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  • 'The Right Stuff' is one of the most glorious adventure films ever made, a story of incredible heroism, poignant romance, gripping drama, and broad humor...and amazingly, it has actually happened within our lifetimes!

    This is a tale of test pilots, 'pushing the envelope', proving the sound barrier couldn't constrain mankind's reach for space. Leading the way is plain-speaking Chuck Yeager (portrayed by Sam Shepard with Gary Cooper-like charm), a Beeman's gum-chewing cowboy with a passion for his feisty wife (the beautiful Barbara Hershey), and hot planes. Not even a broken rib could hold him back when an opportunity to fly the X-1 was offered. His record-breaking flight could fill a movie by itself...and this is just the BEGINNING of the story!

    Jumping ahead a few years, Yeager is joined by a new breed of test pilots, whose total love of flight challenges their relationships, and is the true measure of how they define themselves. Among them are 'Gordo' Cooper (Dennis Quaid), a hot dog jet jockey with an unhappy wife (Pamela Reed, giving an exceptional performance); and Gus Grissom (Fred Ward, in his breakthrough role), coarse and direct, and anxious for his shot at the fastest jets.

    The entire world changes when the Russians launch Sputnik, in 1957. As the American space program struggles to 'catch up', the government realizes that American men will have to go into space, and President Eisenhower wants 'educated' test pilots to fill this role. Yeager is out (he never completed college), but Cooper and Grissom, and many others, compete for spots in the New Frontier.

    These pilots, from all services, are weeded down to seven men, dubbed 'Astronauts', and the Mercury Space Program is born! Along with Cooper and Grissom, the story focuses on Navy pilot Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), laconic and prone to ethnic humor; and Marine John Glenn (perfectly cast Ed Harris), a 'boy scout' of unimpeachable morals, who loyally supports an impaired wife (sensitively portrayed by Mary Jo Deschanel). Working under the glare of the world press, the seven gradually come to respect one another, and embark on an epic adventure, full of triumph and tragedy!

    Meanwhile, Chuck Yeager, snubbed by NASA, continues to test new generations of jets, pushing the 'envelope', until, in a climactic scene, he achieves the threshold of space, himself. The flight is a near disaster, resulting in a horrendous crash, but the image of the burned but undefeated pilot, walking proudly away from the wreckage, is an unforgettable image of courage, and truly defines 'The Right Stuff'!

    This is a REMARKABLE film in every way, and is director Philip Kaufman's masterpiece. Lushly scored by Tom Conti (who won an Oscar for the Tchaikovsky-inspired music), the film soars, both on earth and in space!

    If you believe the Age of Heroes is past, watch 'The Right Stuff', and you might change your mind! This is a film to treasure!
  • The Right Stuff is terrific: exciting, complex, funny, crammed with memorable scenes, unforgettable lines, and wonderful actors (many of whom went on to become big stars).

    A classic shot shows a test pilot on horseback coming over a ridge stopping to look at a new rocket-plane, steadying his nervous horse as it edges past the flames coming out the back. The test pilot is the twentieth century's cowboy: tough, laconic, independent, fearless.

    The Right Stuff tells two parallel stories: the (often fatal) exploits of the early test pilots and Mercury astronauts, with intersecting storylines. The movie never takes itself too seriously. Witness general crawling on the floor to plug in the projector, the sounds of the locusts when the press surrounds the astronauts (Yeager called them locusts initially), the Halleluiah Chorus during the press conference, the enema scene, Sheppard needing to take a leak in the suit, Johnson trying to deal with a housewife. Yet underneath all the fun that is poked at the astronauts we see respect for real men doing a scary, important job.

    This film has all the excitement of Top Gun, but is longer, better, just as high-tech exciting, and much funnier. (A washroom scene rivals Meg Ryan's famous restaurant scene...the audience laughed so hard we all missed Cooper's next line!).

    And some wonderful lines: Cooper's response to "Who's the best pilot you ever saw?", "O.K. You can be Gus", "The Military owes me", "Read'em and weep", "Hey Ridley, you got any Beemans?", "I go to church too.", "Everything is A-OK", "Our Germans are better than their Germans", "What are you two pudknockers going to have?", and, said with regret and frustration "test pilots!"

    To those who have seen it, here's a challenge that will enable you to appreciate the excellent writing, the workmanship and planning that went into the script. View the movie again and see how many times the screenwriter and director took the trouble to set up a later event or comment with an earlier reference. Here are three examples: Cooper dropping a tiny toy space capsule into Grissum's drink (foreshadowing), Copper reading Life magazine before the publisher enters the movie (to make sure we viewers know that Life magazine exits), Yeager bumping his elbow on a limb of a cactus tree as he walks into Pancho's at the beginning of the movie (I never noticed this the first few times I watched the movie, but surely this tiny action was deliberate.) I count a dozen more examples. Send me ones you find.

