The Right Stuff (1983)

right stuff poster 1983 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great adventure of humanity's desire to push further

Long film, some criticism for downplaying the other pilots in comparison to Yeager

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Right Stuff

Studio:  The Ladd Company

Genre(s):  Drama/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  October 21, 1983 (Limited)/February 17, 1984 (Wide)

MPAA Rating:  PG


The sound barrier is just the beginning!

With the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) on October 14, 1947, the first step of the space race is on!  As pilots push to go faster, space is the next goal and a team of astronauts is assembled to beat the Soviets into space.  Gus Grissom (Fred Ward), Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), John Glenn (Ed Harris), Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid), Deke Slayton (Scott Paulin), Walter Schirra (Lance Henriksen), and Malcolm Carpenter (Charles Frank) are selected and become instant celebrities as the Mercury Seven.  Now, pushing the limit of the envelope is the goal and the danger is real.


We’re the new kids on the block and we’ve got the right stuff!!!

Directed by Philip Kaufman, The Right Stuff is an adaptation of the 1979 Tom Wolfe historic novel of the same title.  The movie was critically acclaimed performed average the box office.  The movie won Academy Awards for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Original Score with nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Sam Shepard), Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.  The movie was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry.

I saw The Right Stuff in the theater.  I was probably just seven years old and went with my friend and his family…to a three hour plus movie that is mostly a drama.  It probably wasn’t the best decision by my friend’s parents and I can remember being extremely bored (even with the intermission).  It didn’t matter how much plane and space stuff it had…the movie might be PG but is for adults.


As a kid, this is what I remember the most from the film…

Like most historical films that are made for entertainment, the movie does take some liberties with history.  The Right Stuff is pretty good at keeping accurate, but there are some time alignment issues and Wolfe and others found some criticism in making Yeager “the star” of the group when all of the pilots were good on their own rights.

The real thrust of the picture isn’t these little inaccuracies but the triumph of humans.  Though the film is very patriot “America”, to me it feels like a sign of what can be accomplished.  Though there are some little squabbles, the team is working together toward a goal and the one-upsmanship is for the best of the project and not personal glory.  It is a pleasant change from a time where even team sports are all about the all-stars.


The other side of the astronauts

The cast is phenomenal.  Sam Shepherd might come off as the star as Yeager, but Ed Harris really leads the group as the likable John Glenn (and gets to play another real astronaut in Apollo-13).  Dennis Quaid is the young gun Gordon Cooper, and Fred Ward is the more tortured Gus Grissom.  Scott Glenn is good as Alan Shepard, and Lance Henriksen has a smaller role as Walter Schirra.  The second aspect to the film’s cast is the interesting astronaut wives.  Veronica Cartwright comes out a bit heavy as Betty Grissom but Barbara Hershey is nice as Glennis Yeager.  Pamela Reed plays the wife with attitude of Gordon Cooper, and Mary Jo Deschanel is the quiet, stuttering Annie Glenn.  Other actors involved in the film include Harry Shearer and Jeff Goldblum as recruiters and a cameo by Chuck Yeager himself.



The movie also looks fantastic.  Be it the airplane testing near the beginning of the film or the Mercury missions at the end, the film has held up and still looks real.  This is pretty amazing consider films like Apollo-13, Gravity, and even Armageddon have bigger budgets and effects.  It also has a nice stylized shooting with most of the light (literally) being shined on the astronauts (others seem to be in shadows).

The Right Stuff is a good movie despite its extremely slow pacing.  It probably isn’t one of those movies you can sit through without a bit of an intermission but it is worth revisiting if you haven’t seen it for years.  The Right Stuff gets it right…it isn’t the best movie but it is a very good movie.  The movie is a reminder of what we can accomplish if we really try.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response