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Destination Moon (1950)

Not Rated | | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi | August 1950 (USA)
2:05 | Trailer

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One of the first science fiction films to attempt a high level of accurate technical detail tells the story of the first trip to the Moon.


Irving Pichel


Alford Van Ronkel (written for the screen by) (as Rip Van Ronkel), Robert A. Heinlein (written for the screen by) | 2 more credits »
Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
John Archer ... Jim Barnes
Warner Anderson ... Dr. Charles Cargraves
Tom Powers ... General Thayer
Dick Wesson ... Joe Sweeney
Erin O'Brien-Moore ... Emily Cargraves


After their latest rocket fails, Dr. Charles Cargraves and retired General Thayer have to start over again. This time, Gen. Thayer approaches Jim Barnes, the head of his own aviation construction firms to help build a rocket that will take them to the moon. Together they gather the captains of industry and all pledge to support the goals of having the United States be the first to put a man on the moon. They build their rocket and successfully leave the Earth's gravitational pull and make the landing as scheduled. Barnes has miscalculated their fuel consumption however and after stripping the ship bare, they are still 100 lbs too heavy meaning that one of them will have to stay behind. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


UP UP UP Seven miles a second See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

August 1950 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Destination Moon See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

George Pal Productions See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The panoramic view of the lunar scenery was a Chesley Bonestell painting 13 feet long, mounted on wheels and rolled past a stationary camera. To make the stars appear brightly luminous, 534 holes were punched in the painting and illuminated from behind. See more »


When Sweeny unbuckles the straps on his couch after the engines stop, he thinks he is falling. Cargraves tells him that he's not falling- but he's in "free orbit" and weightless. The ship never went into orbit, the trajectory was what is called "direct ascent" meaning that it bypassed any orbital phase on its way to the moon. See more »


[Experiencing spacesickness]
General Thayer: I know one thing: unless these pills work, space travel isn't going to be... popular.
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the end of the film, a story of the first flight to the Moon, the words THIS IS THE END are displayed first, then OF THE BEGINNING is added. See more »


Referenced in The Sky Is Falling: Making 'The War of the Worlds' (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

Almost Too Real to be Entertaining
5 January 2006 | by aimless-46See all my reviews

More historical curiosity than entertaining science fiction film, "Destination Moon" is a must see for those interested in the evolution of the genre and the political climate of the early cold war years. Don't expect any cheap thrills or exploitation elements. There are no aliens, no monsters, and no hot women. Instead it presents a detailed speculation of what they thought it would be like to go to the moon in a rocket-ship. Despite looking like a massive version of a Von Braun rocket from WWII, the speculation about the problems faced by the engineers and crew of such a product are surprisingly accurate and must have been fascinating viewing back in 1950. Both the rocket and the moon are considerably more realistic than the old "Flash Gordon" stuff.

Like another science fiction classic "Them", "Destination Moon" is loaded with political references conveying a not so subtle distrust of the federal government. But the two films convey the same message from polar opposite perspectives. "Them" placed the blame for its giant mutations on reckless atomic bomb testing and portrayed the federal response to the crisis as clueless until assisted by local law enforcement and an eccentric university scientist. "Destination Moon" has a hawkish perspective, with unidentified fifth columnists sabotaging America's early space program. Fortunately, selfless patriotic industrialists come to the rescue and finance a successful private enterprise program to claim the moon for the United States.

The deliberately low-key documentary style is relieved by the last minute addition of space novice Joe Sweeney (Dick Wesson) to the crew. With a Brooklyn accent (his first view of earth from space elicits a desire to know who is pitching for the Dodgers that day) Sweeney provides both comic relief and an excuse for the expect members of the crew to expound in layman's terms about the details of space travel. I couldn't help thinking of "Dark Star's" Sgt. Pinback whenever Sweeney began to whine about not belonging on the mission.

Another concession to the unsophisticated 1950's audience has the project leaders making their pitch for financing through a special Woody Woodpecker space training film. The skeptical fowl and his two audiences receive their indoctrination at the same time. "Destination Moon" must have infused the nation with a sense of wonder and faith in what the free enterprise system could achieve because it is actually listed as an event in NASA's chronology of the history of space travel. It is likely that the producers were more successful with this upbeat message than with their attempt to spread fear and promote a space race. Although considerable effort is made to sell the audience on the military value of the moon nothing very convincing is presented in that regard. Ironically, much of the actual space race a few years later would have a military purpose.

"Destination Moon" has two moments of suspense. The first is when Charles Cargraves (played by Warner Anderson) exits the ship in space and drifts away once his magnetic boots lose contact with the ship. Since Cargraves is the ship's designer, it seems rather implausible that he should forget this but no more so than his constructing the ship out of heavy steel. The second is when they botch the landing and must lighten the ship to have enough fuel to return to earth (of course we 21st century viewers knew the thing was too heavy as soon as we learned about the magnetic boot thing).

Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein teamed with producer George Pal to put "Destination Moon" into production. They soon learned that Kurt Neumann was working to release "Rocketship X-M" in time to benefit from their publicity campaign. For legal reasons Neumann modified his more sensational film to feature a landing on Mars rather than on the moon. Although Neumann's paid less attention to scientific details, it turned out to be more accurate in the use of a two-stage rocket and not the one-stage monster featured in the Heinlein/Pal version. Both films were subject to staggering naiveté about the complexity of space travel. Although the film's version of the moon surface is hauntingly beautiful (thanks to Chesley Bonestell's backdrop paintings) it looks more like a dried lake-bed than the actual lunar surface.

In retrospect, "Destination Moon's" most unique sci-fi genre feature is the absolute refusal of its producers to show anything that deviated from what they believed at the time to be the truth about space travel. Although today it is a struggle to really appreciate the film, at least as it would have hit viewers in 1950, how many science fiction films have been criticized as being too real to be entertaining.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.

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