There is a body of films that are set on the planet Mars. In the late 19th century, people erroneously believed that there were canals on Mars. Into the early 20th century, additional observations of Mars fed people's interest in what was called "Mars fever".[1][2] One of the earliest films to be set on Mars was the short film A Trip to Mars (1910), which was produced by one of Thomas Edison's film companies.[3] In the 1920s through the 1960s, more films featured Mars or extraterrestrial Martians. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Mariner program and the Viking program revealed new scientific details about Mars that showed little prospect for life. The Guardian said, "These disappointing discoveries changed the place of Mars on humanity's mental map. Films began to reflect this." Films such as Total Recall (1990) and Red Planet (2000) focused more on the colonization of Mars by humans.[1]

The Guardian, reporting on the release of John Carter (2012), said, since 1995, six films featuring Mars performed poorly at the box office.[1] Wired, reporting on the release of The Martian (2015), said prior films set on Mars—Red Planet, Mission to Mars (2000), and The Last Days on Mars (2013)—were "notable flops" that were the most recent in a "dismal track record of Mars movies".[4] The Atlantic called The Martian "the subgenre's newest and best entry", citing the positive reviews and strong box office returns on opening weekend. It said, "Many films seek to dramatize the Red Planet’s harsh landscape as a romantic frontier, but The Martian is one that actually succeeds."[5]

List of films

The following films are listed alphabetically. The list can be sorted chronologically by clicking the diamond shape which follows the word "Year":

Film Year Description
2036 Origin Unknown 2018 After a failed mission to Mars, A.I./ARTI is now used for the 2036 mission with a few human supervisors. A monolith of unknown origin is found there. It will have a big effect on Earth.[6]
Aelita 1924 In this silent film, a man travels to Mars and leads a popular uprising against the authorities and attracts the love of Queen Aelita.[1]
The Angry Red Planet 1959 Astronauts who return to Earth after a human flight to Mars recount encountering hostile creatures, with only two surviving the encounter.[7]
Christmas on Mars 2008 The film tells the story of experiences during the first Christmas on a newly colonized Mars.[8]
Conquest of Space 1955 A team of American astronauts leave their space station on the first mission to Mars.[9]
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie 2001 The feature film spin-off of the Japanese anime series is set on Mars.[8]
Doom 2005 Based on the video game series Doom, a group of Marines embark on a search-and-rescue mission after a research facility on Mars is attacked.[10]
Escape from Mars 1999 Five astronauts make the first human trip to Mars.[11]
Flight to Mars 1951 A human expedition team lands on Mars and discovers an underground civilization that is dying out.[1]
Ghosts of Mars 2001 On a mostly terraformed Mars, a team of police officers search for missing miners and discover that they have been possessed by spirits from an ancient Martian civilization.[7]
It! The Terror from Beyond Space 1958 At the beginning of the film, the sole survivor of a human mission to Mars is recovered by a second rocket ship, but a monster stows away on board for the trip back to Earth.[12]
John Carter 2012 Based on the 1912 novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, former American Civil War Confederate Army captain John Carter is transported to Mars and becomes involved in a conflict between its inhabitants.[7]
Just Imagine 1930 A young man is in love with a woman and must impress government officials to marry her. To do this, he travels to Mars with this best friend, and they are accompanied by a stowaway.[3]
The Last Days on Mars 2013 On the first human mission to Mars, a crew member discovers fossil evidence of bacterial life. When contact is lost with him, the rest of the crew investigates and learns that there is still life on the planet.[8]
Mars 1997 Virtually a low-budget remake of Total Recall (1990), with martial arts star Oliver Gruner at the center of the action.[13]
Mars Needs Moms 2011 In the animated film, a boy's mother is abducted by Martians, and he pursues them back to Mars to rescue her.[7]
The Martian 2015 A human mission to Mars goes awry, and an astronaut is presumed dead and left behind on the planet by his crew. He fights to survive in the harsh environment and to signal to others that he is still alive. Upon discovering his signal, NASA, scientists all around Earth, and his crew members collaborate to find a way to rescue him.[8]
Martian Land 2015 The direct-to-video science fiction film is set on Mars in the future, and humans live in domed cities that become threatened by sandstorms.[14]
Mission Mars 1968 Three astronauts travel to Mars on an expedition but encounter strange forces on the planet.[10]
Mission to Mars 2000 A rescue mission is sent to Mars to recover the sole survivor of a scientific expedition, and the astronauts learn that Mars is not a dead planet.[7]
Moonshot 2022 In the science-fiction romantic comedy, two college students sneak onto a space shuttle to a terraformed Mars to be with their significant others, with the film's third act taking place on Mars.[15]
Princess of Mars 2009 In a modern-day update of the 1912 novel A Princess of Mars, the direct-to-DVD film features former U.S. Army sniper John Carter being transported to Mars and becoming involved in a conflict between its inhabitants.[16]
Red Planet 2000 When a terraforming project on Mars goes awry, a rescue mission is sent to fix the system but crash-lands on the planet.[7]
Robinson Crusoe on Mars 1964 The film, based on the survival story Robinson Crusoe, features an astronaut stranded on Mars.[10]
RocketMan 1997 In the comedy film, a substitute astronaut joins the first human mission to Mars with the goal of finding fossils.[10]
Rocketship X-M 1950 Rocketship Expedition-Moon is accidentally hurtled beyond Luna on a trajectory towards Mars. Ship and crew touch down briefly on the Red Planet, where they encounter the survivors of a nuclear war.[8]
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians 1964 In the comedy film, Martians kidnap Santa Claus and two children and bring them back to Mars.[7]
Settlers 2021 The Western-themed film features a couple and their daughter settled on Mars and keeping a secret from her about their life.[17]
The Space Between Us 2017 In the science fiction film, humanity successfully colonizes Mars, and a colonist gives birth to a boy who ultimately travels back to Earth.[8]
Special Report: Journey to Mars 1996 The first mission to Mars is accompanied by a reporter that does regular television reports. The commander of the mission is discovered to have been infected by a group against the mission. He survives and in the last scene he sees something on the surface of Mars that is not shown to the audience.[18]
Species II 1998 In the science fiction horror film, the beginning shows a human mission to Mars in which alien ooze infects the first American man to walk on Mars. The astronaut unknowingly brings the infection back to Earth, where it spreads to others.[19]
Star Crystal 1986 The science fiction film introduces an expedition to Mars, from which scientists recover an alien egg and take to their ship.[20]
Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars 2017 The computer-animated science fiction film, one of several in the Starship Troopers franchise, features a demoted general stationed on Mars who has to train poorly-performing troopers. The military has to confront alien bugs that decide to target Mars.[21]
Stranded (Spanish: Náufragos) 2001 A human mission to Mars crash-lands on the planet, stranding the crew.[11]
Total Recall 1990 Loosely based on the Philip K. Dick story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale", a man recovers the memory of being a secret agent and travels to Mars to figure out his true identity.[7]
A Trip to Mars 1910 The short film, 4 minutes in length, stars a professor who uses an antigravity powder to float to Mars, where he encounters aggressive trees and a giant creature. The creature then sends him back to Earth, but the powder spills and the whole laboratory flies in the sky.[3]
A Trip to Mars 1918 An adventurer travels to Mars in a ship of his own construction, and finds the planet's inhabitants living harmoniously.[8]
Watchmen 2009 In the superhero film mainly set on Earth, the superpowered being Dr. Manhattan exiles himself to Mars after being accused of causing cancer in those in his company.[22]
The Wizard of Mars 1965 A rocketship crew is stranded on Mars, and they travel through a ruined civilization before they find a yellow road that leads to a Martian city and a wizard who can help them.[3]

