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Space, the final frontier. As much as our narrow sighted governments have decommissioned our space programs, we have not given up hope at reaching for the stars. While for the average person it might seem like a herculean task innovators like Elon Musk and Richard Branson have devoted their vast fortunes to continuing to push the boundaries of going beyond orbit. But the future of space travel won’t entirely be dependent upon a handful of billionaires carrying the weight of human exploration on their backs. The only ones who can truly carry the torch of exploration into the 21st century is the next generation. The children of tomorrow who will grow into the next generation of scientists and engineers who will build the machines that will take humanity into the stars. For those future dreamers here are some of the best space travel movies that will hopefully inspire them with the possibilities of the stars and what great wonder the universe has for them to behold so they might use these dreams as the fuel for their minds to build the engines of tomorrow that will take their children to the stars.
Planet of the Apes
Complex sociological themes run through this space travel movie about three astronauts marooned on a futuristic planet where apes rule and humans are slaves. The stunned trio discovers that these highly intellectual simians can both walk upright and talk. They have even established a class system and a political structure. The astronauts suddenly find themselves part of a devalued species, trapped and imprisoned by the apes. While the original is one of the best space travel movies in its own right, the subsequent films create an intriguing narrative. The 2011 Planet of the Apes is the best reboot ever according to many fans.
In the not-too-distant future, Earth's dying sun spells the end for humanity. In a last-ditch effort to save the planet, a crew of eight men and women ventures into space with a device that could revive the star. However, an accident, a grave mistake, and a distress beacon from a long-lost spaceship throw the crew and its desperate mission into a tailspin.
When a space mission involving American and British astronauts encounters an alien craft, the humanoids within are brought aboard the shuttle. Back on Earth, one of the extraterrestrials, who appears to be a gorgeous woman (Mathilda May), proceeds to suck the life force out of various Londoners, turning the town into a city of roaming half-dead people. When Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback), a surviving astronaut, realizes what is happening, he sets out to stop the ruthless alien presence.
In a distant galaxy, one of the top 10 sci-fi comedy movies overlaps with the best space travel movies, making for some spectacular viewing. Planet Spaceball has depleted its air supply, leaving its citizens reliant on a product called "Perri-Air." In desperation, Spaceballs' leader President Skroob (Mel Brooks) orders the evil Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to kidnap Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) of oxygen-rich Druidia and hold her hostage in exchange for air. But help arrives for the Princess in the form of a renegade space pilot Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his half-man, half-dog partner, Barf (John Candy).
2001: A Space Odyssey
An imposing black structure provides a connection between the past and the future in this enigmatic adaptation of one of the best Arthur C. Clarke books. When Dr. Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and other astronauts are sent on a mysterious mission, their ship's computer system, HAL, begins to display increasingly strange behavior, leading up to a tense showdown between man and machine that results in a mind-bending trek through space and time.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The various versions of this film follow the same basic plot, but they are in many places mutually contradictory, as Adams rewrote the story substantially for each new adaptation. Throughout all versions, the series follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman; although the story also follows the adventure of other major characters such as: Ford Prefect (who named himself after the Ford Prefect car to blend in with what was assumed to be the dominant life form, automobiles), an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and a researcher for the eponymous guidebook; Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford's semi-cousin and the Galactic President; the depressed robot Marvin the Paranoid Android; and Trillian, formerly known as Tricia McMillan, a woman Arthur once met at a party in Islington and the only other human survivor of Earth's destruction.
The Fifth Element
In the 23rd century, a New York City cabbie, Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), finds the fate of the world in his hands when Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) falls into his cab. As the embodiment of the fifth element, Leeloo needs to combine with the other four to keep the approaching Great Evil from destroying the world. Together with Father Vito Cornelius (Ian Holm) and zany broadcaster Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker), Dallas must race against time and the wicked industrialist Zorg (Gary Oldman) to save humanity.
