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50 best space movies of all time

  • 50 best space movies of all time

    In its first manned rocket launch, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on May 30 is set to bring NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The spaceflight, taking off from the same launch pad used to bring people to the moon, represents other milestones, as well: It's the first time a private company is sending people to space; it's also the first space launch since 2011 to leave from the United States. The launch was scheduled for May 27 but was rescheduled because of rain.

    For as long as there have been humans, we’ve looked up at the night sky and wondered what lies beyond the ever-present border of our atmosphere. Our ancestors had myths to explain the formation of the stars, and today we have cinema as a tool to share theories of our own. Stacker has compiled a list of the best space movies of all time according to the Stacker Index, which takes into account a film’s IMDb user score and critics’ Metascore, so both parties' opinions are weighed.

    Science fiction has always addressed the big questions surrounding the nature of life, what it means to be human, and what being alone in the universe (or not) would mean for human civilization. Are we just a pale blue dot in an ocean of darkness, grappling with the impossibility of human life and its implications? Or are we just one of many civilizations with a delusional belief in the exceptionalism of our species?

    The films on this list include soaring space operas, faithful docudramas, gripping thrillers, and speculative musings, but all of them deal with space to some degree. These films span the recent history of cinema, from 1956 to 2019, and thus a chronological progression can be observed, with the early successes influencing all the films after.

    Though some movies got the dates wrong, many of the themes explored deal directly with our day-to-day lives. “Gattaca” explores the perils of the creation of so-called “designer babies;” the first of which in history was created this year. “WALL·E,” “Blade Runner,” and “Planet of the Apes” muse on what will happen to the Earth when humans leave forever. Several films take us back to one of humanity’s greatest scientific achievements—the moon landing—and the sheer amount of effort and creativity needed to accomplish such a feat.

    All films with over 1,000 IMDb votes and at least four Metacritic reviews were counted, so read carefully through the list for some hidden gems. Read on to find out which animated film takes the top spot, and where fan favorites “Star Wars” and “E.T.” land.

    You may also like: Space discoveries that will blow your mind

  • #50. Prometheus (2012)

    Directed by Ridley Scott
    - Stacker score: 69.8
    - Metascore: 64
    - IMDb rating: 7.0
    - Votes: 540,298
    - Runtime: 124 min

    The much-anticipated prequel to the "Alien" franchise, "Prometheus" sat on the back burner for almost 10 years while Scott focused on "Alien vs. Predator." A script rewrite and production issues further delayed the project until its release in 2012. The film has been praised for its visual effects and outstanding performances, especially by Michael Fassbender, though critics and viewers have pointed to plot holes and story predictability as the film's shortcomings.

  • #49. Sunshine (2007)

    Directed by Danny Boyle
    - Stacker score: 71.4
    - Metascore: 64
    - IMDb rating: 7.3
    - Votes: 220,549
    - Runtime: 107 min

    Written by Alex Garland, who’s now directing his own sci-fi films like “Ex Machina” and “Annihilation,” Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine” boasts an all-star cast of Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, and Rose Byrne on a mission to restart the dying sun with nuclear bombs. “Sunshine” is a thrilling spectacle of humanity pushed to its limits, with special effects that still hold up to this day. Although many critics found the final act disappointing, there’s plenty to love throughout the adventure.

  • #48. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)

    Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe
    - Stacker score: 72.9
    - Metascore: 61
    - IMDb rating: 7.9
    - Votes: 39,200
    - Runtime: 115 min

    If you’re not already into anime, “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie” may not be the best place to start. It’s based on a series by the same name, and while it’s not necessary that you watch the show before the film, you might be confused by the fast-paced action without proper context. But if you’re an anime fan looking for a space epic filled with bounty hunters, a nanomachine-based biological weapon, and a dog with human-level intelligence all set on the surface of Mars, look no further.

  • #47. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

    Directed by Richard Marquand
    - Stacker score: 73.4
    - Metascore: 58
    - IMDb rating: 8.3
    - Votes: 863,833
    - Runtime: 131 min

    The original “Star Wars” trilogy will always be remembered for bringing blockbusters to Hollywood, with all their action, adventure, and exorbitant budgets. The third entry, “Return of the Jedi,” is generally considered by fans and critics to be the worst of the three, though it’s no less-beloved than the first two. The Rebels, beaten time and time again, finally take their stand against the Empire, as allegiances are tested and secrets are revealed.

