There is nothing more puzzling, interesting, and terrifying than outer space. The infinite void of stars, planets, and who knows what else has been studied for centuries, and we still don't know the half of it. There are black holes and asteroids and definitely aliens (that's right, we said it), and hundreds of thousands of galaxies and other dimensions and comets and wormholes. That's just the beginning. So what do we do when we're surrounded by this big, dark, oxygen-less mystery oblivion? Make movies about it, of course.
The array of space movies we've been gifted over the years is incredible. From alien invasions to exploring new planets to thinking about sustainable life in the great unknown, they've covered a lot. Though these movies fill us with a little existential dread, to put it lightly, we can't help but watch them on repeat. Do any of us actually want to go to space or meet aliens or save the planet? We're not so sure, but we're glad to watch our favorite actors and actresses give it a go. We're not convinced we could even handle the astronaut training, let alone grow a potato garden on Mars like Matt Damon or fly straight into a black hole like Matthew McConaughey. We're cool with letting the professionals handle it, and panicking from the couch. Check out the list of our favorite space movies that just so happen to also give us an existential crisis, and see if your favorite makes the list.
Director Christopher Nolan is known for leaving audiences with their heads spinning and his 2014 space masterpiece, Interstellar, definitely fits the description. As Earth struggles through blight and drought, Matthew McConaughey's character, Joseph Cooper, is tasked with heading out into the vast unknown to find a new place for humanity to live. Luckily for him and his a crew, a wormhole near Saturn allows them to reach 12 far-off potentially habitable planets. When the planets they check end up being uninhabitable, crew member Amelia Brand, played by Anne Hathaway, goes to check one last planet by herself with the last of the gas, a situation that ends with Cooper hurling himself through a black hole and into a tesseract. We're not sure what's more terrifying: a planet made entirely of tidal waves or willingly flying into an event horizon, but it sure is great to watch. We spent hours thinking about the reality of existing in a black hole, and now our heads hurt. We can't imagine how Matt must feel.
Scott Free Productions
We can barely keep our succulents alive, but somehow Matt Damon is farming potatoes on Mars in The Martian. The 2015 Ridley Scott film follows astronaut and botanist Mark Watney as he is left alone on Mars after his crew believes him to be dead following a dust storm. Alone on a planet that has no oxygen, no water and no food? No thanks. Watney survives inside the crew's surface habitat, farming potatoes and working to reconnect with NASA. When his crew realizes that he's alive, they stage a rescue mission and break orders. The thought of puncturing our space suits while floating in the abyss is not on our list of to-dos, and we're not positive we have the capacity to learn both gardening and astrophysics, so we're glad Matt Damon handled this one.
Gravity might be one of the most stressful movies of all time, and we're more than impressed with Sandra Bullock and her ability to conquer pretty much every obstacle that space throws her way. The Alfonso Cuarón film follows Sandy as Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Lieutenant Matt Kowalski as they plan to work on the Hubble Telescope. Plans are, of course, cut short when debris from a defunct satellite strikes their shuttle and the telescope. The two then face the problem of broken aircrafts, depleting air supply, lack of fuel, fires, and more things that would send us into at least six existential crises. We can't get over how this movie captures the eerie silence of space or just how much Murphy's Law really plagues Dr. Stone's life. We think we'll stay on the ground this time around, thanks.
Sometimes you go find the aliens, and sometimes they find you. In the 2016 film Arrival, linguist Amy Adams is enlisted by the army to communicate with some casual visitors (who happen to arrive in mountain-sized eggs). The squid-looking creatures, called heptapods, communicate with very intricate, circular inkblots and it's up to Amy's character, Louise Banks, to decipher before unneeded war breaks out. The creatures are gigantic, the language is difficult to decipher, and other countries are getting way more hostile than necessary. Meanwhile, the language genius is dealing with some personal problems of her own. Having to be the main communicator to giant aliens that may-or-may-not be sending threatening messages is one thing, having to save the world yourself is another. We think this would be a super cool job, but we're gonna need some backup.
Walt Disney Pictures
In Disney's RocketMan, not be confused with the Elton John biopic, NASA plans their first manned mission to Mars. It's not surprising that they run into some problems. Long story short, they end up asking their dorky programmer Fred Randall, played by Harland Williams, to join the crew in place of an injured (and actually trained) astronaut. Reluctantly, he heads to Mars, and instead of entering the hypersleep for eight months, he ends up awake and, well, bored. He uses (read: wastes) most the food to the dismay of his fellow crew members, but he also discovers a storm on Mars that might cause some major potential issues. Being alone and awake in space for eight months sounds bleak and terrifying, especially for someone who wasn't exactly looking for a Solar System vacation. Fred kept himself occupied, but we'll take a trip to Europe instead.
