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October Sky (1999)

PG  |   |  Biography, Drama, Family  |  19 February 1999 (USA)
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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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Cast overview, first billed only:
Natalie Canerday ...
Scott Thomas ...
Jim Hickam (as Scott Miles)
Randy Stripling ...
Dorothy Platt (as Courtney Fendley)


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 (140) »


Sometimes one dream is enough to light up the whole sky. 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?


When watching the Vanguard rocket failure on TV Homer writes a letter of condolence to Von Braun and his team for their failure in launching it. In reality the Vanguard was the U.S. Navy's project and it was selected over Von Braun and his team for launching America's first satellite. When the Vanguard failed Von Braun successfully launched America's first satellite using his own rocket. See more »


When Quentin first looks at Homer's calculations for the lost rocket, the sheet already has the equation with all the necessary data to calculate the range written down. About 2/3 down the page, the horizontal range formula appears as d = (v² / g) × sin 2A = (450)² / 32 = 202,500 / 32. Solving this gives 6,328 feet, the answer that Quentin writes down later. (This assumes a launch angle A of 45°, which maximizes the range, so that sin 2A = 1.) See more »


[about Homer going to college]
Jim Hickam: Yeah, on a science fiction scholarship, maybe.
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 »


Let the Good Times Roll
Written by Leonard Lee, Shirley Goodman
Performed by Shirley Goodman (as Shirley) and Leonard Lee (as Lee)
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The first great film of 1999. *** out of ****.
24 February 1999 | by (Mason, Mi) – See all my reviews

There is an old saying that relates to the rousing new film by Joe Johnston that goes something like this: "The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can't are both right." That is a highly presumptuous statement referring to self motivating and belief in an individual, which, in this movie, stand true even after road blocks and family trouble stand in the way.

"October Sky" is about a young man who believes in himself named Homer Hickam, growing up in a strict, traditional family in the 1950's. Homer loves in a small coal mining town where nearly every man grows up to be a miner. All of his friends, Quentin, Roy, and O'Dell all think that their life after high school will be like everyone else's. Homer is not exited about that future.

One night, while everyone stares at the sky, a Russian space craft called Sputnik passes overhead. This is something new for Homer, and he finds it spectacular and overwhelming. From this point on, his look at life will never be the same.

First, he tells everyone that he wants to work in the rocket scientist area for an occupation. Flabbergasted at what he says, his family passes that idea over their heads and continues with life as usual His friends, however, think that this idea may have some potential. After all, Quentin is a very smart individual when it comes to this kind of thing.

When the four friends start to test model rockets, and blow a white picket fence to smithereens, then what seems to be a forest fire is scared by them, they're forced to end their progresses.

The performances in this movie are absolutely riveting from start to finish. All of the actors give performances as if this is the real mumbo jumbo here. Standing out in all of the glory: Laura Dern as Miss Riley. This very well may be Academy award material if the judges can remember back to the beginning of the year when this film is released.

The characters are also extremely well developed. Not only to the filmmakers give clear, apparent reason why Homer is interested in the subject, but they also explain to the audience how they are succeeding in their studding of rocketry. We clearly understand all of the characters' motives and beliefs, especially the father, who is bent over on everlasting tradition.

The film, unfortunately, loses some of its momentum at mid-point because of a silly, recycled romantic sub-plot involving Homer's love interest and how his brother stole her from him. This type of this is becoming so awfully common in high-school movies, not that this film is aimed at high-schoolers. The actors stare at each other mindlessly, like the are in a trance. I put up with it without complaining in 1997's "Inventing the Abbots," but I have had just about enough this.

But that is just a minor complaint. With an authentic looking time period, cinematography worth an Oscar and clips of the real life Homer and friends at the end, whom all hit it big with their dreams, especially Homer, this is the first great film of 1999.

35 of 45 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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