11 Apollo movies and documentaries to watch on the moon landing’s 50th anniversary

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Apollo 11 movie screengrabNEON/CNN films/statement pictures

Exactly 50 years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped through the hatch of a tiny, rickety spacecraft, drifted down a metal ladder, and set foot on the dusty surface of the moon.

That moon landing has made for great cinema ever since. Nobody has been back to the moon since the Apollo program ended in 1972, but directors, producers, actors, and documentary-makers have been inspired by the video footage and audio recordings from the missions for decades.

Their work captures the drama, humor, suspense, and tragedy of these early days of space exploration. Here are 11 Apollo movies and documentaries to watch this week.

In “First Man,” Ryan Gosling plays a young, ambitious Neil Armstrong as he works as a test pilot, grieves the loss of his 2-year-old daughter, and barely escapes death — twice.

Universal Pictures

The film, based on the non-fiction book by Armstrong’s official biographer James Hansen, tells the true story of the decade leading up to Armstrong’s historic “small step” on the moon. It’s also the story of the team that got him there.

“When you have hundreds of thousands of people all doing their job a little better than they have to, you get an improvement in performance,” Armstrong said after the Apollo 11 mission. “And that’s the only reason we could have pulled this whole thing off.”

Stream the movie on iTunes, Amazon, or Vudu.

“Hidden Figures” can be seen as a sort of Apollo prequel, since the three protagonists it depicts — Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Katherine Johnson — all worked on NASA’s next ventures after helping to send astronaut John Glenn into space.

20th Century Fox

The women — played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe — were responsible for critical computing and mathematics work that helped to launch Glenn into orbit.

Jackson, Vaughan, and Johnson made critical calculations for the 1962 mission, which placed the US as a major contender in the space race. The film is based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly and addresses racial segregation and gender barriers in STEM (and throughout American life) during the 1960s.

The movie ends after Glenn’s launch, but the three women continued their work with NASA through the Apollo missions. Johnson went on to calculate the trajectory for the Apollo 11 flight and compute backup navigational charts for the astronauts to use if electronics failed (which they almost did). Her research later ensured the safe return of the Apollo 13 crew after the explosion that sidelined their mission.

Stream the movie from Fox or rent it at Amazon, iTunes, or Vudu.

Several documentaries about the moon-landing are also worth your time. “Apollo 11,” which came out this year, uses previously unseen 70mm film footage and audio recordings from the time.

NEON/CNN films/statement pictures

This intimate new look into the work of the astronauts and the Mission Control team comes from digitization work done by the National Archives.

The documentary details the precise movements and math that had to line up perfectly to make the moon landing happen ⁠— not to mention the teamwork and emotional grit.

“By preserving and making accessible these film reels, they have given the world an unprecedented and breathtaking glimpse of this historic milestone,” US archivist David Ferriero said of the National Archives team in a press release.

See it in theater (IMAX for the full experience) or get it on Amazon, iTunes, or Vudu.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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