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The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff (1983)



Average Rating: 9/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 0

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 21,463

My Rating

Movie Info

Covering some 15 years, The Right Stuff recounts the formation of America's space program, concentrating on the original Mercury astronauts. Scott Glenn plays Alan Shepard, the first American in space; Fred Ward is Gus Grissom, the benighted astronaut for whom nothing works out as planned; and Ed Harris is John Glenn, the straight-arrow "boy scout" of the bunch who was the first American to orbit the earth. The remaining four Mercury boys are Deke Slayton (Scott Paulin), Scott Carpenter (Charles


Drama, Action & Adventure

Aug 27, 1997

Warner Bros. Pictures

Watch It Now



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All Critics (40) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (39) | Rotten (1) | DVD (24)

Moviegoers seeking a grand yet edifying entertainment, right-stuffed with what Kaufman calls "seriousness of subject matter and a wild humor that comes out of left field," now know where to look...

October 5, 2011 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Right Stuff is a humdinger. Full of beauty, intelligence and excitement, this big-scale look at the development of the US space program and its pioneering aviators provides a fresh, entertaining look back at the recent past.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

From the opening moments it is clear that we have the nearest modern equivalent to a Western: men of quiet virtue going skyward, leaving the tawdry world of log-rolling politicians behind.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

These men remain virtually flawless heroes, almost too good, decent and brave to be true, and it's a measure of how successful the movie is that one is inclined to believe it.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

That the writer-director, Philip Kaufman, is able to get so much into a little more than three hours is impressive. That he also has organized this material into one of the best recent American movies is astonishing.

March 25, 2003 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A great movie that unfortunately failed to attract audiences back in '83, this adaptation of Tom Wolfe's book about astronauts pays tribute to what we would like to believe represents the American spirit: hard work, perseverance, camaraderie and vision.

November 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

History, melodrama, comedy and satire are skilfully combined in this consistently exciting adventure. Visually and dramatically it rarely sags, there's a vivid array of characters and though it's a film with issues, these never eclipse the human drama.

October 5, 2011 Full Review Source: Film4

One of the scattered handful of truly great American movies in the first half of the 1980s.

March 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

Educational, exciting action, great acting.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Though critically acclaimed, Philip Kaufman's superbly realized adventure about the early Space Age was a commercial flop, due to its satirical tone and unfortunately close association with the presidential candidacy of John Glenn.

March 14, 2008 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com | Comment (1)

Historical drama as well as vastly entertaining adventure.

February 18, 2008

Consistently compelling, capturing all the ambiguity and tension of the book.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Along with Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America it's the last great American epic -- the kind of film that couldn't be made today.

March 18, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Kaufman's enormously entertaining history of America's Mercury astronauts fizzled on release, maybe because it was too smart and cool for its own good.

November 15, 2005 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly | Comment (1)

Brings a wealth of humor to a faithful retelling of the astronauts' fascinating stories, the actors fit smoothly into their roles and even physically resemble their characters, and the direction is well-paced and visually exciting.

July 30, 2003 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Unjustly labeled a failure after its disappointing box office run, The Right Stuff's tarnished reputation can only benefit from Warner's sparkling new 2-disc special edition.

July 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Clumsy without being mediocre.

June 30, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central | Comments (2)
Film Freak Central

A winning and well-acted portrait of America's entry into the Space Age that is awesome, funny, surreal and right on the mark in its depiction of the country's insatiable hunger for new frontiers.

June 7, 2003 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

One of the fastest-paced epics ever made

May 18, 2003 Full Review Source:

Bored me to death, but it was the first time I was hit on, so it was worth it.

November 22, 2002 | Comments (7)
Juicy Cerebellum

Audience Reviews for The Right Stuff

A bit of an interesting history lesson and character study about the beginnings of the American space program. Shepard is iconic as Chuck Yeager, Harris does justice as John Glenn, and Fred Ward lends pathos as Virgil Grissom. A feeling of cowboys looking for the next bronc to break pervades the work.
September 15, 2012

Super Reviewer

Based on Tom Wolfe's book, this is the story, spanning some 15-6 years about the beginnings of America's space program, focusing on the Mercury 7, but starting with test pilots like Chuck Yeager, who, despite breaking the sound barrier, and being widely considering the best test pilot ever, was not selected to be an astronaut.

The primary focus of the film, and most of the book (from what I've been told) really only scratches the surface, as trying to tell the complete story would take like 10-11 hours or so. But the film uses its 193 minute running time to great effect, contrasting the lives of the men and their wives with the broader spectrum of the political and social contexts of the time. And, being an adaptation of Wolfe, there's also the nice undercurrents of countercultural liberal subversiveness at times.

This is a very well made film, and cinematically yes it is truly amazing. As far as accuracy and history go, well, the film does suffer, and many of the people whose lives were the basis for this were rather critical of the portrayal of the times and events, and even Wolfe was very displeased with how this turned out, but even then, this is still a remarkable and wonderful piece of work, and one of the many great examples of "they don't make 'em like this anymore". And they probably wouldn't be able to either, at least not without some major changes.

