7 best movies about space to celebrate Space Day

Keir Dullea walks through space ship in 2001: A Space Odyssey
(Image credit: Alamy)

Happy Space Day! Celebrated on the first Friday in May, the global educational initiative focuses on the extraordinary achievements, benefits, and opportunities in the exploration and use of space. 

The wonders of space have captivated attention for centuries, from Galileo and Copernicus to everyone who viewed last month's total solar eclipse. Whether you want to learn more about the scientific side of exploring space, revel in the big feelings of awe space inspires or simply experience a rollicking adventure set against a backdrop that is literally out of this world, we’ve got you covered. Here are the seven best space movies you can stream right now.

'2001: A Space Odyssey'

It’s hard to talk about space movies without mentioning Stanley Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey." This iconic film was the predecessor of so many other beloved space movies, including "Star Wars." The movie, which came out in 1968, was an adaptation of a 1951 sci-fi short story by Arthur C. Clarke. James Verniere, in the essay “The A List: The National Society of Film Critics’ 100 Essential Films,” noted that the reason for the movie’s accuracy around space travel was due to major aerospace companies, including NASA and Boeing, consulting on the film. 

The film follows two astronauts (Gary Lockwood and Keir Dullea) as they travel from Earth to Jupiter. With them is HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), a computer that begins to malfunction and act against the crew. Come to the movie for its exploration of space, and stay for the immersive storytelling and blending of music and visuals. 

Watch on Max


I’m one of those people who find space deeply unnerving. The prospect of a black, neverending space where there’s no oxygen has me looking for the nearest exit. But that sense of no escape makes space the perfect locked room for a horror movie. And "Alien" definitely fits the bill. The movie, released in 1979, was only director Ridley Scott’s second film. 

After Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her crew find an abandoned spaceship with extraterrestrial eggs onboard, one of the aliens starts hunting them. "Alien" earned 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Michael Ventura at L.A. Weekly saying it best: “This thing scared the s--- out of me. Alien's a masterpiece of fright.” And if you love this movie, you’ve got several other sequels that you can add to your watchlist next. 

Watch on Hulu


OK, maybe actual space travel isn’t your thing. But thinking about space can bring with it a whole host of feelings. If you want to explore those feelings, check out "Melancholia." The story focuses on Justine (Kirsten Dunst) the day of her wedding, as she tries to balance her personal desires with those of her family. As she sinks into a depression, she must also grapple with the literal end of the world, as a rogue planet barrels towards Earth. As Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) gets increasingly more upset as the planet comes closer, Justine remains eerily calm. 

NPR found the movie “breathtaking,” citing director Lars Von Trier’s gorgeous imagery, adding that he wanted to “stay in this remarkable movie's presence just a little longer.”

Watch on Netflix and Hulu


Watch this movie for the kickass cast alone. It has Michelle Yeoh, Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, and Hiroyuki Sanada as the crew who must travel to the sun to stop it from burning out completely. And behind the scenes, it has Danny Boyle as the director. Boyle drew inspiration from several other sci-fi films, including "2001" and "Alien."

The movie also blends genres. It’s a sci-fi story, as the crew embarks on a mission to reignite the sun in 2057. But en route to completing their mission, their spaceship sustains damage and several of their oxygen tanks are destroyed. This pushes the movie into a thriller, as the crew members go from team members to adversaries in order to stay alive. 

Rent/buy on Amazon or Apple

'Hidden Figures'

The amount of work — and math — that it takes to get astronauts into space is truly mind-boggling. If you want to learn more about the mathematicians who were integral to space exploration, then "Hidden Figures "should be the next movie on your list. The movie follows Dorothy (Octavia Spencer), Mary (Janelle Monae), and Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), three Black mathematicians who worked with both NASA and NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) during the Space Race. 

The movie earned 93% on Rotten Tomatoes with Nathan Matisse at Ars Technica writing, “'Hidden Figures' puts the familiar period-piece lens on an overlooked part of space history without glossing over the ugly bits while still feeling hopeful for what science and technology can achieve when the best and brightest can participate.”

Watch on Disney Plus


This movie feels like a twisty version of "The War of the Worlds". Based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, Arrival follows linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) as she works to decipher the language of an alien race that touches down on Earth. The more she learns about their language, the more she learns about how they experience time. It’s a fascinating look at how the way we use language influences our perception of the world. 

The movie received rave reviews from critics. Angie Han at SlashFilm wrote, “Everything about 'Arrival' feels meticulously crafted, from the gorgeously composed shots to the Jóhann Jóhannsson score.” The American Film Institute listed "Arrival" as one of the top 10 films of 2016. 

Watch on Paramount Plus or Apple TV Plus


There are several movies about space travel that grapple with being away from Earth for years; "Interstellar" and "The Martian" are just two recent examples. But what happens if the company you work for doesn’t want you coming back to Earth? That’s part of the premise of Moon. Samuel Bell (Sam Rockwell) has been away from home for three years working to mine helium-3 on the moon. But when he’s just a few weeks away from being able to return home, he’s injured in a rover accident. When he wakes up, he discovers that Lunar Industries has been toying with his memory to keep him on the moon, working. 

Simon Crook at Empire Magazine described the movie as “a fresh blast of old-school sci-fi, bursting with ideas and a stellar turn from Rockwell.”

Rent/buy on Amazon or Apple

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Megan Hennessey

Megan Hennessey is a freelance writer based in Boston, MA. She covers TV and movies for Vulture, Looper, Pittsburgh City Paper, and The Seattle Times. She loves talking about heists on Twitter @HegMennessey