The Right Stuff (1983)

The Right Stuff



Critic Consensus: The Right Stuff packs a lot of movie into its hefty running time, spinning a colorful, fact-based story out of consistently engaging characters in the midst of epochal events.

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 … More

Rating: PG
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure
Directed By:
Written By: William Goldman, Philip Kaufman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 27, 1997
Warner Bros. Pictures


as Chuck Yeager

as Alan Shepard

as John Glenn

as Gordon Cooper

as Grissom

as Pancho

as Trudy

as Carpenter

as Deke Slayton

as Wally Schirra

as Lyndon B. Johnson

as Jack Ridley

as Annie Glenn

as Scott Crossfield

as Louise Shepard

as Marge Slayton

as Rene Carpenter

as Jo Schirra

as Minister

as Liaison Man

as Air Force Major

as recruiter

as recruiter

as Chief Scientist

as Nurse Murch

as Gonzales

as Head of Program

as Life Reporter

as Slick Goodin

as Grand Designer

as Woman Reporter

as Dwight D. Eisenhower

as The Permanent Press ...

as Eddie Hodges

as Waitress

as The Permanent Press ...

as The Permanent Press ...

as Sally Rand

as Henry Luce

as The Permanent Press ...

as Review Board Preside...

as Game Show M.C.

as Aborigine

as Aide to Lyndon B. Jo...

as Australian Driver

as Young Widow

as Woman TV Rerporter

as Bell Aircraft Execut...

as Pretty Girl
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Right Stuff

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (5)

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...

Full Review… | October 5, 2011
TIME Magazine
Top 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.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top 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.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top 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.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top 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.

Full Review… | March 25, 2003
Chicago Sun-Times
Top 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.

Full Review… | November 6, 2013
Creative Loafing

Audience Reviews for The Right Stuff

The heroes walking under our noses may have been walking on the moon as well. A great history lesson for those jaded in the age of technology. (Gotta admit that "Apollo 13" is betther, though.)

Christian C

Super Reviewer

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.

Kevin M. Williams

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.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

The Right Stuff Quotes

– Submitted by Douglas C (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Scott N (2 years ago)
– Submitted by eamonn s (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Chad E (3 years ago)

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