Apollo 13 (1995)
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon
It takes a talented director to keep an audience on the edge of its seat while watching a film in which they already know the ending. Which is exactly what Ron Howard was able to do in Apollo 13, the story of NASA’s 1970 moon landing-turned-rescue mission when an on-board explosion threatened the safety of its astronauts, Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) and Fred Haise (Bill Paxton). Howard’s secret? Create a film that is as educational as it is entertaining.
Howard worked hand in hand with NASA to create a spot-on retelling of the events, which meant that his stars got to experience every little boy’s fantasy: space camp! The trio spent time inside simulated command and lunar modules, all under the tutelage of Lovell, and filmed in a reduced gravity aircraft in order to create the weightlessness the astronauts would contend with in space. For his role as NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz, Ed Harris listened to the audio communications between flight control and the astronauts, was given access to hundreds of NASA documents, took a class in physics and enrolled in flight control school. But Howard, ever the filmmaker, did take one creative liberty: editing a back-and-forth dialogue between Apollo and flight control down to one simple—and memorable—line: “Houston, we have a problem.”