Plan on running out to see The Martian this weekend? Don’t miss out on these 10 space travel classics.
The Martian hits theaters this weekend, and with it, returns director Ridley Scott’s sci-fi cred. Adapted from Andy Weir’s novel of the same name, The Martian boasts an impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling it “smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny.”
In her review, Hypable’s own Marama Whyte had this to say about the film:
The Martian is a movie for dreamers, about the people that actually make those dreams happen.
This weekend, check out these space travel movies like The Martian, and find out why Matt Damon isn’t the only one who can science the shit out of things.
10. ‘Gravity’ (2013) – 97% (on Rotten Tomatoes)
Critics Consensus: Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is an eerie, tense sci-fi thriller that’s masterfully directed and visually stunning.
Although Gravity lacks a little in the story department, it definitely delivers in the way of groundbreaking visual effects. A true vision from director Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity follows Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) as she tries to survive in space after her shuttle is destroyed.
The film brought home seven Academy Awards, including Best Director for Cuarón, and Best Visual Effects, which comprised over 80 minutes of its 91 minute running time. Story or no story, Gravity is a movie every space-fan should experience.
9. ‘Solaris’ (1972) – 96%
Critics Consensus: Solaris is a haunting, meditative film that uses sci-fi to raise complex questions about humanity and existence.
Based on Stanisław Lem’s 1961 novel of the same name, director Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris is a Russian psychological science fiction film. It follows psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) after he is sent to check on scientists suffering from emotional crises on a space station orbiting the fictional planet Solaris.
Solaris is one of the more cerebral films on this list, but believe it or not, it is not the first adaptation of the novel. In 1968, Solaris was adapted in black-and-white for Russian television in two parts. The film would go on to be adapted once again over 30-years later.
8. ‘Solaris’ (2002) – 66%
Critics Consensus: Slow-moving, cerebral, and ambiguous, Solaris is not a movie for everyone, but it offers intriguing issues to ponder.
If English language dub or subtitles aren’t for you, you’re in luck. Solaris was remade in 2002 by director Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney. Though the plot remains largely the same as the 1972 film, the filmmakers set out to more faithfully translate the spirit of the novel to the big screen. Though the film received mixed reviews, Solaris stands on its own in the science fiction genre, no matter how divisive.
7. ‘Interstellar’ (2014) – 72%
Critics Consensus: Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent filmmaking moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.
Believe it or not, The Martian isn’t the first time Matt Damon’s been stranded on another planet. In Interstellar, an engineer (Matthew McConaughey) and his team are forced to go on a mission through a wormhole in search of a new, inhabitable planet to call home.
Director Christopher Nolan’s ninth and latest film is also his first voyage away from Earth, and though it isn’t perfect, what an ambitious voyage it is. With state of the art visual effects and a healthy amount of heart, Interstellar excels as a love letter to science and space travel. With help from theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, Interstellar is a masterpiece that demands repeat viewings.
6. ‘Sunshine’ (2007) – 76%
Critics Consensus: Danny Boyle continues his descent into mind-twisting sci-fi madness, taking us along for the ride. Sunshine fulfills the dual requisite necessary to become classic sci-fi: dazzling visuals with intelligent action.
Sunshine follows physicist Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) and his crew as they set out on a dangerous mission to save Earth’s dying sun using a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan.
Probably the most scientifically inaccurate movie on this list, Danny Boyle’s Sunshine is certainly ambitious, delving more into the psychological effects of manned space missions rather than the actual science. It’s no surprise that Danny Boyle has cited two other films on this list as inspiration – Tarkovsky’s Solaris from 1972, as well as the number one film on this list. Read on to find out which!
5. ‘Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon)’ (1902) – 100%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
If you’ve ever taken a film studies class, you may have seen Georges Méliès’ 1902 French silent film about a group of astronomers who travel to the moon and encounter a race of lunar inhabitants called Selenites.
Tied with number one as the most influential science fiction film on this list, Le Voyage Dans La Lune is widely considered the first of the genre. It was so complex at the time that Méliès’ had to employ every technique he had ever learned or invented, and clocking in at 16 minutes depending on what version you watch, was the longest film he had made to date.
For those who might not want to watch the film in black-and-white, a colored print was discovered in 1993. Though I suggest watching it in its original form, both are currently available on Netflix in the U.S.
4. ‘Moon’ (2009) – 89%
Critics Consensus: Boosted by Sam Rockwell’s intense performance, Moon is a compelling work of science-fiction, and a promising debut from director Duncan Jones.
The son of Major Tom himself, Duncan Jones made his directorial debut with Moon, and in the process, set a near-impossible bar for himself to reach. The film follows Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) toward the end of his 3-year mission living in solitary on the far side of the moon.
For a small movie, Moon has some very big ideas, but it pulls them off almost flawlessly. Sam Rockwell is a revelation as his character succumbs to his solitary confinement, or is it something more? Did I mention he’s accompanied by an emoticon-producing robot voiced by the delightful Kevin Spacey? Yeah, now you’re interested.
3. ‘Alien’ (1979) – 97%
Critics Consensus: A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole.
Alien is The Martian director Ridley Scott’s first foray into Science Fiction, and its success contributed greatly to his status as an important voice of the genre. In Alien, the crew aboard the vessel Nostromo receive a distress call from a nearby, unexplored planet. After searching the planet for the source of the call, they set course for Earth, unknowingly carrying a deadly Xenomorph along with them.
Spawning countless sequels, and a franchise that spans all forms of media, Alien is a masterpiece in sci-fi horror. Much like why Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) is so effective, Alien came out very soon before computer-generated visual effects began taking over Hollywood. For this reason, the filmmakers used practical effects to make the alien come to life, and it paid off. The creature design in Alien is stunning, winning the film the 1979 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
2. ‘Apollo 13’ (1995) – 95%
Critics Consensus: In recreating the troubled space mission, Apollo 13 pulls no punches: it’s a masterfully told drama from director Ron Howard, bolstered by an ensemble of solid performances.
Apollo 13 tells the true story of the eponymous lunar mission in which Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) and his crew struggle to make it home after an explosion aboard their space shuttle.
Much like for The Martian, the filmmakers went to great lengths to accurately depict space travel in Apollo 13, going so far as to employ NASA so the cast could go through astronaut and flight controller training. It was also one of the first films to use reduced gravity aircrafts to realistically depict the weightlessness of being in outer space.
Apollo 13 was nominated for nine Oscars at the 1995 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and Best Visual Effects, and winning for Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.
1. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968) – 96%
Critics Consensus: One of the most influential of all sci-fi films — and one of the most controversial — Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is a delicate, poetic meditation on the ingenuity — and folly — of mankind.
Surprise surprise, the first film on our list is Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece about way more than can be summarized in a single paragraph, though of course, I’ll do my best.
Developed alongside Arthur C. Clarke’s novel of the same name, 2001: A Space Odyssey follows Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) as he leads a crew of scientists on a quest after they discover a mysterious monolith buried on the moon.
With scenes that take place both millions of years in the past as well as in the (then) future, 2001 is a beautiful, strange, and extremely cryptic and ambiguous film that demands to be seen more than once, if not every year until you die. As mentioned above, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film is the most iconic and influential science fiction film of all time.
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of sitting down and watching this masterpiece, pull up Netflix, stop reading this feature, and watch it. It really is that extraordinary. Yes, its pace is slow. Yes, the first 20 minutes follows a tribe of man-apes learning to use tools for the first time. And yes, there are a lot of things floating around in space to classical music, but sit through it. When it’s over, and you’re sitting there trying to figure out what the f*ck just happened, you’ll feel differently about science fiction, and about all films, forever.
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