This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is astronauts. This is an area I'm very prolific in, being an experienced science fiction writer and having a long history with the genre. That seems simple enough. The only problem is deciding which three to select for this theme. I've got so many to choose from. It's hard to narrow it down to three, but I've got to find something.
Destination Moon (1951)
If we're going to be discussing astronauts, what better place to start than to look at the original astronaut film. George Pal's Destination Moon is often labelled as the film which really launched the science fiction film. By today's standards, it might not seem like that great a film. The story is pretty thin, and serves mainly as an excuse to provide what amounts to an hour and a half lecture about space travel. However, in its day, this was radical. Pal was one of the first to realize that audiences were interested in the possibilities of space travel and science. They even brought in then-acclaimed author Robert Heinlein to ensure the film was realistic (the effects are a bit dated, but most of the science holds up pretty well). Also worth noting is that Destination Moon was made almost twenty years before the actual moon landing, and they fact that they came as close as they did to predicting what would actually happen is quite impressive.
The Right Stuff (1983)
To continue the theme I set in motion with Destination Moon, it seemed appropriate to also include a movie about some of the first astronauts. Okay, technically this film is about the first American astronauts (the first person in space was a Russian, Yuri Gagarin, who entered orbit in 1961) but it does deal with the beginnings of space exploration. There is a lot of ground covered in this film, which begins with Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in 1947 and ends just before the start of the Apollo Missions.
This may seem like an obvious choice, but it is a very well-made film. It obviously draws on a lot of older science fiction movies, with plenty of references, homages, and inside jokes (fun fact: look in the background when Ryan is on the ISS; at one point you can see a picture of the famous shot from A Trip to the Moon). It is definitely a tense film, but also one that reflects a very different view of space travel. Unlike the more adventurous tones of Destination Moon or The Right Stuff, Gravity puts heavy emphasis on the less glamorous side of working as an astronaut. From the opening moments we see that working in space can be dull and tedious, but it also shows the dangers of the profession as well.