The true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's son who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to take up rocketry against his father's wishes.



(book), (screenplay)
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3 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Natalie Canerday ...
Scott Thomas ...
Jim Hickam (as Scott Miles)
Randy Stripling ...
Dorothy Platt (as Courtney Fendley)
David Dwyer ...


In a 1950's mining town called Coalwood, Homer Hickam is a kid with only one future in sight, to work in the local coal mine like his father. However in October 1957, everything changes when the first artificial satellite, Sputnik goes into orbit. With that event, Homer becomes inspired to learn how to build rockets. With his friends and the local nerd, Homer sets to do just that by trial and a lot of error. Unfortunately, most of the town and especially Homer's father thinks that they are wasting their time. Only one teacher in the high school understands their efforts and lets them know that they could become contenders in the national science fair with college scholarships being the prize. Now the gang must learn to perfect their craft and overcome the many problems facing them as they shoot for the stars. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

rocket | coal | sputnik | mining | mine | See All (142) »


Based On An Extraordinary True Story See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for language, brief teen sensuality and alcohol use, and for some thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 February 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Rocket Boys  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$5,905,250 (USA) (19 February 1999)


$32,481,825 (USA) (23 July 1999)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the steam engine scene where the boys are salvaging iron rails from unused rail lines, the Norfolk & Western coal hauling steam locomotive they see is the former Southern Railway engine #4501. This engine is currently in use at the Tennessee Valley Railroad in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The scenes with the locomotive were filmed in upper Tennessee around Harriman, Oliver Springs, and Lake City with engine #4501 pulling a string of coal hopper cars lettered in authentic N&W livery. See more »


When Homer and Quentin estimate the range of the Auk XIII, it's presumably done with a 50-foot rope, since they measured off 126 rope lengths to get to 6,300 feet. However, in scenes that show the full rope length, the rope is no longer than 30 feet, about five times Jake Gyllenhaal's height of 6 feet. See more »


Roy Lee: That thing had better fly, or you can kiss your chances of losing your virginity goodbye.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The real life people portrayed in the movie are shown during the end credits. See more »


Featured in My Big Break (2009) See more »


Nine Pound Hammer Is Too Heavy
Written by Charlie Monroe
Performed by The Monroe Brothers
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

I've Been There and It's Real
21 February 1999 | by (Chicago) – See all my reviews

I have yet to read "The Rocket Boys", the book upon which this film is based, but this situation will not continue! I did read a short story by Hickam which was apparently the seed that started him on the novel. It grabbed me even then.

I am one of those fortunate enough to have lived adjacent to Cape Canaveral during the Mercury program, where my father worked, and this childhood situation no doubt fostered my lifelong interests and hobbies. I also met Werner von Braun, and one of the other German rocket scientists repaired a rubber band driven model plane I had (I WISH I still had that plane!) I mention this because I went into the movie with serious expectations and very much desired to see a film with authentic treatments for the nostalgia and emotions of the period.

I was not disappointed. While there were superficial flaws here and there, the movie came together like so few Hollywood films do. Good storytelling, authentic emotions and period atmosphere. As others have experienced at this excellent film, I was choked up at the end and had to wipe away the tears. The father of the family next to me asked to borrow my spare paper napkin to wipe his tears. About half the audience applauded at the end, and most everyone stayed through the credits. It's just one of those films.

Not the greatest movie ever made, but one of the best family movies in a long time.

56 of 63 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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