You’re a Movie Star. Congrats, Here’s Your Space Movie.

That vast expanse. The glorious wonders of the universe. And Brad Pitt or Natalie Portman to take us there.

If you work in Hollywood long enough, eventually your star may rise high enough to reach, like, actual stars. For decades, the industry has relied on famous names to send space movies (and hopefully their box office) into the stratosphere. This fall, Disney (by way of its recent acquisitions 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight) is bringing us the star-driven space movies “Ad Astra” and “Lucy in the Sky.” Here is a look at the tradition of big names in big space movies, and how it worked out for them.


‘Ad Astra’

The Star: Brad Pitt

The Reason: The actor has played almost every kind of big-screen role over more than three decades. And yet his roles have gotten quieter and more contemplative of late. Now seems like the best moment in his onscreen life to have him contemplate space.

The Space Dilemma: Pitt’s character’s father went out for a mission and didn’t come back. The son’s been searching for him ever since.

The Spectacle: An action sequence involving a fight with moon pirates is breathtaking.

The Suit: Looks like he was born to wear it.

The Results: A wave of strong reviews and more than $90 million at the box office since opening Sept. 20.

In theaters now.


‘Lucy in the Sky’

The Star: Natalie Portman

The Reason: In a 25-year career that includes an Oscar-winning performance in “Black Swan” and nominated turns in “Jackie” and “Closer,” the actress has been hired to bring quality and dramatic weight to a movie.

The Space Dilemma: Portman plays Lucy Cola (based loosely on Lisa Marie Nowak), an astronaut who is having trouble coping back on planet Earth after a life-changing spacewalk.

The Spectacle: A visually haunting moment early on shows the character hovering above the earth beatifically.

The Suit: She nearly gets lost in it, but ultimately takes command.

The Results: To be determined. The film is opening Oct. 4 after premiering, to a mixed reaction, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

In theaters starting Friday.


‘High Life’

The Star: Robert Pattinson

The Reason: Since “Twilight” made him a superstar, Pattinson has opted for smaller films with respected directors. His presence in this artful space oddity from the French director Claire Denis is probably why this movie got financing.

The Space Dilemma: In the future, Pattinson is part of a crew of criminals sent on a space mission as an alternative to the death penalty. Things get weird.

The Spectacle: Shots inside the spacecraft, shaded in deep blues and reds and yellows, are more mysterious and stunning than the shots of black holes.

The Suit: It has a handcrafted, vintage quality that suggests 1940s flight expeditions, not something from the future.

The Results: Very odd, indeed. Critics mostly liked it, but it drew about $1.2 million at the box office.

Available to rent or own from iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu or Google Play.


‘First Man’

The Star: Ryan Gosling

The Reason: The actor seems like the most Everyman fit for the Everyman astronaut Neil Armstrong.

The Space Dilemma: How to get to the moon in one piece.

The Spectacle: The film’s breathtaking recreation of the moon landing makes it seem as if we’re experiencing it for the first time.

The Suit: Majestic and fits like a glove.

The Results: It didn’t make a giant leap at the box office and awards largely eluded it, but it did win the Oscar for visual effects.

Available to rent or own from iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu or Google Play.



The Stars: Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence

The Reason: The film’s script was on the Black List, a survey of lauded, unproduced screenplays, in 2007. After bouncing around in development, it finally got made when these high-wattage rising stars were cast.

The Space Dilemma: On a 120-year journey to colonize a new planet, a malfunction means a passenger wakes up too early. He wakes up another one so he won’t be alone. Yikes.

The Spectacle: Mostly just two very pretty people in space.

The Suits: All lit up in “Tron”-meets-Daft Punk funkiness.

The Results: Although critics gave a thumbs down to the creepy love story and execution, the star power rocketed the movie to a $303 million worldwide box office.

Available to rent or own from iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, PlayStation, Microsoft or Fandango Now.


‘The Martian’

The Star: Matt Damon

The Reason: He’d conquered Earth as a superstar. Why not go to Mars and do the same?

The Space Dilemma: In the near future, a crew is exploring Mars when a storm threatens the mission and strands one member. He can’t be rescued for years, so he has to figure out how to grow food on a planet where nothing grows. Luckily, he’s a botanist.

The Spectacle: Damon’s character uses smarts, a Mars Pathfinder and some gaffer tape to communicate with Earth.

The Suit: Orange and tan neoprene. It resembles a cool combination of wet suit and racing uniform.

The Results: Both critical and box-office magic, grossing more than $630 million worldwide.

Available to rent or own from iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, PlayStation, Microsoft or Fandango Now.



The Stars: Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey

The Reason: Both established actors had reached career turning points, with Hathaway off an Oscar win for “Les Misérables,” and McConaughey off one for “Dallas Buyers Club.” They’d had other hits on their own; together they could establish even larger box-office cred.

The Space Dilemma: Where to begin. Let’s just say dust storms and wormholes play a part in the fight for humanity’s survival in the near future.

The Spectacle: An intense moment when the crew enters the atmosphere of a distant planet.

The Suit: No-frills NASA numbers, which fit nicely and give both imposingly broad shoulders.

The Results: While some audiences may have been a little puzzled, they were still intrigued enough by this Christopher Nolan project to catapult the drama to $677 million worldwide.

Available to rent or own from iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, PlayStation, Microsoft, Paramount or Fandango Now.



The Star: Sandra Bullock

The Reason: She had been one of Hollywood’s most bankable actresses. Her space movie was long overdue.

The Space Dilemma: An astronaut stranded on a mission contemplates the, ahem, gravity of her situation.

The Spectacle: A single-shot sequence in which an accident leaves Bullock mercilessly rotating in space.

The Suit: In shades of gunmetal that bring out the most triumphant in Bullock.

The Results: Everything you want to happen with your space movie. Multiple Oscars (including one for Bullock), critical praise and eye-popping box office ($723 million worldwide).

Available to rent or own from iTunes, Prime Video, Google Play, PlayStation, Microsoft or Fandango Now.



The Star: George Clooney

The Reason: The actor, working again with Steven Soderbergh, had just finished “Ocean’s 11” and was exhibiting the kind of contemplative cool then that Pitt inhabits now.

The Space Dilemma: A psychologist goes to a space station and ends up in his own head trip.

The Spectacle: The ways Soderbergh uses light and the lack thereof.

The Suit: A mix of modern and retro, but great-looking when bathed in a warm glow.

The Results: Audiences stayed home on planet Earth.

Available to rent or own from iTunes, Vudu, Prime Video, Google Play, Microsoft or Fandango Now.


‘Apollo 13’

The Star: Tom Hanks

The Reason: After back-to-back Oscars, who else?

The Space Dilemma: They had a problem.

The Spectacle: A nine-second sequence in which the camera follows the wiring through the craft all the way to its exploding oxygen tank.

The Suit: Lovingly patriotic.

The Results: A major box office success, with $355 million (about $587 million in today’s dollars) and two Oscar wins.

Available to rent or own from iTunes, Vudu, Prime Video, Google Play, Microsoft or Fandango Now.

Mekado Murphy is a senior staff editor with a focus on movies coverage. He joined The Times in 2006. @mekadomurphy

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