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Ten Deep 10.17.13: Top Ten Space Station Movies
Posted by Mike Gorman on 10.17.2013

"Top Ten Space Station Movies"

Space Station movies have been popping up quite regularly this year, including this past week's release of Gravity and the earlier release of Elysium. Each of these films has received a variety of mixed reviews but they got me thinking about films that feature space stations and hence this week's Ten Deep was born.

I will not quibble over details when it comes to one or two of my selections. Yes the space stations in just a few of the films below might more accurately be referred to as spaceships but for me the distinction between the two blurs a bit when the film is based entirely in that location and clearly a permanent environment has been established. Disagree? Let me know in the comments section and suggest your alternatives. I would, as always, like to hear them.

10. Jason X

Yes this is one of those films that dances around the idea of being an actual space station but how could I not celebrate the ridiculousness that is Jason X. What I do love about this movie is that there really was no effort put into making it a serious sci-fi mash-up with one of our favorite slashers at the center. Instead, the creators just took all of the old devices from the classic Fridays, ie. Dumb, hypersexual kids, and threw them into space. It is the future and there are plenty of technological advancements but the crew of this station is far from geniuses and strategists. Instead it is business as usual when the nanobot enhanced Jason starts his killing spree.

9. Armageddon

Armageddon is pure bubble gum pop as far as filmmaking goes but it does have some endearing and comical moments which include the scenes aboard the Russian space station featuring the wacky cosmonaut who ends up joining the team and saving the day in a big way later in the film. The space station here is clearly modeled after MIR and allows for the film to slow down the pacing, inject a few laughs and also heighten the tension of the scenario at hand.

8. Contact

The space station MIR makes a memorable cameo in the movie Contact. S.R. Hadden, the eccentric billionaire who is funding the experiment at the film's core shows up from time to time with information for Jodie Foster's character and late in the film we discover that he has taken up residence on the space station in the hopes of slowing the cancer that is threatening his life. There is no adventure sequence on MIR but there is none needed in a film that relies more on the cerebral moments than the explosive ones. Hadden's appearance on the space station just serves to further frame his character, albeit in a borderline humorous way.

7. Moonraker

James Bond fights one of his most iconic baddies and takes off into space in the number seven entry in this week's countdown. In Moonraker, Bond takes on Hugo Drax and his henchmen, including the aforementioned Jaws, on Earth and up in Drax's space station in his 11th film. Drax plans to raise a "master race" on his space station while he unleashes a deadly nerve gas on Earth which will only kill humans, not animals. The final fight on the station includes multiple laser battles and a turn to the good side for Jaws in the end. Drax's plans of course are thwarted and Bond (and Jaws!) gets the girl.

6. Solaris (2002)

Steven Soderbergh's Solaris (2002) attempts to provide a more character driven space station story rather than one centered around an adventure plot or cosmic disaster. And to me, the film succeeds in crafting a haunting story which never quite clearly lays out the forces at play behind the events at hand; which in the end seems unneeded anyway. George Clooney plays a clinical psychologist who is tasked with investigating what has happened to the crew of a space station studying the planet Solaris. What Clooney finds onboard is a mystery of memory come to life and the intensity of regret. While the film does build to a climax involving a cosmic incident, the deeper questions left behind relate more to the human condition than a sci-fi plot device.

5. Event Horizon

I'm not sure why Event Horizon seems to have ended up a much maligned and overlooked film for many people. For me it was something new, an attempt to tell a horror story set in space that wasn't about aliens but about real evil. It is a story that could have been set in a house on earth but instead was given the wide palette of a space station for its moments to unfold. In Event Horizon the traditional space station transforms from a cold, antiseptic vision of the future to a literal house of horrors with unknown terror behind every corner. I will admit it is far from a perfect film but it is a solid scary outing none the less.

4. Space Camp

As a kid fascinated with space travel, how could I not grow up loving the movie Space Camp? In it a group of kids at space camp are launched into space with their instructor and must find a way home. The situation is fantastical and unrealistic, but who cares?! The movie is a lot of fun and gets pretty thrilling especially when they have to visit the incomplete space station Daedalus in order to retrieve much needed oxygen. Their stay at the station is not long but it an important part of the story and one of the keys to their survival. Plus it allows for a pretty cool Star Wars themed moment. Check this one out if you haven't and be sure to share it with the kids in your life!

3. Wall-E

In Wall-E the space station was meant to be humanity's salvation but instead ended up being too good at meeting their needs and became more of a babysitter to the helpless adult infants. The featurette below actually goes into how the future humans came to be in the state they were in the story and how they were almost not humans at all but a gelatinous alien species. The final product ends up producing a great lesson for us all about our dependence on technology which would have been lost if the creators went with their original intent. I will say that it was cool that the space station (or ship) did have a pool!

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey features one of the most iconic cinematic space stations of all time, Space Station V. Its visual representation is the one that most of us think of when we hear the words "space station." The space station is a stopping point for travelers leaving Earth and includes amenities such as hotels. Its role is really just one of a back drop in the film's second act but its presence establish the advancement of society and Earth culture by that point. And while the station is one of many visually stunning pieces in the film, it is probably the computer intelligence that appears later, the HAL 9000, that is the most memorable piece of technology here.

And lastly…

1. Star Wars IV: A New Hope

And we end with perhaps the most memorable movie space station of all time. The one that looms over the characters in the film from the moment they realize it is not a moon. I speak of course of the Death Star in Star Wars IV: A New Hope. The Galactic Empire's ultimate tool must be stopped by the rebels no matter the cost and its ultimate fate comes down to the faith of a young man who has found his world turned upside down. The final attack on the Death Star and Luke's use of the Force to guide his aim are covered in the classic clip below. Like the title implies, the destruction of the Death Star brings hope to a group that was just about out and sets up the sequences to follow in the next two films. On a side note, if you're interested you can now buy an ice mold that will let you make your own Death Stars out of ice, chocolate, or even liquored up gelatin! What a fun way to commemorate this weapon of mass destruction.

Did I get to your favorite space station story or did the lack of oxygen in outer space cause me to miss one? Share your own selections in the comments below.

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