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Apollo 11

The stirring, beautiful documentary revisiting the moon landing in a new way is currently in theaters.

Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Metacritic score: 90

Fifty years ago this July, the first men landed on the moon, the culmination of the Apollo 11 mission. “Iconic” is an overused word, but the images recorded during that mission deserve it: the blast-off moment, the American flag planted on the lunar surface, Neil Armstrong reflected in Buzz Aldrin’s helmet. Those images have come to represent hope.

Apollo 11, directed by Todd Douglas Miller, harnesses those images to powerfully retell the story of the mission. But Miller’s film does a lot more than just retread familiar history. Using never-before-seen footage and sound from the mission that has been meticulously scanned and restored, Apollo 11 moves from launch to safe return in a way that makes you feel as if you’re living through it. There’s minimal onscreen text, a couple of very simple illustrations to show the craft’s trajectory, and no talking heads.

The result is an extraordinary film. It is grand and awe-inspiring, particularly if you can catch it in IMAX, where the larger-format images create the feeling of being engulfed by what you’re watching onscreen. It’s almost as if you’re actually on the moon.