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First Man and Other Stunning Space Exploration Movies

Ryan Gosling in "First Man" from Universal Pictures
Ryan Gosling in “First Man” from Universal Pictures

Last week saw the release of Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic, First Man. Centered on NASA’s mission to put a man on the moon, this movie is both an exploration of the space race, and the psyche of a man who dared launch himself through the air at a breakneck speed of 7 miles per second to boldly go where nobody had before.

With SpaceX and its de-facto “face,” Elon Musk, making headlines more and more these days, it’s clear that the public’s fascination with space exploration is not going anywhere anytime soon.

It’s movies like First Man that bring that curiosity to the forefront, and also somehow add a human touch to an otherwise foreign concept.

In celebration of that, here are 10 more absolutely stunning space exploration movies for you to stream today.

  1. Apollo 13

Type: Action & Adventure, Drama, History
Release Date: 2009
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon

Rating: 95% RT, 7.6/10 IMDb

While Apollo 11 may have taken home all the accolades, it was the story of Apollo 13 that showed us the type of heroism that astronauts have to muster in order to survive when the technology that they’ve bet their lives on malfunctions. The true story of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert is a must-see.

  1. Contact

Type: Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller, Fantasy
Release Date: 1997
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods

Rating: 63% RT, 7.4/10 IMDb

In this 1997 Robert Zemeckis picture adapted from the Carl Sagan novel, Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey co-star, as man receives its first ever message from outer space. The message turns out to be a vessel of some sort, and Ellie (Foster) is determined to be the one to use it. 

  1. Sunshine

Type: Science Fiction, Action & Adventure, Thriller, Mystery, Drama, Fantasy
Release Date: 2007
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans

Rating: 76% RT, 7.6/10 IMDb

Our sun is dying. Below on earth, an ice age is brewing. In space, the crew of Icarus II is the Earth’s last hope. This film follows a brave band of scientists and astronauts during mankind’s second and last attempt to “reignite” the sun. With a stellar cast and sleek directing by Danny Boyle, Sunshine is both glorious and positively unforgettable.

  1. Moon

Type: Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Thriller
Release Date: 2009
Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligot

Rating: 90% RT, 7.6/10 IMDb

In this sci-fi film by Duncan Jones, one gets intimately acquainted with the claustrophobic feeling (not unusual for this genre) of being stuck out in space, all alone. Sam Bell has been stationed on the moon for the past three years and is ready to come home. Watching Sam discover the true peril of his situation, portrayed expertly by the incomparable Sam Rockwell, is both harrowing and mesmerizing.

  1. Europa Report

Type: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Drama, Fantasy
Release Date: 2013
Director: Sebastian Cordero
Starring: Sharito Copley, Daniel Wu, Michael Nyqvist

Rating: 81% RT, 6.5/10 IMDb

One of the lesser known films in this category, Europa Report was released in 2013 to strong reviews. The film centers on a crew sent on a mission to explore signs of life on one of Jupiter’s moons. This film captures both the beauty and the isolation of space in a way that none others truly have.

  1. The Martian

Type: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction, Drama, Fantasy, Comedy
Release Date: 2015
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig

Rating: 91% RT, 8/10 IMDb

Based on a popular novel by first-time writer Andy Weir, The Martian is a geeky and totally hilarious take on the space action-adventure genre. While Mark Watney (portrayed by Matt Damon) is a truly brilliant botanist and mechanical engineer, he could also do some moonlighting in the stand-up circuit if the guy put his mind to it. There’s only one problem with that life plan: he’s the only man on Mars, and he’s been abandoned by his crew during a terrible dust storm. Never have I rooted for any character more than I rooted for Mark Watney in The Martian. Sorry, Rudy!

  1. Gravity

Type: Science Fiction, Thriller, Drama, Mystery, Fantasy
Release Date: 2013
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

Rating: 95% RT, 7.7/10 IMDb

Did Alfonso Cuaron direct Gravity or did he choreograph it? Perhaps the answer is… a little bit of both. This film is a visual candy-land for movie fans and a standout performance by Sandra Bullock.

  1. Interstellar

Type: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction, Drama, Fantasy
Release Date: 2014
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway

Rating: 71% RT, 8.6/10 IMDb

Released just after Gravity, Interstellar is a completely different take on the space exploration genre. When a group of astronauts discovers a wormhole, they are able to travel greater distances than ever imagined.

  1. Armageddon

Type: Action & Adventure, Thriller, Science Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy
Release Date: 1998
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck

Rating: 6.6/10 IMDb

While it will never rank on any best-of lists, I honestly don’t know a single person who can deny the charm of 1998’s Armageddon. In a far-fetched space fairy-tale, a group of rowdy oil-drilling experts is recruited to stop an asteroid before it strikes Earth. Trust me, you don’t wanna miss a thing with this one (I just had to!)

  1. The Right Stuff

Type: Action & Adventure, Drama, History, Biography
Release Date: 1983
Director: Philip Kaufman
Starring: Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris

Rating: 98% RT, 7.9/10 IMDb

The fact that this movie stars Dennis Quaid and Ed Harris is reason enough for it to be on this list. Following a group of pilots during the first 15 years of America’s space program, this film will make you want to stand up and cheer by the final act.

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