Odyssey is not on this list?
Not only one of the best SPACE movies, but one of the best films of all time!

Vic Holtreman

3 years ago

Look again closely at the list. ALL the movies are about ACTUAL space exploration.


3 years ago

Suprised Marooned didnt make the list.



3 years ago

Thanks for the list.

I thought October Sky was excellent as well.

The Big Dentist

3 years ago

Channel 4 just showed In The Shadow Of The Moon in the UK. Amazing stuff lots of
footage Id never seen before. Michael Collins and Charlie Duke came across especially
well I thought.

Peter Reyes

Great list, Mike!

3 years ago

to piggy-back onto this one, I found something you might like: a list of the 5 worst scifi-related TV shows. Really funny and maybe the opposite end of the spectrum of your

Mike Wilkerson - 2GuysTalking

3 years ago

Fear not, Peter! There are many lists to come and they make for great and interesting
commentary sections for sure! Thanks for taking the time to comment and please look
for more from me and the entire staff here at ScreenRant.Com! Cheers!

Mike Wilkerson - 2GuysTalking

3 years ago

gottarhyme Many thanks to you for submitting a movie that I not only never heard
of, but that accounts a story Ive never heard of either! As a self-professed Apollo
Whore, I am almost ashamed that I hadnt heard the story of Parkes Observatory in
Australia that was used to help provide video and radio connectivity from the Moon
film also to everyone (and I dont think it would have trumped any in my listing). The
only hiccup I thought was an actor I am devoted to: Sam Neil. Hes from Norther
Ireland/UK and how is it he wasnt able to/encouraged to adopt an Aussie accent for
this role!?!?! Every other person (other than the people from America, hello?) had that
thick Drawwwwl that weve all come to love yet, Sam Neil provides us an english
representation that showcases that he didnt even TRY one? Stymied but a great
movie for sure. Thanks, gottarhyme!

J. R.

2 years ago

Granted that this list is about movies, has anyone here seen the series when we left
earth, the nasa missions? probably one of the best documentary series i have ever


2 years ago

This is a great list! The comments on other great movies is helpful too! Loved The
Right Stuff, and though Im late to the game, will catch myself up on the rest of the
movies. Thanks J.R., Im also on my way to rent When We Left Earth.
Irishscribe, I second your mention of, For All Mankind. The footage they took from
several early missions is really breathtaking.


1 year ago

The answers to our problems dont lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories
and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our
entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities
that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history
we still possess in ample measure.


5 months ago

Please dont take this the wrong way, but it has been a question that has not ever
been answered ever since it was asked.
I am extremely surprised that the US managed to land on the Moon many times
without conflict over 40 years ago but it is now impossible for them to do it again, even
though they have all the same scientific equipment as they did back then but even
actually far more improved equipment and Research and Development. All the while
spending hundreds of millions more on simple satellites which take photos of the moon
from far away.
Please dont take this the wrong way, instead enlighten me so that I can understand.
Thank you to all who respond!

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