10 Best Documentaries About Space and the Universe
Since the beginning of human civilization, we have gazed up at the night sky in awe and wonder about the mysteries of the cosmos. Our endless fascination with space has led to some incredible documentaries that provide glimpses into the final frontier.
From our own solar system to the edges of the known universe, these films capture our sense of adventure and curiosity about what lies beyond our little planet.
In this list, we will countdown the top 10 documentaries covering the captivating topics of space and the universe. Each entry provides an immersive viewing experience into different aspects of astronomy, astrophysics, space exploration, alien life, and more.
Read on to discover some of the most insightful and visually stunning films about the vast unknown.
10. When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (2008)
Kicking off the list is this captivating miniseries chronicling the history of NASA’s space explorations. Using archival footage and interviews with astronauts, When We Left Earth examines the triumphs and tragedies of NASA’s space programs starting from the Mercury missions up until the Space Shuttle program.
Standout episodes include the tense recounting of the heroic Apollo 13 mission and the bittersweet final flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
This series provides an inside look into the space race and the people behind the iconic missions. When We Left Earth captures the excitement and danger inherent in the quest to explore the cosmos.
9. Expedition Mars (2016)
Prepare for a thrilling journey to the Red Planet with Expedition Mars. This immersive documentary shows real spaceflight footage with scripted narrative, this film captures the perilous challenges inherent in sending humans to another world.
Dramatic events like equipment failures, dust storms, and technical accidents heighten the risks the astronauts face. Alongside the drama, Expedition Mars outlines real tech being developed for future Mars exploration like advanced rockets, habitats, and rovers.
8. Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know (2021)
Black holes have long fascinated scientists and science fiction fans alike for their bizarre gravitational properties. This IMAX documentary takes you to the cutting edge of black hole research and visualization.
Utilizing vivid animation and footage from real telescopes like the Event Horizon Telescope, Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know provides stunning renderings of these enigmatic gravitational objects while explaining their mysterious nature through interviews with physicists.
Some highlights include seeing a black hole warp light itself and the global effort by scientists to capture the first image of a black hole. This film lets audiences comprehend the truly astounding forces at work around black holes.
7. Hubble’s Cosmic Journey (2015)
The Hubble Space Telescope has dazzled us with unprecedented views of distant cosmic wonders. Hubble’s Cosmic Journey commemorates the Hubble Telescope’s 25th year in operation through a spectacular montage of some of its most important observations.
Narrated by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, this documentary chronicles how Hubble has revolutionized our understanding on topics like black holes, dark matter, galaxy evolution, and the age of the universe.
Dramatic visuals of astronomical phenomena like supernovas, nebulae, and galactic collisions display the cosmos in all its glory. Hubble’s Cosmic Journey encapsulates how this observatory’s remarkable images expanded our perspective on how vast and dynamic the universe really is.
6. Apollo 11 (2019)
History was made in 1969 when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to ever step foot on another world. The incredible Apollo 11 mission marked a monumental achievement not just for the United States, but for all of humanity.
This stunning documentary showcases rarely seen large-format footage of the lead up to the momentous moon landing.
Apollo 11 makes you feel like you are living through the tense preparations, launch, and eight-day journey in real-time with the astronauts, with minimal narration and no modern interviews. This film lets audiences experience our giant leap for the stars in nail-biting detail.
5. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014)
This 21st century follow-up to the classic Carl Sagan documentary series brings the wonders of the universe to life through spectacular visual effects and an approachable narrative style. Hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey guides viewers on an epic voyage across space and time itself.
Each gorgeously presented episode covers topics like the nature of gravity, the plausibility of alien life, the formation of stars and planets, and the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang to today.
Following in Sagan’s footsteps, Tyson adds an infectious sense of cosmic awe and poetic reflection on our connection to the universe. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey makes the infinite expanses of space feel close and full of mystery.
4. Life Beyond Earth (1999)
Are we alone in this vast cosmos? Life Beyond Earth examines the possibility of extraterrestrial life through in-depth scientific analysis. Utilizing interviews with exobiologists, this documentary breaks down the conditions and locations ripe for alien life to evolve.
From microbial organisms around icy moons to advanced civilizations lurking across the galaxy, the film analyzes what forms alien life could take. Life Beyond Earth also contemplates how contact with extraterrestrials would impact humanity culturally, socially, and technologically.
While we have yet to discover life beyond Earth, this film makes a compelling case for the idea that we might just have cosmic company on the galactic stage.
3. Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking (2010)
World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking serves as our tour guide on this thought-provoking adventure through space. Blending awe-inspiring CGI with Hawking’s incisive perspectives makes for an engaging overview of humanity’s relationship with the cosmos.
Each episode of Into the Universe tackles big themes like time travel, alien life, colonizing the planets, and the ultimate fate of the universe itself. Hawking’s iconic computerized voice narrates complex scientific concepts in enlightening yet accessible ways for the viewer.
This series underscores the limitless mysteries still waiting to be unlocked as we reach deeper into the furthest realms of the universe.
2. Cosmos: Possible Worlds (2020)
A worthy follow-up to both the original Cosmos and its first revival, Cosmos: Possible Worlds sees Neil deGrasse Tyson return as host. With gorgeous visual effects, this series charts the connections between outer space and the shared history of our civilization.
Standout episodes include a deep dive into the nature of complex life and dramatic visual re-enactments of historical figures like Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley studying comets. Tyson draws out insightful parallels between scientific discoveries and humanistic themes, pointing to our common quest for truth.
From the quantum realm to the vast multiverse, Cosmos: Possible Worlds paints our endless exploration of the unknown as a profoundly spiritual experience.
1. Wonders of the Solar System (2010)
Topping our list is this awe-inspiring series showcasing the majesty of our own interplanetary neighborhood. Physicist Brian Cox takes viewers on a tour across the solar system, highlighting the unique features of each planet, moon, and the Sun itself.
High-definition nature footage fuses with advanced visualizations to immerse you in colossal volcanoes, immense planetary rings, and tumultuous solar storms.
Most fascinating is how Wonders of the Solar System contemplates how these celestial objects profoundly shape the nature of life on Earth. Our home planet is characterized as a small oasis, lucky enough to bask in the protective embrace of the Sun and giant planets.
Relatable scientific storytelling coupled with sublime scenery results in a documentary that conveys the magic right in our cosmic backyard.
This concludes our guide to the most compelling and informative documentaries exploring the captivating realm of space and the universe.
From our planetary neighbors to the edges of existence itself, these films capture the breathtaking beauty and boundless enigma of the cosmos.
We hope you find these documentaries fascinating! Our attraction towards questioning the unknown will likely inspire many more extraordinary films as we continue venturing deeper through the cosmos.