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Face-Off: The Right Stuff vs. Apollo 13

10.03.2013by: Indiana Sev
On the occasion of BREAKING BAD’s series finale, last week's face-off featured a fight between legendary TV crimes bosses Tony Soprano and Walter White. It was a photo finish but in the end you all decided that “T” was just a little better than Heisenberg.

With the opening of Alfonso Cuarón’s astronaut thriller GRAVITY this weekend, I decided to revisit the two greatest astronaut movies in film history and face-off Philip Kaufman’s 1983 classic THE RIGHT STUFF versus Ron Howard’s 1995 hit APOLLO 13 .

Awards
THE RIGHT STUFF had a total of 8 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Sam Shepard (who played the great Chuck Yeager in the film). It won a total of 4 Oscars for Effects/Sound Effects Editing, Original Score, Sound and Film Editing. TERMS OF ENDEARMENT beat out both THE BIG CHILL and THE RIGHT STUFF that year for Best Picture; a decision I still shake my head about every day.
APOLLO 13 didn’t go unnoticed at the 1995 Academy Awards ceremony with its 9 Oscar nominations which included nods for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Kathleen Quinlan) and Best Supporting Actor (Ed Harris). It only received two wins at the end of the night, one for Best Editing and another for Best Sound. I am a strong believer that APOLLO 13 should have beaten out BRAVEHEART for Best Picture that year.
Box Office
THE RIGHT STUFF ranked 33rd in the highest grossing movies of 1983 with a domestic total of $21.1
APOLLO 13 was a monster hit earning $173.8 domestically making it the 3rd highest grossing film of 1995.
Starstruck
Some of the best supporting actors of the early 80s (and beyond) comprised the stellar cast of THE RIGHT STUFF: Ed Harris, Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Lance Henriksen, Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Hershey and Harry Shearer. The only ensemble cast of ’83 that even came close to this group was that of the aforementioned THE BIG CHILL. As I watched this movie again this past weekend, I was awed once again at how believable the actors playing the original Mercury 7 astronauts were in their roles. The combination of cockiness, confidence, bravery and “the right stuff” that came through in the film was a testament to how well it was cast.
Up against the magnificent cast of THE RIGHT STUFF is the powerful fivesome of APOLLO 13’s Ed Harris, Kevin Bacon, Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise and Bill Paxton. Kathleen Quinlan is always good but she’s no Barbara Hershey so she loses that one-on-one battle pretty handily. Ed Harris cancels himself out for being in both films and that leave us with four great actors that still aren’t strong enough to beat out the cast of THE RIGHT STUFF.
Quotes
1) Alan Shepard: "Dear Lord, please don't let me fuck up."

Gordon Cooper: "I didn't quite copy that. Say again, please."

Alan Shepard: "I said everything's A-OK."

2) Chuck Yeager: "Monkeys? You think a monkey knows he's sittin' on top of a rocket that might explode? These astronaut boys they know that, see? Well, I'll tell you something, it takes a special kind of man to volunteer for a suicide mission, especially one that's on TV. Ol' Gus, he did all right."

3) Glennis Yeager: "They don't spend a god-damned thing teaching you how to be the fearless wife of a fearless test pilot."

4) Narrator: The Mercury program was over. Four years later, astronaut Gus Grissom was killed, along with astronauts White and Chaffee, when fire swept through their Apollo capsule. But on that glorious day in May 1963, Gordo Cooper went higher, farther, and faster than any other American - 22 complete orbits around the world; he was the last American ever to go into space alone. And for a brief moment, Gordo Cooper became the greatest pilot anyone had ever seen.
1) Jim Lovell: "Houston, we have a problem."

2) NASA Director: "This could be the worst disaster NASA's ever faced."

Gene Kranz: "With all due respect, sir, I believe this is gonna be our finest hour."

3) Jim Lovell: "From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it's not a miracle, we just decided to go."

4) Gene Kranz: "We've never lost an American in space, we're sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option."
The Better Stuff
In this epic true story of how test pilot Chuck Yeager broke (and later obliterated) the sound barrier to how the U.S. Space Program started, developed, struggled and thrived we learn that it takes someone with “the right stuff” to look death right in the face, smile and say “bring it on” with confidence and bravery.