    If you haven't seen The Right Stuff, I strongly recommend you rent the DVD. -RS
  • I have to correct "mrbsico" for not paying attention to the very things he comments on. It's not that he turned down the opportunity to apply to be an astronaut, it's that Chuck Yeager wasn't allowed to apply. When seraching for astronauts Harry Shearer's character praises Yeager as the ace of aces, but goes on to say that he "doesn't fit the profile" of the type of man Washington is looking for because he never went to college. This was a true pre-requisite which the Mercury Program had. Also, the scene at the end where Yeager crashes his NF-104 doesn't bring him down, it glorifies him. Gordo Cooper even comments that he gets on the cover of magazines, gets a free car, free lunches all across America, a free home with all the furnishings and loads of money and "I ain't even been up there yet". He's famous because he's an astronaut alone - not because of anything he's done. Kaufman cuts back and forth between the scene where Cooper is with Yeager's flight in the desert for reason. Yeager's almost alone with no media around, out in the desert attempting a record which won't put him on Life Magazine's cover. He's trying to set a record because that's what he's made of. He has The Right Stuff; which is something Cooper reazlies as we cut back to the reception and Gordo is asked by the reporters who the best pilot he ever saw was. Yeager may have crashed his plane in his last flight of the movie, but he emerges as a fearless man ever up for the challenge. And that he's not doing any of it for fame or fortune (although in real life the real Yeager cashed in with TV ads and a best-selling autobiography after both the book and the movie were released!!). That's what's rare about this movie for Hollywood to have made. Films are almost never about measuring a man's inner desires, but rather his being able to win the fight at the end. Yeager in contrast doesn't win the flight record at the film's end, but he is still the hero. This is because he dares to do what we never would. And even after his plane crashes he walks out of the gulf of fire and smoke with a severely burned face as if he will be back; you can't keep him down. This is why as the rescuer driving the ambulance as he sees Yeager's figure walking out of the fire in the distance asks, "Is that a man?", Jack Ridley replies, "You're damn right it is!". Ridley isn't merely remarking that it's a man over there, he is commenting that in our world Yeager is one of the few true "men". This film is not about the space program. That is merely a pretext to explore the type of men who have what it takes to volunteer for dangerous missions - even in times of peace. It's about men who have The Right Stuff - and of all those men whom we see in the movie it is Yeager who shines about all others.
  • It was wonderful to see again this 1983 gem. Just as I remembered plus those unexpected surprises that time puts in evidence. Kim Stanley for instance. A few minutes on the screen, a peripheral character but I took her with me and here I am, thinking about her. The "starry" role jet pilots played and that new breed: "tha astronauts" getting the all American treatment, becoming overnight celebrities. Ed Harris is extraordinary as John Glenn. He becomes a sort of leader with some TV experience and we never ask why. Ed Harris's performance explains it all without ever actually saying it. Dennis Quaid is irresistible as "Gordo" Cooper. You believe every one of his thoughts, specially the ones he never reveals. In spite of the film's length, I wished the film would not end. I haven't had that wish very often. "The Right Stuff" is the real thing.
  • Following the breaking of the sound barrier by pilot Chuck Yeager, the next barrier was space. With the Russians and America in a race to see who can get there first and be highest, quickest and longest in space, a group of pilots are selected to become the first men in space for America.

    I have had this film for many years and have only seen it twice now – I always get put off by having to find three + hours free to watch it! However I am a fool as whenever I do watch it the time flies by easily. Such is the appeal of the film that everything works and only the odd scene at the end drags a little. The story skips through the space programme focusing as much on the flights as it does on the men and their families. It also manages to be very light hearted and good humoured, which succeeds in making it easy and fun to watch. The history being told may not be well known by all (I'm too young to remember and am also in the UK), but it is well told and becomes more a story of the men whose courage made it happen rather than a history lesson.

    Given that so much hinges on the men being interesting and likeable characters it was important to have a good cast, and the ensemble assembled here really put in good work to bring the names to life (although how close to their real personalities they are I cannot say). Taking one as an example, Fred Ward manages to be funny but also has to convey the more difficult side as he is forced to live with blame for the outcome of his mission. Shepard represents the `unsung' pilots left behind in the sky who put the space programme in motion in the first place, and he does it well with a real sense that he has a lot of men behind him. Glenn, Harris, Quaid Henriksen, Frank and Paulin all do sterling work to varying degrees. However even minor roles are played by faces who do well – Hershey is good and carries the role of `the women behind the men' really well. Moffat is funny as Lyndon Johnson and Goldblum and Shearer are hilarious with their running jokes.

    The film is very flag waving – but the good humour stopped that aspect of it sticking in my throat. It is a very enjoyable and accomplished film. Not only does it manage to inform and entertain but it also paints a very good picture of the men who started and ran the space programme and the effect the risks had on them and their families. All this and it still makes me laugh out loud! Three hours simply flies by.
  • Outstanding film from 1983 that was honored with four Academy Awards and is often called the second-best film of the 1980s behind only Scorsese's "Raging Bull". The movie is a 190-plus minute extravaganza which honors the U.S. Mercury 7 Astronauts. The all-star cast includes Sam Shepard (as Chuck Yeager in an Oscar-nominated role of a lifetime), Ed Harris (John Glenn), Scott Glenn (Alan Shepard), Fred Ward (Gus Grissom), Lance Henriksen (Walter Schirra), Dennis Quaid (Gordon Cooper), and Donald Moffat (Lyndon Baines Johnson). The film is solid in so many respects. It is meticulous and tries to go for drama and humor and succeeds in everything it wants to do. Veronica Cartwright, Barbara Hershey, Pamela Reed, Kathy Baker, and Mary Jo Deschanel are also along for the ride as several of the wives who attempt to keep their heads about them while they fear that their husbands are losing theirs. "The Right Stuff" is a historical lesson told in a way that is so clever and convincing that few will find fault with anything when it comes to the story-telling. Writer-director Philip Kaufman easily does the best work of his career with this masterpiece. Look for Cincinnati Bengal Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz in a cameo appearance. Arguably the best film of the 1980s and should have been the Best Picture Oscar winner over "Terms of Endearment" in 1983. 5 stars out of 5.
  • An interesting insight into the United States' space program, beginning with the exploits of fighter pilot Chuck Yeager (Sam Shephard) and concluding with the dramatic flights of the first astronauts.

