Best family friendly sci-fi or space exploration movies?
May 31, 2014 6:43 PM   Subscribe

I want to show a smart, sci-fi film to a bunch of maker type kids - 12-18 years old. "Explorers" immediately comes to mind, but I'm hoping for something more perfect that will inspire these kids without pandering or boring them. Suggestions?
posted by Unsomnambulist to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I don't know if I'd classify it as smart, but I recall liking Titan A.E. when I was a kid, and the repairing of the ship might interest them.
posted by Canageek at 7:06 PM on May 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Black Hole is pretty awesome.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:06 PM on May 31, 2014

posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:15 PM on May 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Treasure Planet
Fun ride, family-oriented

The Astronaut Farmer
I thought it was emotionally maniuplative, simplistic and overwrought, YMMV

Apollo 13
Scenes of peril, could be frightening but is PG-13.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:17 PM on May 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

Europa Report, from last year, was perhaps not a great movie, but it was decent, it made a solid attempt at portraying realistic space travel in our solar system. It's a movie with no antagonists except the environment of space, and an incomprehensible... fictional thing at the end. It's made to look like a found-footage documentary: media cams, video logs, and instrument cameras, etc. It's got some monstery-thrill moments at the end, but there's no creature horror such as these sorts of SF usually have. Spoiler: unhappy, but hopeful ending.

Realism-wise, was on par most of the similar stuff out there, especially like Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets, (2 hours, on Youtube in two parts: 1 and 2) which may also be worth watching. There are a few perils here and there, along the lines of the former, and one personal tragedy, but its science fiction remains fact-based for its entirety, and has a very similar style to Europa Report-- I presume that this one substantially inspired the newer film. (If you're familiar with that 2009 series "Defying Gravity," aka "Grey's Anatomy in space," you'll see that SO:VttP was the acknowledged inspiration for that series' space-mission and some mission-related narrative elements.)
posted by Sunburnt at 7:29 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Couple ideas:
The Abyss
The Last Starfighter
posted by churl at 8:02 PM on May 31, 2014

If you can come up with a copy of "Dark Star", it would be perfect. It was John Carpenter's first film, made when he was still in college, with a budget of about $7.95. One of the pleasures of the film is looking for all the ways he saved money, like using styrofoam packing pieces as part of the spacesuits.

It's perfect for "Maker type kids" for that reason.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:27 PM on May 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

2nd Contact, one of my all-time favorite films.
Other ideas, depending on what you mean by "inspire them" -- all PG-13:
- Super 8 (self-assembling ship at the end – connects to this)
- A.I. Artificial Intelligence
- Gravity
- Avatar
- City of Ember
- Wall-E
- I, Robot
posted by StrawberryPie at 8:34 PM on May 31, 2014

I may be misinterpreting your aim - if so I apologise in advance. When you say they are maker kids, and suggest that you thought of Explorers, I think that you are being too literal. No need to show them kids making stuff in a movie as inspiration - they are already makers! Instead find something that's really visually spectacular and interesting, kind of the movie equivalent of going to an art gallery for inspiration.

Star Wars? Inception (PG-13)? Labyrinth?
posted by Joh at 8:40 PM on May 31, 2014

Astronaut: The Last Push (2012, free on Hulu, IMDB entry) is an extremely near-future, not-too-fictiony science fiction film about an Apollo-13-type catastrophe on a manned mission to Europa. Might be a bit slow for teenagers, though, and although nothing is shown on-screen astronauts die as a result of the accident, as far as family-friendly goes.
posted by XMLicious at 9:58 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I saw 2001 when I was about 12 (probably younger) and it made a big impression on me.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 10:09 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Quoting the description of the film from Wikipedia..)
October Sky is a 1999 American biographical film directed by Joe Johnston, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, and Laura Dern. It is based on the true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's son who was inspired by the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 to take up rocketry against his father's wishes, and who eventually became a NASA engineer. ..
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:32 AM on June 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

First thought was October Sky.