The message I took away from this movie is that it isn’t always the obvious people that have “the right stuff” and sometimes it’s those men and women that aren’t always in the spotlight that are the strongest and bravest of all. Oscar nominated movies are usually chock full of inspiration and THE RIGHT STUFF is just bursting with it! It’s the kind of movie that makes you really grasp the meaning of words like respect, courage and honor.
APOLLO 13 tells the true story of how three astronauts made it back to earth, against all odds and against all hope. The way the ground crew in Mission Control and the three trapped souls in space “worked the problem(s)” over and over again to beat the odds is all about remaining cool under pressure and having “the right stuff.”

Although both movies are very inspiring, THE RIGHT STUFF just happens to have more ‘stuff’ to offer in scope, story and spirit and that’s why it wins this category pretty easily.
The Right Stuff
I have always loved both these movies but it’s when you get the opportunity to watch them back to back that it becomes clear that THE RIGHT STUFF is just a little bit better than APOLLO 13. You could do worse this weekend than doubling up on these classics before heading to the Bijou to see Sandy & George in GRAVITY .

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9:28PM on 10/03/2013
I love the Right Stuff, but I get way more emotionally invested watching Apollo 13. As much as I like Conti's noble theme for the Right Stuff, Horner's score for Apollo 13 is full of glorious wonder, especially during the blast-off scene. In the special features on the Apollo 13 blu-ray they compare the story of the film to the Odyssey and some of the other oldest stories in history, it's simply about a group of people lost trying to make their way home to their families. The fact that it's all
I love the Right Stuff, but I get way more emotionally invested watching Apollo 13. As much as I like Conti's noble theme for the Right Stuff, Horner's score for Apollo 13 is full of glorious wonder, especially during the blast-off scene. In the special features on the Apollo 13 blu-ray they compare the story of the film to the Odyssey and some of the other oldest stories in history, it's simply about a group of people lost trying to make their way home to their families. The fact that it's all true makes it that much more incredible, so for that I prefer Apollo 13.
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+4
6:22PM on 10/03/2013
At the age of 89 Chick Yeager celebrated his 50th anniversary of breaking the speed of sound by doing Mach 2 over the Mojave Desert in a F-15. Chuck Norris doesn't hold a candle to this real bad ass.
At the age of 89 Chick Yeager celebrated his 50th anniversary of breaking the speed of sound by doing Mach 2 over the Mojave Desert in a F-15. Chuck Norris doesn't hold a candle to this real bad ass.
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4:55PM on 10/03/2013

Apollo should not have won over BRAVEHEART

Are you mad!!!
Are you mad!!!
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3:45PM on 10/03/2013

Agreed...

As much as I love "Apollo 13", the "Right Stuff" has exactly that. I love both these movies and it's tough for me to pick "RS" over "13", but if it's down to the nut cutting..."Right Stuff" is the winner.

Both great movies!
As much as I love "Apollo 13", the "Right Stuff" has exactly that. I love both these movies and it's tough for me to pick "RS" over "13", but if it's down to the nut cutting..."Right Stuff" is the winner.

Both great movies!
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1:23PM on 10/03/2013

Yes

The Right Stuff.
The Right Stuff.
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1:21PM on 10/03/2013
I disagree. Apollo 13 was a better movie all around. And starstruck? I would take Apollo 13's cast and director.
To me, Hanks, Sinise, Bacon and Paxton are just plain better all around than the Right Stuff. Sinise was amazing in that movie. Apollo 13 was a better movie. Hands down. Not even close.
I disagree. Apollo 13 was a better movie all around. And starstruck? I would take Apollo 13's cast and director.
To me, Hanks, Sinise, Bacon and Paxton are just plain better all around than the Right Stuff. Sinise was amazing in that movie. Apollo 13 was a better movie. Hands down. Not even close.
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10:40AM on 10/03/2013

