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Apollo 11 (2019 film)

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Apollo 11
Theatre poster
Directed byTodd Douglas Miller
Produced by
  • Todd Douglas Miller
  • Thomas Petersen
  • Evan Krauss
StarringEdwin Aldrin
Neil Armstrong
Michael Collins
Charles Duke
Bruce McCandless
Edited byTodd Douglas Miller
Music byMatt Morton
Distributed by
Release dates
  • January 24, 2019 (2019-01-24) (Sundance)
  • March 1, 2019 (2019-03-01) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$15.3 million[2][3]

Apollo 11 is a 2019 American documentary film edited, produced and directed by Todd Douglas Miller.[1] It focuses on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, the first spaceflight from which men walked on the Moon. The film consists solely of archival footage, including 70 mm film previously unreleased to the public, and does not feature narration, interviews or modern recreations.[4] The Saturn V rocket, Apollo crew consisting of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins, and Apollo program Earth-based mission operations engineers are prominently featured in the film.[5]

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2019, and was released theatrically in the United States by Neon on March 1, 2019. Apollo 11 received acclaim from critics and grossed $15 million. The film won a leading five awards at the 4th Critics' Choice Documentary Awards, including Best Documentary Feature. It also received five nominations at the 72nd Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program for Aldrin and Collins, winning three for its editing and sound.


Video from the National Archives

In late 2016, Todd Douglas Miller had recently completed work on The Last Steps, a documentary about Apollo 17,[6][7] when British archival producer and film editor Stephen Slater suggested making a similarly themed documentary for the upcoming 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.[8] CNN Films subsequently became a partner in the film.[6] Miller's conception of the film was centered on a direct cinema approach. The final film contains no voice-over narration or interviews beyond what was available in the contemporary source material. Portions of the mission are illustrated by animated graphics depicting the parts of the Apollo spacecraft as line drawings, the designs of which are based on the cel-animated graphics in Theo Kamecke's 1971 documentary Moonwalk One. In addition, three wordless biographical sequences summarise the lives of Edwin Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins up to 1969 by means of family photographs and archive footage.

In May 2017, cooperation between Miller's production team, NASA, and the National Archives and Records Administration resulted in the discovery of unreleased 70 mm footage from the preparation, launch, mission control operations, recovery and post flight activities of Apollo 11.[7][9] The large-format footage includes scenes from Launch Complex 39, spectators present for the launch, the launch of the Saturn V rocket, the recovery of astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins and the Apollo 11 command module Columbia, and post-mission efforts aboard the USS Hornet. The documentary included this footage alongside conventional footage from 35 and 16 mm film, still photography, and closed-circuit television footage.[7]

Miller's team used the facilities of Final Frame, a post-production firm in New York City, to make high-resolution digital scans of all reels depicting ground based activities that were available in the National Archives. Specialized climate-controlled vans were used to safely transport the archival material to and from College Park, Maryland. The production team sourced over 11,000 hours of audio recordings and hundreds of hours of video.[7] Among the audio recordings were 30-track tapes of voice recordings at every Mission Control station. Ben Feist, a Canadian software engineer, wrote software to improve the fidelity of the newly available audio. Slater, who had synchronized audio recordings with silent 16 mm Mission Control footage in earlier projects, performed the task of synchronizing the audio and film.[6] The production team was able to identify "Mother Country", a song by folk musician John Stewart, in Lunar Module voice recordings. The song was subsequently featured in the film.[6]

Neon acquired worldwide theatrical distribution rights to the film in July 2018.[10]

A 47-minute edit for exhibition in museum IMAX theaters Apollo 11: First Steps Edition includes extended large-format scenes that differ from the full-length documentary.[11]


A soundtrack album Apollo 11 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) composed by Matt Morton was released worldwide by Milan Records on digital download on March 8, 2019. Played entirely on electronic instruments actually available in 1969, the seventeen-track album was also released on CD on June 28 and vinyl on July 19, 2019.[12][13]


The film took some liberties with the timeline of the mission. For example, an incident occurred during the return voyage, on day 8 of the mission, involving the disconnection of Michael Collins's biomedical sensor (his impedance pneumograph), which led him to wisecrack, "I promise to let you know if I stop breathing,"[14] but this event is depicted in the film as happening during the approach to the Moon before the separation of the command module Columbia and Lunar Module Eagle.


