Inspired by the release of visually stunning Gravity (review), I began thinking about some of the films that I enjoyed where space played a crucial role. Instead of merely creating a straight forward list of six films, I am going to have a little fun and take a page from the recent episode of the Reel Insight podcast. Using the Six Degrees of Separation game as a model, each film listed must have a link to the film directly beneath it in six moves or less.
Synopsis: “A team of astronauts are sent to re-ignite the dying sun 50 years into the future”.
Reason to see it: Sunshine is arguably one of Danny Boyle’s best films. While I initially had issues with the last act, it becomes less jarring the more I watch it. Sunshine is one of those films that just seems to get better with every watch.
Six Degrees Total: 3. 1) Sunshine’s Cillian Murphy had a supporting role in Batman Begins, 2) In 1997, the role of Batman was played by George Clooney, 3) Five years later George Clooney would star in Solaris.
Synopsis: “A troubled psychologist is sent to investigate the crew of an isolated research station orbiting a bizarre planet”.
Reason to see it: While I have not seen the original Tarkovsky version yet (it is one of the films I still need to watch as part of this year’s Blind Spot series), I absolutely loved the tone of Steven Soderbergh’s film. There is both a hypnotic and haunting feel to the central love story.
Six Degrees Total: 4. 1) Solaris’ Viola Davis was nominated for an Oscar for her work in Doubt, 2) The film also garnered a nomination for its star Meryl Streep. 3) Back in 2003, Streep starred in The Hours alongside Ed Harris. 4) Harris was part of the great cast that made up The Right Stuff.
The Right Stuff
Synopsis: “The story of the original US Mercury 7 astronauts and their macho, seat-of-their-pants approach to the space program.”
Reason to see it: It is great from start to finish. Fantastic performance, great dialogue, I will take this film over Apollo 13 any day. Plus, it is one of the few films that actually made me seriously think about what astronauts go through just to get a slim shot at an opportunity to go into space.
Six Degrees Total: 1. The Right Stuff’s Lance Henriksen was in Aliens.
Synopsis: “The planet from Alien has been colonized, but contact is lost. This time, the rescue team has impressive firepower, but will it be enough?”
Reason to see it: Um….it is one of the greatest sequels of all time. Really you cannot go wrong with either of the first two films in the Alien franchise. While you can debate the merits of the rest of the films in the franchise, Alien and Aliens are mandatory viewing.
Six Degrees Total: 1. Aliens’ own Sigourney Weaver starred in Galaxy Quest.
Synopsis: “The alumni cast of a cult space TV show have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.”
Reason to see it: Though I was tempted to go with the charming Wall-E, I think Galaxy Quest deserves a little love on this list. This is one of those films that I will sit and watch whenever it is on television. While my wife is the Trekkie, or is it Trekker?, of the household, I still find myself laughing at many of the gags in this film.
Six Degrees Total: 6. 1) Galaxy Quest’s Tim Allen starred in the comedy Wild Hogs, 2) One of his co-stars in the film was John Travola, 3) Travolta was the voice of the animated dog Bolt in the film of the same name, 4) Another voice actor in Bolt was Malcolm McDowell, 5) McDowell is best known for his work in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, 6) Of course, some consider Kubrick’s ultimate masterpiece to be 2001: A Space Odyssey.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Synopsis: “Humanity finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, object buried beneath the Lunar surface and, with the intelligent computer H.A.L. 9000, sets off on a quest.”
Reason to see it: Talk about an experience! I was going to purposely skip this film in favor of highlighting a smaller foreign gem like 2009’s Cargo. However, no discussion about space can be complete without Kubrick’s masterpiece. Although I have always enjoyed the film, my love for it grew immensely when I got the chance to finally see it on the big screen last year. While my wife had issues with the beginning and end of the film, it was her first time watching it, I was in sensory rapture. It may not be an easy film to decipher, but it set the standard that most films about space are still trying to live up to.