8 moon-themed movies to mark Apollo 11's 50th anniversary

  • Ryan Gosling starred as Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle's "First Man."

    Ryan Gosling starred as Neil Armstrong in Damien Chazelle's "First Man." Courtesy of Universal Pictures

  • Astronauts (Tom Hanks, left, Kevin Bacon, center, and Bill Paxton) must work with NASA engineers on the ground to survive after an in-flight explosion in "Apollo 13."

    Astronauts (Tom Hanks, left, Kevin Bacon, center, and Bill Paxton) must work with NASA engineers on the ground to survive after an in-flight explosion in "Apollo 13." Courtesy of Universal Pictures

 
 
Updated 7/18/2019 12:56 PM

If you're feeling "Moonstruck" over the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's lunar landing July 20, here come eight suggested movies to moon over in celebration.

1. "A Trip to the Moon" (1902) -- French stage magician and cinema pioneer Georges Melies produced his most iconic film by firing a giant cannon shell (with people inside) directly into the eyeball of an irritated Man in the Moon. This comic, spellbinding blend of science fiction and fantasy paved the way for other movies to use the moon as a popular destination or even a quiet supporting character, as in …

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

2. "The Wolfman" (1941) -- "Even a man who's pure in heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and autumn moon is bright." So goes the gypsy saying foreshadowing the full moon's power to transform Lawrence Talbott (Lon Chaney Jr.) into a Universal Pictures vintage monster (with makeup by artistic genius Jack Pierce). Talbott's werewolf had an easy legal defense: "The moon made me do it!"

3. "The First Men in the Moon" (1964) -- When U.N. astronauts land on the moon, they find a Union Jack flag already planted there. How? An aging man (Edward Judd) recounts his fantastic 1899 lunar excursion, and how it probably wiped out the moon's civilization. Stop-motion artist Ray Harryhausen supplies the effects in this just-OK British film.

4. "Way … Way Out" (1966) -- In this movie, the moon turns out to be made of cheese. And lots of it. In 1989, the U.S. and Russia send men and women to cohabitate on the moon. This contrived outer space sex comedy tanked at the box office. Critics hated it, too. Jerry Lewis delivers a snore performance. But two actors shine like the moons of Alderaan: overacting Dick Shawn as the libidinous, vodka-slurping Igor, and unhinged Howard Morris as Schmidlap, cracking under the pressure of moon living.

5. "For All Mankind" (1989) -- Director Al Reinert and editor Susan Korda sifted through six million feet of film and studied 80 hours of NASA interviews to create this documentary about the Apollo space program. Reinert took 18 months to transfer NASA footage into 35 mm. film stock to get 80 minutes of film gleaned from six Apollo missions.

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6. "Apollo 13" (1995) -- Hollywood's greatest movie to extol the virtues of group problem-solving. When an explosion cripples Apollo 13's electrical power and oxygen supplies, astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise try to return to Earth before they freeze, asphyxiate or die of starvation. Ron Howard directs Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton and Ed Harris, but James Horner's triumphant score (with vocal assists from Annie Lennox) really saves the mission.

7. "Moon" (2009) -- Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) wraps up a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the moon when he discovers he's one of many clones created by the unethical Lunar Industries. The kicker: All clones get shut down at the end of their shifts. Sam does a lot of talking to himself -- literally -- in an impressive directorial feature debut by Duncan Jones.

8. "First Man" (2018) -- Nobody could guess that after creating musical fireworks with "Whiplash" and "La La Land," Damien Chazelle would employ silence as the most powerful force in his biographical drama about Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling). The immersive lunar sequence detailing Armstrong's moon walk gave 2018 a shot of bravura cinematic magic. And Gosling's performance? Just as cold and reserved as the moon's surface.

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