What space content should I watch?


but only the good stuff.

I often get asked for recommendations of good introductory space content to watch at home. Doubly so during lockdown. So here it is! Some are more entertainment, some almost philosophical, and others educational. There's youtube series, tv shows and films.

There's no better escapist entertainment than a good space movie or tv show. Escape your grim reality by slipping the surly bonds of Earth!

I know there are a lot of easy ways to find content by category these days, but let's be honest, sometimes you need the human touch. I've thought about these recommendations and can tell you confidently: they don't suck. You may or may not love them all, but you could at least have an argument about why.

I've chosen this list based on the simple requirement of: still being enjoyable if you aren't a huge nerd, and not being super dumb.

There's a lot of bad space-based popular entertainment out there that probably does more harm than good to us achieving our glorious space based future. This is not that content. These are for a night in when you want to ponder the meaning of existence and be completely removed from the insane reality of our time (it's 2020 as I write this, but I'm confident that is an evergreen statement).

My ratings are out of 5. The availability is for Australia at time of writing, but click through for the handy global justwatch.com guide on where to find each recommendation.

It doesn't hurt to have a bottle of wine or your relaxant of choice handy when kicking back and watching a lot of these.

🍿 Film #

The Martian (2015) #

Based on the book by Andy Weir (also worthy), this is a crunchy and realistic tale of survival on Mars set in the near future. Ridley Scott directed, starring Matt Damon, it's easy to digest but still gets a lot of the science bang on. The writer did a lot of work on getting the nuts and bolts right for this, and it's an exemplar of a movie that regular folk will enjoy, and nerds won't get annoyed at. Features an excellent cameo from Childish Gambino playing a super nerd and also drinking his own urine (πŸ˜•).

Available on: Foxtel Now

Apollo 11 (2019) #

This is a documentary using incredible new and restored footage from the 1960s. It shows the build up, launch, journey, and landing of the Apollo 11 crew from Earth to the Moon. It's breathtaking, raw, and worthy of a big screen and big speakers. There's no narration, but there is a narrative driven only by the footage. Very worthy of your time.

Available on: Amazon Prime

Arrival (2016) #

Possibly my favourite movie of all time. A Denis Villeneuve directed deep dive into time, language and life. I can't even really give you the synopsis without tainting what should be a pristine viewing experience. I've seen it probably 6 times and taken something different away each time. Arguably it's light on the 'space' requirement here, but it scratches the same deep itch and does it perfectly.

Every frame a painting. Go and watch it now, you can ignore the rest of this list it's fine.

Available on: Amazon Prime

Contact (1997) #

Based on the book by Carl Sagan (πŸ‘‘), this is a believable and beautiful story of humankind's first contact with another intelligent species. Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) and starring Jodie Foster as well as a young(ish) Matthew McConaughey. This isn't a flashy sci-fi with space travel and black holes, this is humans grappling with the enormity of what First Contact would mean. Would it break us? Would a religious person still believe in a meagre God in the face of vast, powerful alien species? Also features one of the GOAT lines:

First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?

I think about that line like once a week.

Available on: Foxtel Now/Binge

Interstellar (2014) #

Christopher Nolan goes deep on time, love, black holes and space. It's divisive I know, but I love it. Yes, the dialogue is overly explanatory, and certain plot points are hammered home without nuance. But the concepts being delivered, and the execution win out. It's got a great soundtrack, stunning space scenes and visuals, and it's really well shot. The movie got some real physicists and supercomputers on board to make that black hole legit. And yes, time and space are weirdly, creepily connected and you should absolutely smoke a joint and read this wiki page about it.

Available on: Netflix

Honourable mentions or movies i've yet to get around to writing about: Gravity (2013), Apollo 13 (1995), For All Mankind (1989), Moon (2009), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

πŸ“Ί TV #

The Expanse #

Gritty, gripping and alive. Space science fiction storytelling at its compelling best. An expertly put together drama about a future conflict between Earth, Mars, and the underclass (asteroid) Belters. Based on the book series by James S. A. Corey, it's not Game of Thrones in Space, it's better. The Expanse is the best science fiction going around for more than just space nerds. Travelling between planets? That will take ages. A phone call from Earth to Jupiter? Absolutely not, because this show respects the speed of light.

Available on:Amazon Prime

For All Mankind #

A hypothetical alt-history about what would have happened if the Soviets had beaten the Americans to the Moon. Such a tantalising concept, and fortunately it delivers. The Americans got there first in '69 and it was thought the USSR wasn't close, but recent revelations have proved they were really not that far off. This series dives in on what would have happened had they got there first, and the surreal geo-political motivations that lay behind the space race. Touches on the racism and sexism of '60s and '70s America and includes an all-female astronaut class going through the NASA training program. The parallel but divergent reality somehow reveals so much about our own history. Get on it.

Available on: Apple TV

Cosmos #

Cosmos is originally an educational series with Carl Sagan from the 80s. It's been remade with better visuals and up-to-date science with Neil Degrasse Tyson. Season 1 of the new series is the most approachable I think. It's entertaining and enlightening education no matter your level of knowledge.

Available on: Disney+

Mars #

A mix of documentary and storytelling about a potential future trip to Mars. It’s fun and touches on some big and relevant topics. Huge list of big-name interviewees. The conflicts between government and private industry in space are important and becoming more so day by day. Season 2 a worthy, perhaps superior, follow up.

Available on: Netflix

πŸ‘©β€πŸ’» YouTube #

The Sagan Series #

YouTube is a very different medium to TV and film, but there's still some really amazing space content available. This video series put together by Reid Gower is a great place to start. A short series of recordings of Carl Sagan set to beautiful imagery it's quick but lovely. It covers space, science and existence through the words of great man himself. A true indicator that any significantly deep dive into space is a progroundly humanising experience. Sagan was a great teacher, astronomer, and philosopher. There's 10 videos in the series, and more info on the playlist series on it's website here.

Available on: Youtube

The Feynman Series #

Similar to the Sagan Series. Feynman was one of the great theoretical physicist, and apparently a man not without his flaws. He helped develop the atomic bomb, solve the case of the Challenger Disaster, and was perhaps a profoundly unpleasant person to be around. an This series gives some great insight into the way he saw science + space + the world.

Available on: Youtube

Kurzgesagt #

This guy has an educational animation series explaining various things, space included. A lot of really complex topics, but he breaks them down nicely into 10-15 minute videos. Some are better than others but all have great animation.

This is his The Universe and Space Stuff playlist.
Available on: Youtube

Go deeper on YouTube #

If you want to go deeper on YouTube and see some more contemporary and relevant space stuff (have you seen the crazy shit SpaceX is up to?), I'd recommend checking out the channels of Scott Manley, Tim the Everyday Astronaut and straight up watching some of the launches and landings from SpaceX.


← Home