10/04/2015 04:00 pm EDT
This weekend, The Martian hits theatres, the latest movie starring astronauts braving dangers and adventures in space. Astronaut movies have surged in popularity in recent years, with movies like Gravity and Interstellar receiving critical acclaim and breaking box office records. Many are predicting that The Martian, a movie about an astronaut trapped on Mars, will also be a hit as the movie has received plenty of advance buzz from critics. To commemorate the release of The Martian, here’s five of our favorite movies about astronauts:
“Houston…we have a problem.” Apollo 13 immortalized the words of real life astronaut Jack Swigart, one of three men who faced a perilous journey back to Earth after an oxygen tank malfunctioned during a planned journey to the moon. Starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton, Apollo 13 went to great lengths to recreate the actual events of the real Apollo 13 mission. The movie recreated much of the dialogue between the astronauts and the mission control center in Houston and filmed several scenes in a special aircraft designed to simulate weightlessness. Apollo 13 was a runaway smash hit at the box office, earning $355 million and earned nine Oscar nominations, winning two awards. Interestingly, one of the few deviations between Apollo 13 and the actual events involve its most famous line. Jack Swigart (the astronaut played by Kevin Bacon) delivered the actual quote “Houston, we’ve had a problem”. In the movie, mission commander James Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) delivers the iconic phrase.
Starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as two astronauts stranded in space after space debris strikes their space shuttle, Gravity was one the surprise movie successes of 2013. Despite its setting in space, Gravity was a remarkably intimate film, with a small cast and a simple plot about survival and overcoming adversity. Like many of the other films on the list, Gravity gained praise for its special effects and awe inducing cinematography. Although reports indicated the movie would have a modest box office opening, strong word of mouth and universally positive reviews helped Gravity break several box office records. In addition to its massive box office take, Gravity also won numerous awards, including seven Oscars and many critics named the film as the best movie of the year.
With an unforgettable movie score, a heavy and dramatic plot and fantastic cinematography, 2001: A Space Odyssey set the bar for what makes a fantastic astronaut movie. 2001 follows a team of astronauts’ journey to Jupiter after the discovery of several monoliths which have influenced human evolution over thousands of years. Complicating matters is the sentient computer HAL, who rebels against the robots due to mysterious circumstances.
2001: A Space Odyssey was the brainchild of master director Stanley Kubrick and science fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke. Although the movie divided audiences upon its release, many recognized its groundbreaking special effects and its dedication to realistically simulating space travel. Directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have cited 2001: A Space Odyssey as inspiration for their own pursuit of groundbreaking visual effects. The movie went on to win an Oscar for its special effects and is frequently mentioned among the very best movies ever made.
Similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Interstellar blended the lines between science fiction and a realistic depiction of space travel. Directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar starred Matthew McConaughey as a widowed astronaut on a dying Earth recruited by NASA to scout several alien planets for a possible new home for the remnants of humanity. While other movies on this list focused mainly on the known physics and science of space travel, Interstellar focused on the science around black holes, worm holes and time dilation, all of which are still actively debated and studied by modern physicists. Interstellar earned five Academy Awards, winning one for best Visual Effects.
The Right Stuff is a 1983 movie about the first pilots to train in the United States astronaut programs, particularly Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper and Chuck Yeager. While the movie used over 80 models and actual aircraft to accurately depict the air and spacecraft used by the astronaut, The Right Stuff took dramatic liberties with other portions of the film, particularly the events surrounding Grissom’s first successful flight into space. While the movie wasn’t as successful as the other astronaut movies on this list, it did win four Oscars and received near universal praise for its technical aspects. Interestingly, The Right Stuff received a PG rating despite using the “f word” five times.