On this day 50 years ago, crew of Apollo 11 became the first people in history to land on the Moon. It is, without a doubt, one of the most important events of the 20th century. As we look back on this milestone, it’s an appropriate time to talk about the films inspired by the Moon landing. The following list contains documentaries as well as narrative films dissecting the Apollo program, landing on the Moon and more.
First Man is the best 2018 film no one saw. It failed at the box-office and the award season wasn’t kind to it either, collecting only one Oscar and one Golden Globe. Still, this intimate portrayal of Neil Armstrong during the space race is as accurate as a narrative film will get. With First Man, Damien Chazelle proved that he is one of the best young directors working today. Ryan Gosling starts as Neil, with Claire Foy acting opposite him as Neil’s wife Janet. It is a long film, clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes. Most of the time is spent on Earth, but as soon as First Man goes to space, the wait is well worth it. Make sure to get the biggest screen and best audio possible before watching it, especially if you haven’t seen it before.
The Last Man on the Moon
The story of Neil Armstrong is well known, partly in thanks to films such as First Man. Not many, however, know the equally captivating story of Eugene Cernan. He was on board of the Apollo 17 and to this day is the last man to walk on the Moon. The film unveils his upbringing, his time in NASA and even what he’d went on to do after he returned to Earth. The Last Man on the Moon covers missions Apollo 10 and 17, with the focus of the doc placed on the latter one. It shines light on letter known expeditions, that were nonetheless important for space exploration. An engrossing tale, that packs a few surprises about the Moon, yet still remains grounded as a personal story.
Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?
An event as big as the Moon landing came with its own very popular conspiracy. Despite the coverage of the event, people believe the USA never made it to the Moon. This brief made-for-TV documentary from 2001 interviews multiple people, as they provide evidence. Some of them used to work at NASA, others are computer scientists or just passionate civilians. Conspiracy Theory provides arguments for both sides, but does not make any conclusive arguments. Viewer is left to decide as to what they believe in. It’s an intriguing, and quite entertaining watch, if you suspend your disbelief for 40 minutes.
You know what’s better than watching a movie that says we never went to the moon? Watching a movie about making a movie that says we never went to the moon. That’s the premise of a 2016 mockumentary Operation Avalanche. Four CIA agents in the 60s set out to save America’s space program by faking the moon landing. It’s a refreshing take on found footage movies with interesting characters and some truly hilarious moments. Granted, it does get a bit crazy in the end, but not enough to pull me out of the film.
Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
For Neil to step on the moon, an army of scientists had to monitor every moment of their flight to make sure everything is going according to the plan. These men, stationed in Houston, are Mission Control. Target of this documentary are the men who stood behind the entire Apollo program, as well as the majority of America’s space race. If you’re looking for a deep explanation of what exactly Mission Control does, this is the film for you. The scientists give their POV on key events, such as Apollo 1, Apollo 13 and, most importantly, Apollo 11. Whether a seasoned veteran or a newcomer to the topic of space travel, Mission Control is an endearing watch for all.
“Houston, we have a problem.”
These words cemented the Apollo 13 in history. Originally aimed for the Moon, the crew experienced a partial explosion of the spacecraft that almost resulted in their death. With only the barely functioning command module and LEM available, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert had to devise a plan that would get them home. Ron Howard’s space survival drama features amazing special effects as well as some truly great acting. Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon portraying the three astronauts, all give career-best performances. The real MVP, however, is Ed Harris. Apollo 13 is almost worth the watch solely for him.
Hidden Figures uses space as a backdrop to tell a much more down-to-Earth story. Film follows three brilliant black women scientists during the early days of NASA. As if that wasn’t hard enough, they are working in the still segregated America, which makes for multiple complications. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, among others, were responsible for getting Americans into space and yet history seemed to have forgot about them. It is a fun, accessible portrayal of an overlooked part of the space race.
This is the definitive moon landing documentary. Moonwalk One, shot during the actual event in 1969, manages to transport the viewer 50 years back in time. It is a time capsule, capturing not only testimonies from people in NASA as well as multiple observers, but also the mood. Featuring rare footage absent in so many other films, Moonwalk One is a must for anyone interested in space travel.