Five Fantastic Films About the Race to Space

As we wind down today’s celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of mankind’s arrival on the moon, we wanted to share with you five other notable films about America’s race to space in the 1960s. Each of these efforts focuse on a different subject, but when pieced together they help form a larger picture about determination, innovation, and the interminably courageous nature of the human spirit.

The Right Stuff

Writer/director Philip Kaufman brings sweeping action, humor, and human drama to his adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel about the birth of the Space Age. As pilot Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) pushes the envelope to break the sound barrier, Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid), Gus Grissom (Fred Ward), John Glenn (Ed Harris), and other men with the “right stuff” embark on their challenging new careers as America’s Mercury astronauts. With Barbara Hershey.

Hidden Figures

Based on the nonfiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, this engaging drama relays the true–if seldom told–story of a group of African American women who worked as mathematicians at NASA in the early 1960s. The film follows three of the ladies (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe) as they fight against the racial prejudice of the day and prove themselves to be instrumental and invaluable at a crucial point in the U.S. space program’s infancy. With Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, and Kevin Costner.

Apollo 13

It started out as a “routine” trip to the moon in 1970, but it became a desperate race against time that had an entire world holding its breath. Astronauts Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) are the crew of Apollo 13, forced to improvise a return to Earth when an on-board explosion causes them to lose power and oxygen, in director Ron Howard’s acclaimed drama based on a book by Lovell. With Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Kathleen Quinlan.

For All Mankind

Outstanding look at the Apollo moon flights, featuring actual NASA footage and narration by the astronauts themselves. Nominated for an Academy Award, Al Reinert’s stunning documentary presents the wonder of spaceflight in a way that’s never been shown before.

October Sky

Set in the 1950s, this real-life story tells of Homer Hickam, Jr., a West Virginia teenager whose obsession with Russia’s launch of Sputnik I causes friction with his coal miner father and prompts him to construct and attempt to launch a rocket with his three friends. Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, and Laura Dern star in this superior family saga from director Joe Johnston (“The Rocketeer”).

What are your favorite Space Race films? And what are your memories of watching the Apollo 11 mission? Let us know in the comments!