Space keeps luring as well as challenging scientists and Hollywood filmmakers alike

Updated: Nov 10, 2014, 10:17 IST | Shakti Shetty |

Christopher Nolan's recently released USD 165-million endeavour titled 'Interstellar' is expected to further push the cinematic boundaries. In the meantime, we take you on a walk through the gradual progress in space-related cinema

Almost every film has a random shot of the sky in contrast to a given surrounding. However, very few ventures make an attempt towards exploring that space right above us. A reason strong enough to appreciate those movies that give us a peek into an alternate world.


With the advent of cutting-edge technology, the finer details that make space exquisite, more and more films are moving beyond the earthly comfort zones — while being firmly planted on the planet!

Moreover, Christopher Nolan's recently released $165-million endeavour titled Interstellar is expected to further push the cinematic boundaries. In the meantime, hitlist takes you on a walk through the gradual progress in space-related cinema.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick
Lowdown: If there's one feature film that has contributed immensely to filmmaking — not just sci-fi as a genre — then it has to be this timeless masterpiece. What makes 2001 more intriguing is Kubrick's attention to the minutest of details. And coincidentally, if you may, the film released exactly a year before man landed on the moon.

Solaris (1972)
Andrei Tarkovsky
Lowdown: The movie revolves around an astronomer who is pondering about life before embarking on an interstellar journey. A part of him tells him that it's going to be an ill-fated operation but a part of him also persuades him to check whether he's capable of making the journey. Being the auteur that he was, Tarkovsky ensures we fully understand his dilemma, with images conveying a lot.

Dark Star (1974)
Dark Star
John Carpenter
Lowdown: John Carpenter wrote, produced and directed this ahead-of-its-time film while also composing the music for it. Put bluntly, the entire film is one man's vision about a world when technology would make humankind so superior that we'd not stop at destroying our planet but even look into space to exploit more planets.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Nicholas Meyer
Lowdown: There has been no dearth of Star Trek films from the never-ending franchise but if one were to pinpoint one movie from the series, it has to be this one. The earthly conflicts promote themselves up to the galactic sphere where two fighting parties won't possibly let the other gain space — no pun intended.

The Right Stuff (1983)
The Right Stuff
Philip Kaufman
Lowdown: On being asked what comes close to the tone set in Interstellar, director Christopher Nolan mentioned this film, before adding how underrated it really is. Understandably ahead of its time, this Box Office dud featured seven astronauts who were packaged off into the space to avert damage to their planet.

2010 (1984)
Peter Hyams
Lowdown: For some reason, a joint US-Russian space programme ends up on a moon revolving Jupiter. What ensues is a series of intriguing incidents on an unknown celestial body that is more than just hostile towards the visitors. In this sequel to the Stanley Kubrick classic, Bob Balaban peculiarly played an Indian scientist named Dr Chandra.

Aliens (1986)
James Cameron
Lowdown: Going with the cinematic motif associated with this director, the female character (Sigourney Weaver) is indeed strong and doesn't give up — ever. She had a brushwith aliens earlier and despite heavy reluctance on her part initially, she finally decides to confront another batch of dangerously creepy space creatures with aplomb.

Contact (1997)
Robert Zemeckis
Lowdown: Almost 20 years in the making, this sci-fi drama turns into an adventure as the protagonist travels through space — wormholes, to be precise — and coming very close to the third kind. Starring Jodie Foster in a striking role, the film makes an attempt to not only reach out into the sky but also look for living beings hidden
in there.

The Fifth Element (1997)
The Fifth Element
Luc Besson
Lowdown: Once the most expensive French productions, this sci-fi action film starring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich and Gary Oldman takes a plunge into the future without abandoning the home planet. Although the futuristic world is filled with spaceships and weird characters, the onus of Earth's survival falls squarely on happy-go-lucky characters.

Dark City (1998)
Dark City
Alex Proyas
Lowdown: A man suffering from memory loss is accused of murder, leaving him with no choice but to escape arrest. During his run, he sinks deeper and deeper into the labyrinth he thought he was escaping. In the end, it becomes obvious that he's not really where he assumes he is. In fact, he's not even on the planet he was on once.

WALL·E (2008)
Andrew Stanton
Lowdown: 2014 marks the first year for Pixar in over a decade to not have a single release. Regardless, this Pixar creation from the noughties was of a different league. It was set in the space and on a machine-led planet. About 40 minutes into the film and you don't hear one exchange of dialogues. The visuals are so captivating that you don't miss them either!

Moon (2009)
Duncan Jones
Lowdown: Unlike the title, the film revolves around an astronaut (Sam Rockwell) who is on a contractual visit to mine moon's surface. Needless to mention, he is far away from his loved ones but the question really is: Are they far away from him too? What comes as a shocker to him turns out to be a bigger shocker to the unwitting audiences.

Another Earth (2011)
Another Earth
Mike Cahill
Lowdown: What if there's another planet out in the sky exactly like ours? Better still, what if people who perished on Earth are to be found on that replica planet? Yes, too many 'what ifs' it seems. And that's also something this wonderfully tragic indie film addresses without actually concluding anything in any planet's favour.

Gravity (2013)
Alfonso Cuarón
Lowdown: The 17-minute opening scene redefines the term 'epic' before ensuing on an unforgettable journey. About an astronaut (Sandra Bullock) who hopes to return home (read: Earth) after a terrible accident on the space station, the film touches several chords while the protagonist keeps floating from one testing situation to another.


A humble beginning

Le Voyage Dans La Lune

Space has always interested filmmakers and Georges Melies was no exception. This could also explain why his silent feature, Le Voyage Dans La Lune (1902), had a group of astronomers reach moon, face troubles, overcome them and then safely fly down to earth. A scene depicting the landing of the capsule they are travelling in is remarkable for a simple reason: it sticks into an ‘eye’ of the moon!

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