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13 Classic Movie Moments on the Moon

The Moon has long been the source of great inspiration in all forms of entertainment from songs to prose to poetry and film. In the movies, it’s been home to exploration, horror, comedy and so much more and continues to be a staple in films of all genres. While there are dozens of moon movies, here are 13 classic movie moon moments we think are best.

Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day ©20th Century Fox
DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich     STARS: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum

“Welcome to Earth,” says Captain Miller (Smith) after he punches a fallen alien in the face in this summer movie classic about an invading army from space that are looking to destroy the planet. Boasting some impressive visual effects and a rousing popcorn movie action spectacle, this highly influential film takes place almost entirely on Earth, but there is a very powerful moment at the start of the film when the alien mothership approaches the blue planet, casting a long ominous shadow over the famous first landing site on the moon. It’s a compelling image and is repeated several times on many famous landmarks on the planet, but it’s the first on the moon that sets the tone and is most memorable.

Iron Sky (2012)

Iron Sky, 2012 ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland
DIRECTOR: Timo Vuorensola     STARS: Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby

In the year 2018, we go back to the Moon, or as the film promotes, “Black to the Moon” as a two-man team led by black astronaut James Washington (Kirby) journeys to the lunar surface and crosses over to the dark side, only to encounter a huge base of Nazis, who have been living there since the 1940s. With the technology taken and learned from the American space mission, they complete their massive attack ship and make plans to conquer Earth. A wildly cheesy CGI movie, when the American astronauts first come upon the Nazis is markedly the best Moon moment. Good silly fun.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon, 2011, ©Paramount Pictures
DIRECTOR: Michael Bay     STARS: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

The third in the Transformer’s film franchise that has come to define excess and over-indulgence, this one spends a good deal of time on the Moon, most especially, as you can guess, on the dark side where a mysterious Cybertronian ship has crash landed and becomes the real reason why President Kennedy initiated the space program’s fast-track plan to get a man to the moon. There, I’ve just revealed the one single best clever idea ever in the series. It won’t happen again.

Diamonds are Forever (1971)

Diamonds are Forever, 1971 ©United Artists
DIRECTOR: Guy Hamilton    STARS: Sean Connery, Jill St. John

Okay, so technically not the moon but still a great ‘moon’ moment as our hero James Bond (Sean Connery) stumbles onto the set of the ‘faked moon landing’ and has to escape as armed thugs give chase. Hilariously, he out wits a pair of ‘astronauts’ still acting in slow motion before jumping in a bizarre moon buggy and barreling through a stage wall and driving out in to the Nevada desert. Houston, we have a giggle.

The Mouse on the Moon (1963)

The Mouse on the Moon, 1963 ©United Artists
DIRECTOR: Richard Lester     STARS: Margaret Rutherford, Bernard Cribbins

A sequel to the Peter Sellers classic The Mouse That Roared, though sans Sellers, this one sees the same tiny European (fictional) country of Grand Fenwick entering the space race between the Soviets and the United States when their wine exports start blowing up in people’s faces. A joke at first they soon come to see that their wine makes for a fine rocket propellent and to everyone’s astonishment, they achieve space flight and reach the Moon before anyone else. You can bet the U.S. and Russian aren’t too happy.

Destination Moon (1950)

Destination Moon, 1950 ©Eagle-Lion Classics Inc.
DIRECTOR: Irving Pichel    STARS: John Archer, Warner Anderson

In the decade before man actually landed on the Moon, science fiction movies were making a killing with bug-eyed monsters and alien creatures from outer space. With Destination Moon however, the film took a hard look at another danger of space flight, mechanical and human failure. As U.S. private industries create a viable lunar landing mission, it is sold to the government in order to secure its place as a world superpower. Racing ahead of schedule, the four-man crew make it to the moon and face many obstacles but a miscalculation on the surface means that only three can return. Can science and good old human ingenuity save them? A surprisingly good 50s movie.

