The Right Stuff (1983) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Right Stuff1983

The Right Stuff (1983)



Critic Consensus: The Right Stuff packs a lot of movie into its hefty running time, spinning a colorful, fact-based story out of consistently engaging characters in the midst of epochal events.

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Movie Info

Covering some 15 years, this film recounts the formation of America's space program, concentrating on the original Mercury astronauts. The film relates the dangers and frustrations facing the astronauts, the various personal crises involving their families, and the schism between their squeaky-clean public image and their sometimes raunchy, earthbound shenanigans,

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Sam Shepard
as Chuck Yeager
Scott Glenn
as Alan Shepard
Ed Harris
as John Glenn
Dennis Quaid
as Gordon Cooper
Fred Ward
as Grissom
Charles Frank
as Carpenter
Scott Paulin
as Deke Slayton
Lance Henriksen
as Wally Schirra
Donald Moffat
as Lyndon B. Johnson
Levon Helm
as Jack Ridley
Mary Jo Deschanel
as Annie Glenn
Scott Wilson
as Scott Crossfield
Kathy Baker
as Louise Shepard
Mickey Crocker
as Marge Slayton
Susan Kase
as Rene Carpenter
Mittie Smith
as Jo Schirra
Royal Dano
as Minister
David Clennon
as Liaison Man
Jim Haynie
as Air Force Major
Jeff Goldblum
as recruiter
Harry Shearer
as recruiter
Scott Beach
as Chief Scientist
Jane Dornacker
as Nurse Murch
Anthony Munoz
as Gonzales
John P. Ryan
as Head of Program
Darryl Henriques
as Life Reporter
William Russ
as Slick Goodin
Edward Anhalt
as Grand Designer
Mary Apick
as Woman Reporter
Robert Beer
as Dwight D. Eisenhower
Erik Bergmann
as Eddie Hodges
Richard Duppell
as The Permanent Press Corp
William Hall
as The Permanent Press Corp
Maureen Coyne
as Waitress
Peggy David
as Sally Rand
John X. Heart
as The Permanent Press Corp
John Dehner
as Henry Luce
Ed Holmes
as The Permanent Press Corp
Bob Elross
as Review Board President
Robert J. Geary
as Game Show M.C.
David Gulpilil
as Aborigine
James Brady
as Aide to Lyndon B. Johnson
Anthony Wallace
as Australian Driver
Kaaren Lee
as Young Widow
Katherine Conklin
as Woman TV Rerporter
Tom Dahlgren
as Bell Aircraft Executive
O-Lan Jones
as Pretty Girl
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Critic Reviews for The Right Stuff

All Critics (51) | Top Critics (14)

Where 2001: A Space Odyssey depicted astronauts (and mankind) as being at the mercy of some higher, alien intelligence, The Right Stuff finds its characters imposing their will on the unknown.

March 27, 2020 | Full Review…

Philip Kaufman's 1983 film is an efficient and absorbing recapitulation of the main events of Tom Wolfe's book that still never succeeds in capturing the inner drives and ethics of the test pilots and astronauts - the "right stuff" never materializes.

February 4, 2019 | Full Review…

Rarely has a film made a historic accomplishment seem so vivid and personal... It makes you wonder, quite suddenly, why there aren't more movies like this.

October 22, 2018 | Full Review…

The Right Stuff is a spectacular celebration of those heroes of the skies -- those fly jocks who fought the demons of space to launch a new era in American air technology.

October 22, 2018 | Full Review…

Kaufman has combined the resources and ingenuity of movie making with the freewheeling, damn-the-conventions style of of the New Journalism and come up with a generous, high-spirited look at the bravery and lunacy that was that era.

December 9, 2016 | Full Review…

It means something to be a member of the brotherhood whose trials and accomplishments are celebrated so enjoyably in The Right Stuff.

December 18, 2015 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Right Stuff

The heroes walking under our noses may have been walking on the moon as well. A great history lesson for those jaded in the age of technology. (Gotta admit that "Apollo 13" is betther, though.)

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer

A bit of an interesting history lesson and character study about the beginnings of the American space program. Shepard is iconic as Chuck Yeager, Harris does justice as John Glenn, and Fred Ward lends pathos as Virgil Grissom. A feeling of cowboys looking for the next bronc to break pervades the work.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


Based on Tom Wolfe's book, this is the story, spanning some 15-6 years about the beginnings of America's space program, focusing on the Mercury 7, but starting with test pilots like Chuck Yeager, who, despite breaking the sound barrier, and being widely considering the best test pilot ever, was not selected to be an astronaut. The primary focus of the film, and most of the book (from what I've been told) really only scratches the surface, as trying to tell the complete story would take like 10-11 hours or so. But the film uses its 193 minute running time to great effect, contrasting the lives of the men and their wives with the broader spectrum of the political and social contexts of the time. And, being an adaptation of Wolfe, there's also the nice undercurrents of countercultural liberal subversiveness at times. This is a very well made film, and cinematically yes it is truly amazing. As far as accuracy and history go, well, the film does suffer, and many of the people whose lives were the basis for this were rather critical of the portrayal of the times and events, and even Wolfe was very displeased with how this turned out, but even then, this is still a remarkable and wonderful piece of work, and one of the many great examples of "they don't make 'em like this anymore". And they probably wouldn't be able to either, at least not without some major changes. That's fine though, because this film does a great job of bringing out a sense of wonder and excitement. These men were real heroes who risked their lives to try to go where no one had gone before, and to try to do it before the Russians, since, at least then, that truly meant something. It really makes you yearn to achieve something great like this, and especially from a relatively low tech perspective. No super advanced computers at that time (being depicted in the film), and no digital technology to tell the film's story with either, so this really makes you appreciate the craft since there's no CGI. The ensemble cast is very notable here, and they give some terrific performances. To name a few: Fred Ward, Scott Glenn, Sam Shepherd, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Barbara Hershey, Veronica Cartwright, and Pamela Reed. The cinematography is quite excellent, and overall the film really looks and feels as epic as its story. A main reason for this would have to be Bill Conti's rousing score, especially when the brass kick in, really leaving you stirred up. The film mostly uses it's long running time to great effect, giving tons of development to the characters, letting the story breathe, and keeping things from being even more rushed. That said, it does drag here and there at times, but the film also has a nice balance where tone is concerned, so there's a blend of humor, drama, adventure, etc. All in all, this is a fine film that, despite iffy history, is cinematically a high water mark for docudramas, and a great look at a wonderful moment in time.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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