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?


Although known as Virginia Tech since the early 1990's, at the time the movie takes place, the university was known as VPI. See more »


Towards the start of the movie, Homer is walking out to his launch site with a box of rocket making "odds and ends". When he stops to talk to his three pals, the box turns 180 degrees between shots. See more »


Quentin: They watched us get arrested. We're practically ex-convicts. They'll never dance with us.
O'Dell: Jesus, Quentin, you don't know anything about women.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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


Referenced in Battlestar Galactica: Flight of the Phoenix (2005) See more »


Only You (And You Alone)
Written by Buck Ram (as Andy Rand), Buck Ram
Performed by The Platters
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Excellent family movie, and a fine story…
18 March 2007 | by (Brisbane, Australia) – See all my reviews

I first saw Jake Gyllenhaal in Jarhead (2005) a little while back and, since then, I've been watching every one of his movies that arrives on my radar screen. Like Clive Owen, he has an intensity (and he even resembles Owen somewhat) that just oozes from the screen. I feel sure that, if he lands some meaty roles, he'll crack an Oscar one day...

That's not to denigrate this film at all.

It's a fine story, with very believable people (well, it's based upon the author's early shenanigans with rocketry), a great cast – Chris Cooper is always good, and Laura Dern is always on my watch list – with the appropriate mix of humor, pathos, excitement...and the great sound track with so many rock n roll oldies to get the feet tapping.

But, this film had a very special significance for me: in 1957, I was the same age as Homer Hickham; like him, I looked up at the night stars to watch Sputnik as it scudded across the blackness; like Homer also, I experimented with rocketry in my backyard and used even the exact same chemicals for fuel; and like Homer, I also had most of my attempts end in explosive disaster! What fun it was...

I didn't achieve his great (metaphorical and physical) heights though. But, that's what you find out when you see this movie.

Sure, it's a basic family movie, but that's a dying breed these days, it seems. Take the time to see it, with the kids: you'll all have a lot of good laughs.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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