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15 Mars Movies That Prove The Red Planet Is Even More Dangerous Than It Looks

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Vote up the most perilous cinematic adventures on the red planet.

Appearing in cycles, depending on its location relative to our own planet, Mars is often one of the brightest objects in the night sky. As such, it has long fascinated astronomers, stargazers, and science fiction writers. In the 1950s, when alien invasion movies were big business, Mars was the default place to have your bug-eyed monsters come from, to such an extent that "Martian" became a catch-all term for just about any alien.

As one of the closest planets to Earth, Mars was bound to be the setting for any number of science fiction films. Indeed, movies about trips to the red planet are almost as old as the artform of cinema itself. One of the earliest cinematic depictions of Mars comes in a four-minute short subject from 1910 called A Trip to Mars, which depicts a man using "antigravity powder" to fly to the red planet, where he encounters unfriendly Martians. Years later, we've sent uncrewed flights to Mars and gotten a look at its surface thanks to rovers, but we're still making movies about what dangers might be waiting for us when we finally step onto the red planet for the first time...

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  • 1
    30 VOTES

    Dutch director Paul Verhoeven followed up the success of his 1987 classic RoboCop with another science fiction film, the 1990 adaptation of Philip K. Dick's sci-fi story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." The result was Total Recall, an extremely weird flick in which a man (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) discovers that he's maybe actually a secret agent who was previously working on the surface of a colonized Mars.

    Through a series of red herrings, false memories, and misdirects, he eventually encounters plots and counter-plots revolving around a rebellion among the humans living on the red planet, many of them having been mutated due to inadequate radiation shielding, and machinations by the planet's nefarious chancellor, played by RoboCop's Ronny Cox. The film nabbed an Academy Award for best visual effects.

    30 votes

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  • 2
    37 VOTES

    Set in 2035, Ridley Scott's 2015 survival drama about an astronaut stranded on the surface of Mars earned a whopping seven Academy Award nominations, including best picture - though it didn't actually win any of them.

    Nevertheless, this harrowing story of survival follows an astronaut played by Matt Damon who is left for dead on the surface of Mars after his suit is damaged during a dust storm. With no way to let NASA know that he's alive, he has to survive on his own, growing potatoes inside the habitat that the mission had set up on the planet, and trying to find a way to signal to Earth, or else wait four years for the next Mars mission to arrive.

    37 votes

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  • Directed by no less thriller royalty than Brian De Palma, Mission to Mars nevertheless received largely negative reviews when it was first released in 2000. Set in 2020, the film depicts the first crewed mission to Mars (remember that), which goes disastrously awry after the landing party discovers a giant statue of a humanoid face on the surface of the planet.

    Months later, a rescue mission (crewed by a handful of big names like Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins) returns to the surface of the red planet to try to find out what happened to the previous mission, and bring back any survivors. What they find - in a phantasmagorical ending sequence of early-2000s CGI - is a dizzying, if not terribly original, idea of the origins of life on Earth, and an extraterrestrial link in humanity's evolution.

    23 votes

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  • 4
    19 VOTES

    When a cinematic adaptation of the legendary first-person shooter game series Doom finally hit screens in 2005, it had undergone considerable changes from the source material, but one thing remained (mostly) the same, and that was the film's setting on Mars. (Many of the video games, as well as the film's eventual 2019 sequel/reboot, Doom: Annihilation, actually take place on the Martian moons, Deimos and Phobos.)

    For one thing, the antagonists in this cinematic Doom were no longer demons, but rather the human residents of the Martian base, having mutated after being injected with an extra chromosome, recovered from the remains of ancient Martians. The flick, which stars Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, nevertheless features plenty of weird creatures, not to mention an extended "first-person" sequence, helmed by special effects supervisor Jon Farhat.

    19 votes

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  • Decades before Matt Damon played an astronaut stranded on the red planet, there was Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Loosely adapted from the 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe, which tells the story of the eponymous castaway, who lives for 28 years on a deserted island, this 1964 film was directed by Byron Haskin. Haskin had previously brought Martians to Earth when he directed the 1953 version of War of the Worlds, and here he flips the script, stranding an astronaut on Mars with, initially, only a monkey for company.

    Cut off from his orbiting spacecraft, this futuristic Crusoe must find a way to survive the inhospitable Martian surface while he awaits rescue - and that's not taking into account the even greater threats the planet holds in store for him...

    22 votes

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  • 6
    18 VOTES

    Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss lead a cast of astronauts who undertake a dangerous mission to Mars in this sci-fi thriller that came out the same year as Mission to Mars - during a brief Hollywood love affair with the red planet. It seems that, by the year 2056, the Earth is facing a severe ecological crisis (see, we have something to look forward to!) and the astronauts hope to find an answer to the problem on Mars, which has been seeded with algae as the first step in a terraforming mission.

    Unfortunately, the algae has recently begun to disappear, so the all-star team heads to the red planet to see what's up. Along the way, they run into a variety of snags, including a downed lander, a damaged artificial habitat, and a dog-like mapping and exploration robot that goes rogue, attacking the members of the crew. Do they also find the answers that they seek? Guess you'll just have to watch to find out...

    18 votes

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