Agreed

Both are great, but there is just something about The Right Stuff...Sheppard's Yeager is just so cool, whether flirting with his gorgeous wife, chewing gum and raising an eyebrow in a way that conveys a whole thought or hurtling towards the earth while on fire.. .I never get sick of watching this film, and appreciate it more every time I do.
Both are great, but there is just something about The Right Stuff...Sheppard's Yeager is just so cool, whether flirting with his gorgeous wife, chewing gum and raising an eyebrow in a way that conveys a whole thought or hurtling towards the earth while on fire.. .I never get sick of watching this film, and appreciate it more every time I do.
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10:07AM on 10/03/2013

Tough one

its a tie for me.
its a tie for me.
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8:03AM on 10/03/2013
Apollo 13 for me. Love it as a kid when it was shown in my science class and still love it today.
Apollo 13 for me. Love it as a kid when it was shown in my science class and still love it today.
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3:04AM on 10/03/2013

Put the spurs to her, Chuck.

Both of these films are wonderful, and while Apollo 13 is thrilling and features one of Tom Hanks best performances, there is an epic feel to The Right Stuff that Apollo 13 doesn't have. Additionally, Apollo 13 feels like a Tom Hanks movie, while The Right Stuff is populated by a cast of tremendous actors who share the screen equally. In the end, and this purely personal, The Right Stuff wins me over because it makes me feel good. There is a scene in the film where a lone ambulance rushes
Both of these films are wonderful, and while Apollo 13 is thrilling and features one of Tom Hanks best performances, there is an epic feel to The Right Stuff that Apollo 13 doesn't have. Additionally, Apollo 13 feels like a Tom Hanks movie, while The Right Stuff is populated by a cast of tremendous actors who share the screen equally. In the end, and this purely personal, The Right Stuff wins me over because it makes me feel good. There is a scene in the film where a lone ambulance rushes across the desert floor towards the crash site of an experimental plane piloted by Chuck Yeager. There is little hope he survived, but then the audience sees him marching defiantly towards the ambulance, scarred and badly burned, but still chewing gum and carrying the parachute he had stopped to retrieve despite his injuries. I can watch that scene over and over, and each time my heart soars.
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2:36AM on 10/03/2013
I've not seen The Right Stuff (thanks for featuring it in the face-off, I'll go seek it out), though I did enjoy Apollo 13. It felt very authentic and the miniature effects shots were awesome; great attention was paid to the period details and the cast and crew have my respect for actually shooting some scenes in the Vomit Comet, which must have been a very unpleasant experience after a while. While not based on a true story, I highly recommend Space Cowboys ("The Ripe Stuff" if you will) - a
I've not seen The Right Stuff (thanks for featuring it in the face-off, I'll go seek it out), though I did enjoy Apollo 13. It felt very authentic and the miniature effects shots were awesome; great attention was paid to the period details and the cast and crew have my respect for actually shooting some scenes in the Vomit Comet, which must have been a very unpleasant experience after a while. While not based on a true story, I highly recommend Space Cowboys ("The Ripe Stuff" if you will) - a cast comprised almost exclusively of badass grandpas and featuring some genuinely thrilling outer space hijinks.
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2:34AM on 10/03/2013
The Right Stuff just stands up better over time. I caught it on cable a few nights ago, and was sucked into it just as usual. Apollo 13 on the other hand, is really kind of a boring movie. Ron Howard's films should be getting better as he ages, but they seem to get just more mediocre. Rush looks so mind-numbingly bad, that I fall asleep whenever a commercial for it comes on tv.
The Right Stuff just stands up better over time. I caught it on cable a few nights ago, and was sucked into it just as usual. Apollo 13 on the other hand, is really kind of a boring movie. Ron Howard's films should be getting better as he ages, but they seem to get just more mediocre. Rush looks so mind-numbingly bad, that I fall asleep whenever a commercial for it comes on tv.
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10:39AM on 10/03/2013
Rush was amazing. It's a shame that it won't find an audience, much like Howard's Cinderella Man. Rush is definitely one of the best films I've seen this year and has one of Hans Zimmer's best scores in years. Don't sell it short.
Rush was amazing. It's a shame that it won't find an audience, much like Howard's Cinderella Man. Rush is definitely one of the best films I've seen this year and has one of Hans Zimmer's best scores in years. Don't sell it short.
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