    Those astronauts - the Mercury 7 pilots - are a varied group of aviators and they are all pretty interesting guys. John Glenn (Ed Harris) gets favorable treatment in here among the group. Gordon Cooper might be the wildest with the cocky and humorous Dennis Quaid playing him. Overall, it's a good cast including not just the fliers but their wives. I also enjoyed Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard and Barbara Hershey as Yeager's wife.

    Yeager's feats were perhaps the most interesting and they set a fast tone to this 3-hour film as we witness him breaking several sound-barrier records prior to the formation of the astronaut team. Then we are treated to a long-but-interesting segment of how those first astronauts were trained.

    The only unnecessary and ludicrous parts of this film were the ones on Lyndon Johnson, where they made him into a total fool. It was as if the screen writers had a personal vendetta against him, to make him look almost like a cartoon figure. And the bit with the Australian Aborigines smacks too much of Hollywood's love affair with tribal religions. I sincerely doubt some sparks from a fire on earth could be seen miles and miles above in space.

    At any rate, this was an informative look at a period in our history than came-and-went way too fast. Sad to say, most people know very little about those first astronauts, who were true heroes. At least this film gives them their due, as well as to Yeager, who deserved this tribute, too
  • An incredibly under-rated director, Philip Kaufman adapted Tom Wolfe's best-selling tale of the Mercury astronauts in 1983 and, since that time, he has been unable to top himself (he came very very close with Unbearable... and Quills, but The Right Stuff is very much out of their league).

    Why? The Right Stuff is a perfect blend of intelligence and wit and action. At just three hours long, it occasionally feels too short. The audience comes to know the characters through terrific performances by Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Sam Shepard, and Fred Willard and Kaufman's deft pen (which, no doubt, Wolfe's novel helped guide). We are sad when the story ends; we want more. It's rare that a movie creates such an inviting and intriguing world that, after three hours, we still do not want to leave.

    This movie is absolutely one of a kind. Its critical patriotism shows that films can show their love of country without wandering into nationalistic or jingoistic propaganda. It is very rare that a film this indebted to America and American history can be so ambivalent.

    That, in my mind, is a positive rather than a negative. The filmmaker and actors understand that the Space Race was not a simple process; they understand that heroes have a dark side.

    They all refuse to let the heroism cover the unsavory aspects of a person's life and, simultaneously, they do not let those aspects darken their contribution to mankind.

    The Right Stuff is really an amazing filmic experience. It's an expert adaptation, an expert recreation of the early US Space Program, and an expert entertainment. Apollo 13 wanted so very much to be the Right Stuff. It's not; nothing will ever beat the Right Stuff.
  • The Right Stuff takes place during the Cold War when America was trying its hardest in technological advancements to beat the Russians. The movie first starts out with Chuck Yeager(Sam Shepard) attempting to break the sound barrier. The movie continues with other story lines as professional pilots desperately try to get into the NASA space program, become the first Americans into space, and try to break some kind of record that will beat what the Russians had. The other real life people that this movie follows are Alan Shepard(Scott Glenn), Gordon Cooper(Dennis Quaid), John Glenn(Ed Harris), Gus Grissom(Fred Ward), and of course, their families.

    The running time is very long at 3 hours plus, but it goes by very quickly. The first couple of hours go by as if they were 25 minutes, and the last hour is thrilling, as well as inspiring. There are several plot elements that really make this movie phenomenal. There is plenty of excitement as you see what the skilled pilots try to accomplish, there is plenty of humor, the cast is nearly perfect, and the score adds plenty of effect to the film. The result is a phenomenal, nearly perfect film, being one of the best films of the 1980's.

    The plot is very interesting, as you see the lives of the pilots, the status of the American Government desperately trying to overcome the Russians with advanced technology, and the difficulties in trying to accomplish these difficulties. This is well worth your time, and it is a great movie.
  • I always loved anything connected to science fact and science fiction and this movie is no exception.

    I already owned the Laserdisc version of it, but the DVD is even better.

    I love this movie, but I must consider the interest of the public and I honestly cannot say that this is one for the vast public.

    The theme alone is a difficult one and deals with the history of the Space Age, as it began from an American perspective, and by telling the story of the astronauts involved in the Mercury project.

    Being very long, it might not fit the modern view of a quick-fix movie. This one has to be watched as if your were watching "JFK" or "Gettysburg", therefore with the outmost attention.