Star Trek Into Darkness
The crew of the Starship Enterprise returns home after an act of terrorism within its own organization destroys most of Starfleet and what it represents, leaving Earth in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) leads his people (Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoë Saldana) on a mission to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction, thereby propelling all of them into an epic game of life and death.
The discovery of a clue to mankind's origins on Earth leads a team of explorers to the darkest parts of the universe. Two brilliant young scientists lead the expedition. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) hopes that they will meet a race of benevolent, godlike beings who will in some way verify her religious beliefs, while Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) is out to debunk any spiritual notions. However, neither the scientists nor their shipmates are prepared for the unimaginable terrors that await them.
The making of Alien redefined the sci-fi horror subgenre and ushered in a new era of filmmaking. In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and attaches itself to one of the crew, causing him to fall into a coma.
Famed Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron brings the terror and beauty of space to life in his captivating space travel movie Gravity. The premise is starkly simple. An astronaut played by Sandra Bullock is doing routine maintenance on a space station. But a sudden accident throws her world into jeopardy as she must summon her courage and use every engineering trick she can muster to make her way out of orbit and back to earth’s surface. Less she find herself stranded entirely, floating in the void of space. Only through an existential and spiritual journey can Sandra Bullock bring herself home. No better film showcases the courage of humankind against the cold void of the cosmos than Gravity. Not to mention the 3D effects were pretty good too.
Event Horizon is like the Reese's peanut butter cup of sci-fi films. It takes the two great tastes of outer space (the chocolate) and a classic haunted house flick (the peanut butter) and smashes them together to form a tasty new concoction that has the best of science fiction with all of the tingling suspense of horror. In Event Horizon a rescue crew enters the titular ship to find a house of horrors as its crew has been massacred. The ship itself utilizes a prototype black hole generator to travel across the universe by making a jump through slip space. But during one of its jumps the ship came into a hellish dimension and was possessed by an evil supernatural entity. The whole film plays out like a satanic haunted house in space filled with all kinds of disturbing imagery that’s not for the faint of heart. The film was a flop when it was released but has since gained a strong healthy cult following on video.
As a film Interstellar was originally supposed to be directed by Steven Spielberg, but it eventually found its way into the hands of famed auteur Chris Nolan. The film sees Matthew McConaughey leading an expedition of scientists and explorers to travel through a wormhole and explore a new galaxy to find a potential new home for mankind to colonize. The film is an achingly beautiful tribute to the grandeur of the universe orchestrated by one of our greatest living filmmakers. The film is a wonderful testament to the strength of the human ingenuity and a must watch for anyone dreaming that our future lies in the stars.
The Right Stuff
The Right Stuff chronicles the earliest days of NASA and the seven men selected to be the astronauts on the first manned space mission ever. The film was such an iconic classic in 2013 it was selected to be preserved by the United States National Film Registry by the library of congress for being culturally and historically significant. No film better displays the courage and bravado of the humans who sought to challenge the heavens themselves than The Right Stuff. In fact, it’s an iconic hero shot of the astronauts walking in slow motion has become such a part of our cultural lexicon you’ve probably seen it homaged and parodied in more films than you can count. But if you have the right stuff to appreciate all of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into space exploration then you should definitely see this film as soon as possible.
Ridley Scott is one of greatest living film directors with a huge body of iconic work. But let’s face it, he hasn’t made a great movie in a while. But with The Martian Ridley Scott has shown his true filmmaking muscle. Based on Andy Weir's The Martian, a self-published book by the same title, the space travel movie tells the story of an astronaut played by Matt Damon who finds himself stranded alone on Mars after a terrible accident caused by a storm. Using his engineering skills and general scientific know-how Matt Damon must not only survive with his limited supplies but also find a way to stay in contact with NASA so he can make his way home. But Matt Damon isn’t the only hero, he’s supported by an extended cast who are all ready to “science the shit out of it” in this indelible tribute to the human spirit overcoming the seemingly insurmountable challenges of the universe itself.