The 16 Best Space Movies Since 2001: A Space Odyssey

Photo: Maya Robinson

The much-anticipated arrival of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar — which, whatever you think of it, aims to be so very, very, very much more than a “space adventure” — made us think about our favorite space movies since the one that transformed the genre, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Interestingly, there haven’t been that many such films in the ensuing decades. (We’re talking movies about space, not just aliens. So, for example, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or E.T. don’t count, since they’re mostly about aliens coming to Earth, as opposed to what might happen to us out in space.) We also had to butt up against our own limitations here: The vast majority of these films are in English, and we’re sure there are films from Eastern Europe and Japan and many other places that we’re missing. We’re sure folks will let us know about these omissions soon enough.

But the films on here are a diverse lot. A few are jolly-good basic survival stories in which the stakes are upped by the elimination of oxygen, gravity, terra firma, etc. Some dramatize a partnership — or conflict — between science and humanism in the face of catastrophe. Some use space as a canvas to explore what happens to people in tight quarters as they gaze out on infinity. What’s out there — and what will happen to us when we find it? All, of course, are primo showcases for special-effects artists determined to show us things our small minds can hardly imagine. In a couple of cases, we decided to group a couple of films together, which is why you’ll find 14 entries on this list, but 16 films. And, as with previous lists, we’re sticking with only one film per franchise. Anyway, here we go. 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … lift off.

The 16 Best Space Movies Since 2001