    It has spectacular recreations of the actual launches, combined with more private moments, involving the astronauts, their loved ones and those who trained them.

    This is not Science Fiction and it is not an Adventure movie, this is truly a history lesson about how the Space Race got started, how, with whom and why.

    It is a very thoroughly researched movie, although it is not to be confused with a documentary. It is an intelligent movie, with good dialogues, good character recreations, with humor and moments of sadness and tragedy. The heroism of the first astronauts is not represented by their fabulous deeds, but rather by the sacrifices they had to make, in order to be successful.

    If you can bare to sit in front of your TV for 3 hours and 15 minutes without unnecessary interruptions, then this documentation may make it clear why men and women risk so much in going "where no one has gone before".

    But, as I stated before, this is not an easy going movie and is reserved for all those who want to enjoy a good movie in peace.

    I would recommend its showing in every school of the United States, and why not, also throughout the world. Many children would then really appreciate what the conquest of space is all about.
  • This is, in many ways, a very strange movie. One the one hand it deals with a very serious topic, which it seems to take very seriously. It has the overall look and feel of a drama (or even a melodrama). And yet, there are so many goofy moments in the movie that one wonders whether they were meant to be funny or not.

    There was the odd, stilted dialogue, especially among the fliers and their families, as they discuss (or as the case my be, don't discuss) what it means to have the "right stuff" of the title. There are the customarily nerdy performances of Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer in small roles as NASA recruiters. There is the truly over-the-top performance of Donald Moffat as Vice President Lyndon Johnson (who was a pretty over-the-top character in real life, now that I think of it). There are the German rocket scientists, the gaunt black-clad Angel-of-Death-type minister (Royal Dano) who turns up whenever a flyer gets killed, and the throng of reporters who chase after the astronauts and their families, literally barking like a pack of dogs as they pry into the most intimate parts of their lives for the sake of another human interest story.

    Even so, this movie was very entertaining. The story itself is fascinating, and the cast was great. Standouts include Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Veronica Cartwright, Pamela Reed, Kathy Baker, Barabara Hershey, Mary Jo Deschanel, Lance Henriksen, Levon Helm, and General Chuck Yeager himself in a cameo! It perhaps worth mentioning that most of these actors were relative unknowns when this movie came out in 1983.

    All in all, this is a fun movie.
  • This picture was selected as Best Picture of its year by 2 of the best movie reviewers in recent memory, Siskel & Ebert. They both chose this film because "it showed how things get done in America."

    This is one of my favorite films. If you remember the space race (and not fantasize you do like some other reviewers on this page) and the Mercury astronauts were your heroes too, then watching this movie is like going home again.

    As for the younger crowd? Watching this true story will be a lot of fun, and there are a lot of laughs. But more importantly, it will give you a look into a time when your country actually tried to do important things: not b/c they were easy, as President Kennedy said, but b/c they were hard. A concept so sadly lacking these days.

    Watch everyone, and enjoy. It's quite a ride, and it all really happened.
  • `The Right Stuff' is the story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts and their journey through the fledgling NASA program and eventually into space. It is well-written and well-acted, featuring a veritable `Who's Who' of then slightly unknown actors such as Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn and Lance Henriksen. While it had an over three hour running time, and I actually had to get up to turn over the DVD because of its length, the pacing was such that I never once considered that any particular scene should have been shortened. One thing I particularly enjoyed about the film was the introduction of Chuck Yeager (Shepard) and his contribution to history by breaking the sound barrier, and then the periodic simultaneous comparison of the accomplishments of the astronauts and the Air Force and civilian test pilots, as well as exhibiting their eventual mutual respect.

    If I had to point out any kind of glaring fault, it would have to be that they focused on some astronauts more than others – obviously concentrating heavily on the bigger names, and glossing over the `lesser-known' ones. An example would be Walter Schirra (Henriksen) – his name is mentioned a couple of times, and he probably had a tenth of the screen time of the others. Plainly, with an already three hour running time not everyone could have equal time, so this is certainly a mild criticism. `The Right Stuff' isn't profound or exceptional, but it is certainly a good and interesting film.

    --Shelly
  • This is one of my favorite movies. It starts with test pilot Chuck Yeager(Sam Shepard)and some of his accomplishments; and then right on through the trials and tribulations of picking the original seven Mercury astronauts and the final Mercury mission.

    Great NASA footage integrated into this meaty Philip Kaufman epic. A better than average ensemble cast. The best performances coming from Ed Harris as John Glenn; Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard; Dennis Quaid as 'Gordo' Cooper and Fred Ward as 'Gus' Grissom. Barbara Hershey was eye catching as Glennis Yeager and Donald Moffat was down right funny as the egotistical Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

    How truthful the characters are portrayed may be of question. But the sometimes odd personalities brings humor to what could be a very long and boring systematic movie. THE RIGHT STUFF is interesting, patriotic and empowering. Classified: Do Not Miss!
  • I love that early shot of Chuck Yeager on his horse looking at and passing by the X-1, one of the most advanced pieces of transportation equipment man had created up to that point. The rugged individual, the cowboy, and the high-tech instrument of man, together.

