The Right Stuff (1983) Poster

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Pushing the Envelope of Space!
Ben Burgraff (cariart)18 November 2000
'The Right Stuff' is one of the most glorious adventure films ever made, a story of incredible heroism, poignant romance, gripping drama, and broad humor...and amazingly, it has actually happened within our lifetimes!

This is a tale of test pilots, 'pushing the envelope', proving the sound barrier couldn't constrain mankind's reach for space. Leading the way is plain-speaking Chuck Yeager (portrayed by Sam Shepard with Gary Cooper-like charm), a Beeman's gum-chewing cowboy with a passion for his feisty wife (the beautiful Barbara Hershey), and hot planes. Not even a broken rib could hold him back when an opportunity to fly the X-1 was offered. His record-breaking flight could fill a movie by itself...and this is just the BEGINNING of the story!

Jumping ahead a few years, Yeager is joined by a new breed of test pilots, whose total love of flight challenges their relationships, and is the true measure of how they define themselves. Among them are 'Gordo' Cooper (Dennis Quaid), a hot dog jet jockey with an unhappy wife (Pamela Reed, giving an exceptional performance); and Gus Grissom (Fred Ward, in his breakthrough role), coarse and direct, and anxious for his shot at the fastest jets.

The entire world changes when the Russians launch Sputnik, in 1957. As the American space program struggles to 'catch up', the government realizes that American men will have to go into space, and President Eisenhower wants 'educated' test pilots to fill this role. Yeager is out (he never completed college), but Cooper and Grissom, and many others, compete for spots in the New Frontier.

These pilots, from all services, are weeded down to seven men, dubbed 'Astronauts', and the Mercury Space Program is born! Along with Cooper and Grissom, the story focuses on Navy pilot Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), laconic and prone to ethnic humor; and Marine John Glenn (perfectly cast Ed Harris), a 'boy scout' of unimpeachable morals, who loyally supports an impaired wife (sensitively portrayed by Mary Jo Deschanel). Working under the glare of the world press, the seven gradually come to respect one another, and embark on an epic adventure, full of triumph and tragedy!

Meanwhile, Chuck Yeager, snubbed by NASA, continues to test new generations of jets, pushing the 'envelope', until, in a climactic scene, he achieves the threshold of space, himself. The flight is a near disaster, resulting in a horrendous crash, but the image of the burned but undefeated pilot, walking proudly away from the wreckage, is an unforgettable image of courage, and truly defines 'The Right Stuff'!

This is a REMARKABLE film in every way, and is director Philip Kaufman's masterpiece. Lushly scored by Tom Conti (who won an Oscar for the Tchaikovsky-inspired music), the film soars, both on earth and in space!

If you believe the Age of Heroes is past, watch 'The Right Stuff', and you might change your mind! This is a film to treasure!
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the film does praise Yeager (response to mrbisco)
Torrey Deluca30 March 2003
I have to correct "mrbsico" for not paying attention to the very things he comments on. It's not that he turned down the opportunity to apply to be an astronaut, it's that Chuck Yeager wasn't allowed to apply. When seraching for astronauts Harry Shearer's character praises Yeager as the ace of aces, but goes on to say that he "doesn't fit the profile" of the type of man Washington is looking for because he never went to college. This was a true pre-requisite which the Mercury Program had. Also, the scene at the end where Yeager crashes his NF-104 doesn't bring him down, it glorifies him. Gordo Cooper even comments that he gets on the cover of magazines, gets a free car, free lunches all across America, a free home with all the furnishings and loads of money and "I ain't even been up there yet". He's famous because he's an astronaut alone - not because of anything he's done. Kaufman cuts back and forth between the scene where Cooper is with Yeager's flight in the desert for reason. Yeager's almost alone with no media around, out in the desert attempting a record which won't put him on Life Magazine's cover. He's trying to set a record because that's what he's made of. He has The Right Stuff; which is something Cooper reazlies as we cut back to the reception and Gordo is asked by the reporters who the best pilot he ever saw was. Yeager may have crashed his plane in his last flight of the movie, but he emerges as a fearless man ever up for the challenge. And that he's not doing any of it for fame or fortune (although in real life the real Yeager cashed in with TV ads and a best-selling autobiography after both the book and the movie were released!!). That's what's rare about this movie for Hollywood to have made. Films are almost never about measuring a man's inner desires, but rather his being able to win the fight at the end. Yeager in contrast doesn't win the flight record at the film's end, but he is still the hero. This is because he dares to do what we never would. And even after his plane crashes he walks out of the gulf of fire and smoke with a severely burned face as if he will be back; you can't keep him down. This is why as the rescuer driving the ambulance as he sees Yeager's figure walking out of the fire in the distance asks, "Is that a man?", Jack Ridley replies, "You're damn right it is!". Ridley isn't merely remarking that it's a man over there, he is commenting that in our world Yeager is one of the few true "men". This film is not about the space program. That is merely a pretext to explore the type of men who have what it takes to volunteer for dangerous missions - even in times of peace. It's about men who have The Right Stuff - and of all those men whom we see in the movie it is Yeager who shines about all others.
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an epic film with something for everyone
Rob Smythe20 August 2003
The Right Stuff is terrific: exciting, complex, funny, crammed with memorable scenes, unforgettable lines, and wonderful actors (many of whom went on to become big stars).

