First Man, a biographical drama about the life and career of astronaut Neil Armstrong, focused on the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969, opens on October 12. Heartthrob Ryan Gosling stars as Armstrong, with Jason Clarke as Ed White, the first American to walk in space, and Claire Foy as Janet Shearon, Armstrong’s first wife.
To get you ready for launch with First Man, here are six great movies about going into space.
6. Spacecamp (1986)
This feel-good family movie full of soon-to-be stars failed at the box office, in part due to spectacularly bad timing — the film was released just months after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on live television. In the thirty years since its release, however, it has been celebrated as a cult classic. A group of kids spending a summer learning about NASA training are accidentally launched on a Space Shuttle and have to use what they’ve learned so far to get home safely. The cast features Kate Capshaw, Kelly Preston, Lea Thompson, Tate Donovan, and Joaquin Phoenix. Thompson has spoken about how fans tell her that they were inspired to become physicists or inventors because of the film.
5. Moon Pilot (1962)
It’s a Disney flick, it’s Sally Field’s film debut, and it annoyed the FBI. (In 1962, the Federal Bureau of Investigation wasn’t keen on the film’s not entirely reverent portrayal of a Federal agent.) Tom Tryon, then a Disney TV star, plays an Air Force officer who is tapped to make the first manned mission to the moon, and is ultimately aided in his mission by a mysterious woman he assumes to be a spy. She’s actually an alien, and this gently comic outer-space love story features cute songs, a chimpanzee, and a bizarre ending.
4. A Grand Day Out (1989)
Stop-motion heroes Wallace and Gromit debuted in this clever short. Wallace and his dog Gromit find they’re out of cheese – so naturally they design and build a rocket to enjoy a picnic on the moon. Like so many of the animated adventures from Aardman Animation, this film is adorable, fun, and plays to the childlike idea that the moon might actually be made of cheese. The duo even encounters a robot and receives a parking ticket for their rocket. A Grand Day Out was nominated for the Best Animated Short Film Oscar and lost… to another Aardman production, Creature Comforts.
3. A Trip to the Moon (1902)
This film predates space travel, is perhaps the earliest example of science fiction on film, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. Based on the novels From Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon by Jules Verne, this silent film follows a group of astronomers who embark on… wait for it… a journey to the moon. Filled with special effects that still have an impact over 100 years later, A Trip to the Moon prioritizes satire over science. It’s most famous image is the one above, of an anthropomorphic moon which is comically hit in the eye when the astronomers’ ship lands. There are however, far stranger sights in this short masterpiece.
2. Moon (2009)
It’s fitting that David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, would make a film about outer space. Sam Bell, played by Sam Rockwell, experiences a personal crisis as he nears the end of a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the far side of the moon. The film is unique in that its wildly emotional, and all of that emotion is carried solely by Rockwell’s performance. In addition to winning the BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Director or Producer, Moon was praised for its scientific accuracy, and screened as part of a lecture series at NASA’s Space Center in Houston.
1. Apollo 13 (1995)
Mention Apollo 13 to any space geek, and they’ll tell you it’s one of the greatest movies of all time — and they wouldn’t be wrong. It’s a thrilling, powerful adaptation of the true story of the near-fatal Apollo 13 mission, and is noted for its technical accuracy. Director Ron Howard employed NASA’s assistance in astronaut and flight controller training, and even filmed scenes aboard a reduced-gravity aircraft. Tom Hanks stars as Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell, while Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris co-star as his team members. It’s a perfect ensemble.
First Man opens on October 12.