I wrote this Space Race movies post back when we last studied the space race, but with the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing coming up, I figured to update this with a few more movies (okay 1 movie), and add in a few links to relevant historical or science pieces.
We are fascinated by space. Entire parts of our pop culture are taken up with space. I know I spent large portions of my youth watching Star Trek, and I’ve always been fascinated with how we got into space. With that in mind, here are some great Space Race movies for your entire family, you can incorporate this into your science lessons (astronomy) or history lessons (modern history, which I’m still working on the landing page).
**I love learning history through movies, so it’s no surprise I’ve got a few movies to watch with your family.**
This post contains affilaite links marked with an *, to save me time I’ll just say all Amazon links are affiliate links)
Unlike my other Learning history with movies I am not going to start with a young kids option. All of the movies listed in my elementary/middle school section could be watched by younger kids. There is a little bit of language in a few of these movies, but for the most part the situations are not inappropriate (I will note if I am aware if situations that can cause a problem), but younger kids might be bored by the movie.
Space Race Movies to watch with your upper elementary or middle schooler
Hidden Figures– you know this movie had to be on here. My family finally caught this movie at the dollar theater after we finally read the Space Race lesson in our Mystery of History 4 textbook (the characters in the movie were mentioned in passing). I highly recommend sitting and talking about the movie after you watch it.
October Sky– a team of high school boys in a mining town are inspired by the space race and decide to learn model rocketry. They face many challenges, not the least of which being model rocketry isn’t a hobby for young kids, or their high school not teaching the upper-level math required to make these rockets. Another great movie to talk about with your kids, as you learn about the challenges these young men overcame to change their future.
Apollo 13– Something has gone wrong on the Apollo 13 spacecraft, and it’s up to the flight crew at NASA to get them home. I remember seeing this movie as a high schooler and being fascinated by all they had to do to get them home.
The Right Stuff– This is a bit of a precursor movie, it only goes up to the start of the Mercury program, but it covers the groundwork we needed to lay before we could even participate in the space race. (I have not seen this yet)
Race to Space– I think this is a made for TV movie, but it’s the story of the scientist who trained the chimp that went into space. It’s also a story of a father and son who are learning how to relate again after the death of the wife/mother. (I have not seen this yet)
Space Race movies that are just silly
The Reluctant Astronaut– a Don Knotts movie, so this gives you an idea of the level of seriousness you should take it, but it does comment on how people felt during that time period.
Make this into a fun science time with these extra ideas for astronomy
- How does the moon change daily? (phases of the moon)
- Design a planetary landing shuttle STEM project
- Design a method to retrieve the planetary landing shuttle STEM project
- How to explore the solar system STEM project
- Exploring the Solar System
- Astronomy Board– I’ve got a lot of great ideas in here
Space Race Movies to watch with your high schooler
Space Cowboys– I almost didn’t include this one, for several reasons, but for some reason including it amused me. It’s not really related to the space race.
First Man– This is the story of landing on the moon, I honestly don’t know how good it is because I missed seeing it in the theaters, it might well be appropriate for younger kids, my brother, who reviews movies on YouTube said it was okay but rather dry.
Space Race Documentaries
In the Shadow of the Moon– this follows the creation of NASA to our landing on the moon, it’s about 2 hours, so somewhat truncated in comparison to other documentaries on this topic, but probably more than sufficient unless you have a space fanatic
For All Mankind– The director gathered interviews of the men who went to the moon and back and what it was like This is an older documentary (1989), so it may not appeal to our current style of learning.
From the Earth to the Moon– This is a 12 hour documentary, so only watch this with your kids if they are truly interested, but it is considered the gold standard for space race documentaries from what I’ve heard
Quest: Mankind’s Journey Into Space– another multi-part documentary that looks very interesting.
Cosmonauts– A PBS series on the Russian space program, I was quite glad when Natalie from Planet Smarty chimed in with this one, because I wasn’t finding any on the Russian space program until she told me about this one.
The Cosmonaut Coverup– This is available with Prime, I’m getting all sorts of documentaries for me to watch when I’m working in the kitchen now. I cannot comment on the veracity or if this is a conspiracy theory type documentary, it just caught my attention.
Great list! I remember October Sky. That was a great film. Thanks for the reminder.
It really is, and such a great coming of age story.
Natalie PlanetSmartyPants says
Thanks for the shout out! We watched most of the documentaries on your list (yes, I have a space obsessed child), but only Apollo 13 and Hidden Figures in fiction section. October Sky sounds intriguing!
It’s really interesting because it’s a high school boy who isn’t particularly gifted in math or science who was just really interested in rockets who learned it all because of that interest. I think it’d be really popular at your house.