What do space and a child’s imagination have in common? Both are boundless and filled with beautiful possibilities.
Many of today’s most famous astronauts, scientists, and science fiction writers can credit the source of fascination for space exploration as being somewhere in their childhood. This is particularly amazing given that the best space-themed films around when they were kids decades ago were primarily for grown-ups.
Needless to say, graphics and kid-oriented animation have dramatically improved– and the space explorers of tomorrow have some incredible space-themed movies available right now.
The following movies made our list because they’ve become childhood classics, translated into dozens of languages, inspiring millions of kids worldwide.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Reminiscent of Spaceballs, but with added drama and cooler special effects, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the funniest action fantasy superhero movies set in space.
A man abducted from Earth must confront the evils of his father and avoid being corrupted by power, all while fighting alongside a feisty gun-toting raccoon, a beautiful woman, and a tree who knows but one word with infinite meanings.
The film also boasts an impressive soundtrack that may or may not be playing right now as we write this article.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
“So long, and thanks for all the fish!”
No definitive list of space-themed movies can go without this classic movie. Like most stories, the book is admittedly better than the movie– but that speaks more to the quality of the book rather than the film because the movie itself is spectacular.
The idea itself originally started as a radio comedy broadcast by Douglas Adams in 1978 on BBC Radio 4. It soon made its way to various other formats, including stage shows, comic books, TV series, and even computer games. It’s an epic adventure with many vital guidelines and rules that can help you survive on Earth too.
Fun fact: Towel Day, a holiday celebrated as a tribute to writer Douglas Adams by his fans, is May 25th.
Two robots fall in love while helping humanity return to Earth. The ship’s human captain expresses a new mission after Eve, a reconnaissance robot, comes back with proof that Earth can once again support vegetation and farming. The captain then must battle the ships onboard AI, which disagrees with the new mission.
Eve and Wall-E fall in love and help the passengers on the spaceship wake up from their complacency with how life is aboard the ship. It’s a lesson that can be transcribed to this current moment in time. Maybe the robots will help us wake up too.
Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope
A farmer, a princess, and an outlaw attempt to save the galaxy. It introduces us to the space opera genre and the infinite possibilities of life, beings, and experiences that could be out there among the stars.
Fun fact: Everyone knows about May the 4th being with you Star Wars day, but November 17th is the Wookie holiday for “Life Day.”
Granted, Episode IV was initially released in 1977 and may seem a bit dated for today’s kids; it’s an absolute classic and a must-see– especially considering how many Star Wars-themed movies and shows are out today. For example, The Mandalorian Disney+ series gets a ton of attention today, and it’s undoubtedly deserving of it, but watching the origins of the Star Wars saga makes it so much better.
Whether Rick Moranis is shrinking, blowing up his kids with his inventions, or taking care of a murderous plant, he always adds child-like brevity to his roles.
In Spaceballs, a wild parody that gets better with age, they poke fun at some of the greatest space-themed movies—Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, and even 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you need a laugh, this is the space-themed movie for you.
If you like Spaceballs and have seen it a zillion times, consider watching Starship Troopers or Galaxy Quest.
It’s impossible to pick just one Star Trek film. Like Star Wars, the stories in the Star Trek universe are epic and diverse. The story of Star Trek: First Contact is easy to identify with. The enemy of the Federation is not just your standard stock of evil—it strikes such an ominous cord as it is so at odds with citizens of individualistic societies.
The Borg is the hive mind, which is to be avoided at all costs. It is the death of freedom, free speech, and individualism—an important lesson to reiterate in our current time.
Fun fact: April 5th is First Contact day.
Final Thoughts: Space Exploration for the Whole Family
The best part of kid-friendly space movies is that they make us feel like kids a little bit as well.
If you grew up watching space-themed classics that make our list of the top space movies for grownups when you were young, you’ve got plenty to catch up on today.
And the best part– it’s never been easier! Heck, you don’t even need to wait in line at a movie theater for hours or even go to a video rental store; most of these movies are ready to go tonight with a quick rental from Amazon, HBO, Netflix, or Hulu.