Movie Review: Apollo 11

This is one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. It shows Buzz Aldrin on the moon with the American flag on July 20, 1969.

I was 12 years old then, old enough to think on my own and science-minded enough to sit up in the middle of the night (in Germany) in front of our TV at 3:56am local time when Armstrong made that famous first step onto the moon.

The movie Apollo 11 is a documentary of the moon landing, and as we are coming up on the 50th anniversary of this event, it is ever more significant. The entire movie is not narrated or filmed. It is entirely constructed of actual clippings, both video and audio, taken at the time, and put together in a coherent sequence that tells the awesome story in all its glory. There is a minimum of screen prompts, like “Day 3,” that keep the viewer oriented. Other than that, it’s all original material, and that makes the impact all the more powerful.

This is not a movie, but rather a documentary of humanity’s peaceful conquests, and it is told masterfully.



Now that I rated the movie, I have to add my own ruminations about the moon landings.

I am not sure exactly how all those people who were born after this, which is the majority of humanity, think about the moon landings. But I remember clearly reading science fiction in the 1960s when I was in awe of the immensity of the undertaking. I remember a world before humans reached another body.

50 years have now gone by. 77 percent of all people alive today were not alive when the first moon landing occurred. Another 12 percent of all people alive today were younger than age 12 at the time of the moon landing, and therefore probably do not have first-hand memories of the events themselves.

So a full 89 percent of the world’s population did not have the experience of sitting in front of the television that day, watching those grainy pictures from very far away.

I remember what I thought that day. I remember thinking that by the time I was “old” I’d be able to buy a ticket to take a vacation on the moon. Not in my wildest dreams did I think that by 1972, we’d stop going there, and by 2019, the United States is actually in a position where it does not have the technology to put a man into space, let alone onto the moon. I recognize that we’re on track to change that soon, with initiatives by SpaceX and Boeing for human-rated rockets underway and both within 12 months of realizing that goal.

Of the 12 men who ever walked on the moon, eight are now deceased. Only Buzz  Aldrin (age 88), David Scott (85), Charlie Duke (82) and Harrison Schmitt (82) are still alive as of today.

I would never have thought that a boy in South Africa (Elon Musk) who would not even be born for another two years after the summer of 1969 would be the one that would make it possible for the United States to launch humans into space in 2019, and who would have the vision to take them to the moon and Mars.

The collective will of our nation, and our species, to set goals beyond the next election cycle, has diminished and we are left at the whims of individual politicians with an outlook of a few years at a time. Real goals, like a space program that allows us to leave the planet, are achieved in decades of dedication and lifetimes of focus. Unless we figure that out soon, we might as well continue to ruin our planet and render it unlivable, with no way out.

Perhaps movies like Apollo 11 will inspire us to do more with our time than line our pockets and gratify our immediate urges and needs.

7 thoughts on “Movie Review: Apollo 11

  1. Jim Dooley

    I am one of the minority who watched, at a neighborhood party, and remember clearly. Will order the movie.

  2. Anonymous

    Are you sure that photo is not faked? (haha JOKE) – yes, I lived through it too being a bit older than you! – just put in a phone call to the friends where we watched it in Athens, Georgia – of course, we’re all retired by now! – i had graduated from U of Georgia that June, and my husband Nick did his final orals for Ph. D. on the day of the moon landing! – we celebrated both occasions at a little party! 🙂 – one slightly more historic than the other

  3. I’m five years older and was glued to the tube from launch to splashdown. Little did I know that nearly 30 years later I would work with Neil Armstrong from 1997 – 2000. He served on the board of directors of the company I worked for, Cinergy was the name at the time, a gas and electric utility in Cincinnati Ohio. I was assigned as the assistant corporate secretary for the Public Policy Committee that Armstrong served on. We would exchange greetings and pleasantries at meetings. He was very thoughtful but also very self effacing and private. Out of concern for any potential misuse, he would print his name on documents we would send to him to sign. He had learned that his barber had been saving hair clippings without his knowledge and consent. Out of concern for violating his privacy I never asked him about the moon landing and never requested an autograph which I’m pretty sure he would have declined. This was in the days of flip phones so no selfies either. At one reception he told me his favorite aircraft was the F-8 Bearcat, a piston powered plane he flew in Navy flight training. After serving on the board for many years, Armstrong retired in 2000 due to age limits. He was a great man.

    1. Wow, thank you for the first-hand experience about Armstrong. This is consistent with what I have learned and read. He was an extremely private man. You might enjoy the book Moondust – here is my review:

      I am sure the fact that you never asked him for an autograph aided in the relationship and he actually opened up and talked about the F-8 etc. You earned his trust.

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