The 15 Best Movies Set in Outer Space, Ranked

These awesome outer space movies involve exploring galaxies, fighting for survival, and meeting alien civilizations.
The 15 Best Movies Set in Outer Space, Ranked

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Outer space continues to be one of the most fascinating and engaging settings in cinema. There's still so much potential to explore in the endless expanse of stars and planets.

The thing is, while science has only managed to travel a relatively short distance in the grand scheme of the universe, movies have the ability to reach deep into the furthest reaches of the galaxy and even jump to other dimensions through wormholes.

Seriously, there have been LOTS of great movies set in outer space! Here are my picks for the best ones to watch, ranging from hard science fiction to fantastical epics that happen to take place in space.

15. Star Trek (2009)

Directed by J. J. Abrams

Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi (2h 7m)

7.9 on IMDb94% on RT

If you're a hardcore Trekkie, you might demand that Star Trek be awarded first place—then again, you also couldn't deny that the movie remakes don't hold a candle to the original TV series.

Modernizing the 1960s franchise, the first Star Trek reboot film is still a must-watch, even if only to understand all the pop culture references that have arisen from its success.

Chris Pine takes the captain's chair of the USS Enterprise, alongside Zachary Quinto as his emotionless, humanoid alien buddy Spock.

14. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Directed by James Gunn

Starring Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper

Action, Adventure, Comedy (2h 1m)

8.0 on IMDb92% on RT

The MCU has cobbled together numerous forgettable, spectacle-focused films, but that doesn't mean they haven't produced several great ones along the way... like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Yet, despite being in the middle of production for the fourth installment, none of the Guardians of the Galaxy sequels can beat the OG.

Chris Pratt stunned viewers after shaping up to play the charming action hero Peter Quill, who leads a talking racoon and a sentient tree on a space-wide criminal mission to save the universe. It's like the plot to most Marvel films, but this time with a 1970s rock soundtrack.

13. Gravity (2013)

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller (1h 31m)

7.7 on IMDb96% on RT

Gravity does rely heavily on spectacle, but in a completely different (and more intentional) way than, say, Marvel films.

Director Alfonso Cuarón elegantly relays the grandeur and gravitas of deep space that stretches out for light-years, picking up Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Special Effects, and Best Film Editing along the way.

The sparseness of the crew—it's literally just Sandra Bullock and George Clooney—and the dialogue accentuate the vastness of the void in which Dr. Ryan Stone (played by Bullock) finds herself floating.

12. Moon (2009)

Directed by Duncan Jones

Starring Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott

Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 37m)

7.8 on IMDb90% on RT

A common thematic thread in space movies is how lonely space can be. Astronauts often find themselves isolated in their ships, reporting back to the voices of NASA—or perhaps no one at all. It might just be themselves and the odd talking machine.

In Moon, Kevin Spacey voices the AI robot named GERTY, who's the sole companion to Samuel Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) during his three-year lunar contract. But things take a turn when his doppelganger shows up in the most unlikely of places...

11. Apollo 13 (1995)

Directed by Ron Howard

Starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon

Adventure, Drama, History (2h 20m)

7.7 on IMDb96% on RT

Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris comprise the most classic 90s Hollywood line-up, dramatizing the true story of a botched mission to land on the moon in 1970.

Apollo 13's small step for mankind was followed by two backwards steps when a dangerous on-board explosion forced the crew to slingshot past the moon and circle back to Earth.

Apollo 13 is a heroic, sturdy, all-American docudrama that gives you exactly what you're expecting: a splendid watch.

10. Sunshine (2007)

Directed by Danny Boyle

Starring Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans

Sci-Fi, Thriller (1h 47m)

7.2 on IMDb76% on RT

A little less conventional than Apollo 13 is Sunshine, directed under the visceral and experimental style of Danny Boyle.

Boyle is known for many things, including his tendency to unite British and American cinema. In Sunshine, he casts Cillian Murphy, Benedict Wong, and Mark Strong alongside Chris Evans and Rose Byrne (who's actually Australian but tends to play American characters).

Unlike most space-bound films, Sunshine curveballs into the slasher genre towards the end, with visuals akin to a grungy 2001: A Space Odyssey. Oh, and the plot? Reigniting the dying sun.

9. High Life (2018)

Directed by Claire Denis

Starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André 3000

Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller (1h 53m)

5.8 on IMDb82% on RT

High Life is an artsier pick for niche audiences with its uncommon approach to the formulaic space genre.

After his Twilight days, Robert Pattinson developed a taste for the avant-garde, the indie, and the all-out weird, featuring in multiple A24 films including Good Time, The Lighthouse, Stars at Noon, and High Life.

High Life is very green for a film set on a spaceship, but like others on this list, it still successfully taps into a sense of claustrophobia.

Pattinson stars as one of several criminal crew members who serve their death sentence in a black hole. Directed by Claire Denis, High Life is equally hypnotic, erotic, and aesthetic.

