With the impending release of this weekend’s promising blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought it was a good time to share some of my favorite space movies. As usual, I’ve chosen my list from the movies I’ve seen. There are a lot of space movies I’ve never seen or, in the case of 2001: A Space Odyssey, haven’t been able to sit through the whole thing. Once I chose my list, I arranged it based on an arbitrary list of criteria. It’s a trade secret. Now, I give you my list of movies..in..SPACE!
11. Avatar (2009)
Say what you want about the derivative plot and problematic messaging (white man saves native population again!), Avatar was just a freakin’ gorgeous movie. I saw this a couple of times in theaters and can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, this film really revolutionized the 3D film experience. Sure, it led to every studio and their second cousin twice removed deciding that their movie needed to be made in 3D so they could make more money, but you can’t deny that there are few movies that have used 3D as effectively as this movie. It was such a successful film despite its flaws that director and writer James Cameron is already at work on more films in the franchise. I may be in the minority, but I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes.
10. Apollo 13 (1995)
This is a movie that I enjoy for its attention to detail as a period piece about an important event in the history of NASA, but Apollo 13 isn’t a movie that I’ll just watch randomly. It’s kind of rough to see these space travelers in peril. I’m assuming it’s equally hard to watch Gravity (which I haven’t seen yet), if not moreso. It’s a great movie and I definitely recommend it. It also definitely earned its place on this list.
9. The Last Starfighter (1984)
The Last Starfighter is a must-see for gamers and sci-fi fans alike. Why? It’s all about a guy whose high score on his favorite arcade game earns him a spot in an alien defense force trying to save the galaxy from a would-be dictator. It’s definite wish-fulfillment, but it’s also sweet. This is one of my family’s favorite movies and I have many fond memories of watching Centauri (Robert Preston) trying to convince Alex (Lance Guest) that he is just what the galaxy needs.
8. Star Trek (2009)
This was a hard choice. I had to pick only one Trek movie. I know I’m going to catch some flack for including the reboot, Star Trek, as opposed to a classic like Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan or, my personal favorite, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Why did I pick this? Well, it brought new energy to the franchise and made it more accessible for people who aren’t well-versed in the decades of Trek lore. It’s also just a fun movie. Even if its sequel didn’t love up to its potential, I’d go up to bat for Chris Pine‘s Kirk and his crew.
7. The Ice Pirates (1984)
This movie is so ridiculous. In an age where a lot of moves in space were epics of some variety, be they adventure or straight-up drama, The Ice Pirates was ridiculous and silly. When I watched this growing up, there were a few things I didn’t catch. Nowadays, I get all of the naughty jokes and references. So, for those who know nothing about this movie, it’s about a crew of space pirates and the shenanigans they get into. Its cast features such cinematic greats as Anjelica Huston and Ron Perlman. Seriously, it’s under-appreciated, goofy fun.
6. The Fifth Element (1997)
Speaking of goofy fun, how could I not include Luc Besson‘s cult classic, The Fifth Element? The ultimate evil is plotting to destroy all life in the universe and the only thing that stands between life and annihilation is the mysterious Fifth Element. Thrown into this is ex-soldier and taxi driver, Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis). Hilarity, awesome fight scenes, and a ton of ass-kicking ensue. There’s a lot to love about this action comedy if you try not to think too much about it.
5. Dune (1984)
“Arrakis. Dune. Desert planet.” I don’t know why, but there was just something about David Lynch‘s Dune that resonated with my impressionable mind. Between the cheesy voice-overs and layers of political plot, this movie was, as kids these days would say, totally my jam. We had a couple of different copies of it on tape. I prefer the one with the introduction by Frank Herbert himself. At a Star Trek convention once, I asked Patrick Stewart what his least favorite line he ever had to say was. It was the line, “Gods, what a monster,” from this very film. So, check it out for that at least.
4. Star Wars Episode IV – The Return of the Jedi (1983)
Judge me all you want, but The Return of the Jedi was my favorite of the original Star Wars trilogy. This movie is just a year older than me, so we’ve grown up together. I loved the Ewoks and I loved the climactic battle between good and evil at the film’s end. I loved seeing Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) finally get together. I loved Lando (Billy Dee Wiliams) piloting the Millennium Falcon in that huge space battle. This film is just one of my happy places.
3. Serenity (2005)
While I was slightly late to the Browncoat party, I was nonetheless a happy convert to the cult of “Firefly” and super excited when they announced that the fan’s clamoring finally earned the beloved franchise a trip to the big screen in Serenity. While it may not have been a hit with general audiences, it was a hit in my eyes. I loved not only seeing some of my favorite characters again, but seeing some of the new characters that they introduced. My favorite, of course, is The Operative played by the amazing Chiwetel Ejiofor. Quick side note here, I love pointing out that this ruthless government boogieman is played by the same guy who brought some vim and vigor to Lola, the amazing drag queen, in Kinky Boots. Anyway! If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you should. Probably after a “Firefly” marathon, of course.
2. Wall-E (2008)
Wall-E had me from the very first moments of beautiful space visuals put to a song from the movie adaptation of Hello Dolly. Audiences around the world fell in love with the little robot with a big heart. Pixar had done it yet again in another of their fantastic films. Adding a bit of environmental responsibility to its not-so-subtle criticism of crass consumerism, it’s sweet, fun, and oh-so-pretty. Why don’t I have this on Blu-ray yet?
1. Galaxy Quest (1999)
There are so many things I could say about why I love Galaxy Quest. I could talk about the fantastic cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and Tim Allen. I could talk about the neat special effects. Really, though, I want to talk about how it’s an homage to Star Trek and its fans. It’s one of those films that doesn’t laugh at the sub-culture it portrays. Instead, it laughs with them. It’s brilliant and obviously loves the material it’s spoofing. That goes a long way. It also helps that it’s incredibly quotable.