Maybe the Rocketeer, also by Joe Johnston.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I dunno if it's "smart," but the retro sci-fi visuals are really, really cool.
Seconding Super 8. If anything, it might also get them into filmmaking.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:10 AM on June 1, 2014

Galaxy Quest. In addition to being really funny and thoughtful as well, it features a group of nerdy fan kids saving the day.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:50 AM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nobody mentioned Firefly yet? Bonus that it was a TV series so you don't have to really worry about sex or language or whatever.
posted by COD at 6:13 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Titan AE
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:22 AM on June 1, 2014

Real Genius—it's a goofy '80s movie about smart kids having fun in college building cool things and playing pranks with science. It's very inspiring to the techy, future Caltech or MIT crowd! (And it's rated PG, so no worries on that front.) I love this movie.
posted by limeonaire at 7:40 AM on June 1, 2014

On reading this: October Sky and Apollo 13 are both great suggestions.
posted by Canageek at 9:37 AM on June 1, 2014

The Nuclear Boy Scout
posted by Rob Rockets at 10:57 AM on June 1, 2014

It's obvious, but... Star Trek films? The best ones are The Wrath of Kahn (2), The Undiscovered Country (6) and First Contact (8).

Plus Galaxy Quest afterwards, obviously.
posted by Urtylug at 1:32 PM on June 1, 2014

The Apollo era before Star Wars had a few gems of this sort.

Silent Running is a gorgeous film that introduced the concept of droids 5 years before Star Wars, and a story that's aged well about extinction, environmental ruin, and the greed and short-sightedness of human institutions.

Capricorn One prefigures all the modern Apollo deniers with a paranoid tale of a Mars mission that's staged on a set because the government realizes the life support system can't work. Bonus for O.J. Simpson in a primary role.

Damnation Alley Before there were zombies there was this story of running for your life in super souped-up ATV's in a post-nuclear-holocaust wasteland.

Marooned in which a very Apollo-era mission has a glitch when the retros won't fire to return our heroes home. Will they fix the problem or be rescued before their air runs out?

Countdown dramatizes an idea that was taken seriously for a few minutes at the height of the Space Race, with an astronaut sent to the Moon with no means of immediately returning and depending on rendezvous and resupply until he can be rescued.
posted by localroger at 2:44 PM on June 1, 2014

Oh, and while it might not be appropriate for kids I really can't help mentioning

Colossus: The Forbin Project is just about the best movie about AI ever made despite being made in 1970. It is about as racy as movies got in 1970; a major plot involves Forbin and his female chief engineer pretending to be having an affair so Colossus will give them privacy in which to collude, and there is nudity. But the retro-future tech is hilarious and much of the dialog is sharp.

Forbin: OK here I am, naked as the day I was born.
Colossus: You were not born wearing a watch.
Forbin: Right you are.
posted by localroger at 3:02 PM on June 1, 2014

OMG, how could I forget Real Genius. @limeonaire is totally right.
posted by StrawberryPie at 8:59 PM on June 1, 2014

I must say, I saw Silent Running when I was young, and it was pretty much one of the most depressing movies I had ever seen.
posted by StrawberryPie at 9:01 PM on June 1, 2014

Nobody mentioned Firefly yet? Bonus that it was a TV series so you don't have to really worry about sex or language or whatever.

Other than the direct references to sex, the innuendo as well ... I mean, I love Firefly but I wouldn't show it to a 12 year old.
posted by Megami at 1:25 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with limonaire - Real Genius is great!

Also, not a movie, but Star Trek is a pretty obvious choice here as well (any of the series should work, though I'm partial to TNG).
posted by snaw at 7:49 AM on June 2, 2014

Time Bandits!
posted by notclosed at 2:05 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Where can I find this shirt from a Downton Abbey...   |   My brother seems to have some sort of deep seated... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.