A classic shot shows a test pilot on horseback coming over a ridge stopping to look at a new rocket-plane, steadying his nervous horse as it edges past the flames coming out the back. The test pilot is the twentieth century's cowboy: tough, laconic, independent, fearless.

The Right Stuff tells two parallel stories: the (often fatal) exploits of the early test pilots and Mercury astronauts, with intersecting storylines. The movie never takes itself too seriously. Witness general crawling on the floor to plug in the projector, the sounds of the locusts when the press surrounds the astronauts (Yeager called them locusts initially), the Halleluiah Chorus during the press conference, the enema scene, Sheppard needing to take a leak in the suit, Johnson trying to deal with a housewife. Yet underneath all the fun that is poked at the astronauts we see respect for real men doing a scary, important job.

This film has all the excitement of Top Gun, but is longer, better, just as high-tech exciting, and much funnier. (A washroom scene rivals Meg Ryan's famous restaurant scene...the audience laughed so hard we all missed Cooper's next line!).

And some wonderful lines: Cooper's response to "Who's the best pilot you ever saw?", "O.K. You can be Gus", "The Military owes me", "Read'em and weep", "Hey Ridley, you got any Beemans?", "I go to church too.", "Everything is A-OK", "Our Germans are better than their Germans", "What are you two pudknockers going to have?", and, said with regret and frustration "test pilots!"

To those who have seen it, here's a challenge that will enable you to appreciate the excellent writing, the workmanship and planning that went into the script. View the movie again and see how many times the screenwriter and director took the trouble to set up a later event or comment with an earlier reference. Here are three examples: Cooper dropping a tiny toy space capsule into Grissum's drink (foreshadowing), Copper reading Life magazine before the publisher enters the movie (to make sure we viewers know that Life magazine exits), Yeager bumping his elbow on a limb of a cactus tree as he walks into Pancho's at the beginning of the movie (I never noticed this the first few times I watched the movie, but surely this tiny action was deliberate.) I count a dozen more examples. Send me ones you find.

If you haven't seen The Right Stuff, I strongly recommend you rent the DVD. -RS
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History Is Made Of This Stuff
claudiaeilcinema5 October 2009
It was wonderful to see again this 1983 gem. Just as I remembered plus those unexpected surprises that time puts in evidence. Kim Stanley for instance. A few minutes on the screen, a peripheral character but I took her with me and here I am, thinking about her. The "starry" role jet pilots played and that new breed: "tha astronauts" getting the all American treatment, becoming overnight celebrities. Ed Harris is extraordinary as John Glenn. He becomes a sort of leader with some TV experience and we never ask why. Ed Harris's performance explains it all without ever actually saying it. Dennis Quaid is irresistible as "Gordo" Cooper. You believe every one of his thoughts, specially the ones he never reveals. In spite of the film's length, I wished the film would not end. I haven't had that wish very often. "The Right Stuff" is the real thing.
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"The Right Stuff": That Is Exactly What This Film Has
tfrizzell4 August 2001
Outstanding film from 1983 that was honored with four Academy Awards and is often called the second-best film of the 1980s behind only Scorsese's "Raging Bull". The movie is a 190-plus minute extravaganza which honors the U.S. Mercury 7 Astronauts. The all-star cast includes Sam Shepard (as Chuck Yeager in an Oscar-nominated role of a lifetime), Ed Harris (John Glenn), Scott Glenn (Alan Shepard), Fred Ward (Gus Grissom), Lance Henriksen (Walter Schirra), Dennis Quaid (Gordon Cooper), and Donald Moffat (Lyndon Baines Johnson). The film is solid in so many respects. It is meticulous and tries to go for drama and humor and succeeds in everything it wants to do. Veronica Cartwright, Barbara Hershey, Pamela Reed, Kathy Baker, and Mary Jo Deschanel are also along for the ride as several of the wives who attempt to keep their heads about them while they fear that their husbands are losing theirs. "The Right Stuff" is a historical lesson told in a way that is so clever and convincing that few will find fault with anything when it comes to the story-telling. Writer-director Philip Kaufman easily does the best work of his career with this masterpiece. Look for Cincinnati Bengal Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz in a cameo appearance. Arguably the best film of the 1980s and should have been the Best Picture Oscar winner over "Terms of Endearment" in 1983. 5 stars out of 5.
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Real Heroes, And An Era That Went By All Too Fast
ccthemovieman-127 May 2006
An interesting insight into the United States' space program, beginning with the exploits of fighter pilot Chuck Yeager (Sam Shephard) and concluding with the dramatic flights of the first astronauts.

Those astronauts - the Mercury 7 pilots - are a varied group of aviators and they are all pretty interesting guys. John Glenn (Ed Harris) gets favorable treatment in here among the group. Gordon Cooper might be the wildest with the cocky and humorous Dennis Quaid playing him. Overall, it's a good cast including not just the fliers but their wives. I also enjoyed Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard and Barbara Hershey as Yeager's wife.

Yeager's feats were perhaps the most interesting and they set a fast tone to this 3-hour film as we witness him breaking several sound-barrier records prior to the formation of the astronaut team. Then we are treated to a long-but-interesting segment of how those first astronauts were trained.

