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Water Discovered on Mars, Just in Time for The Martian

The Red Planet is all the rage this week.In celebration today’s NASA announcement confirming liquid water flowing on Mars and this coming weekend’s much anticipated release by 20th Century Fox of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic, The Martian, starring Matt Damon as an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars, we are offering a look back at few past film and television portrayals of the fourth rock from the Sun.

Certainly nothing is more exciting than the new evidence from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). This development brings us closer to learning how we can support life off of our planet and helps in our search for life elsewhere in the universe. The next steps in this research include more sophisticated missions and possibly a manned mission.

That is where we segue to Hollywood. Both big and small screens have been awash with sci-fi space movies, including many about Mars and its “little green” inhabitants. We have written four earlier pieces in anticipation of this Friday’s (October 2) release of The Martian, including this one on the science behind author Andy Weir’s character, Mark Watney. In our three other pieces include one on the film’s botany, including the August trailer, a review and final trailer from September, and a discussion from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

To get in the Martian mood, go to WhereToWatch and plug in Mars. Here are a few of our favorites:

Mars Attacks! (1996)

This quirky science fiction comedy is a characteristic feature by iconoclastic director Tim Burton, known to moviegoers for Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. The storyline affectionately harkens back to the deadpan sincerity of such '50s and '60s science-fiction films as The Day the Earth Stood Still and War of the Worlds. Flying saucers have been reliably seen over the capitals of the world, and the whole world awaits with bated breath to see what will transpire. Among those waiting is the President of the United States (Jack Nicholson), who is assured by his science advisor (Pierce Brosnan) that the coming aliens are utterly peaceful. This advice is hotly contested by the military (led by Rod Steiger), who advices the President to annihilate them. When the aliens land, they are seen to be green, garish, and very cheerful. But appearances prove deceiving when the "friendly" aliens abruptly disintegrate the entire U.S. Congress. Hollywood notables appear in vast quantities in roles (and sub-plots) of all sizes in this zany feature.

Mars Needs Moms (2011)

His mother (voice of Joan Cusack) abducted by Martians intent on harvesting her maternal instincts to nurture their young, nine-year-old Milo (voice of Seth Green) stows away in an alien spacecraft bound for Mars in a bid to bring her safely back to Earth. Later, on the Red Planet, Milo befriends a subterranean-dwelling earthling named Gribble (Dan Fogler) and a spirited Martian lass named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois), who agree to help him locate his missing mother and confront the head alien in charge (voice of Mindy Sterling).

John Carter (2012)

Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic tale of interplanetary adventure arrives on the big screen in this sweeping sci-fi spectacle marking the live-action debut of Oscar-winning director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E). Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) was still haunted by the violence he witnessed on the battlefield when he inexplicably awoke on the distant planet of Barsoom (Mars). Upon learning that the inhabitants of Barsoom are bracing for a major conflict and that war appears inevitable, John finds out that love is a rare commodity on the Red Planet, and summons the courage to be the hero the Martians have been hoping for. Meanwhile, John falls under the spell of the enchanting Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), who struggles to suppress her compassion in a society known for its warlike ways. Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, and Mark Strong co-star.

My Favorite Martian (film) (1999)

My Favorite Martian stars Jeff Daniels as Tim O'Hara, once a newspaper man and now a struggling television producer in Santa Barbara. Tim has a crush on vapid news reporter Brace Channing (Elizabeth Hurley) while overlooking his feelings for Lizzie (Daryl Hannah), a technician working at the station. Driving home one night, Tim wanders upon the crash landing of a spaceship from Mars. The Martian inside (Christopher Lloyd) has come to Earth searching for a fellow Martian who had been lost here 35 years ago. After the crash, he hides on the beach and shrinks his spaceship to the size of a toy to avoid detection; Tim finds the ship anyway, and takes it home. With little choice, the Martian, aided by his sentient and very neurotic spacesuit, follows Tim home and reveals himself. Tim sees the alien as his ticket to the big time, but the Martian, now masquerading as Tim's Uncle Martin (thanks to some Martian gum that transforms his appearance to that of a human) thwarts Tim at every turn. Just as he gets the video he needs for his story, O'Hara develops a friendship with his planetary neighbor and new "Uncle." The two suddenly find they are racing against the the clock — a government team, led by a wacky scientist (Wallace Shawn), hunts Martin down, and the spaceship (a rental) is on a timed sequence to self-destruct if it cannot be repaired in time. Along the way, Tim loses his infatuation with Brace and finds his true feelings for the loyal Lizzie. Martin might also find his lost friend on Earth, just as he has found new ones.

My Favorite Martian (television) (1963)

On the way to cover an assignment for his paper, The Los Angeles Sun, reporter Tim O'Hara stumbled upon a Martian whose one-man ship had crashed on Earth. Tim took the dazed Martian back to his rooming house to help him recuperate, while thinking of the fantastic story he would be able to present to his boss, Mr. Burns, about his find. The Martian, however, looked human, spoke English, and refused to admit to anyone but Tim what he was. Tim befriended him, passed him off as his uncle, and had many an interesting adventure with the stranded alien.

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