Best space movies: 14 movies about the wonder and horror of a trip to the stars
The best space movies that are almost as good as the real thing.
We've trawled the galaxy to select the best space movies of all time. So if you're looking for a blast of wonder, intergalactic adventure or a claustrophobic spaceship horror, then this top space movie list is for you.
It's no surprise space movies are so popular and have been a mainstay of cinema since the early days. There's so much fertile ground in space stories – despite the distinct lack of fertile ground in space – to explore, from space station politics and what it takes to be an astronaut, through to evil AI and hostile alien life.
Our list below includes classic, must-watch space movies, films about real-life discoveries and events and some of our favourite science-fiction stories about the dark and dangerous things that might be lurking in the outer reaches of the cosmos.
Vote for your favourite space movie – or add your suggestions in the box below.
- If you're looking for more galactic adventures, these are the best sci-fi TV series around right now.
- Or if you want critically-acclaimed sci-fi that's not necessarily set in the cosmos, take a look at our best sci-fi movies list instead.
Best space movies
1. 2001: A Space OdysseyBuy now on Amazon
Based on the writing of legendary sci-fi scribe Arthur C.Clarke, Stanley Kubrick's ground-breaking cult classic still looks fresh more than five decades after it was released. From revolutionary visual effects to a tantalising glimpse of future space tourism, not to mention creepy supercomputer HAL, this remains one of the most influential films ever made.
2. The MartianBuy now on Amazon
Basically Castaway on Mars, this mildly comic sci-fi drama stars Matt Damon as astronaut and botanist Mark Watney who gets left behind when his crewmates have to make a swift exit from the Red Planet after a massive dust storm scuppers their mission. NASA collaborated on the film, so it's a pretty good preview of what a future Mars mission might look like. Without the getting left behind bit, hopefully.
3. InterstellarBuy now on Amazon
Set in a not-far-off dystopian future, Christopher Nolan's mind-boggling sci-fi epic sees Matthew McConaughey giving yet another acting masterclass as a former NASA pilot turned farmer leading the search for another habitable world. Yes, there's a healthy dollop of artistic license involved but with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne on board as scientific advisor, the film's portrayal of the mysterious workings of the cosmos is surprisingly solid. Also features a cool, sarky robot.
4. MoonBuy now on Amazon
Directed by Duncan Jones, son of the original Starman David Bowie, Moon is a slow-burning drama that sees Sam Rockwell as a shift worker coming to the end of his three-year stint as the sole occupant of a lunar mining facility. With only an AI, voiced by Kevin Spacey, for company, things start to get weird for our lone hero after he stacks his lunar rover and the truth behind his mission begins to unravel.
5. Apollo 13Buy now on Amazon
Self-confessed space geek Tom Hanks stars as astronaut Jim Lovell in this retelling of the true story of the Apollo 13 and their nail-biting struggle to return to Earth following a dramatic malfunction on their spacecraft. One of the few space films that was actually filmed partially in microgravity, thanks to a fancy trick with a reduced-gravity plane, also known as the 'vomit comet'.
6. Hidden FiguresBuy now on Amazon
This absolute must-watch is the true story of black female mathematicians and engineers who worked at NASA during the Space Race against the Soviets. Though their contribution was largely forgotten or ignored until recent years, they played a pivotal role in getting humans into orbit and then to the moon.
7. The Right StuffBuy now on Amazon
Based on Tom Wolfe's classic rip-roaring book, this historical epic tells the tale of the audacious exploits of the test pilots at Edwards Air Force Base, right through from smashing the sound barrier to the formation of the famous Mercury Seven - the very first astronauts.
8. GravityBuy now on Amazon
This tense sci-fi thriller sees Sandra Bullock star as an astronaut stranded alone in space after a fictional mission to fix the real-life Hubble Space Telescope goes catastrophically wrong. The Oscar-winning visual effects make her struggle for survival all the more realistic, and apart from a few liberties, this is a pretty accurate picture of what life is like in space. Watch it on the biggest screen you can find.
9. First ManBuy now on Amazon
Ryan Gosling stars as the eponymous hero Neil Armstrong in this biopic that feels slightly less gung-ho than other films about the U.S. space programme. Instead, it concentrates on Armstrong's personal journey to the moon, including his early astronaut days on Gemini 8 and the heartbreaking loss of his young daughter. Plus the moon landing, obviously.
10. Capricorn OneBuy now on Amazon
This star-studded gem is a classic '70s conspiracy caper about three NASA astronauts — played by James Brolin, Sam Waterston and er, O.J. Simpson — who get blackmailed into faking a crewed mission to Mars. It's not often you get to see a film where NASA are the baddies. Get the popcorn in.
11. Event HorizonBuy now on Amazon
If you like your space movies to be filled with cosmic horror and skin-crawling weirdness, then bypass the stories based on real-life events and take a trip aboard the Event Horizon. This film is about a rescue mission to a spacecraft that mysteriously went missing and reappears in orbit around Neptune. Starring Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan and Joely Richardson, this isn't a space movie for the faint-hearted, nor is it one of the greats on our list, but we love the eerie atmosphere, especially in the first half.
12. ContactBuy now on Amazon
Based on a 1979 novel by Carl Sagan, Contact is about Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway (played by Jodie Foster). She's a SETI scientist (a division dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence) who finds evidence of alien life and is chosen to make first contact. It isn't a flashy blockbuster about aliens invading, but it's a more meditative and scientific look at what might happen if (or when) we ever find evidence that we're not alone in the universe.
13. AlienBuy now on Amazon
A movie that needs no introduction, for a brutal, gritty look at the possible future of space travel, hop aboard the Nostromo. This classic 1979 film directed by Ridley Scott is near perfect. A weird distress signal, creepy-looking eggs and a rogue alien all make for a tense space horror. There's an all-star cast here, but Sigourney Weaver shines as Ellen Ripley.
14. SpaceCampBuy now on Amazon
Camp is the operative word in this rather cheesy '80s flick inspired by the real-life Space Camp. Joaquin Phoenix (then known as Leaf) plays one of a bunch of kids who accidentally get launched into orbit on a space shuttle, so it's not big on realism but it is a lot of fun. If this doesn't make you want to be an astronaut, nothing will.