The only unnecessary and ludicrous parts of this film were the ones on Lyndon Johnson, where they made him into a total fool. It was as if the screen writers had a personal vendetta against him, to make him look almost like a cartoon figure. And the bit with the Australian Aborigines smacks too much of Hollywood's love affair with tribal religions. I sincerely doubt some sparks from a fire on earth could be seen miles and miles above in space.

At any rate, this was an informative look at a period in our history than came-and-went way too fast. Sad to say, most people know very little about those first astronauts, who were true heroes. At least this film gives them their due, as well as to Yeager, who deserved this tribute, too
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A good humoured, patriotic telling of the men behind the space programme
bob the moo13 July 2003
Following the breaking of the sound barrier by pilot Chuck Yeager, the next barrier was space. With the Russians and America in a race to see who can get there first and be highest, quickest and longest in space, a group of pilots are selected to become the first men in space for America.

I have had this film for many years and have only seen it twice now – I always get put off by having to find three + hours free to watch it! However I am a fool as whenever I do watch it the time flies by easily. Such is the appeal of the film that everything works and only the odd scene at the end drags a little. The story skips through the space programme focusing as much on the flights as it does on the men and their families. It also manages to be very light hearted and good humoured, which succeeds in making it easy and fun to watch. The history being told may not be well known by all (I'm too young to remember and am also in the UK), but it is well told and becomes more a story of the men whose courage made it happen rather than a history lesson.

Given that so much hinges on the men being interesting and likeable characters it was important to have a good cast, and the ensemble assembled here really put in good work to bring the names to life (although how close to their real personalities they are I cannot say). Taking one as an example, Fred Ward manages to be funny but also has to convey the more difficult side as he is forced to live with blame for the outcome of his mission. Shepard represents the `unsung' pilots left behind in the sky who put the space programme in motion in the first place, and he does it well with a real sense that he has a lot of men behind him. Glenn, Harris, Quaid Henriksen, Frank and Paulin all do sterling work to varying degrees. However even minor roles are played by faces who do well – Hershey is good and carries the role of `the women behind the men' really well. Moffat is funny as Lyndon Johnson and Goldblum and Shearer are hilarious with their running jokes.

The film is very flag waving – but the good humour stopped that aspect of it sticking in my throat. It is a very enjoyable and accomplished film. Not only does it manage to inform and entertain but it also paints a very good picture of the men who started and ran the space programme and the effect the risks had on them and their families. All this and it still makes me laugh out loud! Three hours simply flies by.
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Just about every element ties together well creating a nearly perfect movie
FrankBooth_DeLarge15 February 2005
The Right Stuff takes place during the Cold War when America was trying its hardest in technological advancements to beat the Russians. The movie first starts out with Chuck Yeager(Sam Shepard) attempting to break the sound barrier. The movie continues with other story lines as professional pilots desperately try to get into the NASA space program, become the first Americans into space, and try to break some kind of record that will beat what the Russians had. The other real life people that this movie follows are Alan Shepard(Scott Glenn), Gordon Cooper(Dennis Quaid), John Glenn(Ed Harris), Gus Grissom(Fred Ward), and of course, their families.

The running time is very long at 3 hours plus, but it goes by very quickly. The first couple of hours go by as if they were 25 minutes, and the last hour is thrilling, as well as inspiring. There are several plot elements that really make this movie phenomenal. There is plenty of excitement as you see what the skilled pilots try to accomplish, there is plenty of humor, the cast is nearly perfect, and the score adds plenty of effect to the film. The result is a phenomenal, nearly perfect film, being one of the best films of the 1980's.

The plot is very interesting, as you see the lives of the pilots, the status of the American Government desperately trying to overcome the Russians with advanced technology, and the difficulties in trying to accomplish these difficulties. This is well worth your time, and it is a great movie.
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far out in space, for the first time...
jlpicard1701E21 July 2004
I always loved anything connected to science fact and science fiction and this movie is no exception.

I already owned the Laserdisc version of it, but the DVD is even better.

I love this movie, but I must consider the interest of the public and I honestly cannot say that this is one for the vast public.

The theme alone is a difficult one and deals with the history of the Space Age, as it began from an American perspective, and by telling the story of the astronauts involved in the Mercury project.

Being very long, it might not fit the modern view of a quick-fix movie. This one has to be watched as if your were watching "JFK" or "Gettysburg", therefore with the outmost attention.

It has spectacular recreations of the actual launches, combined with more private moments, involving the astronauts, their loved ones and those who trained them.

This is not Science Fiction and it is not an Adventure movie, this is truly a history lesson about how the Space Race got started, how, with whom and why.

It is a very thoroughly researched movie, although it is not to be confused with a documentary. It is an intelligent movie, with good dialogues, good character recreations, with humor and moments of sadness and tragedy. The heroism of the first astronauts is not represented by their fabulous deeds, but rather by the sacrifices they had to make, in order to be successful.

If you can bare to sit in front of your TV for 3 hours and 15 minutes without unnecessary interruptions, then this documentation may make it clear why men and women risk so much in going "where no one has gone before".

But, as I stated before, this is not an easy going movie and is reserved for all those who want to enjoy a good movie in peace.