  • #46. Mr. Nobody (2009)

    Directed by Jaco Van Dormael
    - Stacker score: 73.4
    - Metascore: 63
    - IMDb rating: 7.8
    - Votes: 197,592
    - Runtime: 141 min

    This list comprises space movies, after all that’s what you came here for, but “Mr. Nobody” is one of a few time movies too. Jared Leto portrays the protagonist, Nemo Nobody, the last mortal left on Earth after everyone else achieves immortality through cellular regenerative technology. Though the movie largely takes place on Earth, Nemo at points writes a story about space travel to Mars, which is visually presented in gorgeous detail.

  • #45. Gattaca (1997)

    Directed by Andrew Niccol
    - Stacker score: 74
    - Metascore: 64
    - IMDb rating: 7.8
    - Votes: 260,864
    - Runtime: 106 min

    Twenty-one years after the release of “Gattaca,” the scientific community was forced to confront an issue raised by the film: gene editing. Using CRISPR technology, scientists can now selectively edit portions of DNA in embryos, creating artificial resistance against diseases like HIV, smallpox, and cholera. Eventually, this technology could determine many human traits, from intelligence to eye color, exactly to the parents’ desire. In the world of “Gattaca,” a man born naturally—without any genes edited—poses as another man to sidestep genetic discrimination and fulfill his dreams to travel to space, and raising important questions about whether gene editing is just a novel form of eugenics.

  • #44. Galaxy Quest (1999)

    Directed by Dean Parisot
    - Stacker score: 74.5
    - Metascore: 70
    - IMDb rating: 7.3
    - Votes: 138,301
    - Runtime: 102 min

    What does Sigourney Weaver do after finally escaping from the aliens in “Alien” and “Aliens?” Poke fun at another staple of the sci-fi genre in “Galaxy Quest,” a transparent but nonetheless hilarious send-up of “Star Trek” and its fans. Also starring Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell, this cult classic is beloved by the very fans it made fun of, a surefire mark of a great film.

  • #43. THX 1138 (1971)

    Directed by George Lucas
    - Stacker score: 74.5
    - Metascore: 75
    - IMDb rating: 6.8
    - Votes: 44,825
    - Runtime: 86 min

    “THX 1138” was a failure. That is, until George Lucas gained notoriety for “Star Wars” and fans went back to watch his first film, which depicts a totalitarian dystopia controlled by mind-altering chemicals and an android police force. The title refers to the film’s protagonist, played by Robert Duvall; to encourage conformity, names are simply three initials and four digits.

  • #42. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

    Directed by Gareth Edwards
    - Stacker score: 74.5
    - Metascore: 65
    - IMDb rating: 7.8
    - Votes: 479,680
    - Runtime: 133 min

    Many fans found inconvenient truths (without revealing spoilers) at the end of “Star Wars: Episode IV.” 39 years later, “Rogue One,” which takes place right before “Episode IV,” sets the stage for that famous climax, explaining the story behind how the heroic band of rebels was able to strike a decisive blow against the Empire. The first “Star Wars” film to be set outside the three major trilogies, “Rogue One” was played for its no-holds-barred action, fast-paced storyline, and memorable cameos from beloved characters.

  • #41. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

    Directed by Nicholas Meyer
    - Stacker score: 75
    - Metascore: 67
    - IMDb rating: 7.7
    - Votes: 105,457
    - Runtime: 113 min

    Nowadays, with the ubiquity of computer-generated images, or CGI, in blockbuster cinemas, it’s charming to remember of time of carefully painted miniatures and fireworks explosions comprising much of what we consider “special effects.” “The Wrath of Khan,” the first film to have a sequence comprised entirely of CGI, was a harbinger of this new era. Beloved by fans, William Shatner’s James Tiberius Kirk leads a war against Khan, who has sworn revenge on the Starship Enterprise, in this classic space opera.

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