The Space Race


‘Woman in the Moon’

“Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars, let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.” With those swoony lyrics to a Frank Sinatra love song, humankind’s ongoing enchantment with space is encapsulated. It has been ever so in film. Big movies like this fall’s blockbuster Interstellar emphasize the enormous endeavor of space travel and the larger-than-life heroes that embark on it. The films on this list are not that. The space travel in them is bewitching as ever, but they are more like that Sinatra song, more intimate and human:

A Trip to the Moon/The Impossible Voyage
Pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès anticipates the era of space exploration that would commence half a century after these pioneering works—sort of. These gorgeous, hand tinted shorts are full of fantasy and humor as intrepid travelers visit the moon in the one film and are swallowed by the sun in the other.

Woman in the Moon
For an expedition that travels to the moon seeking gold, the orb becomes both the scene of a crime and a place where love blossoms in Fritz Lang‘s science-fiction epic, one of the last great films of the silent era and one of the first to incorporate actual science into its fiction.

Dancing on the Moon
Legendary animator Dave Fleischer of Popeye and Betty Boop fame imagines the moon as the ultimate honeymoon destination for its animal couples who do, indeed, trip the light fantastic in outer space in this kaleidoscopic musical cartoon.


‘Dark Star’

Dark Star
A crew cruises through the far reaches of outer space, blowing up unstable planets. In John Carpenter‘s wonderfully scruffy, sci-fi satire, they are less astronauts than galactic garbagemen equipped with smart bombs and bored out of their skulls.

Hardware Wars
Ernie Fosselius cuts Star Wars down to size in this gloriously cheesy send-up in which irons and toasters are starships, a power drill doubles as a laser gun, and Ham Salad reminds Fluke Starbucker, “Calm down, kid, it’s only a movie!”



Filmmaker Jim Finn‘s funny, idiosyncratic faux documentary emphasizes romance both in its approach to the Communist era it sends up as it lovingly recreates an imaginary East German space program with musical interludes and fake newsreels and in the long-distance relationship that develops between cosmonauts in separate orbits around Saturn and Jupiter.

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