25 best moon movies ever

You'd be a lunatic to miss this exhaustive list of the finest moon-related films in history

Moon (2009)

A creepy, gripping space oddity (appropriate given that it’s directed by David Bowie’s son), Moon stars Sam Rockwell as a man contracted to work at a lunar base for three years. Except for friendly robot GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), he’s all alone up there. Or is he?

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Possibly the best-known and most highly-regarded science fiction movie of all time, Kubrick’s masterpiece isn’t specifically about the moon, but it does loom large in the plot as the site of mankind’s discovery of a second black monolith – the first being on Earth and triggering the evolution that led to humanity travelling into space. This monolith, presumably placed there by extraterrestrials, is transmitting a radio signal to Jupiter, and thus sparks off the mission that makes up the bulk of the film.

In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)

A British-made documentary about NASA’s manned missions to the moon, ITSOTM features beautiful archive footage (lovingly restored in high definition) and no commentary – simply letting the images, the footage and interviews with surviving astronauts tell the stories. Neil Armstrong, sadly, declined to take part.

Diamonds are Forever (1971)

A be-wigged Sean Connery’s return as Bond (after George Lazenby briefly assumed the mantle) is riotously campy and silly – few scenes more so than when Bond stumbles across a film set being used for fake moon landing footage, evades the slow-moving “astronauts” and makes off into the Nevada desert in a surprisingly speedy moon buggy.

The First Men in the Moon (2010)

Written by and starring The League of Gentlemen’s Mark Gatiss, this BBC adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel concerns a mission to the moon 60 years before Apollo 11, in which a pair of British oddballs use an anti-gravity substance to fly into space. But when they arrive on the lunar surface, they discover that there’s already something there…

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Georges Méliès’ 14-minute film is the first science fiction movie ever made, and at its time exceptionally advanced in terms of its special effects and use of animation. Based very loosely on works by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells (yes, The First Men in the Moon again), it was not available in its complete form until 2002, when the ending sequence was discovered in a French barn; you can catch the newly-restored version on the 2012 Blu-ray release.

Transformers 3: The Dark of the Moon (2011)

Yes, the Transformers trilogy is often held up as an example of the worst excesses of modern Hollywood filmmaking, but there’s no denying that the moon looms large in Michael Bay’s third outing, in which the dark side of the heavenly body conceals a mysterious Cybertronian spacecraft. Also features a cameo from none other than Buzz Aldrin… as himself.

A Grand Day Out (1989)

Wallace and Gromit’s first adventure propelled the pair into the hearts of millions – and onto the moon in a homemade rocket. Which, as we all know, is the best place to go if you run out of cheese and need to restock. The 23-minute film was nominated for an Oscar, only to lose out to Creature Comforts, another film made by the same Nick Park-led Aardman Animations team.

From the Earth to the Moon (1958)

Based on the Jules Verne novel of the same name (which also inspired A Trip to the Moon), this Technicolor romp, set just after the end of the American Civil War, concerns a munitions expert that invents the most powerful explosive of all time – in other words, the perfect propellent for a rocket to the Moon. Sadly (and somewhat hilariously), a slashing of the budget due to studio RKO’s collapse led to all the scenes taking place on the moon being cut.

Apollo 13 (1995)

“Houston, we have a problem,” says Tom Hanks in one of the the biggest understatements in movie history. Apollo 13 is the true story of the lunar mission that never landed on the moon, but had to abort and return to Earth after an oxygen tank exploded. The zero gravity scenes were filmed aboard a “Vomit Comet” plane performing parabolic arcs to achieve genuine weightlessness – and the cast and crew had to go through over 500 of them.

SpaceCamp (1986)

A young Joaquin Phoenix is among the group of kids who, when attending NASA’s summer space camp, mistakenly launch themselves into space with the help of a sentient robot. Stop tittering at the back: it could happen to anyone. Released in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster, this film would have struggled even if it had been good – but it’s far from a classic.

Magnificent Desolation (2005)

3D is now commonplace in cinemas, but back in 2005 it was a rarity, and this film – named after Buzz Aldrin’s description of the lunar landscape – was both 3D and designed for IMAX theatres. With Tom Hanks as writer and producer, it’s a documentary about NASA’s moon missions that uses both actual footage and CGI, plus a star-studded voice cast to tell its compelling stories.

