While science fiction movies have long since explored the notion of venturing off and visiting other worlds, there is one planet that frequently comes up when we talk about space travel: Mars. Out of all the planets in our solar system and all the potential planets in other galaxies, our nearest planetary neighbor has always been the one that comes up the most when we talk about colonization, travel or exploration. A major reason for the fascination about Mars is the fact that scientific research over the past several decades indicates that in the distant past Mars once had a climate believed capable of supporting life. Therefore, the Red Planet is seen as the most conceivable solution if our population ever needed a new planet to colonize, and because of this, many movies have chosen it as the target of their cosmic traveling tales. Comprised here is a list of the top 10 best movies involving Mars, creatures from Mars, or going to Mars in one way or another.
The Martian (2015)
Director: Ridley Scott
Based on the Andy Weir novel, this story follows hapless astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) who is unknowingly left behind on Mars during a failed exploration trip. He must then use all of his scientific expertise and training to survive long enough on Mars until his crew comes back to rescue him, and before he runs out of food and supplies. This is a brilliantly written, surprisingly comedic film that has a great deal of heart and talent behind it. It’s one of those rare gems that both critics and audiences alike loved, making it a highly recommended choice for anyone seeking out a good movie about Mars.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
Director: Watanabe, Okiura, Takei
Mars is more like a loose playground for the bounty hunter crew in this cinematic tale from the hit Anime series “Cowboy Bebop.” Whether you know the series or not, this is still an awesome, kick-ass movie that excels in action, music, drama and amazing animation. Furthermore, those that love the show will love this just as much as it delivers everything a fan may have expected and loved from the original iconic series, only on a grander scale and with an even greater budget.
Total Recall (1990)
Director: Len Wiseman
One of Arnold’s most memorable films besides his “Terminator” roles, “Total Recall” follows our protagonist, the factory worker Douglas Quaid, who discovers that at some time he had his mind wiped and implanted with fake memories, after some of those suppressed memories start to emerge. He also finds a series of cryptic clues left to him by his former self in order to find out the truth about his old life, which subsequently leads him to Mars, where he discovers mutants, a corrupt government, and a number of oddities, including 3 breasted hookers. It’s over the top crazy and the “eye bug out” scenes will stick with you long after the corny one liners run through your mind. It’s one of the best uses of the Mars setting I’ve seen, and definitely makes this movie more than just another action blockbuster vehicle that Schwarzenegger is known for.
The War of the Worlds (1953)
Director: Byron Haskin
A truly memorable film, this take on the classic H. G. Wells’ novel of the same title published in 1898 set a new standard for special effects when it came out in the early 50’s. It effectively portrays the chaos and pandemonium created by a full-scale invasion originating from the Red Planet, with the martian machines and their heat rays beautiful, graceful and terrifying at the same time. For those movie buffs preferring to see a more modern version on the theme, there is always Steven Spielberg’s 2005 take on “War of the Worlds” starring Tom Cruise in the lead role.
John Carter (2012)
Director: Andrew Stanton
This expensive space adventure largely based upon the novel “A Princess of Mars (1917)” unfortunately lost a considerable amount of money at the box office , ultimately killing any hope of this classic novel series being further adapted into more movies. A shame really, as this story about a civil war lieutenant getting transported to Mars and liberating aliens from a tyrant’s oppression was actually quite entertaining. The movie’s history is quite extensive, and this is easily one of the most elaborate interpretations of Mars and life on the Red Planet than most films have done, be it in the past or by today’s standards.
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Director: Tim Burton
Quite possibly the weirdest film to come out of Tim Burton’s warped imagination, and that’s saying something, “Mars Attacks” is a spoof on old B sci-fi movies, complete with bony, cackling, big brained aliens from Mars coming to Earth and wiping out humanity with colorful death rays. It features many throwbacks to old B movies, not to mention an all-star cast, and while this comedic sci-fi offering may be an acquired taste that you either get or you won’t, it’s definitely one film you won’t forget anytime soon.
Red Planet (2000)
Director: Antony Hoffman
Val Kilmer and Carrie Anne Moss star in this quasi-horror movie about astronauts sent to investigate why the bio-engineered algae that interplanetary missions have been using to seed Mars appears to have suddenly disappeared. The landing team’s craft is then damaged, leaving the small crew to complete the task all within the stifling constraints of a limited supply of time, fuel and oxygen. This PG-13 thriller/horror grossed just $33 million worldwide of its $80 million, and while it has received some critical reviews, it still presents an interesting and suspenseful tale of scientists trying to think out of the box as their chances of survival grows smaller and smaller every minute.
Mission to Mars (2000)
Director: Brian De Palma
This movie is the end result of when you mix a great cast, stellar visuals and a blatant mixture of random, last-minute entry ideas that don’t exactly piece together well, but still look good in the end. The plot involves a rescue mission sent to Mars in order to investigate the catastrophic disappearance of the first mission after reporting a mysterious structure. The gorgeous visuals make up most of this film’s appeal, while its plotline is reminiscent of many other classic space exploration movies, and in a lot of ways, is a mix of “The Martian,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Interstellar”.
The Last Days On Mars (2013)
Director: Ruairí Robinson
Going back to the whole “Monsters on Mars” angle, “Last Days” involves a space crew exploring the Red Planet and stumbling into a large crevice; unearthing a deadly lifeform that puts every member of the crew at deadly risk and causes a very familiar struggle for survival. This is a by the numbers Mars movie that does what it does well, especially as far as storytelling methods, atmospherics and casting quality is concerned, but unfortunately it takes no risks in the process and just comes off as one of the more forgettable and less distinguished trips to Mars.
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Based upon the first-person shooter game of the same title, Doom is the most video game type movie you will ever see. It takes us on a wild-and-scary-ride around a scientific facility after The Rock/Dwayne Johnson, Karl Urban and other members of the search-and-rescue team travel to Mars to stop a viral outbreak that turns people into hideous monsters. While this movie has been panned by many critics as being a straightforward, shoot ‘em up monster movie that is too silly to be taken seriously, other movie buffs have described “Doom” as an entertaining, reasonably suspenseful sci-fi action movie that is chock-full of B-movie goodness.