I would recommend its showing in every school of the United States, and why not, also throughout the world. Many children would then really appreciate what the conquest of space is all about.
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Kaufman's Crowning Achievement
Jason Forestein17 November 2004
An incredibly under-rated director, Philip Kaufman adapted Tom Wolfe's best-selling tale of the Mercury astronauts in 1983 and, since that time, he has been unable to top himself (he came very very close with Unbearable... and Quills, but The Right Stuff is very much out of their league).

Why? The Right Stuff is a perfect blend of intelligence and wit and action. At just three hours long, it occasionally feels too short. The audience comes to know the characters through terrific performances by Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Sam Shepard, and Fred Willard and Kaufman's deft pen (which, no doubt, Wolfe's novel helped guide). We are sad when the story ends; we want more. It's rare that a movie creates such an inviting and intriguing world that, after three hours, we still do not want to leave.

This movie is absolutely one of a kind. Its critical patriotism shows that films can show their love of country without wandering into nationalistic or jingoistic propaganda. It is very rare that a film this indebted to America and American history can be so ambivalent.

That, in my mind, is a positive rather than a negative. The filmmaker and actors understand that the Space Race was not a simple process; they understand that heroes have a dark side.

They all refuse to let the heroism cover the unsavory aspects of a person's life and, simultaneously, they do not let those aspects darken their contribution to mankind.

The Right Stuff is really an amazing filmic experience. It's an expert adaptation, an expert recreation of the early US Space Program, and an expert entertainment. Apollo 13 wanted so very much to be the Right Stuff. It's not; nothing will ever beat the Right Stuff.
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A movie that is as straight forward as the story it tells
FilmOtaku15 May 2004
`The Right Stuff' is the story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts and their journey through the fledgling NASA program and eventually into space. It is well-written and well-acted, featuring a veritable `Who's Who' of then slightly unknown actors such as Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn and Lance Henriksen. While it had an over three hour running time, and I actually had to get up to turn over the DVD because of its length, the pacing was such that I never once considered that any particular scene should have been shortened. One thing I particularly enjoyed about the film was the introduction of Chuck Yeager (Shepard) and his contribution to history by breaking the sound barrier, and then the periodic simultaneous comparison of the accomplishments of the astronauts and the Air Force and civilian test pilots, as well as exhibiting their eventual mutual respect.

If I had to point out any kind of glaring fault, it would have to be that they focused on some astronauts more than others – obviously concentrating heavily on the bigger names, and glossing over the `lesser-known' ones. An example would be Walter Schirra (Henriksen) – his name is mentioned a couple of times, and he probably had a tenth of the screen time of the others. Plainly, with an already three hour running time not everyone could have equal time, so this is certainly a mild criticism. `The Right Stuff' isn't profound or exceptional, but it is certainly a good and interesting film.

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Fun flick that's long on legend, short on truth
Take a series of events that by themselves stir the imagination and the soul, romanticize and embellish them in a novel by a pop-culture author, then take that novel and give it the Hollywood treatment, and you end up with something that's long on legend, short on truth, but who cares? It features historic people and airplanes, excellent cinematography, a gang of stellar actors and even acceptable model and special effects work.

Unlike Tom Wolf's novel, the movie ignores the Navy's Pax River and gives all the glory to Edwards AFB and the Zoomies. The CAF's "FIFI," the last flying B-29, has a major role as the X-1's "mothership," as well as a privately-owned F-104 Starfighter out of Mojave as the plane that almost killed Chuck Yeager. The real General Yeager has a bit role as a crusty old prospector doing bartender duty at the watering hole the Edwards pilots hang out in. The scene where Harry Shearer and Jeff Goldblum, playing two NASA flunkies, are bad-mouthing Yeager because he has no college degree, all while the real Yeager, playing the bartender, is standing in back of them listening in, is precious.

While the plot and action centers on Yeager and the original seven Mercury astronauts, two actresses are worth watching: Veronica Cartwright does her usual great job as Betty Grissom ("I want to have lunch with Jackie!!") and the ever-versatile and talented Pamela Reed as Gordon Cooper's long-suffering wife, Trudy, who has some of the best lines in the movie (referring to the macho Edwards test pilots, "But they sure are handy assholes.").

A bit of tragic trivia: Jane Dornacker, the talented actress, comedienne and musician who "uglied up" to play Nurse Murch in the hilarious "sperm count scene", later a traffic reporter in New York City for WNBC radio, was killed when her helicopter lost its tail rotor, narrowly missed a pier and crashed into the Hudson River. At the time of the crash she was live on the air, and her screams "Hit the water! Hit the water" were heard by literally thousands of stunned New York commuters.
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long but lean, heroic but very knowing, visually gorgeous and well-acted
MisterWhiplash9 April 2009
I'm not sure why I put off, or just didn't get around, to seeing the Right Stuff. I could take my pick, but really I was never made to sit down by my parents or in school or other to watch it, and... screw the excuses, I wasn't sure about a 193 minute movie about astronauts as a kid. But now having seen it it's quite clear I was missing something fairly excellent in the cannon of the "Bio-pic". It's one of those true compelling 20th century stories, and the filmmaker Philip Kaufman cares about all of these real guys so much that it moves right over into the cinematic treatment of the characters. And more impressively considering its ensemble there's almost a key character to the mix with Chuck Yeagher, the first man to break the sound barrier who never got into NASA with all the other go-for-broke test pilots, but did taste that rush up to the sky just once - and what a rush.

