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The Right Stuff (1983 movie)

4 Ratings: 4.5
1983 film directed by Philip Kaufman

The Right Stuff is a 1983 American film adaptation of Tom Wolfe's 1979 book The Right Stuff about the test pilots who were involved in high-speed aeronautical research at Edwards Air Force Base as well as those selected to be astronauts for Project … see full wiki

Director: Philip Kaufman
Genre: Drama
Release Date: October 21, 1983
MPAA Rating: PG
1 review about The Right Stuff (1983 movie)

This film has the right stuff for a classic

  • Jul 22, 2009
Rating:
+5
This movie came out the year after I was born, but has worn incredibly well over the years. It focuses on the origins of the U.S. manned space program, particularly the "Original 7" who flew on the Mercury missions. The film starts with the rigors of life as a test pilot, including Chuck Yeager's historic flight breaking the sound barrier. It moves into the Mercury program and features Alan Shepard and John Glenn's historic space flights in the early 1960s.

The Right Stuff is exciting without seeming like an obsolete 1980s Cold War movie (such as The Hunt for Red October). It is historical fiction without seeming like a historical documentary. It mixes the fighter jockey's sense of cockiness of Top Gun with the epic filmmaking of Lawrence of Arabia. Overall, it achieves a good balance of history, drama, and acting.

The acting is generally very good and believable. The subplot with Chuck Yeager is a nice contrast between the fighter jockeys of old and the new astronauts. Ed Harris comes across as morally upright, sociable, and patriotic - in short, as John Glenn. Dennis Quaid's Gordon Cooper was the only one who seemed to be playing too much to a stereotype, but even he had his moments.

My only complaint is that the movie tended to skim over the less macho, brainier details of the Mercury flights. There is a lot that the film simply left out. For example, Gordon Cooper, portrayed as a hotshot jock in the movie, had to calculate his reentry using the stars after his capsule malfunctioned, leading to NASA giving the pilots a greater role in later missions. The "Original 7" astronauts had the "right stuff," but that meant brains as well as guts.

The Right Stuff works really well when viewed before From the Earth to the Moon. The latter series is about the Apollo program and picks up soon after the end of The Right Stuff. The two can be viewed back-to-back for a comprehensive history of the U.S. space program in the 1960s.

This movie is already a classic. It's destined to remain a classic for at least another 25 years.

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1979 film directed by Philip Kaufman

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