Based on the hard sci-fi novel by Andy Weir, The Martian follows the adventure of one unlucky astronaut struggling to survive on his own when stranded on a distant planet. The astronaut is Mark Watney and he finds himself left behind after a mission on Mars takes a turn for the worst. With the crew having departed, Mark struggles to survive with the limited resources of the Mars base, finding ways to grow his own food and conserve his energy. Meanwhile, the space program on Earth scrambles to find a way to bring Mark back home before time runs out for the lone man on Mars. It’s a race against time and a combination of minds that will save the day.
Directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner), the film featured the talents of Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. For its stellar mixture of science intrigue and quirky sense of hope, the film was a major box office success and was nominated for numerous awards, including the Academy Awards of Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. For more films about space travel and surviving the cruel wonders that lurk outside our planet, you thankfully don’t have to venture outside our galaxy to find comparative films. Here are ten films to check out that can replicate the astoundment of The Martian.
Earth’s future is exceptionally grim when the resources run out and a new dust bowl begins as one that may never end. Joseph Cooper was once an astronaut but now spends his days as a farmer trying to provide for his family. He is soon let in on a secret project by a team of scientists that plans to send off a rocket to the stars, seeking a new home for humanity to preserve the species. The journey, however, will be anything but easy as Joe will have to contend with unknown worlds, backstabbings, and the heartbreak of realizing his children will grow up without him around. Perhaps a solution lies at the edge of the universe. Directed by Christopher Nolan (Inception) with a script co-written by Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight), this sci-fi epic of grand special effects stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, and Michael Caine.
It is the late 21st-century, space travel has allowed mankind to colonize the moon and Mars with space stations about the galaxy. But there’s a problem coming from afar as mysterious shockwaves throughout the universe cause systems to malfunction. The culprit of such disasters may be Clifford McBride, an astronaut that was previously thought to have been lost on his mission to find life in the galaxy. And the only one who may be able to stop him is his son, the emotionless Roy McBride who serves as major in the U.S. Space Command. But Roy may find his mission of finding his father all the tougher when he learns the truth that had been hidden from him for so long. Directed by James Gray (We Own the Night), this atmospheric and contemplative space epic features the talents of Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, and Donald Sutherland.
The Space Shuttle Explorer is making a routine repair on the Hubble Space Telescope. On such a mission is the veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski and the first-timer of Doctor Ryan Stone. Everything seems to be fine until a space debris storm sends them spinning out of control in a destructive display of chaos. Now stranded with a broken shuttle and limited oxygen, the two of them make dangerous choices in trying to find a way back to Earth. But their return mission only goes from bad to worse when they find themselves dealing with more of the storm and explosions inside space stations. Directed and co-written by Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), this intense sci-fi survival picture stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.
Based on the true story of the legendary space mission, Apollo 13 follows the titular shuttle on its space launch in 1970. Chosen for the flight is Commander Jim Lovell, Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise, hoping to aim for moon landing. Their mission, however, takes a turn for the worse when their oxygen tanks start leaking and resources become limited. Working closely with mission control, NASA combines their best minds to find a way to bring the shuttle home without any fatalities if possible. Directed by Ron Howard (Backdraft, Willow) and based on the book Lost Moon by Jim Lovell Jeffrey Kluger, this biographical space drama stars Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, and Kathleen Quinlan.
Set against the true story of the first moon landing, First Man the brave astronauts who made the daring trip to outer space. Among them is Neil Armstrong, a man so dedicated to the mission that he struggles to push his grief about his dead daughter behind him. His training becomes all the tougher as the danger mounts in his exercises and conversations turn rocky at home. But perhaps there’s some closure he’ll find once he ventures out into space. Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen and directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land), this atmospheric and contemplative biographical drama stars Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Christopher Abbott, and Ciarán Hinds.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Regarded as one of the most meditative and trippy of all science fiction movies, 2001: A Space Odyssey remains just as grand of a sci-fi epic as it was when it released into theaters in 1968. Inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s 1951 short story The Sentinel, the film follows a team of astronauts who are venturing out into the unknown reaches of space to learn more about our existence in the universe. But the further their mission takes them away from Earth, the more sinister the emotionless computer of HAL-9000 becomes. Directed by Stanley Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove), the film features astounding visual effects for the era, features some of the most iconic usage of classical orchestra music, and boasts a cast that includes Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood.
One of Jupiter’s moons becomes of great interest to scientists when they discover via an unmanned probe that the moon has a hidden ocean, suggesting that life could be present. Hoping to unearth some great discovery of other life in the galaxy, a team of scientists venture off on a journey through space to solve the mystery of what may reside on the moon. But the dangers of space take their toll on the isolated crew who find their mission growing more hopeless by the day. And once they finally dig into the mystery of Jupiter’s moon, they may not be prepared for what they find. Directed by Sebastián Cordero (Crónicas), this modest sci-fi thriller posed in the found-footage format stars Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Sharlto Copley, Embeth Davidtz, Dan Fogler, and Isiah Whitlock Jr.
As a prequel to the Alien series of films, Prometheus starts with the Weyland Corporation making the miraculous discovery that humans were created not on Earth but on another planet. Hoping to find out how this could be, a team of archaeologists, scientists, and Weyland’s CEO venture off to a mysterious planet seeking the truth. When they land, they discover an ancient starship and creepy alien eggs. What they soon discover is that they’ve walked right into a deadly trap of monstrous creators known as the Engineers and the horrific creatures that would become known as the Xenomorphs. Directed by Ridley Scott, this sci-fi horror picture stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, and Charlize Theron.
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise
In this alternate history sci-fi epic, mankind has yet to achieve a successful space launch. The only organization that is striving to make the giant leap to the stars is the kingdom of Honneamise’s Royal Space Force but their ranks have grown hopeless about their chances of success. One astronaut in training, Shirotsugh becomes inspired to make a bigger push for a successful space launch after meeting the religious woman of Riquinni. Compelled to be the first man in space, Shirotsugh devotes all his time and energy into preparing for the launch. But even with all his dedication, he may not make it off the launchpad as the team is forced to launch a rocket amid a territorial war. Written and directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga (Gunbuster), the film has gone on to become an underrated anime classic.
The Wandering Earth
The future of Earth is a dark and cold one as the sun is about to give out. Trying to find a new sun, humanity constructs a giant thruster that will propel the planet to a new galaxy with a new sun. But after 2,500 years and no end to the search in sight, the dedicated remaining humans find that continuing the fight for humanity’s survival is intense and often leads to tragedy. Directed by Frant Gwo (My Old Classmate), this action-packed sci-fi adventure stars Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat, Zhao Jinmai, Wu Jing, and Qu Jingjing.