'Apollo 11 Filmmaker Thanks National Archives'

The world premiere of Apollo 11 took place in Park City, Utah at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2019.[15][16] It was given a limited release in the United States on March 1, 2019 in IMAX through Neon and was released in the United Kingdom on June 28, 2019 through Universal Pictures and Dogwoof.[17][18]

Home media[edit]

Universal Pictures released Apollo 11 in the U.S. on digital download, DVD and Blu-ray on May 14, 2019. The discs have two extra features; a 3-minute featurette titled Apollo 11: Discovering the 65mm and a theatrical trailer.[19] It was released on DVD, digital, Blu-ray and a 4K Ultra HD two-disc set in the United Kingdom on November 4, 2019 by Dogwoof.[20]


Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, Apollo 11 grossed $1.6 million from 120 IMAX theaters (a per-venue gross of $13,392), finishing 15th at the box office.[21] In its second weekend, the film gave up most of its IMAX venues to newcomer Captain Marvel, but played in a total of 405 traditional theaters and made $1.3 million, finishing 10th at the box office.[22] It continued to hold well in its third weekend, grossing $1.2 million from 588 theaters, just a 2% drop.[23]

Critical response[edit]

Upon its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, critics mostly praised the film and the quality of the footage. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 99% based on 186 reviews, with an average rating of 8.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Edifying and inspiring in equal measure, Apollo 11 uses artfully repurposed archival footage to send audiences soaring back to a pivotal time in American history."[24] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[25]

In a positive review for IndieWire, David Ehrlich complimented Miller's ability to make the Moon landing sequence feel unique and thrilling, and stated that the clarity of the footage "takes your breath away".[26] In another positive review, Owen Gleiberman of Variety called the footage "quite spectacular", and many critics compared the documentary to Damien Chazelle's 2018 Neil Armstrong biopic First Man in their reviews.[27] Glenn Kenny of The New York Times called the film "entirely awe-inspiring" and wrote, "Although we know how the mission turns out, the movie generates and maintains suspense. And it rekindles a crazy sense of wonder at, among other things, what one can do practically with trigonometry."[1][note 1] Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave the film four-out-of-four stars, calling the film "an adrenaline shot of wonder and skill.... Films this completely imagined and ecstatically realized are so rare that when one comes along, it makes most other movies, even the good ones, seem underachieving. Any information that you happen to absorb while viewing Apollo 11 is secondary to the visceral experience of looking at it and listening to it."[28]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Sundance Film Festival February 2, 2019 Special Jury Award for Editing Todd Douglas Miller Won [29]
US Documentary Grand Jury Prize Todd Douglas Miller Nominated
Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication June 24, 2019 Film community Todd Douglas Miller Won [31]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards December 8, 2019 Best Editing Todd Douglas Miller Won [32]
Independent Spirit Awards February 8, 2020 Best Documentary Feature Todd Douglas Miller Nominated [33][34]
British Academy Film Awards February 2, 2020 Best Documentary Apollo 11 Nominated [35]
Peabody Awards June 10, 2020 Documentary Apollo 11 Won [36]
Critics' Choice Documentary Awards November 10, 2019 Best Documentary Feature Apollo 11 Won
Best Director Todd Douglas Miller Nominated
Best Editing Todd Douglas Miller Won
Best Score Matt Morton Won
Best Archival Documentary Apollo 11 Won
Best Science/Nature Documentary Apollo 11 Won
American Cinema Editors Awards January 17, 2020 Best Edited Documentary (Feature) Todd Douglas Miller Won
Cinema Eye Honors January 6, 2020 Outstanding Achievement in Editing Todd Douglas Miller Won
Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score Matt Morton Won
Producers Guild of America Awards January 18, 2020 Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures Todd Douglas Miller, Thomas Petersen and Evan Krauss Won
Primetime Emmy Awards September 14, 2020 Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program Todd Douglas Miller Nominated [37][38]
Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins Nominated [39]
Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming Todd Douglas Miller Won [40]
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Eric Milano Won [41]
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Eric Milano Won [42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In reality, mathematics far more advanced than trigonometry was used to reach the Moon.


