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.



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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?


The location of the slag dump where the Rocket Boys actually tested their rockets still exists. It is now a large grassy field. It is located in the actual town of Coalwood, WV which still exists today. They erected a replica test stand, launch pad, and "shed" after the movie brought the rocket boys story back into the public light. Every year the town of Coalwood celebrates the Rocket Boys with a festival in October called "October Sky Festival". See more »


When Roy Lee's stepfather is beating Roy Lee up, after getting released from the jail, and John Hickam tells Homer to get into the car, Jake Gyllenhaal (Homer Hickam) is not the one getting into the car, it is his body double. See more »


Homer: [jumps into Roy Lee's car to go to football tryouts] Let's go, Roy Lee! It's almost nine.
Roy Lee: You sure are in a hurry to get yourself killed, huh, kid?
O'Dell: There are easier ways to commit suicide, Homer.
Homer: Would you just step on it, Roy Lee?
Roy Lee: [frustrated with his car] I *am* stepping on it.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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


Featured in Spotlight on Location: October Sky (1999) 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

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User Reviews

Nostalgic, Inspirational and Worthwhile
4 June 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I was watching this when my wife called to inquire from the other room as to my choice of fare. My comment? "I am watching my Life!"

Though younger, but only by 5 years or so, than the "Rocket Boys" I remember the absolute urgency with which Sputnick was greeted by our administrators of education and how the whole Science Fair thing gained momentum and took me and others into the competitive whirlwind. My own tornado landed me in my own State's Science Fair, in Physics by '62, though our group was less successful in gaining the support of, for example, firefighters we approached for guidance and counsel until after a tragic event, our city went so far as to allow us to tour the Nike missile site on Chicago's lakeshore.

This movie brought it all back for me and I will bet that it brought it all back for a bunch of us "UberNerds" of the late '50s and early 60's.

We are in a similar science brain drainage period now and really need this movie as a country. See It!

38 of 47 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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