See also

Related television

Indirectly related films


  1. ^ a b c d e Cox, David (March 12, 2012). "John Carter: don't mention Mars". The Guardian. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  2. ^ Fergus, Charles (May 1, 2013). "Beyond Earth: Mars Fever". Penn State News. Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Zorpette, Glenn (September 30, 2015). "At Last, the Great Martian Movie". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
  4. ^ Staff (September 26, 2015). "Can The Martian Beat Hollywood's Mars Curse?". Wired. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  5. ^ Sims, David (October 2015). "Why the Mars Movie Is the Space-Age Western". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  6. ^ Murray, Noel (June 7, 2018). "Katee Sackhoff stands up for humanity in '2036 Origin Unknown'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Staff. "10 Movie Missions to Mars". Fandango. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Howell, Elizabeth (November 22, 2018). "The Best Mars Movies to Celebrate the Red Planet!". Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  9. ^ Handlen, Zack (December 15, 2009). "Conquest Of Space (1955)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d Staff. "Best Movies Set on Mars". AMC Networks. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Anders, Charlie Jane (March 11, 2008). "What Killed The Mars Movie Fad?". io9. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  12. ^ Staff (December 31, 1967). "Review: 'It! – The Terror from Beyond Space'". Variety. Archived from the original on January 12, 2015.
  13. ^ Miller, Thomas Kent (2016). Mars in the Movies: A History. McFarland. p. 209. ISBN 978-0-7864-9914-4.
  14. ^ Staff. "Martian Land". Radio Times. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
  15. ^ Allen, Nick (March 31, 2022). "Moonshot movie review & film summary (2022)". Retrieved September 3, 2022.
  16. ^ Staff (October 21, 2014). "Disney's Rights to John Carter Revert Back to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc". Retrieved September 17, 2015. ...low-rent studio The Asylum made in 2009 with Princess of Mars, starring Antonio Sabato Jr. and Traci Lords.
  17. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (July 28, 2021). "Settlers review – audacious sci-fi western of frontier pioneers on Mars". The Guardian. Retrieved January 25, 2022.
  18. ^ Slewinski, Christy (March 25, 1996). "So, Anything Else to Watch? Rival Nets Concede the Night to Oscars". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  19. ^ Van Gelder, Lawrence (April 11, 1998). "Species II (1998): Film Review; Sex and the Single Hideous Monster". The New York Times. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  20. ^ Sullivan, Ben (October 31, 2016). "6 Movies That Made Us Afraid of Mars". Vice. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  21. ^ "Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  22. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 4, 2009). "Watchmen Movie Review & Film Summary". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 9, 2015.

Further reading