Forget Interstellar, This $630M Space Film is the Most Accurate Sci-Fi Ever Made

Forget Interstellar, This $630M Space Film is the Most Accurate Sci-Fi Ever Made
Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros.

Not even quantum physics can compare to the power of cultivating potatoes.


  • Interstellar became famous for its use of physical theories, thanks to the input of Nobel laureate Kip Thorne.
  • But it deals with relatively distant technological prospects. The Martian, on the other hand, deals with what could happen in the next decade.
  • Ridley Scott 's film has been highly praised for the realism of its problems and solutions.

While sci-fi certainly implies an element of 'science' in more than just the genre's name, in reality we have far more 'speculative' than 'science' fiction: epic in its scope and disregard for scientific knowledge like Star Wars or Dune, or those that have very neat scientific concepts and justifications but veer into metaphysical madness like 2001: A Space Odyssey. While there are always exceptions, even a subgenre like hard science fiction tends to look into the distant future of humanity rather than solve pressing matters.

Take Interstellar, for example. Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan have done a colossal job, and their most successful decision was undoubtedly the involvement of Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. The result is a brilliant movie that deals with the issues of human survival in a rapidly deteriorating ecology, extraterrestrial colonization, and the issues of wormholes and their exploitation. But again, the reflections come from the prospect of more advanced technology that can't be achieved in just a few decades.

This brings to mind the movie that came out a year after Interstellar, which also happens to deal with the issue of space colonization, and therefore also falls under the definition of sci-fi. Except that the movie in question is actually scientific, since it is essentially a series of gripping experiments based on modern technological advances.

Probably the Most Scientifically Accurate Sci-Fi Movie Ever Made

If anyone among modern writers is truly true to hard sci-fi, it is Andy Weir. In 2011, Weir, the son of a particle physicist and an electrical engineer, published a novel whose title says it all: The Martian. And so, 20th Century Fox's decision to adapt the novel, with Drew Goddard as screenwriter and Ridley Scott as director, was an incredibly successful one, as it set in motion the creation of one of the most scientifically accurate films in the history of cinema in general (look out, Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon!).

The movie is set in the near future, in 2035. The plot follows astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a botanist and mechanical engineer, who is sent with other crew members on a mission to explore Mars. However, as a result of an accident, Mark loses contact with the rest of the crew and is presumed dead, stranded on the surface of the alien planet while the others return to orbit.

There is no communication with either orbit or Earth, the next Mars mission is only a few years away and in a completely different region, and the Martian base does not have enough energy, oxygen, food, and water to last the entire time. But Mark, using all his scientific knowledge, makes a daring attempt to defy fate: at the base, he cultivates Martian soil with bio-waste to grow potatoes; then he modifies a Martian rover to make its way to the base of a future manned mission; and he recycles technologies from previous robotic spacecrafts, including real Pathfinder, which lost contact with Earth in 1997.

Andy Weir's approach to scientific data was achieved through audience interaction while writing the novel, but for the adaptation, Scott brought in NASA physicist James L. Green, who, despite some minor flaws, praised the scientific nature of the script.

The result is probably the most scientifically accurate movie ever made, both theoretically and practically. However, The Martian doesn't feel overwhelming because of its abundance of specific facts, but maintains suspense and provides an incredibly compelling execution of scientific experiments.