Best Films On Outer Space (or Space Travel) — I


In October 1902, audiences were enthused by the images they saw in screen. The images belonged to a 16 minute French Silent film, “A Trip to the Moon” (aka “La Voyage dans la Lune”, directed by legendary French Illusionist George Meiles). It’s the first time for moving images to capture the spectacle of space. The 1950’s brought surging interest on space exploration and rocketry. The real trip to the moon in the late 1960’s plus the introduction of computer generated imagery in films directly boosted the production of outer space flicks, eventually making it a separate genre.

The list I have compiled here doesn’t include the brilliant, path-breaking genre pieces set in outer space like the Alien Series, Star Wars or Star Trek Franchise. The movies presented here have less emphasis on extra-terrestrial beings, and concentrates more on the human element. It explores (or tries to) the hardships involved in blasting off rockets into outer space or the emotional baggage, the space travel imbues on human beings. They try to introduce some fascinating scientific concepts and most often controls the urge to portray outer space as a road to reach the hostile aliens.

If I have omitted any important works on this classification, please mention it in the comments section.


Interstellar (2014)


Christopher Nolan’s Hollywood type space spectacle takes us on a thrilling and fascinating adventure into the world of high-concept theoretical physics. The incredible special effects, solid human element, excellent performances, and Hans Zimmer’s throbbing score gives us a great movie experience, even for those who couldn’t understand terms like gravitational anomaly, wormhole, black hole, fifth dimensions, and relativity theory. The story of group of Americans saving the mankind might seem preposterous, but Nolan brothers’ imagination turns that inherent cockeyed setting into something ethereal, exhilarating, and emotional wrenching.


Gravity (2013)


Alfonso Cuaron’s human vs space movie is an absolute technical marvel. The images rather than being an eye candy, tries to drive home the themes of redemption and survival. Through Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Stone, the adventure parable tries to showcase the humans’ fascinating and unquenchable thirst for survival. The movie may not have sharp characterization, but it perfectly does the job of planting the audience at the absolute center of the extreme jeopardy imaginable – floating in space.


Moon (2009)


Duncan Jones’ moody, old-fashioned sci-fi tale could be described more as a psychological thriller than as a space opera with flashy action sequences. The plot concentrates on an isolated astronaut, Sam, who is on a three-year contract mining energy from the moon to provide for energy-stricken Earth. He encounters a freak accident to discover something weird. Shot on a $5 million budget (in 33 days), the “Moon” tries to reflect on the existential questions like ‘what it means to be human?’ Th movie goes little astray in the latter parts, but it’s a lot better than a hundred million big studio duds.


Contact (1997)


Robert Zemeckis’ serious-minded adaptation of Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel, on the outset portrays human’s relentless search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, but it’s really an astronaut’s quest in finding the meaning of our existence in the cosmos. The movie’s intelligent protagonist Ellie (played by Jodie Foster) picks up a message from Vega, a star 26 light years away. Scientists join in her quest to decipher the messages and eventually build a machine for intergalactic travel. Although the movie is impaired by sentimentality and lengthy running time, it is rare $100 million movie to place ideas and characters above everything else.


Apollo 13 (1995)


Ron Howard’s thrilling and heartwarming space flick tells the story of failed 1970 moon landing mission. Something drastically goes wrong in the outer space and three astronauts (played by Tom hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton) barely avoid their death. Ron Howard takes some dramatic license in portraying the real events and characters, but exquisitely offers both emotional truths and edge-of-seat sequences. For the most part, the film avoids being propaganda for NASA or the American values. The exhilarating rocket launch scene was very realistic and the shots of rocket flying through the exteriors of space were all well done.


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