Film history is home to dozens of space movies, from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “Interstellar,” but which happens to be the most accurate? If you were to ask a real astronaut, say former NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden, the answer would not be Kubrick’s magnum opus but “The Martian,” the Matt Damon-starring survival film directed by Ridley Scott. Bolden is one of 24 professionals asked by The Washington Post to name the most accurate film in his line of work, and it appears “The Martian” does space better than any film of its kind.
“Most people think about astronaut movies and they want to talk about ‘The Right Stuff,'” Bolden tells The Post. “But ‘The Martian’ is just so scientifically accurate, and it tells this story of what we’re on the cusp of — not just Americans, humanity. We’re not growing potatoes yet on the International Space Station like in the movie, but we’re growing lettuce and cherry tomatoes; we’re learning how to get to a place and use what’s there.”
Shon Hopwood is a former bank robber, and he tells The Post that no film shows the art of the crime better than Michael Mann’s “Heat.” Although Hopwood does admit that no heist movie can perfectly capture what a bank robbery is actually like. “[The movies] glamorize robbing banks and then 20-year-olds like me in the 1990s watch and think it’s a glamorous lifestyle,” he said.
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The Post asked former Baltimore Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. to name the most accurate baseball movie ever made, and his answer was the Kevin Costner-starring “Bull Durham.”
“There’s one part I like, an interaction between a veteran catcher and a rookie pitcher,” he said. “The pitcher keeps shaking off the catchers’s advice, so the catcher, Kevin Costner, goes back and tells the batter for the other team what’s coming. And that illustrates the reality of baseball: You can have a lot of individual talent, but you have to work with the team to accomplish the goal.”
Anthony Bourdain names “Eat Drink Man Woman” the best chef film ever made, calling the Taiwan-set opening scene “one of the most extravagantly beautiful and technically impressive cooking scenes” in movie history.
One of the more interesting selections is “The Dark Knight” by Penn Jillette. He calls the Christopher Nolan superhero film the most accurate magician film in history, saying, “The ultimate American magician is Batman.” Jillette notes that he doesn’t consider magic films to be those that deal with the supernatural, such as “The Prestige” or “The Illusionist,” but rather the movies that are tricks themselves.
“In ‘The Dark Knight,’ with the Joker and Batman, you really have two magicians running scams,” Jillette said. “I love the intellectual interest of the boat scene [where there are two boats laden with explosives, and a philosophical debate about who should survive]. When you talk about modern American magic, it’s not supernatural, it’s the playful study of epistemology. It’s how we attain information, and how we attain what is true. In the boat scene, it’s: How people perceive morality, coupled with an impossible trick.”
Check out all 24 selections below, and then head over to The Washington Post for detailed descriptions for each selection.
Astronaut: “The Martian”
Attorney: “My Cousin Vinny”
Bank Robber: “Heat”
Baseball Player: “Bill Durham”
Chef: “Eat Drink Man Woman”
Chess Player: “Queen of Katwe”
Cable Guy: “The Cable Guy”
Doctor: “Something the Lord Made”
Engineer: “No Highway in the Sky”
Farmer: “Charlotte’s Web”
Firefighter: “Ladder 49”
Hairstylist: “The Man Who Wasn’t There”
Law Enforcement: “Donnie Brasco”
Librarian: “It’s A Wonderful Life”
Magician: “The Dark Knight”
Military: “The Best Years of Our Lives”
Nun: “The Trouble With Angels”
Politician: “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Schoolteacher: “The Emperors Club”
Trucker: “Smokey and the Bandit”
Union Rep: “Hoffa”