10 Movies Afflicted with Space Madness

Intergalactic lunacy might not get much of a mention in the medical journals, but there’s plenty of it about in the movies, as Mark Fraser has discovered…

If it’s true screaming can’t be heard in space, then what about diabolical laughter? Or the sound of somebody squawking like a chicken? Intergalactic lunacy might not get much of a mention in the medical journals, but there’s plenty of it about in the movies, as Mark Fraser has discovered…

10. Forbidden Planet (Fred McLeod Wilcox, 1956)

A respectable-looking mad scientist – who is holed up in a remote space lab with his attractive adult daughter and talking robot servant – finds himself battling an evil manifestation of his Id. Looks like a serious case of someone having too much to think.

9. 2001, A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

A computer helping run a space mission to Jupiter crumbles under criticism and turns on its ship’s crew members after discovering they are planning to replace it. Not only can HAL 9000 read lips, but he also gets a good portion of the film’s best lines.

8. Armageddon (Michael Bay, 1998)

The brainiac of a rag tag team of drillers that is sent up into space by NASA to nuke an approaching giant asteroid gets a serious dose of the jitters just after landing on the rock. An amusing performance by Steve Buscemi isn’t exploited fully enough by director Bay, who literally gags the film’s most talented actor.

7. Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007)

A group of scientists sent to rejuvenate the dying Sun discover that the captain of an earlier rescue mission isn’t dead as previously thought, but is in fact alive and seriously psychotic to boot. Space madness has already set in by the time the crew of Icarus II comes across one of its predecessors, with the mission looking pretty much like a suicide run by the time the fighting starts.

6. The Black Hole (Gary Nelson, 1979)

A Germanic-sounding mad scientist with labotomised human servants and the twinkle of megalomania in his eye is determined to see what’s on the other side of a nearby black hole, eventually dragging a crew of visiting astronauts down with him. Despite being Disney’s first film aimed at older children, it’s still pretty much kiddies’ fare.

5. Alien Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997)

While there’s plenty of hysteria running through both Aliens and Alien3, the Brad Dourif-led mad lab rats in the series’ fourth installment really do take the cake when it comes to galactic loopiness. Aside from the fact they are breeding the beasts, they also get a kick out of human cloning. Talk about your mad doctors at work.

4. Event Horizon (Paul Anderson, 1997)

In a blatant and bloody rip off of Solaris (see below), a group of astronauts come across a haunted spaceship which starts to seriously mess with their minds. From there it’s a fairly rapid descent into violence and mayhem. All in all a somewhat derivative and unpleasant film.

3. Dark Star (John Carpenter, 1974)

The astronauts running a military spaceship have already crossed the insanity line at the start of the film, and it’s only a matter of time before they completely implode. Carpenter revisited the theme of group weariness in a contained and hostile environment some eight years later with his (now) celebrated 1982 remake of The Thing.

2. Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)

A Russian astronaut is sent to see what has happened to the crew of a space station floating above the planet Solaris. When he gets there, he resumes marital bliss with his dead wife, who committed suicide some time earlier. No violence or explosions, but still an amazing ending.

1. The Man Who Fell To Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

An alien in the form of David Bowie visits Earth as part of a plan to rescue his family, which is living on a drought-stricken planet. Unfortunately, it all goes awry when he gets involved with an Earth girl, starts drinking too much, becomes addicted to television and is eventually kidnapped by shadowy interests just before he can board his rocket home. Ultimately, Thomas Newton suffers from the worst kind of space madness – the human condition.

Written and compiled by Mark Fraser.

More from Mark Fraser on Top 10 Films:
10 Fruitful Collaborations Between Non-US Directors And Their Cinematographers | 10 Fruitful Collaborations Between Hollywood Directors And Their Cinematographers | 15 More Great Second Films by Directors | 11 great American film quotes that rarely (if ever) get mentioned in top 10 film quote lists

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  1. Avatar
    Evan Crean Reply

    The them of space madness reminds me of “ocean madness” from Futurama. As The Professor so wisely says “Ocean madness is no excuse for ocean rudeness.” I’d imagine the same thing could be said about space madness. Some great films on the list: my favorites include Forbidden Planet, Sunshine, and Event Horizon. There are definitely other films that I feel like I need to see though like 2001, The Black Hole, Dark Star, and The Man Who Fell to Earth.

  2. Avatar
    Dave Reply

    Space Truckers springs to mind when thinking of this topic! Great top 10!

  3. Avatar
    Rodney Reply

    I’d have included that terrible Johnny Depp film, The Astronaut in here somewhere. It’s a terribly crazy, stupid film!

    Although, perhaps not a “top 10” film, in the truest sense.

  4. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    @Evan: Space Madness was actually the title of one of the early episodes of Ren and Stimpy when the great John K was still in charge …. he also did one called The Black Hole (where they end up on the planet with all of the missing left socks), which was broadcast with the happy helmet episode.

    @Dave: Thank you.

    @Rodney: I agree The Astronaut was pretty awful … probably should be in the Top Ten Movies in Which Someone is Infected by an Alien list …

  5. Avatar
    Man of Sin Reply

    I’m surprised that Pandorum wasn’t listed.

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