    That really does crystalize into an image what the Right Stuff actually is, according to the movie and its writer/director Philip Kaufman. It's the perfect combination of man and machine. But, it's not just any man. This isn't a movie about Yuri Gagarin going into space, it's about the seven Mercury astronauts, and Chuck Yeager. It's not the collectivist, New Socialist Man, but the individual. The one who has trouble taking orders. The one who's willing to take no more than his basic pay to hop into the cockpit of the machine that will more than likely take his life when he tries to chase the demon in the skies at Mach 1.

    The movie as a whole, though, spends a lot of time implicitly contrasting the government's efforts to find "the right stuff" with Yeager himself, who obviously has it. Would he have done as well in the tests as the other seven astronauts upon their initial selection? It seems like its safe to say that yes, Yeager would have done just fine.

    For a three-hour movie, it's actually really focused. The story its telling is very large, and it helped trim out what Kaufman considered the fat by relegating the engineers to be, at best, side characters. What gives the movie its epic sweep, though, is the fact that we're not just thinking of pilots in capsules, but the contrast with Yeager helps, and so does the contrast in experience that their wives go through. Making sure to spend sufficient time with Mrs. Grissom, Mrs. Shepherd, Mrs. Glenn and the rest helps provide the grounding to the story that makes the astronauts themselves more relatable. Even then, though, there isn't enough time to dig into all sixteen of these characters, so only four of the seven astronauts get any real attention (Grissom, Shepherd, Glenn, and Cooper) while the other three (Slayton, Carpenter, and Schirra) are either secondary characters or exist almost entirely in the background.

    Following the eight men from just after the end of World War II through to the end of the Mercury program is a tale that lasts more than a decade and sees massive shifts in how the world worked. The image of Soviet scientist Sergei Korolev projected into flames is a marvelous visual and comes right at the point that the movie moves beyond its prologue of Yeager beating the sound barrier to give the movie context. They are in a race, and they need the best men who can dare nearly certain death. Test pilots, Eisenhower demands, are the only option.

    Once the seven are selected, they watch as the German scientist's in the government's employ crash one rocket after another, trying again and again to find the right combination of materials and engineering to safely send a man into space. Once it becomes known that administration is moving towards the idea of sending a chimp into space instead of one of these seven men who have trained so hard for so long, they explode. They are the best. They've been subjected to endless tests, and they shouldn't have to play second fiddle to a monkey.

    Well, they lose that fight and, in the process, the fight to reach space first against the Soviet Union. Yuri Gagarin gets out there first, and suddenly the American program kicks back into high gear. Alan Shepherd goes first. What follows is the ups and downs of the Mercury missions from Grissom's blown hatch to Glenn's fireflies and potential heat shield failure on his third orbit to Cooper's successful twenty-two orbit flight that marked the end of the program.

    The story is told so well, involving so many characters, acted perfectly, and cut so that it never drags even at 192 minutes. It shows the extent of the individual's achievement in the pursuit of greatness.

    We end the movie with two major events: Yeager's crash and Cooper's flight. Both represent everything that is right with the two men, the essence of the right stuff. They're both foolhardy enough to try something so dangerous, and they're both brave enough to do it coolly and calmly. They are the modern iteration of the cowboy.
  • Many are quick to announce a particular film as important but are reluctant to consider why they stand by such a film. For me, even though there are other films that people would adamantly admit are much better I can not think of a better one in the past 25 years than THE RIGHT STUFF. Now, let me give you three reasons why (much of what I will say has already been said by Roger Ebert but I cannot word it any better).

    1.) Very few movies do a better job referring to the topic of heroism and courage (two important American topics). In the beginning of the movie we see a cowboy riding through the desert as he stumbles across the X-1 plane(the first plane to break the sound barrier). By the end of the movie the seven Mercury astronauts are cheered for what they have done. Those two images say everything about the movie because they show that what we perceive as heroism has changed. The original American heroes (cowboys) were loners. The heroes of today are team players who act as public-relations people where the one or two spokesmen are the ones credited for their efforts. The fact that this movie does a great job demonstrating that our ideals have changed (no necessarily for the better or worse) is testament to how such a great American film this is.

    2.) The movie manages to do a lot without going off track. It manages to be a comedy, an action-adventure film, a social and political commentary, a docu-drama, and a satire. The fact that this movie is able to do so much while, at the same time, pull it off is an incredible feat.

    3.) The movie also showcases a lot of talent; Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Barbara Hershey, Pamela Reed, J.P. Ryan, Kim Stanley, Veronica Cartwright all give some of their best performances to date. Even some of the best films of all time have two or three standout performances. THE RIGHT STUFF has several times that number.

    I think that by my three reasons I have justified why THE RIGHT STUFF is the best American film of the past 25 years.
  • When this came out, I loved it. Even though I knew some of the special effects were cheesy and inaccurate. However, I thought it brought to attention something that I love - - the history of the US based program.

    Over the years, however, I have come to understand that this film does a great disservice to an American hero. The book and the film both portray Gus Grissom as a panicky, incompetent astronaut. He was the exact opposite. NASA knew this, and that is why he was assigned the second American space flight, the first flight of the two man Gemini spacecraft, and was training to command the first Apollo mission when he was tragically killed in the fire along with Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

    It's very unfortunate that the author and filmmakers opted to inject drama that just wasn't there, and that damages the reputation of a great American.
  • The Right Stuff is a terrific story about America entering the space age. Based on true events from Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier to the 7 Mercury astronauts, the film assembled an excellent cast including Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Barbara Hershey, Veronica Cartwright, etc., to pay tribute to those who paved the way for America to be at the "top of the pyramid".

