When the new series Away premieres on Netflix on Sept. 4, it'll be the latest in a long trail of Mars shows and films. (And the latest in an even longer trail of space shows, of course.) That goes for Netflix as well as the entertainment industry as a whole.
There's just something about Mars — the next planet out from the Sun — that continues to capture our imagination. We've just barely begun to explore it in real life, and perhaps that's why Hollywood continues to set its sights on the Red Planet. We're just now beginning to touch it and still barely understand its past.
Away maybe won't go quite into the same sort of depth about Mars itself as other shows — it'll be about the astronauts and their families and sacrifices as much as anything else. But the Hilary Swank-led series almost certainly should be a winner when it drops this fall.
While you're waiting, check out these other Mars- and space-inspired shows and movies that you definitely should watch in the interim.
The First (2008)
Before you watch Away on Netflix on Sept. 4, you absolutely must watch The First on Hulu. For one thing, it very much has the same premise as Away — the first mission to Mars, the astronauts involved, and the toll it takes on both them and their families.
The vast majority of this series is spent on the ground, however, but there's a beautifully painful dynamic between Sean Penn's Tom Hagerty and his daughter, Denise (Anna Jacoby-Heron), and between Tom Hagerty and big boss Laz Ingram (Natascha McElhone), as well as his entire crew.
There are elements of Elon Musk and SpaceX here, with a private company working with NASA. There's what every member of the crew has to sacrifice to even have a chance at going to Mars. And there's absolutely no chance you won't break down in tears at some point during The First.
If there's one Mars/space show you have to watch before Away on Sept. 4, it's The First.
Wouldn't you know it — there's yet another Mars series on Netflix that's about ... the first mission to Mars. It's part scripted drama and part documentary, combining bits of real life with bits of Hollywood. And it works pretty well, so long as you're able to remind yourself that, like Away, it's not quite real.
The Core (2003)
The Core was not, strictly speaking, a Mars movie. Or a space movie. Or a good movie. In fact, it was a pretty bad movie with some insanely high-powered talent. And that includes one Hillary Swank, whose prowess on board the Space Shuttle earned her a spot on a sort of subterranean bullet train making its way toward the center of the Earth.
The goal? Fire off a bunch of nuclear weapons to get the Earth's core to start spinning again after a secret military weapon broke our planet — and then break on through to the other side and somehow survive the ordeal.
With Swank on the journey were Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci, Aaron Eckhart and Tchéky Karyo. Told you it was high-powered.
Not so hot? The "hack the planet" line. Yes, it's tongue-in-cheek. And, yes, it's still bad.
Mission to Mars (2000)
Something about the year 2000 made the power that be decide two Mars movies were a good idea. Mission to Mars starred Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen and Jerry O'Connell — not a bad lineup — and took a more extraterrestrial look at the Red Planet (not to be confused with Red Planet below).
What happened to the first manned mission to Mars? And are there aliens under the dust?
Red Planet (2000)
This mostly forgettable Red Planet has the distinction of Val Kilmer playing with his killer robotic dog, Tom Sizemore being Tom Sizemore, Benjamin Bratt being Benjamin Bratt, Terrance Stamp just being awesome — and Carrie-Anne Moss in one of her first post-Matrix roles.
It's another mostly forgettable movie — something destroyed the Mars habitat they were meant to inhabit, but also created an atmosphere on Mars — but it's fun because it's Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore and Benjamin Bratt and Carrie-Anne Moss.
And also because the ending somehow managed to almost completely rip off The Martian despite coming out 15 years before Matt Damon's epic journey. Go figure.
The Martian (2015)
Look, The Martian is one of those movies that you can watch any time it's on, and you can start watching it from any point. Beginning, middle, end — whatever. It's that good. (And of course read the book if you haven't already.)
No telling if Away will somehow manage to come close to The Martian — but we can certainly hope.
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