Skip to main content

Moonstruck: How Realistic is the Moon Depicted in Classic Science Fiction Films?

  • Conference paper
Earth-Moon Relationships

Abstract

Classical science fiction films have been depicting space voyages, aliens, trips to the moon, the sun, Mars, and other planets, known and unknown. While it is difficult to critique the depiction of fantastic places, or planets about which little was known at the time, the situation is different for the moon, about which a lot of facts were known from astronomical observations even at the turn of the century. Here we discuss the grade of realism with which the lunar surface has been depicted in a number of movies, beginning with George Méliès’ 1902 classic Le Voyage dans la lune and ending, just before the first manned landing on the moon, with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Many of the movies present thoughtful details regarding the actual space travel (rockets), but none of the movies discussed here is entirely realistic in its portrayal of the lunar surface. The blunders range from obvious mistakes, such as the presence of a breathable atmosphere, or spiders and other lunar creatures, to the persistent vertical exaggeration of the height and roughness of lunar mountains. This is surprising, as the lunar topography was already well understood even early in the 20th century.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 169.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 219.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Agel, J. (ed.): 1970, The Making of Kubrick’s 2001, Signet — The New American Library, New York, 367 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arnheim, R.: 1929, Die Frau im Mond [film review], Die Weltbühne, Berlin, No. 43, 22.10.1929.

    Google Scholar 

  • Benson, M.: 1985, Vintage Science Fiction Films, 1896–1949, McFarland & Co., Inc., Jefferson NC, and London, 219 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bonestell, C. and Ley, W.: 1949, The Conquest of Space, Viking Press, New York, 160 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brentano B. v.: 1929, Die Gabe der sinnlichen Wahmehmung [film review], Frankfurter Zeitung, Nr. 1776, 17.10.1929.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eisfeld, R.: 1989, ‘Frau im Mond: Technische Vision und psychologisches Zeitbild’, in R. Eisfeld (ed.), Thea von Harbou, Frau im Mond, Heyne Verlag, Munich, pp. 207–235.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ezra, E.: 2000, George Méliès, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 166 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Geduld, C.: 1973, Filmguide to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 87 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Geser, G.: 1999, Fritz Lang — Metropolis und die Frau im Mond, 2nd edn., Corian-Verlag, Meitingen (Germany), 193 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gregor, U. and Patalas, E.: 1976, Geschichte des Films, Vol. 1, Rowohlt, Reinbeck, Germany, 250 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harbou, T. v.: 1928, Frau im Mond, Scherl, Berlin, 230 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ihering, H.: 1929, Frau im Mond [film review], Berliner Börsen-Courier No. 484, 16.10.1929.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lohrmann, W. G.: 1824, Topographie der sichtbaren Mondoberfläche, J. F. Hartknoch, Dresden and Leipzig, 110 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicolson, M. H.: 1948, Voyages to the Moon, Macmillan, New York, 297 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pol, H.: 1929, Die Frau im MondiDer neue Lang-Film [film review], Vossische Zeitung, Berlin, Nr. 489, 16.10.1929.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rudaux, L. (1937) Sur les Autres Mondes, Libraire Larousse, Paris, 220 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Strick, P.: 1976, Science Fiction Movies, Octopus Books Ltd., London, 160 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Taylor, S. R.: 1982, Planetary Science: A Lunar Perspective, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, 481 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilhelms, D. E.: 1993, To a Rocky Moon — A Geologist’s History of Lunar Exploration, University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 477 pp.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2001 Springer Science+Business Media New York

About this paper

Cite this paper

Jalufka, D.A., Koeberl, C. (2001). Moonstruck: How Realistic is the Moon Depicted in Classic Science Fiction Films?. In: Barbieri, C., Rampazzi, F. (eds) Earth-Moon Relationships. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-0800-6_17

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-0800-6_17

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Dordrecht

  • Print ISBN: 978-94-010-3855-3

  • Online ISBN: 978-94-010-0800-6

  • eBook Packages: Springer Book Archive

Publish with us

Policies and ethics