COMMENTARY | The movie “Gravity” is the surprise hit of the Fall Movie Season, netting more than $100 million internationally last weekend. But it may not be the best space movie ever. Here is a list of the top five films involving astronauts in outer space, that deal with the elements and exploration, not your “Star Wars” type films covering wars and magic.
1) Apollo 13: Folks may expect “The Right Stuff” to top the charts, dealing with America’s finest our and the space race with the Soviets. But sometimes you can learn as much in averting disaster. Even though the astronauts of Apollo 13 may have never made it to the moon, their determination under nearly hopeless conditions and the heroics of Mission Control make this the best space movie ever.
2) The Right Stuff: This is a long, long but well-worth the effort movie that’s more like a television miniseries about the original astronauts and what made them tick.
3) Gravity: It’s amazing how so little (few actors, not much of a set, lots of space), could accomplish so much, thanks to great acting and a compelling story. It sounds like the moviemakers could have brushed up on their physics.
4) 2001: A Space Odyssey: SciFi fans of classic material drool over this, while other moviegoers yawn through this drawn out story that sets up more than it delivers. I actually enjoyed 2010 a little more for its Cold War element and conclusion, but I’m in the minority here.
5) Space Cowboys: An all-star cast actually plays space for laughs, but they managed to actually create a plausible reason for the old-guy reunion above the Earth’s atmosphere.
And five space films that maybe aren’t “space junk,” but should possibly be jettisoned out the airlock.
5) Mission to Mars: It’s like Gravity, with more astronauts, less of a story, and only has you on the edge of your seat for a short period of time, unlike Gravity.
4) Red Planet: It disappoints more than anything, despite a strong cast and much promise.
3) Deep Impact: The first of the late 1990s impending celestial disaster movies, it really feels as though it was rushed to beat Armageddon, rather than tell a good story. The lack of realism is just stunning as well. Most of the actors seem bored more than anything.
2) Meteor: How a film starring Sean Connery, Karl Malden, Natalie Wood and Henry Fonda as the U.S. President and involves a desperate attempt to get Soviets and Americans to team up with missiles to stop a giant meteor could bomb so badly is amazing.
1) Armageddon: This seemed like such a “vehicle” for actors and actresses, as well as Aerosmith. But it is so loaded with tropes and clichés that you just can’t get into it. For a movie that made $200 million in 1998, it sure doesn’t play very often on cable very often.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.