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The Best Mars Movies to Celebrate the Red Planet!

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

"Cowboy Bebop: The Movie" is based on the Japanese anime series "Cowboy Bebop," and features many of the same cast and crew members. 

The heroes of the film are sanctioned bounty hunters who roam the solar system on the spaceship Bebop. Unfortunately, a colony on Mars meets catastrophe after a truck on Mars is deliberately exploded in a large city, spreading an assumed pathogen (killing or sickening hundreds of people.) 

The Bebop crew gets involved when a bounty is put on the terrorist. From there, it's a rollicking adventure as the Bebops chase down the culprit and tries to distribute a vaccine for those dying on Mars.

"Cowboy Bebop: The Movie" from the year 2001.

"Cowboy Bebop: The Movie" from the year 2001.

John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Everett Collection

"Ghosts of Mars" is a horror film that follows the evolution of society on Mars in the 22nd century, when much of the planet has been terraformed and colonized. 

While things appear to be going well (the colonists don't even need spacesuits anymore), a group of miners goes missing after they accidentally disturb the spirits of an old Martian civilization. You can guess where the plot goes from there (death, destruction, horrifying mutilation). But hey, a least it's a chance to watch teams in a remote environment blow up a nuclear reactor to try to contain the spirits.

"John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars" from the year 2001.

"John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars" from the year 2001.

Doom (2005)

Everett Collection

Like many video game franchises turned to screen, "Doom" didn't do very well at the box office. However, the story is still entertaining to watch if you enjoy first-person shooters. 

In the film, marines head to Mars to check out the status of a research facility, after people there stop communicating back with Earth. They discover genetically engineered beings roaming the facility and causing havoc, forcing the Marines to battle their way through. What's really fun is how they get to Mars: not by a spaceship, but through a portal in the Nevada desert.

"Doom" from the year 2005.

"Doom" from the year 2005.

Christmas on Mars (2008)

Flaming Lips

In an entertaining departure from the usual Mars movies, "Christmas on Mars" was created by the alternative rock band The Flaming Lips (and all of the band members appear in the cast, too.) 

The film has a bit of an odd plot, which explores what happens during the first Christmas on Mars (an extra-special event since the first baby was also born on the Red Planet.) The film was never aimed for a big-screen audience, instead it enjoyed a limited theater release as well as a direct release to DVD.

"Christmas on Mars" from the year 2008.

"Christmas on Mars" from the year 2008.

Mars Needs Moms (2011)

Disney

Here's yet another Mars movie based on a book (by Berkeley Breathed), but what's refreshing about "Mars Needs Moms" is that it's aimed at children and fully animated. 

In the film, protagonist Milo (Seth Green) is nine years old and is so fed up with his mother that when she asks him to do chores, he suggests life would be better without her. Milo quickly regrets his words when his mother is abducted; his rescue attempt doesn't go so well as he also gets shoved on to the same spaceship. 

In true Disney fashion, what follows is a cute series of adventures as Milo tries to rescue his mother before she undergoes a procedure that will kill her; he meets up with some of the local inhabitants and formulates a daring plan. This movie didn't do well at the box office, though.

"Mars Needs Moms" from the year 2011.

"Mars Needs Moms" from the year 2011.

John Carter (2012)

Disney

"John Carter" ended up being a disappointing remake of the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories of Mars in the early 1900s, but it's still worth a watch for the comedy and for the amazing special effects. 

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) accidentally gets transported to Mars after he runs into a Thern (a fictional being from Mars) inside of an Earth cave. There, he discovers the inhabitants waging war as they try to survive on a dying planet. As Carter spends time getting to know the Martians, he comes to realize life on Mars may actually be more attractive than the life he left behind on Earth.

"John Carter" from the year 2012.

"John Carter" from the year 2012.

The Last Days on Mars (2013)

Magnet

Mars really does attract horror films, doesn't it? "The Last Days on Mars" is yet another stab at the genre.

In the film,  Vincent Campbell (Liev Schreiber) and his crew have almost finished a six-month mission on Mars when a crew member finds signs of possible life on the surface and decide to take one last spacewalk. Pro tip? Never take that last spacewalk. 

From there, it's one big battle with mutant Martian bacteria that enjoy using humans as nasty host creatures. Campbell and crew try to escape, but it's a struggle to stay ahead of the infection; near the end, Campbell tells NASA they will have to make some tough choices in deciding whether to rescue them.

"The Last Days on Mars" from the year 2013.

"The Last Days on Mars" from the year 2013.

The Martian (2015)

Twentieth Century Fox

"The Martian" is just amazing. This movie, which is part satire of NASA procedures, part inspirational in the way it shows astronauts and Mission Control solving a big problem, garnered lots of critical acclaim when it was released in 2015. 

In the film, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is accidentally stranded on Mars when his crew leaves without him, leaving him alone on a planet with no easy way to get home. 

He records his efforts to make contact in sardonic video diaries, as NASA races against time to get a rescue ship to him before he runs out of food – mostly, potatoes that Watney grew himself. Watney also takes a page from "Red Planet" and retrieves the Mars Pathfinder rover, although we'll let you watch the movie to see the true awesomeness of his rover hacking.

"The Martian" from the year 2015.

"The Martian" from the year 2015.

The Space Between Us (2017)

STX Films

Oh, teenage love; it's rough enough when you live in different cities, but what about different planets? 

In "The Space Between Us," Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) is a boy who was born on Mars; his existence was kept a secret because the company in charge of the first Mars landing (Genesis) doesn't want a public relations problem. When Gardner is a teenager, he meets Colorado-based Tulsa (Britt Robertson) in an Internet chat room. 

He's so enamored that he decides to come to Earth, despite the immense medical risks. The star-crossed lovers do a road trip, which doesn't go so well as a deadly medical condition begins to catch up to Gardner. The film still has a somewhat happy ending, but the plot didn't go over well with critics or with audiences and the movie performed poorly at the box office.

"The Space Between Us" from the year 2017.

"The Space Between Us" from the year 2017.

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.