The best movies that take place in outer space


We all want different things from a movie set in the far flung reaches of space. Some people want to see glittering new worlds that we could have only dreamed of, hidden in the darkness between the stars. Some people want the empty expanses of space to remain just that – cold, empty, and vast, with nothing but the echoes of their own voices to keep characters company. Not that there are any echoes in space.

Starship troopers

A send-up of mid-20th century sci-fi, and the aggressive militarism of the U.S., ‘Starship Troopers’ is a satire with as sharp an edge today as it had in 1997. Based on the novel by Richard A. Heinlein, ‘Starship Troopers’ is one of the few adaptations that satirizes its source material. The film details the exploits of Johnny Rico, who joins Earth’s military in going to war against a race of intelligent insects.

‘Troopers’ is a critique of the United States’ excessive militarism, and the culture that enthusiastically supports it. The film deploys tropes from propaganda and military and sci-fi films to produce a disarmingly sharp satire that emphasises the ridiculous and unhinged nature of a culture determined to go to war no matter what.

The best movies that take place in outer space

Aliens

A lot of people are going to be mad. To include the 1986 film ‘Aliens’ on a list without also including 1978’s ‘Alien’ would normally be considered sacrilege. However – despite the general consensus – ‘Aliens’ is better. There, we said it. While ‘Alien’ is obviously a masterpiece of science-fiction horror, the sequel simply takes things to another level. Set in a barren moon colony, the film concerns the efforts of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) to survive yet another encounter with the alien species that plagued her ship in the original film.

Aliens is an electrifying mix of horror and action, using an increased number of aliens but sparsely, never overloading the film with their presence. It also offers a tantalizing amount of information on the aliens, slightly increasing the audience’s knowledge of them without dispelling their mystery. For these reasons, ‘Aliens’ is one of the truly superior sequels.

Flash Gordon

There are not a lot of films that can match the sheer bombast of 1980 film ‘Flash Gordon’. A loving pastiche of the original comic series and early 20th century serials, the film is a startling combination of breathtaking sets, stunning costumes, deliciously campy acting and writing, and a truly epic soundtrack.

The film features the efforts of fictional New York Jets star Flash Gordon and his companions to thwart the plans of intergalactic warlord Ming the Merciless. Despite a somewhat mixed reception at the time, the film has become a cult hit, loved for its joyfully unserious campy adventure feel, and totally serious commitment to providing the audience with a thrilling film experience.

The best movies that take place in outer space

Dune

We’re going to take some flack for this one. There are not, on the whole, a lot of people who would credit 1984 sci-fi ‘Dune’ with being one of the best sci-fi films in existence. The David Lynch directed adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel was such a tortured process that Lynch actually ended up having his name taken off the finished article. However, despite its occasional clunkiness – and effects that couldn’t quite match up to Herbert’s vision at the time – ‘Dune’ has real magic to it.

Lynch does a solid job of rendering the political intrigue of the world the Atreides must navigate, along with the more mystical journey that Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) must embark on to survive. He also offers tantalising glimpses of the nebulous forces that turn the cogs of an intergalactic empire – providing enough of a hint of the truly gargantuan scale of ‘Dune’s’ universe to pique the viewer’s interest. As such, ‘Dune’ is a viewing experience unlike any other.