Although I’m not always into sic-fi, I’m a sucker for movies set in space.
My love for space movies is all about the atmosphere. It’s about being in a situation or place that, if things go bad, you cannot just leave. The ones I enjoy the most are really able to capture that feeling of confinement and suffocation. If they happen to throw in a little horror or supernatural element, well that’s just icing on the cake. Also, for some reason, I also enjoy plots that involve a small group of people, and only those people throughout the entire film, which is usually the way space movies go. It leaves a lot of room for character development, and adds a psychological/sociological aspect I really enjoy.
(Small disclaimer: I didn’t choose to include space movies that largely take place on plants, such as Pitch Black)
Maaaaaan I love this movie. First and foremost, it looks absolutely beautiful, with a wonderful and unique ship design, gorgeous shots of the Sun (and a too-short scene of Mercury flying by), and a cast including Rose Byrne and Cillian Murphy’s baby blues. The plot involves a dying sun and a team of astronauts sent to try and re-start it. Maybe the physics are a little wonky there, but I was able to suspend disbelief and really get into the storyline. The movie takes a left turn about 2/3 of the way in. It’s a turn that had to grow on me with repeated viewings, and I know other people who detest this movie because of it, but I’ve come to really enjoy it. This one was definitely underrated and far too many people haven’t even heard of.
Space horror at its finest. Another absolutely gorgeous movie. From the sets to the direction, it’s perfect. Could you imagine if this movie was made today and the CGI ridiculousness that would completely ruin it? This was 35 YEARS ago! Considering how this is one of the greatest and well known movies of all time, I’m sure I don’t need to explain the plot. Or reference the chest bursting scene.
I know I said I enjoy the small group dynamic of space movies, But Moon features just one man (well, sort of . . . wait, no spoilers!). Sam Rockwell delivers a fantastic performance as an astronaut all by himself on a mission to harvest a substance called helium-3 from the Moon. It’s a solo effort which I think tops Tom Hanks in Cast Away. The writing is clever and thought-provoking, and the movie will stay with you for days after you see it.
Let me come clean right away here and tell you that Sandra Bullock it perhaps my least favorite actress of all time. I despise nearly every one of her roles, and, to be honest, I didn’t even like her in this one. Which should say something about how much I enjoyed other aspects of this movie. The three I’ve put ahead of this, as I’ve stated, and beautiful movies. But Gravity looks and feels like no other. Watching this in the theater is like being on one of those amusement park rides where you’re watching a screen and the seats turn and jolt to match what you see. It’s an incredible experience. I’m terrified of space-walking, and this movie made me feel like I was actually out there. I had a couple of technical issues with it (I’m no astronaut or physicist, but some of the things that happened were just kinda . . . off to me), but just the visuals alone send this one to the top half of my list.
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey
No, I don’t understand everything that happened in this movie. But I still love it. Is that ok? It should be. Anyway, another one so ubiquitous that it’s hardly worth the time explaining anything about, this movie is an experience. The man vs machine aspect of HAL 9000 is terrifying in its real-life possibilities. And although Jupiter doesn’t have a surface as this movie seems to suggest it does, you really don’t even need to be tripping on acid to enjoy Dave’s descent. Also, there’s an added bonus of watching this and wondering, “Gee, maybe Kubrick did fake the moon landing.” (j/k) (or am I?) (yeah, I am) (that’s for you to decide) (ugh stop it already)
6. Event Horizon
Okay, okay. So there’s some cheesiness to it. There’s some awful CGI (that coolant, come on). There’s some less than stellar acting.
It’s an inter-dimensional–atmosphere of Neptune–haunted ship–supernatural Sam Neill–lung-exploding–barrel of space horror madness!!!! And, I don’t want to spoil anything here, but the ending is just about as bleak (well, for one character anyway) as you can ever possibly get. Watch it!
7. Apollo 13
Real story. Really great cast. Outstanding directing. I assume everyone in America has seen this because it’s about as American as you can get. I loved it because I would have been terrified out of my mind if I found myself stuck on a failing spacecraft, and these guys made it back. Nothing supernatural of course, but still a great story. Maybe a little obvious to put on this list, but I couldn’t just leave it off.
8. Star Trek: First Contact
It’s fine with you if I put a Star Trek movie on this list, right? Good. First Contact it, for me, the best of the series. I am and will always be a Next Generation homer, but this movie is truly awesome. I mean, you’ve got the Borg, Worf being awesome, Picard yelling and smashing things, and Data kicking all kinds of ass. Even if you’re not a fan of the series, I think you can jump on into this one and enjoy it for what it’s worth. By the way, don’t watch those if you don’t want spoilers.
A thought that returns to me often when I’m lying awake at night is what will happen to humans when the Earth, for whatever reason, is no longer inhabitable. Cargo explores this age-old question in an rather interesting way, and does it with suspense, pretty cinematography, and subtitles. This one completely slipped under my radar, perhaps because it’s foreign, until this past year. It isn’t perfect, but I’m very glad I discovered it.
A classic from my childhood. Largely a Star Wars parody, but includes other films as well, this Rick Moranis/Bill Pullman vehicle still delivers laughs today. Combing the desert, watching their own movie on VHS and being able to fast forward to the present time, and going to ludicrous speed are some of my favorite parts.