Just about every kid growing up has expressed interest in pursuing one of the most dangerous and courageous careers in the literal (known) universe: becoming an astronaut. What is it about space travel that lends itself to the daydreams and fantasies of impressionable young men and women?
Blame the usual suspects: the media. Film and television have romanticized and glorified the already prestigious position to a point of no return, sorta like space itself. And because there have been so many incredible space-themed movies in the past few decades, picking the best characters from the brood proved to be an exciting experience—just like being a little kid again, except I've mastered control over my bowels.
Here are 12 popular movie astronauts from film history—ranked by style, character, perseverance, level of commitment, and how much they died at the end.
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Actor: Harland Williams Movie: RocketMan SC Review: Remember Harland Williams? Exactly, no one does. RocketMan, for the most part, was a forgettable little film about a trip to Mars starring the guy who's best remembered for drinking pee in Dumb & Dumber, and Beau Bridges for some reason. One of two funny parts is when Fred Z. Randall farts in his space suit—but that would probably cause a serious friendship rift in real life.
11. Matt Kowalski
Actor: George Clooney Movie:Gravity SC Review: The Cloon-Goon can make a hell of a tequila, but a nice glass of Casamigos won't save your ass when you're on a direct path into the surface of the sun. Sorry, George; you're a handsome son of a bitch, but you're terrible at not dying.
10. A.J. Frost
Actor: Ben Affleck Movie:Armageddon SC Review: If you think this is the only time Armageddon makes an appearance on the list, you are sorely mistaken. Here are the reasons why Ben Affleck is a worse astronaut than Bruce Willis: Bruce Willis sacrificed his life for the people of Earth, Ben Affleck did not. He was too busy playing house with Aerosmith's daughter.
9. Robby Gallagher
Actor: Val Kilmer Movie: Red Planet SC Review: Call me crazy, but Val Kilmer is a more believable astronaut than he is Batman. Sure, most of his crew dies at the hands of the harsh Martian environment, but Gallagher still finds time to save planet Earth, explore Mars, and make a pit stop in smash city with Carrie-Anne Moss by the end of the film. Hey, good for them!
Actor: Sam Rockwell Movie:Moon SC Review: Without ruining Moon's surprise ending, the film is about an astronaut who has to spend three years on the surface of the moon with nothing more than a robot to keep him company. Have you ever spent three days by yourself? Exactly, it's impossible. For Sam's sheer amount of will power of having to restrain from masturbating in front of a cyborg, he places midway on this list. Well done.
7. George Taylor
Actor: Charlton Heston Movie:Planet of the Apes SC Review: Diehard fans of this epic series surely remember the time Charlton Heston detonated a bomb that killed everyone on Earth in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Still, it takes some serious astronaut-skills and cantaloupe-sized balls to steer a spacecraft thousands of years into the future—even though it was (spoiler alert) Earth all along. Let's also not forget the amount of simian ass Charlton Heston kicks.
Actor: Jane Fonda Movie:Barbarella SC Review: Hey, it's hard being a 41st-century stripper-astronaut-secret-agent—especially one with an unusually-high sex drive and a love of mystery. The January 1968 copy of Variety described Barbarella as a "beached whale afloat," but that doesn't change the fact that it's a movie about a rad woman who f*cks her way through the universe.
5. Ryan Stone
Actor: Sandra Bullock Movie:Gravity SC Review: Gravity is a movie about perseverance and Ryan Stone exemplifies this theme by persevering between space station to space station with nothing more than the equipment on her body. Sure, the science of the movie is a bit flawed, but that doesn't change the fact that Stone still makes it back home by herself following a positive interaction with George Clooney's ghost. God, that guy's charm is un-killable!
Actor: Sigourney Weaver Movie: Alien SC Review: What's the most effective way to rid your spacecraft of a rogue alien who's killed all of your astronaut buds? Shoot it with a grappling hook and let it die in outer space! Ripley is the original badass female-astronaut—excluding Barbarella—who was more into having sex with extraterrestrials rather than eradicating them.
Actor: Matthew McConaughey Movie: Interstellar SC Review: We all know what Interstellar is really about—a former B-list actor who's shot to fame after decades of playing surfers, strippers, and guys who won't be lost after 10 days. Interstellar is a movie about a man who saves planet Earth in the most chill way possible. By sacrificing his life for the lives of seven billion strangers, Cooper has as much empathy as McConaughey has chill vibes. Three words, 21 letters: Alright, alright, alright.
1. Jim Lovell
Actor: Tom Hanks Movie:Apollo 13 SC Review: Okay, so Tom Hanks didn't reply to any of my letters, but my mother always taught me to forgive and forget. Jim Lovell has a leg-up on everyone else on this list as he is the only real astronaut who legitimately kicked ass in outer space—except for perhaps Charlton Heston, as there's technically no proof that disproves Planet of the Apes was a documentary. That little nugget of reality coupled with Hanks' unstoppable charm makes Jim Lovell the best astronaut of all time. Answer my letters, Hanks.
Jeremy Glass is the Vice editor for Supercompressor and considers himself to be the be Tom Hanks' number one fan and will use violence to prove this.