Science Fact: 10 Great Space Travel Movies That Aren’t Science Fiction

Most of the films involving space travel belong to the science fiction genre. These films are often set in the future or sometimes an alternate version of the past. They will typically introduce a form of technology that was not fully invented or developed in real life, and as such, is a genre of literature that often speculates where society might be at some point. Not all science fiction movies are fantasy, and some are more brutal than others. They all have something that makes them different from reality, though — after all, that’s what the “fantasy” part of “science fiction” refers to.


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Given that space travel is something that became a reality in the 20th century, not all movies about characters going to space will be science fiction. Historically accurate or more realistic films about going into space are rarer than their overseas counterparts but almost unheard of. All of these films show that realistic films about space travel can be just as exciting as those in the science fiction genre.

Hidden Figures (2016)

janelle monae-social-hidden-personalities

Hidden characters is a movie that spends time with characters on Earth as they discuss space travel. Namely, it looks at those who worked behind the scenes at NASA during the early 1960s, which existed when American astronauts first traveled into space.

The film’s story focuses on three black women who worked at NASA as mathematicians during this period and how they were looked down upon or ignored in a male-dominated workplace and at a time when things were segregated based on race. Its focus is on issues of race and gender, but it is based on a true story about how these athletes were instrumental in the early years of NASA, demonstrating space travel in this way.

Space Cowboys (2000)

Space Cowboys - 2000

An underrated and ignored movie at home Clint Eastwood Filmography Space cowboy It is the rare space travel movie that is neither based on science fiction nor based on true historical events. It focuses on several old men who used to be pilots/astronauts in their youth who some 40 years later are asked to do a repair job on a satellite in space that no one else is qualified to do.

It’s an action-adventure movie, but not to the point where it ventures into science fiction. As such, it walks an interesting line in the space-set movie set because it could have happened in the year 2000 without actually happening.

“The Right Things” (1983)

The Right Things - 1983

Focusing on the first American astronauts in history, The right kinds It mostly takes place in the 1950s and, as a result, doesn’t involve a huge amount of spaceflight. It’s more about the early stages of preparing a group of pilots to become astronauts, as all the main characters fight to make the dream of space travel a reality.

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With a running time of over three hours, it’s certainly a long film, but a rewarding one. The characters are memorable, the pace is very good (thanks to the story covering a lot of land/years), the score is ingenious, and it looks great visually. It’s a movie that really has all the right things, though, unfortunately, it was less successful at the box office upon its release.

“In the Shadow of the Moon” (2007)

In the Shadow of the Moon - 2007

A critically acclaimed documentary with a score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, In the shadow of the moon It is one of many documentaries about the various Apollo missions to the Moon. It also should not be confused with the movie of the same name, which was released in 2019, which is a sci-fi movie that doesn’t exactly focus on space travel.

As great as biopics or historical films about moon travel can be, few things beat real footage of NASA and astronauts on the moon. as, In the shadow of the moon It offers lots of great photos from the lunar surface and also benefits from showing many interviews with former Apollo astronauts who were still alive in 2007.

“The Dish” (2000)

plate 2000

A movie devoid of bad guys still holds stakes, saucer It presents a unique story of space travel by choosing an unexpected group of people to focus on. The film is set in a remote town in Australia where the Apollo 11 mission to the moon is taking place. The city’s giant satellite dish must be used to broadcast images of the moon landing all over the world via live television.

It is a historical drama that also works as a comedy saucerLight tone and fun characters. A lot of things go wrong with ensuring that all is well for the world to see the first moon landing, but fortunately, history tells us that it all worked out in the end when it came to broadcasting.

Apollo 13 (1995)

Kevin Bacon, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton in 'Apollo 13'
Image via Universal Pictures

Although there is no shortage of movies that start with the word “Apollo,” a few are well known as well Apollo 13. This movie depicts the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission that was intended to take astronauts to the moon, but had to be aborted by an explosion while in space.

As such, those on the ground had to think quickly to bring those on board home, and this is what happens Apollo 13 It ends with acting. All the stars and an ambitious production ensured that it was a huge hit, and as far as non-fiction films about space travel go, it’s still without a doubt one of the most popular.

“Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Childhood in the Space Age” (2022)

Apollo 10½_ Childhood in the Space Age (2022)
Image via Netflix

Admittedly underrated and ignored Apollo 10 ½: A Childhood in the Space Age It comes close to feeling like science fiction. After all, part of this new movie set in late ’60s Houston involves a kid being trained as an astronaut to be sent to the moon, which isn’t based on historical facts.

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However, it is easy (and arguably necessary) to read these scenes as unbelievable or imagined by the main character of the film. After all, every other bit of the movie is so mediocre and feels director-inspired (Richard LinklaterRealistic childhood. The idea of ​​someone going to the moon got a lot of people — especially kids — super excited, so who can blame the movie’s hero for imagining himself as one of the astronauts?

“The Universe: A Personal Journey” (1980)

Cosmos_ A Personal Odyssey - 1980

As its title suggests, Cosmos: A Personal Journey It takes a more intimate allegorical idea of ​​space travel/exploring the universe. It was a miniseries written and presented by the astronomer Carl Sagan She took an approach to space-related topics that was educational, entertaining, and imaginative all at once.

It takes more than one sitting to get through all 13 of its parts, but for a small series that’s been in production for over 40 years, it’s very cinematic and eye-opening stuff. Part of this comes from the innovative special effects and music, most of which is done by Vangeliswho often composed music scores for films (one of his most famous beings Blade Runner).

“The First Man” (2018)

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong trains in The First Man
Image via Universal Pictures

what Apollo 13 for the real-life mission of the same name, first man for the Apollo 11 mission. Focuses on the career of the first man on the Moon, Neil ArmstrongAs NASA astronauts, we started long before 1969, but started even on that trip to the moon, using the dramatic Apollo 11 mission as its climax.

It’s a movie that feels a bit slow, in part because of its 141-minute running time, and its tone is pretty cool and detached. This is intentional, which helps show just how strict and calculating these people are as NASA must be at times, but it can also make it more difficult to invest emotionally. However, a lot can be overlooked when it comes to the last half hour, as the Apollo 11 mission is amazingly represented.

Apollo 11 (2019)

Apollo 11-2019

Apollo 11 It will offer a great double feature with first man. This movie also explores the Apollo 11 mission (obviously) but does so in documentary form. Not only that, but it does it in a way that doesn’t use a traditional narrator or interviews, and as such, does a great job of making you feel like you were there in 1969.

For anyone born after 1969, the excitement and nervousness around the first manned flight to the Moon is best understood. The footage and sound are also incredibly clean, with a stunning and immersive presentation.

Keep reading: The best sci-fi movies that aren’t set in the future

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