Apollo 13 (1995)

Apollo 13, 1995 ©Universal Pictures
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard     STARS: Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon

The story of the failed NASA moon mission that was actually a successful space rescue, it tells the true life story of three astronauts who suffer a near catastrophic accident in space and must abandon their plan to land on the moon in order to return safely to Earth. When mission commander Jim Lovell (Hanks) realizes his hopes for stepping on the moon are lost, he imagines what it would be like to touch down and view the world from the surface in a touching moment that shifts the men’s priorities from loss to hope.

Despicable Me (2010)

Despicable Me, 2010 ©Universal Pictures
DIRECTOR: Pierre Coffin     STARS:  Steve Carell, Jason Segel

One of the better computer-animated films to be released in recent years, this funny and often touching story about an incompetent evil villain who finds goodness when he takes care of three young girls sees out antihero Gru (Carell) make devious plans to steal the Moon. He invents a shrink ray and after a successful test on a minion, he heads to space and makes the Moon pocket-sized, which, science aside, makes him the greatest supervillain of all time. Of course, his warm heart changes that and so does a glitch in his shrink ray.

Women in the Moon (1929)

Women in the Moon, 1929 ©UFA
DIRECTOR: Fritz Lang    STARS: Willy Fritsch, Gerda Maurus

Anything by Fritz Lang is overshadowed by his historical masterpiece, Metropolis, but this science fiction film (German Frau im Mond), made two years later, is widely considered to be the first serious attempt at producing an accurate depiction of a lunar mission. The plot centers on speculation that there is gold on the Moon and a melodramatic story built around a love triangle and a stowaway sees a crew traveling to the darks side in more ways than one. This silent film is the first to use a ‘countdown to ten’ sequence and predicted the multi-stage rockets use for actual space travel. Very cool.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me , 1999 ©New Line Cinema
DIRECTOR: Jay Roach     STARS: Mike Myers, Heather Graham

The follow-up to the hugely successful Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), the spoof of James Bond movies sees the villain Dr. Evil (Myers) set up a giant shiny moon-base with nefarious plans to fire a large “la-ser” at major cities around the world unless the governments pay him a substantial ransom. Along with his cohort Mini-Me (Verne Troyer), they are foiled by the always shagadelic Powers (also Myers) who gets a fair bit of help from Felicity Shagwell (Graham). Somebody give him a friggin’ bone.

Moon (2009)

Moon, 2009 ©Sony Pictures Classics
DIRECTOR: Duncan Jones     STARS: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey

A man named Sam (Rockwell) lives alone on the surface of the Moon in a three-year contract where he monitors a fully-automated mining operation for helium-3, an energy source that has helped save Earth’s power needs after a devastating oil crisis. He is accompanied by an robot with artificial intelligence (Spacey) who helps to regulate and inform of the base and mining conditions. But, things take a strange turn when Sam discovers anther man on the surface and worse, he looks exactly like him. How is it possible and where did he come from? There are many haunting secrets in this sensational science fiction mind-bender and one great moment we discuss in detail here.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1969)

2001: A Space Odyssey, 1969 ©Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick    STARS:  Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

Perhaps the most famous science fiction film of all time, this critically acclaimed film stands as one of the most influential movies ever made with startling special effects supporting a story that even decades later is still greatly debated. When a large black obelisk comes to Earth at the dawn of Man, it seems to influence the species to its next evolutionary step, and when it appears again buried under the surface of the Moon, apparently put there four million years ago, questions arise and a space mission to Jupiter with seemingly ambiguous objectives is mounted, leaving the crew at the mercy of a computer named Hal-9000. The moment on the Moon when the obelisk is revealed and a gathering of scientist surround it while the Sun splashes upon its surface creating a deafening radio-signal like hum is still one of the best in the film.

A Trip To The Moon (1902)

A Trip To The Moon, 1902 ©Star Film Company
DIRECTOR: Georges Méliès     STARS: Georges Méliès, Bleuette Bernon

This 14-minute film is the very first science fiction movie and was thought incomplete until its last reel was discovered in 2002 and finally restored. A masterpiece by any standard, it was far ahead of its time on release, featuring groundbreaking special effects that are still impressive over a hundred years later. Perhaps the most famous moon shot in cinema history, the story’s spaceship lands on the surface, right in the eye of the man on the Moon. Read more about this classic here.

Which are your favorite movie Moon moments?

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