    It is a long movie, but never a dull moment. Though quite a bit of artistic licensing is carried out(so I am told), the movie showed events that were very true, such as Yeager breaking his ribs before his supersonic flight, and his friend fixing him a door handle by cutting off a section of a broom stick handle; the rigorous training the astronauts go through; Russians taking the lead going into space, Allan Shepard's "prayer" before liftoff; Pancho's restaurant burning down; John Glenn's risky re-entry, etc.

    The movie doesn't just portray space flight. It portrays the lives of these astronauts, the tremendous risk they've taken, how they and their spouses cope with their profession, how the public perceives them, and of course the administrators, the politicians and the scientists. Characters in this movie are not impeccable people. They each have their own set of problems. Yet the imperfection, true to life or not, gives these heroes a human touch that is believable, which also makes a stronger statement that they are larger than life. Today people hardly think about what they went through to get us this far.

    There is beautiful cinematography in this movie, with historical footage that blends in seamlessly. And the music score truly inspires at moments, such as when John Glenn's Friendship 7 blasts into space, and when Yeager takes the NF-104 "Starfighter" up for a spin. There is also light-hearted humor that provides some very entertaining moments, and a slight satire of the space race that is sure to offend a number of people.

    I strongly disagree with some reviewers' assertion that the movie portrays "Gus" Grissom as a coward. In real life, Grissom went through much scrutiny he did not deserve, because of the blown hatch and the lost capsule. Watch it carefully and pay attention to the dialogue. The movie is extremely sympathetic towards Grissom, through his dialogue with his wife in which he could not understand why no one believed him; through the words of Yeager "...old Gus did all right..."; through Cooper's re-affirming touch on Grissom's shoulder while talking to reporters; and through the closing monologue that mentioned Grissom's death in the Apollo 1 fire.

    In conclusion, this movie is an ode to those heroes that truly had the right stuff. It is both entertaining and inspiring. My advice to some viewers is - don't get too hung up on the satire, or historical inaccuracies.

    By the way, look for the real Chuck Yeager in the bar scenes.
  • drvxd9 February 2002
    Awesome. One of those movies that I can see time and again, yet each time I enjoy it as much as the first time I saw it. Fantastic cast, great music, brilliant script. Just the right combination of drama and humour - the sequence during which Al Shepard (played wonderfully by Scott Glenn) wants to relieve himself sitting atop Freedom 7, whilst the film cuts to images of the fire hose, the pouring coffee, the water cooler etc. is one of my all time favourites.

    My only real criticism of the movie is the treatment of Grissom and the explosive hatch incident - the movie leaves it looking like it was Grissom's fault - but it has by now been well documented that it was indeed a malfunction.
  • The Right Stuff is a bold and ambitious movie, based upon Tom Wolfe's novel of the same name. It's storyline depicts a very important part of history, namely, the cold war between the U.S. and Russia. We were competing with Russia for decades over which country could hold the title of biggest superpower. The Americans versus the Commies. The threat of nuclear war between the two countries was always tangible.

    The Right Stuff is a most entertaining and informative history lesson. A chronicle of the Mercury 7 program which propelled the first Americans into space. Pilot Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) basically started it all as the man who first risked his life towards this journey by breaking the sound barrier with his "Glamorous Glennis" X-1. Russia upped the ante with Sputnik soon after.

    The early Yeager flight sequence where he surpasses the speed of sound is nothing short of breathtaking. Caleb Deshanel's cinematography and sfx accompanying this and other airborne dramatizations depicted here are unparalleled to anything I've seen in a movie before or since. They will have you on the edge of your seat.

    The first act of The Right Stuff is mostly Yeager's story. But in addition to learning about this American legend, this portion of the film allows the viewer to get into the psyche of the test pilot. Each time you go on up in a hurtling piece of machinery to try topping the record you set previously could be your last. Risky and Dangerous, but for these guys it's a way of life, and they wouldn't have it any other way.

    Yeager's groundbreaking flights set the blueprint for America's journey into space. From here we see test pilots from all over competing with each other to become the first in history to go where no man has gone before. These scenes are insightful, funny, and allow the viewer to be introduced to the personalities behind the men who would make up the Mercury 7 program.

    From here, the viewer gets exposed to the behind-the-scenes politics during this pivotal point in history, showing the relationships these men have with their concerned wives as well as satirizing the prying, sometimes inconsiderate news media once the astronauts are introduced to the press. The human element and satire depicted in these scenes are still truthful and relevant by today's standards.

    These pilots are competitive and naturally find differences with one another. But they eventually learn to look past their egos, realizing they're all in this together. They eventually come to terms with the fact they are now America's spokespersons, and learn to respect and admire one another along their journey.

    The cast is outstanding. Scott Glenn, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, and Fred Ward all give top-notch performances as Alan Shepherd, Gordo Cooper, John Glenn, and Gus Grissom. Acclaimed musician turned actor Levon Helm delivers one of the best lines in Movie History. Tom Conti's winning and inspirational score ties this historical epic together, which deservedly won an Academy Award for best original score.

