Movies & TV

10 Movies on the Enduring Loneliness of Outer Space

These take social distancing to the extreme.
IMAGE THE MARTIAN/20TH CENTURY FOX
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Name a space movie, and there’s a good chance that the main character is grappling with the prevailing theme of loneliness in outer space. Science fiction has been a home for boundless creativity, but often, this imagination is coupled with loneliness.

Astronauts, both fictional and real, are no strangers to the struggles of isolation. In countless sci-fi films, we see our protagonists struggle to hang on to humanity the farther they get from Earth. It makes for a compelling genre, but it begs the question, why is every space film so lonely? And why can’t we get enough of it?

Maybe it’s the enduring loneliness that paints a human portrait of a cold and not-so-distant future. Maybe it’s a response to the feeling of being dwarfed by an infinite universe. Or maybe most “lonely sci-fi” films only include a handful of characters because of the production budget.

Either way, this is a genre we can get behind, and we’ve gathered the 10 best lonely space movies for you to binge.

1| The Martian

The Martian is probably one of the best “lonely space movies” out there. Abandoned on Mars by his colleagues who thought he was dead, Matt Damon’s character must survive 560 sols (Mars days) without any aid or human contact. It’s the ultimate survival film, only this survivor is stuck on an inhabitable planet where nothing grows.

2| Interstellar

There’s nothing lonelier than flying through space and time only to find out that you’ve missed decades in your childrens’ lives. Interstellar is a science fiction film as much as it is an epic drama that deals with complicated human emotions and connections that, as Nolan puts it, transcend time and space.

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3| Gravity

There is being alone, and then there is being alone in zero gravity, floating in space without any tetheror hope. Gravity puts Murphy’s Law to the test and physically and psychologically challenges its characters to overcome the disasters they encounter in the face of total isolation.

4| Ad Astra

There might be more characters in this Brad Pitt space epic, but that doesn’t seem to ease the loneliness of Pitt’s character, an emotionally distant and closed-off man who’s still struggling with his relationship with his father. It’s a movie about finding purpose, aided by the silence of space.

5| Arrival

Unlike other films on this list, Arrival occurs on Earth. It follows the story of a linguist who’s been tasked with translating the strange language of extraterrestrial beings who have landed on Earth, an alien species that breaks our preconceived notions of time.

6| First Man

Every milestone in real-world science cannot be discussed without mentioning the first man who stepped on the moon: Neil Armstrong. Yet his life was far from the adventurous and fearless picture we paint today. Before his moon landing, Armstrong lost his young daughter to cancer, and the grief of this loss is contrasted with the infinite quiet and loneliness of his space mission to the moon.

7| Moon

Cabin fever takes an extreme turn with Moon, which follows a man working on the moon, who, essentially, talks to himself. Moon tackles psychological breakdowns, isolation, and most interestingly, unethical practices in a time when humans have begun capitalizing on the moon.

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8| IO

In a post-apocalyptic world where most of humanity has migrated to a different planet, a few people have remained behind, surviving off of resourcefulness and luck. IO follows two people, one of whom wants to leave the planet, while the other wants to stay as she still has hope for Earth, a hope no one else shares.

9| Midnight Sky

Following a scientist full of regrets, Midnight Sky takes place in a world where Earth is hours away from dying. Meanwhile, a team of astronauts is returning home after finding a habitable moon around Jupiter. There’s not much to say without spoiling the movie, but the future of the human race seems to rest on a couple of very lonely people.

10| Passengers

How far will your loneliness push you? Enough to subject another to your misery? Passengers explores this complicated question with a flawed love story that takes place on a sleeper ship that will take 120 years to reach its destination. A flaw in the system wakes up one passenger 90 years too early, and the prospect of spending the rest of his life alone pushes him to subject someone to the same fate so he won’t be alone.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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