Big-Budget Movies Set in Outer Space

Since 2013, there’s been an outer-space movie renaissance happening. Is this boom due to the advancement of CGI and special effects? In other words, are movies set in outer space being released at a greater rate because the technology to make them just recently became available?

In this post, let me enumerate some good and bad aspects of the big-budget outer space movies released since 2013 and provide you a ranking.

Gravity (2013)

Tomatometer Score: 96%

Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron

Biomedical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is in her first space mission when high-speed space debris causes the destruction of Dr. Stone’s space shuttle. Dr. Stone and her astronaut companion, Lt. Matt Kowalski, must find a way back to Earth.

In Gravity, outer space is an expansive world of nothingness – there is nothing Dr. Ryan Stone wouldn’t do just to get back home. The movie excels in giving the audience a feel of the loneliness of outer space.

Space debris is the main villain of the movie. It’s certainly unique and ironic to have the enemy be something born out of humans’ own doing. Not only are we destroying Earth, we are also harming outer space as well. Great job, the human race.

Interstellar (2014)

Tomatometer Score: 71%

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Set in a dystopic future where humanity has completely wiped out the Earth’s resources, and the only hope for humanity is to find extra-solar habitable planets, Interstellar offers a scientific and philosophical look at exploration beyond the solar system. The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Coop, an ex-astronaut who just came out of retirement in order to navigate the cosmos for the Earth’s salvation. Leaving his daughter Murph behind on planet Earth, Coop is joined by Dr. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) in the exploration of the final frontier

The interesting thing about Interstellar is that the movie consulted the renowned theoretical astrophysicist Kip Thorne to make certain that all the scenes in the movie are based on provable physics. Following the release of the movie, Thorne wrote a book, The Science of Interstellar, which explained the physics of the movie.

Interstellar is a beautiful movie which draws influence from its movie grandparents – 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner. Though the scope of the movie is astronomical, the main focus is on humanity, specifically love and family. It explores how intergalactic travel can take a toll on the ones we love, and, for Coop, the daughter she left behind.

The Martian (2015)

Tomatometer Score: 92%

Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain

Directed by: Ridley Scott

In The Martian, astronaut Mark Whatney (Matt Damon) gets left behind on Mars, after getting hit by debris and presumed dead by his fellow astronauts. Mark must find a way to survive on Mars, hoping one day that Earth notices that he is still alive and help him get a ride back.

The Martian, unlike many of the movies in this list, does not take itself too seriously. Sprinkled throughout the movie are comedic moments dealing with Mark’s challenges as a literal Martian. Unlike the other movies, the focus of the movie is not space exploration, but day-to-day survival on an extraterrestrial planet. The Martian is a fascinating movie in a lot of aspects.

I just noticed that Jessica Chastain stars in the movie as well. Note that she is Murph in Interstellar. Why does Jessica Chastain keep on starring in space movies?

Passengers (2016)

Tomatometer Score: 31%

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt

Directed by: Marten Tyldum

In a space journey to a habitable planet which would take 120 years to complete, onboard human colonists are contained in hibernation pods programmed to open at the end of the journey. After a collision with an asteroid, the ship gets damaged heavily and two passengers, Jim Preston and Aurora Lane, wake up 90 years early.

Passengers is part-action, part-rom-com. There’s a twist near the beginning of the movie that some people may find upsetting which sets the stage for the entire movie. I won’t reveal the twist. I’ll just leave it here that I don’t blame the person for doing what he did.

Passengers suffered bad reviews when it came out. To be honest, I think the critics overreacted a bit. It’s not a bad movie – it’s not amazing, either. The scale of the movie is not as grand as the other movies on this list. It puts Jim and Aurora’s relationship in the spotlight and keeps the space theme as the backdrop.

Life (2017)

Tomatometer Score: 67%

Starring: Jake Gylenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds

Directed by: Daniel Espinosa

A team of scientists and astronauts in the International Space Station obtains a probe from Mars containing the first sign of extraterrestrial life, which they affectionately call Calvin. After doing some tests, it becomes apparent that Calvin isn’t as gentle as it first seems.

The only horror movie in this list, Life succeeds by giving some genuinely terrifying moments. However, a major gripe that I have with the movie is the decisions of the characters. It seems that the misfortune that they experience is something that they bring upon themselves. And since we’re following the characters along as they try to hide and outsmart Calvin, it doesn’t take too long for the movie to be irritating.

Negativity aside, the movie shines with its ending, which sets the stage for potential sequels in the future.

Personal Ranking

Personally, this is how I would rank the five movies:

5. Life

4. Passengers

3. Gravity

2. The Martian

1. Interstellar

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