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10 Best Space Movies To Honor 45th Anniversary of Apollo 11

This weekend was the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11, a time in history when the world reached “…one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

According to NASA, on July 16, 1969, at 9:32 a.m, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, upon the Saturn V launch vehicle. On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin entered the lunar module, named Eagle, while Collins remained in Columbia, the command module.

At 10:56 p.m. EDT, Armstrong became the first man to step on the moon and Aldrin joined shortly after.  After spending slightly more than 21 hours on the moon the duo left behind a U.S. flag commemorating the astronauts who lost their lives on the Apollo 1 cabin fire three years prior.

The mission was such an important feat, that without it today would be unlike we know it now. According to NBC News space reporter and author of “Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight” Jay Barbree, without Apollo 11, we wouldn’t even have cell phones.

“It was arguably the most technological event in the 20th century,’ he told NBC News. “When they accomplished the walk on the moon, they jumped 50 years ahead in technology. It was the original development of the digital computer, that’s why Neil was capable of landing there, staying there for 22 hours and lifting off as well.”

Of course as we all know, there is no better way to honor than with a great film, so how about 10 of the best space movies to celebrate this historic moment 45 years ago:

10. “Moon” – Duncan Jones (2009)

Plot: The film follows Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), a man whose on a three-year contract on the moon as an astronaut miner extracting Helium 3, a precious gas that promises to solve the Earth’s energy crisis. With only two weeks before finally going home he makes an ominous discovery that affect his sanity and reveals his company’s underlying intentions with him.

Why you should see it: This film is intriguing, imaginative and riveting only made better by Sam Rockwell’s passionate performance. It is a captivating work of hard science-fiction that concentrates on the audience’s mind and emotions. Rockwell’s performance has been named by many critics an Oscar snub, and Empire Online named it “the best performances of the year.” 

9. “Apollo 13” – Ron Howard (1995)

Plot: this American historical docudrama about the 1970 Apollo 13 mission, tells the story of three heroic astronauts and their mission to get back home safe after an on-board explosion causes their spacecraft massive damage depriving it of most of the oxygen supply and electric power.

Why you should see it: This film is undoubtedly a thrilling and nail-bitting suspense. Howard manages to masterfully tell the true story of the mission with painstaking detail and magnificent special effects without resorting to inflating the drama. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won for Best Film Editing and Best Sound. 

8. “Alien” – Ridley Scott (1979)

Plot: On the way home from a mission, the crew of the commercial vessel Nostromo makes a pit stop to check on a distress call from an unexplored planet. After they head back on the ship, they soon realize that a deadly bio-form has also come along for the ride.

Why you should see it: This haunted house thriller will take you to intergalactic heights. It is a classic film that will forever make you frighten of aliens. It was nominated for two Academy Awards and won for Best Visual Effects, Roger Ebert also gave the film four out of four stars and made it part of his “Great Movies” list.

7. “Wall-E” – Andrew Stanton (2008)

Plot: Set in a far future, the film tells the story WALL-E, a robot designed to clean up an abandoned and waste-covered Earth. One day he meets and falls in love with another robot named EVE and as he follows her into outer space he sets into motion an adventure that can change his destiny and can help humans return home.

Why you should see it: Pixar once again shows its ingenuity and sense of magic with this stellar and bold film. “Wall-E” is not simply an animated film, it’s a masterful piece that transcends cultural, language and age barriers easily touching the hearts of everyone and becoming a significant sci-fi movie. It was nominated for 6 academy awards and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. 

6. “2001: A Space Odyssey” – Stanley Kubrick (1968)

Plot: The discovery of a mysterious object buried beneath the moon’s surface leads a trio of astronauts on a dangerous mission to Jupiter.

Why you should see it: This hypnotically entertaining and brilliantly directed film is one of the most influential in the sci-fi genre. The Los Angeles times called it “a milestone, a landmark…in the art of film” and in 1991 it was and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The movie was also nominated for four Academy Awards and won for Best Visual Effects. Director Martin Scorsese also named it as one of his favorite films of all time.

5. “Aliens” – James Cameron (1968)

Plot: On this sequel, Ellen Ripley is the last surviving crew member of Nostromo and is asked to go back to the alien planet after news comes that it has been settled, but contact has suddenly been lost. This time, the rescue team has all the fighting power and arms necessary, can they take out the colony of aliens and their queen?

Why you should see it: This outstanding science-fiction thriller has intelligently and boldly expands on the first film creating a new plot that doesn’t make the film feel like simply a sequel, instead it creates a refreshing plot shapped around the heroic and kick-ass Weaver. It was nominated for seven academy awards and won Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects Editing. It was also featured on the cover of Time and was named “the scariest film of the summer.”

4. “Forbidden Planet” – Fred Wilcox (1956)

Plot:A starship crew goes to investigate the silent planet ruled by expatriate Pidgeon only to find him and his daughter and a deadly secret that one of them hides.

Why you should see it: This film is the mother of all space travel sci-fi movies. It is the first film to show humans traveling on a starship created by them. This was a groundbreaking film for its time in terms of special effects and a precursor of what was to come in sci-fi. In 2013, the film was entered into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

3. “The Right Stuff” – Philip Kaufman (1983)

Plot:This is the story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts – the Navy, Marine and Air Force test pilots – selected for the first attempt of the United States to pursue human spaceflight.

Why you should see it: This film is not a straightforward historical account, bur rather an entertaining and grand-scale look into our pioneering astronauts. It is packed full of beauty, drama, excitement and humor only made better by the vivid array of characters. The film was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won for Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Original Score.

2. “Gravity” – Alfonso Cuaron (2013)

Plot: During what was supposed to be a routine spacewalk, disaster strikes destroying Stone’s and Kowalsky’s space shuttle and leaving them only tethered to nothing but each other and without communication to Earth and therefore without any chance of rescue. As time passes, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.

Why you should see it: This heart-pounding thriller is a dazzling film that’s masterfully directed, visually stunning, greatly acted and which incorporates mind-blowing 3-D. You can’t ask for a better space film. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

1. “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” – Georges Méliès (1902)

Plot: A group of astronomers go on an expedition to the moon.

Why you should see it: This film is not only considered to be the first of the sci-fi genre, but it was also a pivotal moment in film history changing the way film was produced. It was a massive success upon its release due to its extravagant production, groundbreaking special effects, and emphasis on storytelling, which allowed Méliès to create a magical and whimsical portrait of science. In 2002 it became the first movie to be named as a UNESCO World Heritage list.

What are you thoughts on our list? Share them in the comments below. 

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