More after the break...

The Right Stuff (1983)

Adapted from Tom Wolfe’s book, The Right Stuff tells the tale of the test pilots involved in high speed flights in the 1950s – including those selected to become the first US astronauts. Interestingly Chuck Yeager, the legendary pilot who was first to break the sound barrier, is played in the movie by Sam Shepard, who suffers from a fear of flying.

Iron Sky (2012)

What if the Nazis set up a base on the moon in 1945, then decided to return to a near future Earth to take over? Well, that’s what happens in Iron Sky, a moon-sized slice of knowing, politically incorrect cheese from Finnish director Timo Vuorensola. Nailed on to become a future cult classic merely from its subject matter.

The Mouse on the Moon (1963)

A British satirical take on the space race, The Mouse on the Moon concerns a tiny nation that beats the USA and Soviet Union to the moon by using a rocket powered by explosive wine. Terry-Thomas and Bernard Cribbins lead a cast of Brit stalwarts in an amusing tale of the underdog succeeding.

Moonwalk One (1970)

This feature-length documentary about the Apollo 11 mission was practically forgotten until 2007, when filmmakers looking for archive footage discovered the only surviving 35mm print. It was digitally restored in time for the moon landing’s 40th anniversary in 2009 and re-released as a director’s cut on DVD. It’s now public domain, and you can watch the entire thing on YouTube.

Destination Moonbase-Alpha (1978)

A made-for-TV movie in which the moon is blasted out of Earth orbit by an atomic explosion, sending the 300 inhabitants of the titular base drifting into deep space. When a rescue team arrives, only one man can see the truth – that they’re aliens seeking to harvest radiation from the lunar surface!

The Dish (2000)

A quirky comedy about a remote Australian antenna integral to broadcasting images of one of the most important events in history: the Apollo 11 moon landing. While the story takes some liberties with the actual events, much of the film was shot on location at the real Parkes Observatory and many of the props were items left behind by NASA scientists in 1969.

By Rocket to the Moon/Frau im Mond (1929)

It’s perhaps not one of Fritz Lang’s masterpieces, but this could well be the first “serious” movie about travelling to the moon: actual rocket designers (one of which may have been Werner von Braun) were used as consultants, hence the film’s portrayal of a multi-stage rocket.

Things to Come (1936)

With a screenplay written by H.G. Wells, Things to Come tells the story of a future history where a decades-long war is followed by a period of advanced technology and space travel – including a cannon able to fire a craft that circles the moon and returns to Earth.

Despicable Me (2010)

A CGI comedy in which a hapless super-villain, voiced by Steve Carell, seeks to cement his place as the most despicable man in the world by stealing the moon. While the world isn’t short on animated movies these days, Despicable Me ranks among the best of the recent bunch – and consequently a sequel is scheduled for next year.

Marooned (1969)

Gregory Peck and Gene Hackman star in this John Sturges-directed disaster drama, released at a time when the public’s imagination was focussed on space exploration. Three US astronauts are returning from a space station when a malfunction occurs, leaving them “marooned” in their reentry craft, unable to return to either Earth or the station. Ominously, it proceeded the real-life Apollo 13 event by only a year.

Countdown (1967)

A pre-M*A*S*H Robert Altman helmed this ripping yarn in which Robert Duvall and James Caan team up to put a man on the Moon before the Russkies. Made in the run-up to the real-life Moon landing, it's a curious mix of documentary accuracy – Altman filmed on location at Cape Canaveral – and wildly improbable plotting (the astronaut has to stay on the Moon for a full year before being rescued).

Destination Moon (1950)

An early stab at a realistic account of a Moon mission, George Pal's film sees a consortium of industrialists financing a rocket launch – rather like Elon Musk's current efforts. Unlike most 50s sci-fi movies, there are no bug-eyed monsters here – the biggest danger the crew face is equipment failure, pre-empting the Apollo 13 mission.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Dr Evil flies a rather rude-looking rocket to the Moon in Austin Powers' second mission, where he's set up an impressively shiny moonbase – complete with giant "la-ser" and squad of goons. Naturally, they're divided up into Moon Unit Alpha and Moon Unit Zappa. Naturally, it's down to Britain's greatest spy Austin Powers to stop him – with a helping hand from Felicity Shagwell.

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