Interstellar: My Top 5 Movies That Explore Wonder, Awe, Mystery…and Science


After much anticipation, speculation, and yes even salivation, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar premiered last week.   The film is Nolan’s brave attempt to mimic Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and create a “hard science” film that also inspires wonder, awe, and a new perspective on our own humanity.

So does he deliver?

Yes…um, mostly I’d say.

Even as the film was finishing I had already slotted in Intersteller at # 5 in the Steve’s Top 5 Sci-fi movies that inspire awe, wonder, and a fresh optimistic view of humanity’s place in the universe.

So what comprises the Top 5?

# 5 Interstellar 

Ok, this movie is so fresh I won’t give any serious spoilers.  I had hoped going into the film that this would end up higher on this list.  Sadly, that’s not the case. Nolan delivers a good film with Interstellar, Heck I would even say a great film. (It made this list after all)  But it seems every moment of wonder which blows our mind is balanced with a movie convention that brings us crashing back to Earth.  All I’ll say is where would 2001: A Space Odyssey be if Kubrick had added a fist fight, Matt Damon, and a high speed rescue?

But hey, I’m focusing on the negatives.  Interstellar’s underlying message that love and hope can transcend time and space…all while exploring black holes, other dimensions, and theories of relativity?

Pretty cool!

Top it off with a pot shot at the current “dumbing down” of the government towards science and you have the makings of a great movie.

# 4 Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind

Steven Speilberg was one of the first to imagine advanced aliens coming to Earth not to conquer, invade, or eat us…but as friends.  Richard Dreyfuss plays a father who, along with others, feels compelled to travel to the Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming where the aliens eventually make contact.  (In American movies the aliens always choose to land in America).


The only critique I have in this movie is the family relationship and breakdown of Dreyfuss’ family.  They don’t trust him, the wife thinks he’s crazy, and Dreyfuss doesn’t seem to care that much.  Speilberg admits that he wrote Close Encounters as a much younger man and probably would not write family dynamics in the same way today.

Makes me wonder what a remake of the movie might look like.

#3  2001: A Space Odyssey

This would top most people’s list in this category but for me its # 3.  Kubrick’s masterpiece couldn’t be more ambitious taking us from the dawn of humanity to “beyond the infinite” and suggesting that through the process an unseen hand is guiding us.  Throw in a battle of wits between man and machine and you see why its a classic.

I wanted to tell Christopher Nolan you don’t have to have fist fights when you have dialogue like this.


# 2  2010: Odyssey 2

Purists will hate me for putting Peter Hyams sequel above Kubrick’s original. Ok, I get that. I’m not saying 2010 a better film, I’m just suggesting for me it inspires an even greater feeling of awe, wonder, and hope.

In 2010 a joint U.S.- Russian mission goes out to Jupiter to figure out what happened in the first movie.  I love this film so much!  The “hard science” is put front and center (hey how many movies will spend 10 minutes on showing you how “air-breaking” can slow you into an orbit around Jupiter) but through the whole film you are told “something wonderful” is about to happen.

And it does!

#1  Contact

I must watch this Carl Sagan penned film at least every six months.  There is hardly a movie that puts more of a “spring in my step” than this one.  In it Jodie Foster plays a scientist who is searching for extraterrestrial life.  She is written off as crazy until one day, she gets a transmission.

What follows is a wonderful examination of the ballet between “science” and “faith” and how we know what we know!  We see government paranoia, religious zealots, narcissistic scientists, and even a capitalist with compulsive disorder.  Yet through it all we are given the message we are not insignificant and …

… we are not alone!

Honorable Mention: Blade Runner

While arguably not a movie revealing the wonder and mystery of the universe I felt compelled to mention it for highlighting what it means to be human.  The final scene with Rutger Hauer saving Harrision Ford rather than killing him after explaining “all that his eyes have seen”


Ok, those are my 5.  What have I missed?