6 Astronomy Movies That Won’t Bore You To Death

Monday, July 16 by Irving Oala

The initial reaction people have when someone talks about astronomy or astronomy movies is to find an exit strategy. The one exception to this is on a first date: it can be charming and actually work to your advantage, as long as you know what you're talking about. For the most part, astronomy is generally considered too complex and is not something people would want to watch onscreen for an extended period of time. However, there are a number of astronomy movies out there that won't bore you to death, ranging from documentaries to feature films with incredible stories. Six of these movies are listed below, so you can enjoy learning about space and the great beyond without dozing off.

  1. "The Right Stuff" This modern classic from the early '80s follows the crew of the US Mercury 7 and their funny, macho approach to flying into outer space, which was no small feat in the '50s and '60s. There are a few things that make "The Right Stuff" stand out from the other space films out there. First, it's based on Tom Wolfe's popular book of the same name, which is arguably one of the writer's best works to date. The other is the incredible cast of Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris and Dennis Quaid, who were all rising stars in Hollywood at that time.
  2. "Contact" Starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, "Contact" tells the story of an astronomer who makes contact with alien life forms on another planet and builds a machine for them. The movie's great cast, unfolding mystery and appropriate subject matter for all audiences makes this film one of the few that manages to take the heady world of astronomy and makes it something just about everyone can understand.
  3. "The Planets" A BCC documentary about our galaxy sounds like a perfect recipe for an all-out snooze-fest, but give this one a chance. The BBC has become one of the best producers of high quality, fascinating documentaries out there and their recent "Planet Earth" series is clear evidence of that. "The Planets" is another triumph for them, surmising what our future will be like when we travel to all the planets in our galaxy, discover new moons and use our understanding of the solar system to navigate.
  4. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" This fun film based on Douglas Adams's incredibly popular book takes a more comical approach to astronomy and space travel, while having a direct metaphor to life and society on Earth. These direct links between our future in space travel and the way we currently live allows more viewers to identify with this story, paying more attention to the characters than the complex notion of intergalactic travel. Performances from Sam Rockwell and Mos Def also make this a great viewing experience. 
  5. "Sunshine" A great science fiction film from modern master Danny Boyle adds a lot of drama and philosophy to an astronomical, apocalyptic premise. In the future, the sun is about to burn out, so Earth launches a ship loaded with nuclear weapons to re-ignite the sun and save humanity. When the first ship goes missing, a second, final ship is sent to try and save the galaxy. A lot of astronomy and physics are glossed over here, but seeing this little-known film is still a great.
  6. "Melancholia" This little known art film from famed director Lars von Trier follows a set of characters while another planet is caught in the Earth's gravitational pull with the strong possibility the two planets will collide. Heavy stuff, but beautifully done, considering one of the main plot points has to do with how large objects are caught in planetary orbits. However, don't be surprised if you're feeling a little depressed afterward.