Looking for a space movie or TV show that’s a bit more realistic than the alien-filled epics that seem to be so common? Below we take a look at the best realistic space movies and TV series that you can watch via streaming services like Netflix, HBO, and others. All of these movies and series depict realistic space flight with past and current technology.
No aliens or warp drives will be found in this list; just astronauts that take off from Earth in old-fashioned liquid-fueled rockets, so they can make those first small steps towards the final frontier.
Realistic space movies and TV shows:
- The Right Stuff (TV Series)
- Apollo 11
- Apollo 13
- From the Earth to the Moon
- Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
- Apollo: Missions to the Moon
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best space movies regularly as new ones are released.
1. The Right Stuff (TV Series)
Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about the early days of the U.S. space program became a huge best seller. Later, it was adapted into an acclaimed 1983 movie. Now, Disney Plus is showing the first season of The Right Stuff TV series. This National Geographic produced docudrama focuses mostly on the original Mercury Seven astronauts in its first season, who were picked in 1959 to be America’s first people into space.
2. Apollo 11
If you want the real unfiltered story behind the moon landing 50 years ago, check out this recently released documentary that’s now available to stream on Hulu. When we say “unfiltered” we mean it; this film only uses footage, taken from over 11,000 hours of film and video, that was made as part of the Apollo 11 mission, including some 70mm film that previously was not seen the public. There’s no narration, interviews or special effects to recreate any of the scenes. It’s about as close as you can get to being a part of the original flight.
3. Apollo 13
This 1995 film dramatizes the 1970 mission of Apollo 13, the mission that, a few days after launch, suffered a massive equipment failure in the ship’s service module. While we know the final outcome of this mission, the film still manages to offer a high degree of tension, as the astronauts onboard try to survive and the team at NASA’s Mission Control try to figure out how to get the crippled spaceship, and its crew, home safely. There are tons of great performances in this movie, and they are anchored by Tom Hanks as he portrays Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell. The movie is currently available to buy or rent via Amazon Prime Video.
4. From the Earth to the Moon
After starring in Apollo 13, Tom Hanks extended his time in space with this 1998 HBO mini-series. This 12-episode series chronicles the history of US space exploration, from the founding of NASA, to the first Apollo missions, all the way to the end with the last manned lunar landing with Apollo 17. Hanks directs the first episode of this series, and wrote or co-wrote several others. There are a ton of well-known actors playing roles in this mini-series, including Tony Goldwyn, Bryan Cranston, Cary Elwes Gary Cole, Sally Field, and many more. It’s perhaps the best TV series to depict the real events of the Apollo space program. It’s available to stream with an HBO Max subscription.
5. Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
All of the movies on this list put much of their emphasis on the astronauts of the Apollo missions. However, this 2017 documentary on Netflix focuses on the people at NASA’s space flight center in Houston who were the backbone of the entire manned spaceflight program since the beginning. The movie uses actual footage of Mission Control combined with new interviews with the NASA team members who worked there. The result is a fascinating look back at how manned spaceflight, and in particular the Apollo moon missions, would never have happened without a ton of support and work back on Earth.
6. Apollo: Missions to the Moon
National Geographic’s Apollo: Missions to the Moon is dedicated to the 12 years and 12 missions run by the Apollo program. The documentary relies exclusively on archival footage of the astronauts and crews who put men on the moon. Apollo: Missions to the Moon covers the entire decades-long program, not just the days of the Apollo 11 mission. It’s a chance to relive the space race through the cameras of news teams that were there.
Realistic space movies and TV shows: Honorable mentions
There are other space movies and TV shows that you might want to check out on various streaming services, although some of them are less realistic than the ones on this list, including some that take place in the future.
- Mars – This National Geographic series, currently shown on Netflix, combines a fictional account of a future mission to Mars with interviews with real experts on how such a mission could be accomplished.
- The First – This one-season series, exclusive to Hulu, stars Sean Penn as he tries to get a near-future mission to Mars underway. Hulu may have canceled the series, but it’s still an interesting look at how mankind might journey to the red planet.
These are the best space movies in our opinion, although there are plenty of other great ones on offer. We’ll update this post with new ones once they are released.