Village Roadshow Pictures
Fred from RocketMan was awake and alone for eight months on the way to Mars, but Chris Pratt ends up awake for much longer than that in his stress-inducing movie, Passengers. The film follows a spacecraft traveling to a far off planet that takes 120 years to get to. Passengers hibernate aboard the craft, but when Pratt's chamber malfunctions after an asteroid collision, he wakes up 90 years too early. He finds company in Jennifer Lawrence, another passenger traveling aboard the Avalon, and together the two must make tough decisions on how to approach their very long future. It's hard to imagine living on a spaceship for 90 years, but at least this one looks kind of like a Great Gatsby-themed cruise ship and Chris Pratt is there, right? Either way, we're not sure we'd be into it.
You all had to know that Armageddon would make the list, right? This Michael Bay film has been reducing people to tears via Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" since its release in 1998. When an impending asteroid strike threatens earth, NASA quickly trains and sends a team to destroy it. This is easier said than done. The asteroid has a surface the size of Texas, after all. Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and the rest of the team work diligently to find a solution to save the planet, and we're still too distraught to talk about the ending. Asteroids heading toward Earth: worrisome. Watching your dad and boyfriend repeatedly try and fail to get rid of said asteroids on screen: VERY WORRISOME.
When found-footage movie Cloverfield premiered in 2008, we got an up-close look at what it would be like to live through an alien invasion. Buildings are destroyed, people try to take cover and New York City is battered to bits all on camera. 10 years later, The Cloverfield Paradox gave us the background we needed. Aboard the Cloverfield Station, a team works to use a particle accelerator that will help the world through its energy crisis, much to the dismay of many who think it will open portals to parallel universes, thus enacting the "Cloverfield Paradox." Spoiler alert: it happens. Things aboard the ship get out of hand, and, well, we know how it goes down on Earth. Let's just say we're not looking to blow off any electromagnetic machines in space in real life any time soon.
A lot of troubling things can come from space: asteroids, comets, black holes, hostile aliens. One thing we don't think about as much though is the very topic of The Andromeda Strain. What if instead of aliens, we get germs? The 1971 flick, based on a novel of the same name, follows a team of scientists that face the problem of studying an alien organism that kills (almost) anyone in its path without letting it spread and destroy the earth. The organism arrived with a crashed satellite and wreaked havoc on a whole town before it was contained. The organism is able to mutate and adapt, and things are understandably tense. We know aliens can be a problem, but we'd rather chance an attempt at communication than fight uncontrollable extraterrestrial bacteria.
Sometimes we're surprised that no aliens have wanted to visit us down here on Earth, but when we watch Independence Day, we think it's probably better that way. When an invasion takes place over major cities across the globe, it's up to Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and their crew to find the alien spacecrafts' weaknesses so they can destroy them and save the planet.
Of course, the best day to save the planet, and the US, is none other than the 4th of July. There's nothing more we love than an Area 51 conspiracy, but we'd prefer to spend our summer holiday eating hotdogs and watching fireworks instead of being in the shade of a 15-mile wide aggressive alien mothership.
20th Century Fox
It should go without saying that if you're exploring a distant planet or interacting with a different species or entering a mysterious habitat, you should not touch anything. Unfortunately for the crew manning the space tug on its way back to Earth in Alien, this rule did not seem to apply. After receiving a transmission from a nearby moon and having to inspect based on protocol, things go less than great. By less than great we, of course, mean that Kane, played by John Hurt, touched an alien egg, and the rest is history (and seven other movies). Sigourney Weaver definitely didn't deserve this space-related stress, but we're glad it's not us. We've seen the movies, and we know the rules, so we think we'll be able to avoid aggressive alien encounter from here on out. We hope.
We know what you're thinking. How could this adorable little trash compactor cause any existential crises? He just wants to fall in love and eat garbage. And living in chair in what is essentially a space-traveling mall complex? It doesn't sound terrible, right? Give us all the extra large sodas and virtual reality games. We're intrigued by the plot of WALL-E, and we love this little robot love story, but the thought of Earth becoming a vast, abandoned wasteland of trash is frankly terrifying. The mere idea of a mass evacuation from our planet to a space cruise ship isn't as pleasant as Pixar makes it out to be and that's not even touching on the health problems. We love this animated classic, but we hope we don't fail our planet.
Wolf-Biederman sounds like the name of a movie villain, and in this case, it kind of is. When amateur astronomer Leo Biederman, played by Elijah Wood, spots an unusual object up in the great beyond during a star party. Marcus Wolf, a professional astronomer, determines it is a comet (later named for the two) heading for Earth but is unable to deliver the knows before his untimely death. It takes a year for the news to become public, and at this point, it's a matter of life or death. It's up to Russia and the States to send a space crew up to destroy the giant flaming rock before it creates tsunamis and molten dust particles that destroy life as we know it. We know Elijah has saved humanity before, but this seems a little bit trickier. We can't imagine watching and waiting for the world to blow up, and we hope we never have to.
Listen, we know that the idea of finding other dimensions and alternate realities and galaxies far beyond our means of travel sounds intriguing, but based on this list and especially on the movie Event Horizon, maybe we're better off just not. After a starship that disappeared during its first voyage reappears near Neptune, a crew including Sam Neill, Jason Issacs and Laurence Fishburne is deployed to inspect it. They are quickly informed that the ship's purpose was to create an artificial blackhole that would work as a bridge between far-off planets and they quickly discover that whatever was on the other side of that hole has taken a hold of the ship (and not kindly). Next up: hallucinations, violence and a whole lot of problems that you wouldn't want to experience on Earth, let alone in space. That's a hard pass from us.