This is film-making of a superlative caliber. It is such a story that is told extraordinarily because of how it takes itself seriously as a historical document, but never so much so as to get in a great joke - the kind of natural joking that people do, such as the few quips done by Yeagher in the cockpit to whoever was listening after breaking the sound barrier, which actually happened - or some sliver of satire to the mix. It pleases both as an emotional experience, one of those rousing and inspiring tales, and also at times intellectual. We see the lives of these guys, of Yeagher, Shepard, Glenn, Cooper, Grissom, and their wives too. The Right Stuff is a very human story, told with an approximate awe for the subject matter and an attitude that says "we can be epic, but we can also point out the flaws that come around in human nature."

There were so many obstacles that could have come, and sometimes did, for the folks at NASA, the scientists as well as the handful that were picked to do missions up into space in direct competition with America's foe the Russians, that all the astronauts could sometimes do would be to joke or give a hard-lined measure. We see some expected things like a big press conference, but we also see things that ring so true that they feel so real as minor events, like when the scientists are showing the astronauts the pod without a window or proper escape hatch and they all band together to put pressure on them to do it right or else the press will hear all hell (the wording in this scene is very good). The veneer of pure heroism is shown for what it is, as something of not always a tricky thing; the film was criticized by some of the original astronauts for the depiction of Gus Grissom (if only because Grissom had passed on in tragedy and couldn't do it himself), but his story of going into space, and the aftermath with his wife, is important to show for the story the film's trying to tell.

That's one of the remarkable things in the Right Stuff, which is giving as much equal time and depth as possible to these guys, and their wives at other times. We see Dennis Quaid's cocky pilot saying he's the best their is, and then another where he suddenly becomes like 12 years old in front of the female doctor as she speaks/laughs with his wife behind doors. We see Ed Harris' John Glenn as the supposed spokesperson of the group, the "Dudley Do-Right" as it were, but then the slightest bit of uncertainty - not to mention a really well told drama with his wife, who was a stutterer, and stood up against being pressured by Vice President Johnson.

Little details all add up in the film, and even the ones that don't entirely work (i.e. the cut-aways to the aborigines during Glenn's flight up in space) still carry some worth as far as being filmed wonderfully or with a strange quality that makes it fun to watch - any other director might take out the crucial detail of Alan Shepard urinating in his suit before the very first successful launch of a US man into space, but it's left in, and stronger for it. And as far as just details with the characters go, all you need to see is the kind of simple but very strong representation of death in the man in the black suit and hat who has to pay call to those who've lost their husbands or fathers up in the sky.

And, thankfully for such a long running time, we're given several moments in terms of the power of cinematic technique, of showing us the subjective perspective of what those who orbit the Earth see and the views outside the windows at so many countless miles up in the atmosphere. Basically any scene with Chuck Yeagher is one of these, especially early on but then also towards the end with his absolutely stunning bittersweet moment of going up to the sky and, well, nearly dying in a last-minute jump from the plane into flames. Kaufman takes the audience into these moments, and even just quiet or interesting ones with the actors, and imbues it all with just enough importance to level off the occasional goofiness he allows his character or in the choice of edits (watch as the chimps, being spin around in that big circular thing are cut with Glenn spinning around). That it's also one of those outstanding ensembles helps a great deal too.

It's exciting and refreshingly bittersweet Hollywood cinema, and at the least of the must-see pictures of 1983.
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An Entertaining and Inspirational Movie
shilinw10 February 2003
The Right Stuff is a terrific story about America entering the space age. Based on true events from Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier to the 7 Mercury astronauts, the film assembled an excellent cast including Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Barbara Hershey, Veronica Cartwright, etc., to pay tribute to those who paved the way for America to be at the "top of the pyramid".

It is a long movie, but never a dull moment. Though quite a bit of artistic licensing is carried out(so I am told), the movie showed events that were very true, such as Yeager breaking his ribs before his supersonic flight, and his friend fixing him a door handle by cutting off a section of a broom stick handle; the rigorous training the astronauts go through; Russians taking the lead going into space, Allan Shepard's "prayer" before liftoff; Pancho's restaurant burning down; John Glenn's risky re-entry, etc.

The movie doesn't just portray space flight. It portrays the lives of these astronauts, the tremendous risk they've taken, how they and their spouses cope with their profession, how the public perceives them, and of course the administrators, the politicians and the scientists. Characters in this movie are not impeccable people. They each have their own set of problems. Yet the imperfection, true to life or not, gives these heroes a human touch that is believable, which also makes a stronger statement that they are larger than life. Today people hardly think about what they went through to get us this far.

There is beautiful cinematography in this movie, with historical footage that blends in seamlessly. And the music score truly inspires at moments, such as when John Glenn's Friendship 7 blasts into space, and when Yeager takes the NF-104 "Starfighter" up for a spin. There is also light-hearted humor that provides some very entertaining moments, and a slight satire of the space race that is sure to offend a number of people.

