RR Films: Space

Cassini is celebrating the end of its 20-year sojourn to Saturn by getting a good snort of the atmosphere. Cheers!

Space used to be a fantastic wonderland, where the scant detail we had about it enabled imaginations to run wild and early films didn’t have to worry about the practicalities of distance, radiation, gravity and so on. But that has changed in recent decades as technology has allowed us to see, sample and even sniff worlds far, far away. Hell, we’ve even put actual people on the moon…..!

So I’m looking for films set in space this week. Plenty of classic sci-fi to choose from – and even a few ‘real’ space films now – but I’d like your picks of those that still seem plausible, given what we have learnt over the last 70 years. I’m choosing Duncan Jones’ debut, Moon. It’s a two-hander featuring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, -ish. Enjoyably perception-twisting.

What films set in space would you recommend?

22 thoughts on “RR Films: Space

  1. My suggestion also features Kevin Spacey. But the whole movie takes place on earth. K-Pax, an improbable sounding story with just the few unusual moments that makes one suspend disbelief.

  2. I am going to try and avoid films set in space outside of our solar system and concentrate on films set within the only area of space in which we have actually ventured. I’ll try to avoid films where space is just something that divides the locations where the action happens too, i.e. a medium for getting from one scene to another. I’d like to try and have “space” as the McGuffin, i.e the thing that everyone wants and around which the plot is constructed.

    I suppose that this is pretty limiting, but the film I am choosing is all about the Space Race of the late 50s and early 60s. It is particularly appropriate, seeing as it stars someone who recently died. That actor is Sam Shepard, who plays Chuck Yeager and the film bears the same name as the Tom Wolfe book, The Right Stuff on which it is based.

  3. Nice topic for eclipse week! Around 1/3 the moon will still be visible in my neck of the woods next Monday, but it’s the last total solar eclipse in my country in my lifetime and beyond, i believe.

    I’ll go for You Only Live Twice, with an opening scene that scared the living shit out of me. A NASA space capsule is hijacked by another larger spaceship, cutting off an astronaut on a lifeline, leaving him lost in space. The Russkies blame the Yanks, the Yanks blame the Russkies, the Brits blame the Japanese, and it turns out to be another superpower (presumably China) playing them off against each other to provoke a war between them.

    Oh wait, you wanted plausible? Oh never mind, i’ll go for the godawful Moonraker instead.

    • It’s a fantastic event. I witnessed the 1980 total eclipse here though I was dragged there by some friends. I didn’t see the point of travelling 400+kms to a “prime” location. But I was the only one who had a driving licence and knew the local language. As I said fantastic.
      *One of the same guys has travelled to the States this week.

      • What state is your friend going to? I’m really looking forward to it, even though i’m not getting the full monty. Shoey and GF and Fintan may get a better show. I have a vague memory of one when i was a very young kid in NJ, but probably only a partial as i suspect i would have remembered it if it was the full whack.

        If anyone hasn’t gotten the memo, make sure you get your viewing glass checked. Either Amazon or Yahoo or someone was selling them, and they turned out to be no good, so now people have to scramble for a good one. Probably best maybe just to smoke your own.

        • He’s been planning this trip for more than a year. Booked into a viewing camp in Oregon. There’s a big difference between partial and total, even say a 90 totality. In 1995 when India was again in the path of the total eclipse I stayed south and there was a huge difference from my earlier experience.
          Can’t recommend it enough though all camp sites, motels etc are bound to be booked solid. Enjoy.

          • Budget won’t let me travel, and all the viewing places have been booked for a long time and prices are off the charts. Closest to me is South Carolina, 900 miles away. Just hope it doesn’t rain anywhere…

  4. One of the best films about space I’ve seen was the relatively recent semi factual account of Katherine Johnson. Whilst not set in space it is about the early days of the USA space programme; Hidden Figures

    The protagonist and her friends are ‘computers’ in that before the days of IBM they did the calculations for the trajectories etc.

    Katherine then gets selected due to her incredible mathematical capability to join the all white male Space Task Group that is preparing to put the first man in space. Overlaid on the whole story is the civil rights movement and segregation.

    It’s a riveting film and would recommend it to anyone.

    My favourite sci-fi film though is the original Star Wars film, action, adventure, spaceships, lasers and lots of big explosions oh and a terrific musical score:

    Star Wars – OST Opening Theme

    John Williams and the LSO – awesome.

  5. Mmmm tricky, well given that any space film that I rate (2001, Dark Star, The Thing) are about as credible as a clown being president of the USA I will go for a TV show, namely the episode of Thunderbirds called “Sun Probe” which actually has more drama ( and acting ability ) than 90% of “real” space films ! Oh and if you can sniff foreign worlds (how is that possible exactly ?) I wonder what our planet smells like to others – rancid cheese I would guess !

  6. Silent Running,

    Although, in reality, if we do live on space stations, they will be populated by people and full of fucked up communities and very claustrophobic. So, Space Station 76 for showing us the past that got the future technology wrong but probably gets the human relationships right.

    • Yeah, i’m with you on that. Sounds like claustophobic hell, and that’s after you’re cooped up on a capsule together. Of all the careers i’ve ever considered, an astronaut wasn’t even on the menu. I’ll go down with the ship we’re on, which admittedly may well be going down if my blowhard potus keeps flapping his stupid trap.

      • Space Station 76 is very off-beat. it’s an observation study that says: “The deceitful, callous and obsessive sides of people’s personalities explain why people shouldn’t travel to space.

        BTW. Trump’s posturing and baiting of others and his reported enthusiasm for the nuclear button and for a nuclear arms race is just a tad worrying. He’s the gobshite down the pub who gets his mates into a brawl and walks away without throwing a punch or having a punch laid on him. He’d then call us losers for getting hit.

  7. I agree, Moon was a wonderful film.

    I’m tempted to pick the Irish indie The Boy From Mercury where the kid’s father has died and he is convinced, or at least tries to convince others, that he is from another planet and only here to observe the Earthlings. Not really about space though.

    Dammit. I’m picking WALL-E

    Even though the early Earthbound scenes were the best.

  8. I watched Galaxy Quest for the umpteenth time last weekend, as it happens. Real alien civilisation stumbles across broadcasts of Star Trek-type programmes from Earth; believes them to be “historical documents” of heroic warrior feats; sends a delegation to Earth to seek the “heroes” assistance; “heroes” believe they’re attending a superfan convention…and much hilarity ensues.

    Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman have rarely been better, if you ask me. It’s a genuine hoot – and clever with it – from beginning to end.

  9. Valerian & The City Of A Thousand Planets

    If you liked M. Besson’s Fifth Element; you’ll like this one too. Great fun.

  10. OK, I’ll toss in one that no ones’s seen or even heard of, but it is available on youtube. It deals with how the German’s developed the V2 rocket over a period of about 20 years and how it became the core of the US NASA program. The title is Hitler’s Secret Weapon, it was produced for the Nova series of US television. If you’re curious, here it is:

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