    The running time is slightly over 3 hours, but is never boring and seems most appropriate in retrospect to tell this epic story.

    The fact that Terms of Endearment won best picture over The Right Stuff at the 1983 Oscars is a travesty. The Right Stuff is a timeless classic which will always retain it's power and glory, and serves as a historical time capsule to teach future generations of moviegoers what heroism and bravery are all about.
  • I saw `The Right Stuff' at the tender age of 10, alone in a giant theater on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I consider it one of my great all time film experiences, perhaps the first moment I comprehended how much I actually loved film & what a part of my life it truly was & is. Seriously. I honestly remember mulling over this epiphany as a pre-teen, sitting comfortably in a sparsely-filled movie house, completely enthralled with not only my independence as a lone audience member, but also by my enthrallment over this strange story with an astronaut's mentality at its center. I was a slightly strange kid. But, it's a slightly strange movie.

    `The Right Stuff' no longer holds the appeal for me as it once did. How could it?? I'm older, more discerning & critical of film, but also more knowledgeable about the history represented through this story. I know that most of it is fiction. I can argue all day & night about film's responsibility to be historically accurate (my philosophy more or less boils down to, `well...it depends.' Nice, eh? Years of schooling helped me come up with that one). I guess in the case of "The Right Stuff," I take the inaccuracy personally. The astronauts were heroes of mine as a kid and when I was old enough to understand the actual depth of their stories, I guess I just came to love the real-life drama over the spiritual, and fictional, context Kauffman presents them in here. Just a few historical notes:

    a) The `fireflies' John Glenn saw from his capsule window was actually urine emptying from his catheter into space. The effect was duplicated time & again by the astronauts that followed. Why the film would want to juxtapose this event with the tribal fire of the Aborigines is beyond me.

    b) There simply was not as much doubt about Gus Grissom's splashdown snafu investigation as was portrayed. Even though Fred Ward is great in the role, it makes appear as if Grissom was a brute, which he wasn't. He was a very well respected engineer amongst the NASA staff & kept himself highly involved in the development of the capsule. The film represents this in an off-the-cuff remark about having a window & explosive hatch (get ready for the irony folks!). In fact, NASA was so impressed with Grissom, even after losing his capsule, that he was granted the first spot in the Gemini program as well as the Apollo program in which he died in a fire. Anyone who's familiar with the Apollo 1 story knows that he was tirelessly in the process of testing the capsule's equipment when the fire broke out. c) Gordon Cooper & Grissom & Yeager were never at Edwards Air Force Base together at the same time. The timelines are completely out of whack. In fact, Pancho Barnes' Happy Bottom club had burnt down long before Cooper was ever there. More than that, Barnes was a good friend of Cooper's family & he had known her since a child. The film shows her berating him for his cockiness. Didn't happen, at least not there. d) Sally Rand, whose famous fan dance is recreated here, was really, really old by the time the astronauts are shown watching her show. She did, however perform this routine well past her prime in actual life, but wouldn't have looked nearly as good as she does here. e) The astronauts not represented in depth here (Carpenter, Slayton & Shirra) also had fascinating stories. Too bad they're given so little time here. f) Why isn't Kennedy, a huge supporter of the space program, represented at all?? The political figures that are here (LBJ, Ike, nameless others) are completely clownish and cartoony. The press corps seems entirely robotic.

    I know I'm leaving out some major stuff, but that's good enough for now. So, yes, I am not such a hard case that I can't still enjoy `The Right Stuff' for its entertainment value, and it even manages to get a few things correct (e.g., the testing sequences & press conference scene are great & Glenn did actually scold Shepherd & the others for their carousing). For pure accuracy, nothing has yet come close to `Apollo 13' in my opinion (`From Earth to the Moon' was excellent, but didn't convey the professionalism in quite as interesting a manner). `The Right Stuff' is, indeed, an epic. It's a brilliant piece of storytelling, albeit with some laughable earnest dialogue, but welcome comedic relief. It's even a nice metaphor for American ingenuity, ruggedness & spirit too. I still respect and accept the film on those levels. But every time I see it, I am transported back to an old theater in 1983 where I watched it in earnest, feeling like an adult, and quickly realize once again that I will always love it for that cherished day.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Philip Kaufman directed a number of excellent films ("The Wanderers", "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" etc), but "The Right Stuff" remains his most ambitious.

    An astronaut epic which charts the early days of space travel, the film offers an eclectic blend of comedy, satire, romance, drama and nail-biting flying sequences. Like Kafuman's "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid", Kaufman demythologises his subject even as he celebrates the power of myth.

    And so as "Stuff" progresses, Kaufman will replace the horses, cowboys and frontiersmen of the Old West, with stone chiselled test pilots, the new heroes of the jet-engine age. Chief among these men is Chuck Yeager (Sam Shephard), a hotshot pilot who battles the sound barrier and rides rockets like a deity. People worship Chuck. A loner with an ejection seat, Yeager tames the monsters of the sky. Some of the film's most exciting moments involve Yeager pushing man and machine to their limits in an attempt to break the sound barrier. Others have him blasting skyward as he sets altitude records, kissing vacuum with trembling nose cones.