If you found a star map, would you follow it? No need to throw yourself into a existential crisis just yet. The cast of Prometheus has already done it! When they discover a map, they decide to gather a crew to start visiting other planets, looking for the "engineers" of humanity. Simple, right? When they land on a moon labeled on the map, they discover a number of dead and decapitated aliens, a very, very large human head statue and stone cylinders that eventually start leaking. Things seem suspect and uncomfortable, and you know what that means, folks. They're not getting off this planet anytime soon. Taking place in the same universe as Alien, we already know we want no part in this planet's party, even if Michael Fassbender is there. Bye!
There are a lot of ways to travel to other planets and places in space, and in the movie Stargate, well, a stargate is one of them. When Dr. Daniel Jackson, played by James Spader, is asked to interpret some hieroglyphs on stones earthed in Giza, he discovers coordinates that unlock a stargate to another planet, Abydos. They soon find a tribe of people working for their god, Ra, an alien who visited ancient Egypt looking for humans he could possess to extend his own life. You can imagine that life on this desert planet is not great and that visitors probably aren't getting the vacation of a lifetime. Jackson, along with Colonel Jack O'Neil, played by Kurt Russell, are left to save the stargate and their planet on the other side plus the tribe that Ra has enslaved. We're all for teleportation and quick travel, but why can't any of these portals be to a nice beach or something?
South Side Amusement Company
Jodie Foster in Contact walked so Amy Adams in Arrival could run. In this 1997 film, Foster plays Dr. Ellie Arroway, a scientist who discovers proof of extraterrestrial life and is thus chosen to make first contact. This is a big undertaking. How do you communicate with aliens, and what if people don't want you to? We've seen enough movies to know that aliens might be hostile, and we don't blame people for wanting to keep those doors shut. It's up to the doctor to get in touch despite mechanical and personal issues. We think this would be a pretty cool job, to be honest, but we're wondering if maybe the aliens can just possess an old AIM account and make it a little bit easier? After all we've seen, we're trying to keep the crises to a minimum and the contact simple. A quick away message will do.
Stanley Kubrick Productions
When a space crew finds a mysterious monolith on the moon that's transmitting a signal to Jupiter, it only makes sense to send a crew there and only tell half of them the true purpose of the mission. At least, that's the plan in Stanley Kubrick's movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Led mainly by the spacecraft's computer, HAL 9000, a group of scientists heads towards the gigantic planet to see what they can find. Half these scientists are in stasis and the other are at the command of HAL. What could go wrong? We've observed and loved a number of space robots and computers (looking at you, R2D2) but we'd be remiss to forget all the times AI has betrayed us. Letting our lives depend on a computer on a spacecraft that could be captured or destroyed at any moment seems questionable at best.
Fox 2000 Pictures
It's comforting to know that most of the existential crises we get from these movies are based on far-out ideas and what we can only dream of happening in outer space. But when it comes to Hidden Figures, the stress is all real. The 2016 biographical film tells the story of the United States' first orbital space flight and the incredible women who helped NASA accomplish it. There are a lot of stressful moments in this story, one of the biggest being having to calculate astronaut John Glenn's landing coordinates and reentry. Mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson proves herself irreplaceable in both situations, contributing integral solutions to both problems. For those of us who consider basic math to be a foreign language, we can't even begin to imagine the pressure of doing space calculus. We're thankful to Katherine for paving the way and making space possible (to watch from our couches).
We'd be remiss if we didn't add the Star Wars franchise to our list. If you're looking to have an existential crisis, look no further. This series has everything: laser swords, weapons that are just whole planets, a mentor that doesn't understand subject-verb-object agreement, evil magic chancellors, robot lords with multiple arms that can hold multiple laser swords, cute robots that actually want to kill you, The Phantom Menace, overwhelming space family drama, a lava planet, Jar Jar Binks, definitely not enough women, and so much more. If you're into fighting the good fight even if it takes a revolution, tales of tragic love or Ewan McGregor, this is the ten-movie-long existential crisis for you. We think you've got the basics of the plot down by now (we hope), so we'll let you take the crisis on from here.
Huayi Brothers Pictures
Last, but certainly not least in terms of existential crises is The Space Between Us. The 2017 flick follows Gardner Elliot, played by Asa Butterfield, the first child to be born on Mars during the first colonization mission. After growing up on the red planet, Gardner wants more. He strikes up a friendship with Tulsa, a girl living in foster care down on Earth. Determined to see her and to find out more about his birth parents, he sneaks onto a ship headed back to Earth. Unfortunately, Gardner's body is not equipped to live on planet Earth, and that's only the start of his troubles during his trip. This movie truly gives a new meaning to "star-crossed lovers." Suddenly, being left on read doesn't look so bad.