Why 'Hidden Figures' is a Movie Everyone Should Watch

hidden figures scene Meeting Glenn
In the upcoming film "Hidden Figures," Katherine G. Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson, is joined by her co-workers Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) as she greets astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell), the man destined to become the first American to orbit Earth. (Image credit: Hopper Stone)

"Hidden Figures" hits the movie theaters for its wide release in the U.S. today (Jan. 6), and I highly recommend that everyone go see it. Jam-packed with history lessons, messages about morality and — my personal favorite — rocket science, the movie has something to offer for everyone. You don't even need to be a space nerd to love this movie.

The film tells an incredible story of some truly inspiring people who helped shape American history. Specifically, it recounts the triumphs and struggles of three black women whose work was crucial to NASA in the early 1960s — a time when racial segregation was the law of the land, and gender discrimination was still the norm. ['Hidden Figures' Movie Probes Little-Known Heroes of 1960s NASA (Gallery)]

Especially in Virginia, where the story takes place, local Jim Crow laws enforced segregation and discrimination against African-Americans, who were legally obligated to use separate facilities. Though NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia did hire women and African-Americans, offices, restrooms and other areas were kept segregated. "Hidden Figures" portrays the hardships that black women at NASA faced in the years before the Civil Rights Act.

Taraji Henson stars as Katherine Johnson, the black female mathematician who helped put astronaut John Glenn into orbit by calculating his flight trajectories. Octavia Spencer co-stars as Dorothy Vaughan, a mathematician-turned-computer programmer who became NASA's first African-American manager. Janelle Monáe also co-stars as Mary Jackson, another NASA mathematician who became an engineer after fighting in court for permission to take the required classes at an all-white school.

"Hidden Figures" not only tells an important story of civil rights and feminism in the United States, but it also recounts what was arguably one of the biggest achievements for NASA in spaceflight history: putting John Glenn into orbit.

If historical, documentary-style films tend to put you to sleep, don't let the premise of the movie be a turn-off. "Hidden Figures" is no boring documentary; the comedy-drama is guaranteed to get at least a few chuckles out of you — and maybe even some tears.

When I attended a screening of "Hidden Figures" in New York City last month, the abundant amount of applause from the audience throughout the film was unlike anything I've ever witnessed in a movie theater. If you don't take it from me, take it from the hundreds of enthusiastic fellow movie-goers who could hardly stop clapping for the two-hour duration of the film: "Hidden Figures" is a movie that you don't want to miss. 

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.