I strongly disagree with some reviewers' assertion that the movie portrays "Gus" Grissom as a coward. In real life, Grissom went through much scrutiny he did not deserve, because of the blown hatch and the lost capsule. Watch it carefully and pay attention to the dialogue. The movie is extremely sympathetic towards Grissom, through his dialogue with his wife in which he could not understand why no one believed him; through the words of Yeager "...old Gus did all right..."; through Cooper's re-affirming touch on Grissom's shoulder while talking to reporters; and through the closing monologue that mentioned Grissom's death in the Apollo 1 fire.

In conclusion, this movie is an ode to those heroes that truly had the right stuff. It is both entertaining and inspiring. My advice to some viewers is - don't get too hung up on the satire, or historical inaccuracies.

By the way, look for the real Chuck Yeager in the bar scenes.
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Unintentionally goofy, but very entertaining
Mike Sh.15 April 2001
This is, in many ways, a very strange movie. One the one hand it deals with a very serious topic, which it seems to take very seriously. It has the overall look and feel of a drama (or even a melodrama). And yet, there are so many goofy moments in the movie that one wonders whether they were meant to be funny or not.

There was the odd, stilted dialogue, especially among the fliers and their families, as they discuss (or as the case my be, don't discuss) what it means to have the "right stuff" of the title. There are the customarily nerdy performances of Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer in small roles as NASA recruiters. There is the truly over-the-top performance of Donald Moffat as Vice President Lyndon Johnson (who was a pretty over-the-top character in real life, now that I think of it). There are the German rocket scientists, the gaunt black-clad Angel-of-Death-type minister (Royal Dano) who turns up whenever a flyer gets killed, and the throng of reporters who chase after the astronauts and their families, literally barking like a pack of dogs as they pry into the most intimate parts of their lives for the sake of another human interest story.

Even so, this movie was very entertaining. The story itself is fascinating, and the cast was great. Standouts include Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Veronica Cartwright, Pamela Reed, Kathy Baker, Barabara Hershey, Mary Jo Deschanel, Lance Henriksen, Levon Helm, and General Chuck Yeager himself in a cameo! It perhaps worth mentioning that most of these actors were relative unknowns when this movie came out in 1983.

All in all, this is a fun movie.
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One subtle thing I loved about this movie:
bmcclain28 September 1999
Throughout the movie were clever references to the ultimate goal of America's space program: The moon. It's seen repeatedly in newsreel shots of the X-1, again with the song "Faraway Places" in the soundtrack, and ultimately with the wry reference via the stripper doing her fan dance to Debussy's "Clair de Lune." Philip Kaufman, God bless you.
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This movie tested my endurance and helped me break a record.
pheidias17 September 2000
I really liked this movie sixteen years ago. I was an ideal audience, partly because I built models of fighters and carriers, flew model rockets, and was eager to see lots of military hardware. But the real reason is that I was 14 years old.

This movie comprehends life at about the level of a 14-year-old. Watching it again as an adult was painful. After every visual cliche, after every scene of buffoonery (almost innumerable) I told myself it would get better, that the scenes of space flight were coming. But there was nothing but more weak dialog, trite phrases and ... even the shot framing was corny.

And that dreadful score. Bill Conti really reached a new level of inappropriateness (beyond his previous best misunderstanding of theme, style and sentiment with "For Your Eyes Only"). Here we have a movie about individualists, talented, flashy egotists. Maybe an appropriate musical representation would be an exciting solo instrument against orchestra, in other words a concerto. For no conceivable reason, however, Conti takes the theme of a very famous concerto ... and plays it with full orchestra only, minus the fireworks of the violin part. So there is no symbolism of the one against the many, just a vaguely joyous melody. And then just to make sure we know it's really Bill Conti's score, and not Pete Tchaikovsky, he changes two notes.

Conti has done some straightforwardly uplifting music (especially towards the beginning of his career), but this is simply cheap "proud and happy" music. And why "Mars, Bringer of War" by Holst in yet another film? "Finlandia" is just as universally known to musicians, and would have made more sense as "music of overcoming" (gravity, technical troubles).

The obnoxious "Foreign Man" character in the meetings was supposed to be Werner von Braun, ex-Nazi rocket-team leader. The man was a genius, and he was cunning, imaginative and by most accounts impressive. If, for lack of time, he could not be shown rounded, he could at least have been characterized as formidable, secretive, dangerous. That's just as simple.

LBJ was loquacious and persuasive, not a yeller or a whiner and not such a carnival barker in public. I dislike the man and his decisions, but why make him into a plain old jackass when he was an effective and charismatic user of people?

Surely Harris and Shepard knew this was a bad script. They make the absolute best out of the meager diet they were fed. And under such obvious direction: "Smile when the light goes across", "Look up after a second", "React with surprise" and so on, making the actors seem like puppets sometimes.

I suppose Jeff Goldblum had to take what he could get in those days, but it's still disappointing to have to sit through his gags (literally).

The wives seem to be thrown in to get females into the theater. The point their characters make didn't even need them on the screen to be made. The men could have confessed, maybe in a bar scene, to the marital woe and guilt that plagued them as a result of their chosen career. And shaved off a good half-an-hour in the process. The wives contributed almost nothing else to the story. Drag without lift.

