NASA Employees Give Their Favorite and Least Favorite Space Movies

Saturday, 21 April 2018 - 5:41PM
Space
NASA
Saturday, 21 April 2018 - 5:41PM
NASA Employees Give Their Favorite and Least Favorite Space Movies
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Warner Bros.
Whenever a space-themed movie comes out, you can bet that Neil deGrasse Tyson will dissect and pick it apart on his Twitter feed. But what do people at NASA think of it?

The BBC recently spoke with a number of women at NASA to ask about the best and worst space-themed movies (and a little about space-themed TV shows too). The results ended up being relatively straightforward, with the more accurate movies getting the most praise, even though more speculative sci-fi that didn't make too many claims to realism got more leeway.

The most popular and generally accurate movies at NASA were  The Martian, Hidden Figures, and Apollo 13 which show off some of the grittier realities of space travel while still being flashy enough to count as a popcorn movie (especially in The Martian's case). 

And since most of the people at NASA are nerds (on this website, that's certainly a term of endearment), there's also a lot of fans of Star Wars, Star Trek movies (The Next Generation TV show was also spoken of fondly) and newer space operas like Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. Once you introduce a talking plant who can only say his own name, viewers seem to stop worrying about scientific accuracy and just enjoy the film on its own terms.  



On the other hand, the worst movies by NASA's standards tend to be the ones that seem like near-future, hard science stories, but which get most of the details wrong. The Bruce Willis movie Armageddon was a pretty nasty offender here, as were plenty of Mars-themed movies like Red Planet and Brian de Palma's Mission to Mars, which couldn't even name DNA strands properly. 

But the most unanimously ill-received movie at the space agency seems to be Gravity, which wasn't perfect from an accuracy standpoint. Sandra Bullock had little trouble moving between orbits, and notably wasn't wearing a diaper like most astronauts would, and NASA generally wasn't happy with the public watching a movie where everything that could go wrong in space does go wrong. It doesn't inspire much public confidence in space travel.

So if there's a lesson here, it's that if you want NASA engineers to enjoy you film, do your research if you're going with hard science fiction. Or just make a movie with Groot and rely on suspension of disbelief.
Science
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