Space cadets: A starstruck ranking of the coolest movie astronauts
The first photos of Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049) in Damien Chazelle’s (La La Land) new film First Man – a biopic of Neil Armstrong – are out. Chazelle described how the film looks at “the Moon and the kitchen,” meaning it looks at both Armstrong’s accomplishments as well as the man behind them. So far, so good, but will Gosling be able to launch himself into the list of other great on-screen astronauts? Let’s take a look at the competition with our ranking of the seven best astronauts in cinema history.
7. Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis): Solaris
While he’s technically a psychologist in the film, Kris Kelvin has travelled out to a space station and is working on it while it orbits a planet, so he’s probably a lot closer to an actual astronaut than the likes of James Caan in Countdown. Plus, he’s Russian and the film was made by the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky (Stalker). As the Russians were first to go into space, they should probably get at least one on the list. The film follows Kelvin as he’s sent out to the ship after its skeleton crew falls into emotional crisis, only to find the same happens to him when he gets there.
6. Rockhound (Steve Buscemi): Armageddon
Yes, the film is pretty stupid and it’s got Ben Affleck (Justice League) in it, but as with everything Steve Buscemi (Fargo) has ever been in, he steals every scene. Rockhound is a heavy-drinking, gambling man who takes on the mission that will either lead to certain death or certain glory. He then does what any scientist would do and borrows a whole bunch of money off a local mobster, safe in the knowledge that if he makes it back to Earth, NASA will probably spot him the money to clear the debt. And if he doesn’t, he’ll be dead anyway. What a hero.
5. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell): Moon
Duncan Jones’s (Mute) movie looks at many philosophical subjects and is a great addition to the canon of films set in or around space, as it’s essentially a one-man show kudos to Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths) for carrying the film pretty much all by himself. Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) also provides the voice of his ship’s computer, but maybe one day in the future you’ll be able to have a DVD extra of some kind where you can change the audio to Christopher Plummer’s (All the Money in the World) voice instead.
4. Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy): Sunshine
Cillian Murphy (Inception) apparently went full method for this role – these damn crazy actors – working closely with Professor Brian Cox and visiting the CERN facility in Switzerland where he observed some of the physicists’ mannerisms to take on for the role. Along with Murphy’s dedication to the part, Dr. Capa is the only one on this list to sacrifice himself for all mankind, which really should get him a shout out at the very least.
3. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver): Aliens
She might not bounce around in zero gravity while wearing a big helmet, but in all of the Aliens films, Ripley still travels around the universe on various spaceships and fights acid spewing aliens. She must’ve at least done the basic astronaut training course and have a little knowledge of physics and how to eat powdered breakfast from a small foil bag.
2. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock): Gravity
Sandra Bullock (Ocean’s 8) plays Dr. Ryan Stone who, after being joined by Lieutenant Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), quickly drifts off into outerspace all on her own and finds herself having to hold everything together in the face of looming doom. She’s essentially every single working mum in the world, only in outerspace.
1. Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea): 2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick (The Shining) didn’t always cast big names as his leads and in the case of Keir Dullea (The Good Shepherd), he cast someone who you might even walk past in the street without recognizing. But perhaps the casting of this fairly normal man is what makes him cinema’s greatest astronaut. Because astronauts don’t do it for the glory – they do it for humanity.