It won for Best Editing. Could have been Most Editing. When objects fly in the movie, they are seen this way: here it comes (from the left), there it goes (to the left), here it comes (from below), there it goes (off the bottom), now it wobbles (to show how fast it's going), the dials on the instrument panel turn, then out the front window, now where did it go?, now it's coming right at you, and last just the vapor trail seen from the ground. This sequence occurs almost edit-for-edit whenever something goes more than 55mph, and it's dull.

Before I saw it again on DVD, I would have given it an 8 from my fond memories. I have to give it a 4, alongside such cinematic triumphs as "Dirty Dancing" and "Creepshow 2".

By the way, the NASA logo shown throughout was not used until the mid-60's. Am I wrong to be so bothered by that? When the movie is about NASA, I don't think so.

And as for the record: Never before have I sweated with embarrassment all the way through a movie.
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Historical Drama, at it's best.
Davidson-28 January 1999
Here was a director and a writer who knew that they had a real story that needed a minimum amount of added-on work to make a fine movie. The time passing early on being marked by the fighter-jets evolution was very subtle. The haunting looks back at Edwards Air Force Base and Chuck Yeager's career seemed to ground the movie and remind you where all these heroes came from... and that there were MORE heroes waiting. Sam Shepard's portrayal of Mr. Yeager was particularly good, and I enjoy watching this film... every October 14th.
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"There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die."
ackstasis4 July 2008
In April 1959, NASA unveiled the Mercury Seven, an elite selection of fighter pilots who would become the first Americans to reach Outer space. With the Soviet Union seemingly always one step ahead in the Space Race, the US government was determined to keep up with their rival's achievements, occasionally displaying a recklessness that could easily have ended in disaster. In theory, however acute their flying skills, these astronauts were not supposed to do anything; they were expected simply to sit there, unable to observe their surroundings and incapable of controlling the movements of their space capsule – their mere presence in space was superfluous, and existed only to provide symbolic confirmation that an American had reached such a perceived milestone. For all the gruelling physical assessments in which the astronauts took part, do they really differ all that much from the test chimpanzees that preceded them? Does one possess "the right stuff" simply because they were one of the fortunate men who were chosen?

In 1979, Thomas Wolfe published "The Right Stuff," a non-fiction book exploring the beginnings of the American space programme, compiled through extensive research and interviews with test-pilots, astronauts and their wives. William Goldman initially penned a screenplay adaptation, but later distanced himself from the project after creative differences arose between himself and director Philip Kaufman, who ultimately received full writing credit. Over an epic three hours, 'The Right Stuff (1983)' charts the United States' experiments with rocket-powered aircraft, and the attempts to break the sound barrier, and, more substantially, Project Mercury, which first placed America astronauts into space as an entire nation watched. Goldman had originally wished to excise test-pilot Chuck Yeager, on which Wolfe spends considerable time, from the film adaptation, but Kaufman knowingly recognised that Yeager's involvement solidified the story's primary theme – that "the right stuff" wasn't merely restricted to the highly-paid astronauts idolised by the media, but also included the humble high-achievers who regularly risked their lives for the thrill of the flight.

It's obvious that Kaufman believed the film's true hero to be Chuck Yeager, as well as the dozens of anonymous test pilots whose photographs once lined the wall at the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Whereas the Mercury 7 received unprecedented media attention and extensive sponsorship, sometimes without haven't even been "up" yet, the true professionals like Yeager – who was excluded from the space programme simply on the basis of their college credentials – accepted meagre wages and faced a 51% likelihood of dying on the job. Yeager's history-making 1947 flight, in which he successfully broke the sound-barrier in level flight, was treated with the utmost military secrecy, and yet, later in the film, each astronaut's return to earth is greeted by a chorus of public celebration {here, Kaufman cleverly toys with archival footage, seemingly placing his actors alongside US Presidents, in a technique predating Robert Zemeckis' 'Forrest Gump (1994)'}. Of course, the astronauts themselves were still a courageous bunch, and Yeager admiringly muses that "it takes a special kind of man to volunteer for a suicide mission, especially one that's on TV."

'The Right Stuff' is a massively-entertaining piece of film-making, supplemented by its marvellous realism and a subtle element of political satire. The high-speed aerial maneuvers, a meticulous mixture of stunt-work and scaled models, are absolutely breathless in their intensity; the subsequent space sequences then replace adrenaline with breathtaking beauty, most memorably in John Glenn's 1962 orbit of the Earth in Friendship 7, during which mysterious "fireflies" are observed dancing about his capsule. Kaufman's screenplay also has some fun at the expense of American politicians, most notably President Eisenhower and then-vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson, both of whom are portrayed almost as comical caricatures. The film's major players, a veritable melting-pot of future stars, all deliver exceptional performances, particularly Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Sam Shepard and Dennis Quaid, though considerably uneven attention is given to certain Mercury 7 astronauts over others – did Lance Henriksen, as Wally Schirra, even have any lines? A thrilling and inspirational historical drama, 'The Right Stuff' hardly puts a foot wrong, and is a film very worthy of its out-of-this-world subject matter.
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Warning for short-version DVD
Stefan T. Lund25 May 2002
As an aviation buff, this is one of my favorite movies. Besides telling the story of the Mercury program in a humorous, tounge-in-cheek way, it also features some very breath-taking flying scenes, that are right on the spot. But I want to warn you, that Warner Bros Video has issued this film on DVD in a shortened version. The original version is 193 minutes, while this DVD version is only 153 minutes. Among the missing 20 minutes are a few of the best scenes of the original movie.
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The Best Picture of 1983
cagney0021 August 2001
This picture was selected as Best Picture of its year by 2 of the best movie reviewers in recent memory, Siskel & Ebert. They both chose this film because "it showed how things get done in America."