8. The Martian (2015)

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig

Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi (2h 24m)

8.0 on IMDb91% on RT

The Martian is a must-watch for everyone, even those who typically don't like science fiction. It's inspiring, uplifting, and thrilling.

Astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) is left stranded on Mars after a dust storm forces his team to suddenly evacuate the planet. On his own, Watney manages to survive off lab-grown potatoes while fending off cabin fever and loneliness.

Meanwhile, the people on Earth struggle to figure out a way to get him back home, and Watney must keep his sanity about him as he waits for the eventual rescue mission that may or may not come.

7. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

Directed by George Lucas

Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Action, Adventure, Fantasy (2h 1m)

8.6 on IMDb93% on RT

Obviously, Star Wars was going to land a spot on this list. The infamous space opera has been saturating theaters since its first installment, Star Wars: A New Hope, was released in 1977.

Spin-offs, stand-alones, novels, and TV series eventually expanded George Lucas's fantasy epic into one of the biggest franchises in the world, deeply ingrained in pop culture like oxygen itself.

Despite so many films to choose from, I'm sticking with Star Wars: A New Hope. It's the one that started it all, starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher up against a totalitarian Galactic Empire.

6. Arrival (2016)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi (1h 56m)

7.9 on IMDb94% on RT

Mainstream cinema has trouble seeing things in nuanced gray. Most stories are very much good versus evil, man versus nature, us versus them, etc. But not so when it comes to Denis Villeneuve!

In Arrival, Villeneuve doesn't present aliens as a straight-cut, invading "other" to be fought and defeated. Instead, these aliens are complex, sensitive, curious, and willing to cooperate with humanity.

Both philosophy and emotional depth trump the standard sci-fi conventions in Arrival, featuring Amy Adams as a linguist who's brought in by the military to try communicating with these aliens.

5. Solaris (1972)

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Starring Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Jüri Järvet

Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi (2h 47m)

8.0 on IMDb92% on RT

Long before it was the trend, Solaris proved that science fiction cinema could be artistic, reflective, and meaningful.

This melancholic Soviet movie deals with the existential and the mystical, planting the seeds and blazing the trail for films like Andrei Tarkovsky's hailed Stalker, which would come out seven years later.

Based on the 1961 Polish novel by Stanisław Lem, Solaris depicts a planet that makes astronauts lose their minds upon landing. In response, a psychologist (played by Donatas Banionis) is sent over to investigate the phenomenon. Will he drop his own mind when he gets there?

4. Dune (2021)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya

Action, Adventure, Drama (2h 35m)

8.0 on IMDb83% on RT

Now that Denis Villeneuve's second part to his film adaptation of Dune has released in theaters, Frank Herbert's 1965 book is flying off the shelves for the second time in the past few years.

The star-studded cast, high production values, and keen soundtrack and atmospherics are what set Villeneuve's Dune apart as living up to the greatness of the sci-fi novel about a feudal interstellar society.

If you're looking for an epic spacefaring tale with tons of worldbuilding, political intrigue, and fleshed-out characters, you need to see Dune.

3. Interstellar (2014)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi (2h 49m)

8.7 on IMDb73% on RT

Christopher Nolan is a director known for his wild, mind-bending storylines that demand careful attention to understand.

But, interestingly, it's not the multiple dimensions or meddling with time that makes Interstellar such an incredible film. Sure, the plot logic is beyond impressive, but it's the emotional impact that sings.

Specifically, it's the separation of world-saving astronaut Joseph Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey) from his young daughter Murph (played by Mackenzie Foy as a child and Jessica Chastain as an adult) that drives the emotional resonance that makes Interstellar hit so hard.

2. Alien (1979)

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

Horror, Sci-Fi (1h 57m)

8.5 on IMDb98% on RT

Alien is the only horror film on our list, but don't be turned off if you typically hate horror. It isn't scary by modern standards, and its hybrid genre of sci-fi and horror is what makes Alien such a classic.

Setting aside the iconic jump scare during the chestburster scene—which is one of the greatest moments in sci-fi cinema—Alien was one of the few 1970s films to have a female lead, with Sigourney Weaver playing the badass survivor of the alien-infected ship Nostromo.

Ask anyone to name three incredible films that take place in space and there's a good chance they'll name Alien. It's that seminal.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester

Adventure, Sci-Fi (2h 29m)

8.3 on IMDb92% on RT

What's more outer-spacey than the Star Gate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey? It may feel like the trancey ink lights swirl around for ages, but the famous scene is actually less than 10 minutes long.

Yet, after those minutes come to an end, the astronaut protagonist Dave Bowman (played by Keir Dullea) has aged nine years after being trapped with an evil AI called HAL while hurtling towards Jupiter.

The film's title hits the nail on the head. It really is an odyssey through space, directed by Stanley Kubrick, who was one of the few directors with the capability for such an ambitious project. To this day, it's widely considered the greatest space movie ever made—and I agree!