As a kid, I would watch Star Trek on TV with my folks, and naturally this left me dreaming of going into space the exciting potential of life beyond the confines of our own planet. Since then I have been a fan of space movies, space shows, space everything. And naturally after seeing Josh Whedon’s Fire Fly I also wanted to be a space cowboy.
If you too are a fan of the great unknown, the final frontier if you will, then here are 10 space movies that should be on your list! I have ranked them from best to worst based on IMDB scores to help you know where to start.
Please note, I have not included any Star Trek or Star Wars films on this list – they really are genres in their own rights. Also, the movies on this list are about space travel and life in space, rather than aliens per se, so don’t expect to see Alien or Predator on the list, though these are both excellent film series worth watching!
IMDB Score 8.6/10
This Christopher Nolan epic follows a group of astronauts that travel to Saturn in order to go through a wormhole to search for a new home for mankind. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, the crew also struggle with different rates of time passage on both sides of the wormhole, as they race against time to find a new home for those living on a dying earth. The film is thought provoking with just the right amount of thrills, and visually stunning.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
IMDB Score 8.3/10
Stanley Kubrick’s space odyssey is one of the defining films in the genre. It follows a space voyage to Jupiter supported by an AI computer called HAL that gains sentience after discovering an alien monument, which also seems to have impacted on the evolution of mankind. Now self-aware, HAL’s desires come into conflict with those of his human crew. The film deals with important issues around AI and self-determination, and was also visually ambitious for the time.
IMDB Score 8.2/10
The only reason that the George Clooney remake of this film didn’t make it onto this list is that the classic Russian film is so good. It follows a psychologist, played by Donatas Banionis, who is sent to a space station orbiting the plant of Solaris in order to evaluate the crew stationed there who seem to have fallen into crisis. However, the psychologist finds himself effected, and it seems that there is more to the phenomenon than meets the eye.
The Martian (2015)
IMDB Score 8/10
In this Ridley Scott film, Matt Damon stars as an astronaut accidentally left behind on Mars forces to struggle to survive with what has been left behind as the others race to rescue him. While the film actually has quite an impressive case, Damon and his quest for survival is the focus of the film. Scott worked with advisors from NASA to ensure that the techniques used by Damon to survive were realistic.
IMDB Score 7.9/10
Sam Rockwell stars as a man nearing the end of his three-year stint maintaining a mining ship on the far side of the moon. His only company, a robot GERTY voiced by Kevin Spacey. When an accident just two weeks before he is due to return to Earth leaves him unconscious, a series of unexpected events lead him to start asking questions, and he discovers that not all is as it seems on this space station. Will he ever get back to Earth?
The Right Stuff (1983)
IMDB Score 7.8/10
Adapted from the best-selling novel, this film is about the Navy, Marine and Air Force pilots who competed to become the astronauts on the first crewed U.S. space flight. Starring Ed Harris, this film was selected to be preserved by the National Film Registry because of its historic and cultural significance. While the characters spend the majority of the film on Earth, it is certainly about the dream of space travel.
IMDB Score 7.8/10
An outlier on my list as it is more of a sci-fi flick than a space flick, the movie sequel to Josh Whedon’s Fire Fly series about a group of space cowboys definitely captures life in space, and in a way we can imagine: we aren’t flying around in top end ships that can replicate food from air, we’re fighting for survival. Josh Whedon always has the perfect mix of humour, heart and interesting themes. If you haven’t seen the movie, watch it, and then go back and watch the series.
IMDB Score 7.7/10
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as a pair of astronauts that find themselves syringed in space when their shuttle is damaged as they attempt to return to Earth. The movie is eerie, dramatic and visually stunning, with space providing the background for a character driven story very much carried and delivered by Bullock’s performance.
Apollo 13 (1995)
IMDB Score 7.6/10
Tom Hanks leads in this dramatization of the real events around the Apollo 13 lunar mission which went wrong when there was an explosion on board. The mission changed for reaching the moon to getting the astronauts safely home. Directed by Ron Howard, this film was nominated for nine academy awards and is definitely considered a classic in the genre. This film will appeal to anyone who is interested in the details of space travel, which are shown as accurately as possible.
IMDB Score 7.4/10
Jodie Foster plays an astronaut chosen to travel into space using a new machine in order to make contact with a suspected alien race. The movie deals with the politics of space, the theoretical side of space travel, and the matter of faith when it comes to the great unknown. This provides the intellectual meat that nicely complements the over the top action we see in many space movies.