The Right Stuff (1983)
June 1, 2024 11:14 AM - Subscribe

As the Space Race ensues, seven pilots set off on a path to become the first American astronauts to enter space. However, the road to making history brings forth momentous challenges.

It's the story of test pilots and future astronauts like Chuck Yeager and John Glenn. The perilous first jet flights. Breaking the sound barrier. Taking tremendous risk towards space flight.
Dennis Quaids braggadocio smile seems a precursor to Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
After the 1979 book by Tom Wolfe
posted by jouke (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This was one of the only non-educational movies my local library had when I was a kid so I watched it a lot.

Came on 2 VHS tapes.

I watched it again during the lockdown and it still holds up even though they did Gus Grissom dirty.
posted by madajb at 12:22 PM on June 1 [5 favorites]

I loved this movie when it came out. I need to rewatch it.

I was amused that it had Ed Harris playing John Glenn, Scott Glenn playing Alan Shepard and Sam Shepard playing Chuck Yeager!
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 2:51 PM on June 1 [10 favorites]

I liked it a lot, especially as my favorite toy when I was a kid was the G.I. Joe Astronaut figure, which came with a proportionally-sized Mercury capsule that was surprisingly accurate (albeit with a big sliding clear plastic door instead of the tiny hatch that the real astronauts had to use to squeeze into and out of the capsule). One of the reasons why I like For All Mankind is that it takes that early astronaut culture and uses it as a launching point, so to speak.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:25 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]

The Breath Challenge [youtube].
posted by porpoise at 9:26 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]

they did Gus Grissom a favor by having him played by Fred Ward, but then certainly did him dirty by emphasizing the blown hatch bolts and implying Grissom did it, rather than his tragic death in the later capsule fire.
posted by jkosmicki at 9:58 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]

My high school went to go see it in the theater. Now it was a small school, but still, the entire school went to go see it.
posted by Spike Glee at 11:30 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]

This is one of my favorite movies. After seeing it, I read the Tom Wolfe book (recommend), then my brother got me Chuck Yeager’s autobiography for Christmas. Because I was traveling a lot and frequently without internet or current news, I kinda liked the idea that if he passed away then, I’d probably not hear about it so in a way, he’d still be alive. Along the lines that Sherlock Holmes’ obituary hadn’t been published in the Times ergo he was still down in Sussex with his bees. But when Covid restrictions put a temporary end to traveling, I did see on the news when he died in December 2020. Ironically, years ago I once picked up a copy of the Jakarta Post that someone had left on a table and on the back page was a tiny paragraph noting that Scott Crossfield had been killed piloting his plane. It was just so random.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:49 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]

the G.I. Joe Astronaut figure, which came with a proportionally-sized Mercury capsule that was surprisingly accurate

I still have mine! I don't have the space suit or a GI Joe anymore, but I have the capsule (with a glow-in-the-dark interior). That was from the era before Joe got kung-fu grip and fuzzy hair.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 5:40 AM on June 3

Levon Helm 4evr.
posted by GamblingBlues at 6:52 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]

The real images of the previous launches really brought home the incredible risks involved.
And the other possibility of using chimpanzees made it clear how much they were staking their life and limb on the effort of all the hundreds of rocket scientists.

I'm reading the book which so far I heartily recommend.
posted by jouke at 8:23 AM on June 3

This is one of my favorite movies ever, despite some of the problematic elements. I honestly can't even count how many times I've seen it. It's one of the rare times I don't care that so many elements are historically inaccurate, because Kauffman was so good at getting the feel of it all right. Except for what they did to Gus Grissom, of course. That stuck in my craw the first time I saw it, and it still bugs me and I find those scenes increasingly hard to watch, every time I do.

I adore the relationship that sets up with Nurse Murch and Gordo Cooper, it's one of the few times something so overtly comedic works for me, where it doesn't feel forced. I love the way Glennis and Chuck Yeager's marriage is portrayed; that was totally relationship goals when I was young. Kim Stanley as Pancho Barnes, the doofus duo of Goldblum and Shearer ("...and a clean glass"), LBJ's tantrums, the Aboriginal sparks and "fireflies"... there are just so many things I love in this. Levon Helm's presence and his narration is indispensable: "There was a demon that lived in the air." It just sets you up perfectly. Jordan Belson's special visual effects are peerless.

The soundtrack is exquisite. There's so many fascinating trivia bits and weird little cameos here, so many iconic shots. (I also used to laugh a lot about that Glenn/Shepard name thing all the time, especially because most of my friends have trouble with names and couldn't keep things straight about that at all.) I had that two-tape release mentioned above--it came in a slightly padded, huge case, and at the time of release, was priced for rental, not sale, so it cost $81 bucks, which I knew because my boyfriend got it for me when it came out, as that was pretty much the only obvious gift he could get me that I would want. We were young and only just starting out in our work, so it was an enormous expense. (I may even still have it in the back of a closet somewhere, because I couldn't quite bear to let go of it, even when it came out on DVD.)

I saw it opening weekend at the theatre with a big group of my male friends, because we were all space and flight geeks, and I was known for loving all the good old kinds of gums that had begun disappearing from shelves around that time (Beeman's, Teaberry, Black Jack, Clove, etc. Don't even get me started on modern versions of some of them...) As soon as Chuck says, "Hey, Ridley, you got any Beeman's?" all their heads swiveled in my direction.

Just totally random: my ass was groped by Wally Schirra once where he was the speaker at a convention hosted by the company I worked for. I had wanted more than anything to get a photo with him, and I guess that was always the price you paid, back in those days, when you were a young woman. None of my male co-workers paid for their photo ops, of course.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 4:59 PM on June 3 [7 favorites]

Fun fact (not really), but the combined runtimes of The Right Stuff (1983), Apollo 13 (1995), and Hidden Figures (2016) is the amount of time you need to build the LEGO Artemis Space Launch System set on a lazy Sunday NASAfternoon.
posted by Molesome at 3:33 AM on June 4 [5 favorites]

I understand why many think TRS the movie didn't do Gus justice. But I never came away thinking the movie was condemning him. The movie does have god-Yeager defend him afterall.

TRS isn't a favorite. But it is a movie I will always watch if I come across it on TV.
posted by Stuka at 7:57 PM on June 5

My favorite scene from this movie, that will stick with me forever, is the lung capacity test scene where Dennis Quaid thinks he's won and celebrates a bit, then looks over to see Ed Harris and uh Charles Frank still calmly duking it out.
posted by fleacircus at 11:16 AM on June 9

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