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9 movies about landing on the moon, from the sublime to the ridiculous

July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, part of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission — and 50 years is long enough that many people alive today have only seen the moon landing as replayed news footage in documentaries or in history class. But what actually motivated the astronauts, scientists, technicians, politicians, and families who made that scientific feat possible? What kind of culture drives people to travel to the moon?

There are many stories to be told about the moon landing — and about the decades before it, which gave people the idea to go and then made them keep trying, even in difficult and dangerous conditions. Here are nine films that help fill in those blanks, and are well worth watching even if you’re not a space superfan.

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

A Trip to the Moon (or Le voyage dans la lune, originally) isn’t about the moon landing; it came out in 1902, decades before NASA was founded in the late ’50s. But Georges Méliès’s seminal film was a pioneering work of its own. It’s considered one of the earliest science fiction movies, inspired partly by stories from writers like Jules Verne.

Running just under 13 minutes total, A Trip to the Moon is about a group of space explorers who travel to the moon, encounter a tribe of strange beings, capture one, and return to Earth. Méliès himself played the crew’s leader, Professor Barbenfouillis.

The film is very much in keeping with its time, when the medium of cinema was changing rapidly and when the whole world was obsessed with scientific discovery, exploration, and expeditions to the farthest reaches of the planet. It pokes fun at 19th-century science (tres outrée!) and imperialism, and it spearheaded new ways of

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