    After Yeager comes a new wave of sky jockeys; the world's first astronauts, each of them fixated on breaking records and expanding frontiers. Glory hounds, they fly to be the top dog. To get their names in the history books. Nothing else matters. What the film thus does is mirror this competitive, testosterone fuelled drive for domination - and so the violent, masculinist ethos that conquered the Wild West - with the relationship that existed between the Soviet Union and America at the time. The space race, in other words, is turned into a silly bit of macho posturing in which countries line up like schoolboys to see who can jump the furthest.

    The great irony of the film, though, is that the egotistical astronauts, so mythologized by history and the media, are largely interchangeable. They're dispensable objects, puppets dangled in front of cameras by politicians in order to inject "nobility" and "heroism" into what is really a billion dollar pissing contest. Like the "heroes" of most Kaufman films, they're castrated but don't know it.

    Even more ironic is the fact that the astronauts - neutered, space age house wives - have very little to do and largely supervise machines. The true pioneers, the true boundary pushes of the space race, aren't the men in the capsules, but the scientists who build and design the machines. And the even greater irony is that American's back-room geniuses were heavily comprised of Germans and Russians ("Our Germans are better than their Germans!" one NASA technician yells). In other words, the enemy put us in space in more ways than one.

    Throw in the fact that Kaufman portrays the entire space race as a giant bit of spectacle, the astronauts showbiz men at the mercy of mommy ("Request permission to relieve bladder"), money and the media ("No bucks, no Buck Rogers!"), and you have one deliciously irreverent film. Of course this tone has angered many people, some finding the film "historically inaccurate" and "insulting" to the "men and women of the space programme", but sacrilege is the point. "The Right Stuff" needs to be viewed as one of those counterculture films from the 1970s (many of which Kaufman himself directed) which somehow managed to slip through the cracks and be released in the early 80s. It celebrates the heroism of those with "the right stuff", but also points out that what we perceive as being "the right stuff" is often nothing more than a load of hot air. For this reason, Kaufman's admiration seems to linger almost entirely on the figure of Chuck Yeager, whom he mythologizes and treats as a symbol for a type of noble "legend" now long lost. "There was a demon that lived in the air," our narrator says early in the film. "They said whoever challenged him would die." Chuck lived by his own code, and when he danced in the sky, the demons trembled.

    8.9/10 – A kind of large scale version of Kaufman's own, very underrated "The Wanderers". The film has remarkable scope, but it's also a very small picture, very single-minded in the way it focuses on the changing nature of heroism (the difference between what is heroic and what the public is bent into believing is heroic) and reduces all its characters, be they pilots, politicians or scientists, to cocky posers. Worth two viewings.
  • Throughout the movie were clever references to the ultimate goal of America's space program: The moon. It's seen repeatedly in newsreel shots of the X-1, again with the song "Faraway Places" in the soundtrack, and ultimately with the wry reference via the stripper doing her fan dance to Debussy's "Clair de Lune." Philip Kaufman, God bless you.
  • Purports to be the story of the original 7 Mercury astronauts and events leading up to that program. Unfortunately all these highly skilled, and intelligent, if overly confident and rough hewn people with the "right stuff" are portrayed as nothing but coagulated silly quirks and anecdotes. It didn't have to be a documentary, but it's about 90% fluff to 10% history. If you want to watch people with this much of the "wrong stuff", the flight scenes in "Top Gun" are more exciting.

    The Pilots are all puffy inflatable stereotypes with no evidence of skill or brains beyond our being told it's true. The wives' story is a sappy soap opera of the most simplistic order. Interesting folks like Pancho Barnes are invisible. All government and NASA employees are bumbling idiots. It all just plain feels dumb and phony. Stuff as enormously complex and technical as faster than sound flight, and space travel could have provided a hefty dose of much needed interest for the non-brain-dead, but there's NO SCIENCE OR HISTORY ALLOWED HERE!

    Great cast. Some good scenes and performances. Dashes of amusing dialog.

    No explanations. Barely a skin-deep look into the characters. History dumbed down to anecdotes. If the people involved in the reality were as 2 dimensional and brainless as portrayed, we'd still be trying to break the sound barrier today. It just felt like an overlong comment about the space race being a publicity stunt with massive egoed pilots acting as public front men.

    A lot of reviews I've read refer a lot to the book, which I haven't read, and my 2 decade-apart viewings of this film don't incline me to read. My own research into some of the people and events portrayed made it highly evident that very little historical accuracy comes into this production. This entire 3 hour monstrosity equates to perhaps 20 minutes of the vastly superior "Apollo 13".

    Disappointing when I was young. Even more disappointing viewing it now.
  • Here was a director and a writer who knew that they had a real story that needed a minimum amount of added-on work to make a fine movie. The time passing early on being marked by the fighter-jets evolution was very subtle. The haunting looks back at Edwards Air Force Base and Chuck Yeager's career seemed to ground the movie and remind you where all these heroes came from... and that there were MORE heroes waiting. Sam Shepard's portrayal of Mr. Yeager was particularly good, and I enjoy watching this film... every October 14th.
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