October Sky

octoberskyNow that it’s October, I feel like it’s appropriate to talk about one of my favorite movies ever: October Sky. It’s not full of action-packed car races, sympathetic villains, sexy British actors, or whatever draws people to the movies these days. It’s a quiet movie, but one of the most compelling I’ve ever seen, for several reasons.

First of all, it’s based on a true story. It’s about four boys living in the coalmining town Coalwood, West Virginia. It’s the kind of small town where everyone works in the mine, unless you can get out on a football scholarship. Despite his best efforts, Homer Hickam is not going to play football, but he refuses to accept a life in the mine even though his father runs it. Instead, the launch of Russia’s Sputnik satellite in 1957 inspires him to pursue rocket science. He enlists the help of two of his friends and the school geek to study the science of rockets and maybe—just maybe—win a way out Coalwood through the science fair.

The rocket boys.

The rocket boys.

It’s not a smooth road. Their rockets fail, the town mocks them, they even get arrested, but with the help of a supportive teacher, the boys succeed in launching a miniature rocket and win the state science fair, as well as the accolades of their town.

There are a lot of reasons I love this movie. The fact that it’s a true story makes the movie even more triumphant. These boys actually accomplished this, and Homer Hickam went on to become an engineer at NASA. The relationship between Homer and his father is also a great story. Homer’s father doesn’t understand his interest in science and his loathing for the mine. He wants Homer to be like him, but over the course of the story Homer and his father both come to realize that they are similar, and they can respect each other. October Sky is also the story of the impact one good teacher can have on the lives of her students. It’s a story of friendship, working hard, and overcoming obstacles to achieve your dream. The movie is uplifting, and the music is one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. (Mark Isham is the composer and there is a lot of violin.)

Everything about this movie is solid—the acting, the story, the themes, the music, the cinematography, everything. It may not have women in tight leather pants, superheroes in capes, or Tom Hiddleston in a suit, but it is a wholesome, compelling, beautiful movie. And now that it’s finally October, it’s time to break it out again.

Chris Cooper (left) as John Hickam and Jake Gyllenhaal (right) as Homer Hickam.

Chris Cooper (left) as John Hickam and Jake Gyllenhaal (right) as Homer Hickam.


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