By Meaghan Walsh Gerard
The moon. Its influence is unavoidable. For thousands of years, its cycle marked the passage of time for our ancestors. Its gravity pulls the tides from 234,000 miles away. It’s on coats of arms, influenced kings, marked planting seasons, and governed zodiacs. It even inspired the term “lunacy.” Fifty years ago, humans finally touched down on the silvery, glowing orb that inspired thousands of poets, musicians, lovers, painters, and wanderers.
From a Bronze Age disc to Romantic era paintings to intricate models of its topography to the recent release of Apollo 11 onboard recordings and photos, a half a century later, the accomplishment of the moon landing is still awe-inspiring.
Celebrate the anniversary of this monumental achievement with a variety of lunar films from DVD Netflix.
For the dreamer…
Georges Méliès was a French magician, illusionist and filmmaker. His movies are full of delightful special effects and ethereal wonder. Barely based on Jules Verne’s novel, A Trip to the Moon imagines how the brave and curious might shoot themselves to the moon and what might be found when they get there.
Director-journalist Al Reinert edited together footage from 6 million feet of film and 80 hours of interviews with astronauts to create an Oscar-nominated documentary about the American space program. It contemplates the innate philosophical urge of humans to explore.
Based on the true story of Homer Hickam, it follows a high school student who wants more than to work in the local coal mine. He teaches himself the properties of rocket propulsion and ultimately became a aerospace engineer for NASA. An underrated film with Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, and Laura Dern.
For the sci-fi enthusiast...
Made nearly twenty years before the moon shot, it won an Academy Award for special effects. While it looks dated to a modern viewer, it made a serious attempt to depict what science knew (or thought it knew) about space travel at the time.
The Apollo missions officially ended after 17, or so NASA claimed. Apollo 18 imagines a failed mission the government was eager to cover up. Told in “found footage” documentary style, it’s a clever horror movie. The filmmakers do an admirable job of mimicking the grain and style of NASA footage.
For the dramatic...
Based on the true story of NASA’s “failed mission,” it dramatises a week in 1970. Less than a year after America’s first moon landing, three astronauts and an entire slate of the country’s best scientists worked to bring a crippled spacecraft home safe. It’s a nail-biter no matter how many times you watch it.
Starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, the film looks at the psychological strain on Neil Armstrong and his family as he pursed increasingly dangerous careers. The tension comes not from the success of the mission (we know how it ends) but in seeing how the characters will handle it.
Because Tom Hanks didn’t get enough space doing Apollo 13, he teamed up with Ron Howard again to produce this series. The docudrama is divided into twelve episodes, each with a different director, and sequentially covers NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The theme of each varies but they are linked together by the character of a news reporter who appears in each one.
For the skeptic...
Stitched together from previously unreleased footage, this is an unusual but compelling documentary. There is no narrator or cutaways to contemplative interviews. It is simple and effective, and can leave no doubt as to the amazing accomplishment of the moon landing.
Using the “found footage” documentary style, Operation Avalanche is a farcical thriller that supposes the moon landing was faked and that Stanley Kubrick helped. Two students looking to expose a Cold War mole accidentally uncover the plot and hijinks ensue. Though the conspiracy theory is ludicrous, this film makes a fun romp of the idea.
Meaghan Walsh Gerard has been writing about films (especially classic ones) and books (especially gothic ones) for more than ten years on her site. She is obsessed with the art of storytelling and holds a master’s degree in cinema studies. Meaghan has been a DVD Netflix member since 2003. Follow Meaghan at mwgerard.com, on Twitter @mwgerard, or Facebook and Instagram.