This is one of my favorite films. If you remember the space race (and not fantasize you do like some other reviewers on this page) and the Mercury astronauts were your heroes too, then watching this movie is like going home again.

As for the younger crowd? Watching this true story will be a lot of fun, and there are a lot of laughs. But more importantly, it will give you a look into a time when your country actually tried to do important things: not b/c they were easy, as President Kennedy said, but b/c they were hard. A concept so sadly lacking these days.

Watch everyone, and enjoy. It's quite a ride, and it all really happened.
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"Is That A Man?" "Yeah You're Damn Right It Is"
JimS_868625 March 2008
The Right Stuff is a bold and ambitious movie, based upon Tom Wolfe's novel of the same name. It's storyline depicts a very important part of history, namely, the cold war between the U.S. and Russia. We were competing with Russia for decades over which country could hold the title of biggest superpower. The Americans versus the Commies. The threat of nuclear war between the two countries was always tangible.

The Right Stuff is a most entertaining and informative history lesson. A chronicle of the Mercury 7 program which propelled the first Americans into space. Pilot Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) basically started it all as the man who first risked his life towards this journey by breaking the sound barrier with his "Glamorous Glennis" X-1. Russia upped the ante with Sputnik soon after.

The early Yeager flight sequence where he surpasses the speed of sound is nothing short of breathtaking. Caleb Deshanel's cinematography and sfx accompanying this and other airborne dramatizations depicted here are unparalleled to anything I've seen in a movie before or since. They will have you on the edge of your seat.

The first act of The Right Stuff is mostly Yeager's story. But in addition to learning about this American legend, this portion of the film allows the viewer to get into the psyche of the test pilot. Each time you go on up in a hurtling piece of machinery to try topping the record you set previously could be your last. Risky and Dangerous, but for these guys it's a way of life, and they wouldn't have it any other way.

Yeager's groundbreaking flights set the blueprint for America's journey into space. From here we see test pilots from all over competing with each other to become the first in history to go where no man has gone before. These scenes are insightful, funny, and allow the viewer to be introduced to the personalities behind the men who would make up the Mercury 7 program.

From here, the viewer gets exposed to the behind-the-scenes politics during this pivotal point in history, showing the relationships these men have with their concerned wives as well as satirizing the prying, sometimes inconsiderate news media once the astronauts are introduced to the press. The human element and satire depicted in these scenes are still truthful and relevant by today's standards.

These pilots are competitive and naturally find differences with one another. But they eventually learn to look past their egos, realizing they're all in this together. They eventually come to terms with the fact they are now America's spokespersons, and learn to respect and admire one another along their journey.

The cast is outstanding. Scott Glenn, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, and Fred Ward all give top-notch performances as Alan Shepherd, Gordo Cooper, John Glenn, and Gus Grissom. Acclaimed musician turned actor Levon Helm delivers one of the best lines in Movie History. Tom Conti's winning and inspirational score ties this historical epic together, which deservedly won an Academy Award for best original score.

The running time is slightly over 3 hours, but is never boring and seems most appropriate in retrospect to tell this epic story.

The fact that Terms of Endearment won best picture over The Right Stuff at the 1983 Oscars is a travesty. The Right Stuff is a timeless classic which will always retain it's power and glory, and serves as a historical time capsule to teach future generations of moviegoers what heroism and bravery are all about.
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Great film about great achievement
chizchaz473 March 2008
I believe this film was underrated on it's original release. What a pity. It's a brilliantly delivered story of the men and women who contributed to the greatest historical event in my lifetime. Probably the greatest since Columbus, nearly 500 years earlier. It tells very much a human story of the people and families of those involved. The test pilots from the early jet age, the very real risks that they took and the selection of the few to enter the space programme. I was upset to discover that the great Chuck Yeager was not chosen because he was not "of the officer class" or "education standard". Something like that as far as I can recall. I always thought that this attitude was a peculiarity of British class snobbery. Disappointing that it happened in the United States. This film has the very best actors, writing, everything. If you haven't seen it PLEASE DO! 10/10
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Such a Cool Film
dick8915 November 2006
It's got everything, including length! It's full of actors who later became famous for other roles. It's more or less accurate historically. It takes its time to develop the story with countless dirty, amusing, moving details. I just love it and can't imagine why few people seem to have even heard of it. I suppose it's a guy film.

An overriding theme depicted in many wonderful ways is the transition of "authentic" heroes of the sort exemplified by Yaeger and other unsung test pilots, to "astronauts" -- creatures of the media, no braver than other pilots (although just as highly skilled) but marketed as such for the pleasure of politicians and the bureaucracy of NASA in the race for space. These astronauts cooperate with this mischaracterization since it fits well their monumental egos, but the director makes clear in myriad,nuanced ways (like during the fan dance in the Astrodome) that deep inside they know they are shams in comparison to those slogging away at Edwards without media attention and unearned perks.
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