That's fine though, because this film does a great job of bringing out a sense of wonder and excitement. These men were real heroes who risked their lives to try to go where no one had gone before, and to try to do it before the Russians, since, at least then, that truly meant something. It really makes you yearn to achieve something great like this, and especially from a relatively low tech perspective. No super advanced computers at that time (being depicted in the film), and no digital technology to tell the film's story with either, so this really makes you appreciate the craft since there's no CGI.

The ensemble cast is very notable here, and they give some terrific performances. To name a few: Fred Ward, Scott Glenn, Sam Shepherd, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Veronica Cartwright, and Pamela Reed. The cinematography is quite excellent, and overall the film really looks and feels as epic as its story. A main reason for this would have to be Bill Conti's rousing score, especially when the brass kick in, really leaving you stirred up.

The film mostly uses it's long running time to great effect, giving tons of development to the characters, letting the story breathe, and keeping things from being even more rushed. That said, it does drag here and there at times, but the film also has a nice balance where tone is concerned, so there's a blend of humor, drama, adventure, etc.

All in all, this is a fine film that, despite iffy history, is cinematically a high water mark for docudramas, and a great look at a wonderful moment in time.
August 13, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

This was a good movie, but had many flaws. There were way too many useless/prolonged scenes that extended the run time to a ridiculous 3hr 13min. That being said, it does have humorous and entertaining moments. It really captures the issues of everyone involved in this risky space mission and does a great job showing the media's influence on these men. Overall it is a decent, but inconsistent movie.
March 27, 2012
Sanjay Rema

Super Reviewer

Based on the book by Wolfe and not liked by the author due to changes made for the film, despite this one cannot look away from this epic adventure following the space race and the many efforts of the US to beat those pesky Russians.

First up the cast, its pretty epic in itself, Quaid, Shepard, Glenn, Harris, Ward, Cartwright, Henriksen, Goldblum, Shearer, Moffat, Hershey and a cameo from Yeager. All perform well but personally I thought Ed Harris was the standout here and really captured that wholesome, heroic, 50's family man of the USA that the public lapped up at the time.

The plot follows the space program and the recruitment of young test pilots to undergo rigorous training to become astronauts for Project Mercury. At the same time the story also follows Chuck Yeager, his high-speed aeronautical flights which included breaking the sound barrier and the snub he got from NASA not being selected for the Mercury programme.

Everything about this film is epic due to the fact its about epic events in our human history, the film is extremely 'God Bless America' of course, the films cover design is bold in red, white and blue, but you can't blame the director for that, this is the US's proud history lets be honest. Most of the film is pretty accurate and does include real footage of actual failed rocket launches and news reel archives/interviews/ceremonies but of course Hollywood being Hollywood there is also much artistic license involved. This doesn't deter from the film as most regular folk won't know the difference but if you read up on the real events you will find issues.

Even though this film was made in 83 the effects are still perfect for the present day, they all hold up extremely well and show what can be done without cgi. Of course you don't see as much as you could with cgi but less is more and what you get with model work, minatures, full size sets and simple lighting tricks works wonders here. The sequences of the astronauts in their capsules orbiting the earth are absolutely perfect and with very little SFX. This too goes for all the inflight sequences with Shepard/Yeager when he flies, the cockpit effects are clearly simple lighting tricks with allot of movement but it looks so real so effective.

Allot of time is spend with the training programme for the Mercury seven before we start to see the missions go ahead, it does build excitement as you watch, like the men portrayed, you wanna see them fly and touch the heavens. All this is interspersed with sequences of Yeager's story and his calm frustration on being left out but his continual push to reach higher attitudes. Shepard's performance here is probably his best as the cool clear headed Yeager, no ego and no over the top 'Top Gun' nonsense.

There are some slow moments yes but anyone should find enjoyment here despite some historical inaccuracies (were the NASA engineers really Germans?) and downplaying. The story of man's efforts and dedication to break barriers, reach new limits, continually to push further and achieve is a proud one, a history lesson, a very important one at that.
October 31, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Gus Grissom: F***in-A bubba.
    – Submitted by Douglas C (20 months ago)
    1. Gus Grissom: No bucks, No Buck Rogers.
    – Submitted by Scott N (20 months ago)
    1. Gus Grissom: I did NOT do anything wrong. The hatch just BLEW. It was a GLITCH. It was a- a TECHNICAL MALFUNCTION. Why in hell won't anyone believe me?
    – Submitted by eamonn s (2 years ago)
    1. Jack Ridley/Narrator: There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up. Their planes would buffet wildly and they would disintegrate. The demon lived at mach 1 on the meter, 750 miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier.
    – Submitted by Chad E (2 years ago)
View all quotes (4)

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