  1. ^ a b c d Kenny, Glenn (February 27, 2019). "'Apollo 11' Review: The 1969 Moon Mission Still Has the Power to Thrill". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  2. ^ "Apollo 11 (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  3. ^ "Apollo 11 (2019)". The Numbers. IMDb. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  4. ^ Review: 'Apollo 11' Documentary Tells A Familiar Story In A New Way : NPR
  5. ^ Director Todd Douglas Miller On Surmounting Neon Doc's Technical Challenges — Deadline
  6. ^ a b c d Kamp, David (December 9, 2018). "The Found Footage That Provides a Whole New Look at the Apollo 11 Moon Landing". Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Horton, Adrian (February 27, 2019). "'We felt a huge responsibility' – behind the landmark Apollo 11 documentary". The Guardian. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  8. ^ "WESTDOC ONLINE - Interview with Todd Douglas Miller by Chuck Braverman". December 13, 2019.
  9. ^ Dick, Jason. "How the National Archives helped 'Apollo 11' get a fresh look". Roll Call. No. February 28, 2019. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  10. ^ McNary, Owen (July 20, 2018). "Neon Buys 'Apollo 11' Moon Landing Documentary". Variety. Variety Media. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  11. ^ "Apollo 11 documentary lands on CNN, in museums, on space station". Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  12. ^ The 'Apollo 11 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)' | out now digitally worldwide on Milan Records
  13. ^ Soundtrack.net
  14. ^ "Apollo 11: Day 8, part 2: More Television and Stowage for Re-entry". NASA. August 6, 2019.
  15. ^ Sundance Film Review: | ‘Apollo 11’ | Owen Gleiberman
  16. ^ apollo-11 Archived July 14, 2019, at the Wayback Machine | Sundance Institute
  17. ^ 'Apollo 11' | Documentary Gets Exclusive Imax Release – Variety
  18. ^ 'Apollo 11' To Land In UK Cinemas From 28th June Following Sundance
  19. ^ Apollo 11 | Blu-ray | United States | Blu-ray + Digital HD | Universal Studios | 2019 | 93 min | Rated G | May 14, 2019
  20. ^ Apollo 11 4K Blu-ray | United Kingdom | 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray Dogwoof | 2019 | 93 min | Rated Exempt | Nov 04, 2019
  21. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 3, 2019). "'Dragon 3' Keeps The Fire Burning At No. 1 With $30M Second Weekend; 'Madea' Mints $27M". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  22. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 11, 2019). "'Captain Marvel' Tramples Internet Trolls & Skyrockets To $160M Opening". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  23. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 17, 2019). "'Captain Marvel' Rises To Second Best 2nd Weekend In March With $69M+ – Sunday AM Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  24. ^ "Apollo 11 (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  25. ^ "Apollo 11 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 19, 2020.
  26. ^ Ehrlich, David (January 25, 2019). "Apollo 11 Review: Astonishing NASA Doc Takes You Back in Time". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  27. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (January 24, 2019). "'Apollo 11' Review: A Heady Documentary Drawn From the NASA Vaults". Variety. Variety Media. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  28. ^ Seitz, Matt Zoller (March 1, 2019). "Apollo 11 Movie Review & Film Summary (2019)". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  29. ^ Debruge, Peter (February 2, 2019). "Sundance Winners: 'Clemency,' 'One Child Nation' Take Top Honors". Variety. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  30. ^ Sundance Film Festival (2019)-IMDb
  31. ^ "Elon Musk, Brian Eno, and Apollo 11 Documentary Will Be Honored by STARMUS with the 2019 Stephen Hawking Medal for Science". Bloomberg News. May 10, 2019.
  32. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan (December 8, 2019). "LA Film Critics Association Announces 2019 Winners (Updating List)". IndieWire. Retrieved December 8, 2019.
  33. ^ Lewis, Hilary (November 21, 2019). "Film Independent Spirit Awards: 'Uncut Gems,' 'The Lighthouse' Lead Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 26, 2019.
  34. ^ 35th Film Independent Spirit Award Nominations Announcement - Film Independent on YouTube
  35. ^ 2020 EE British Academy Film Awards: The Winners
  36. ^ Lewis, Hilary (May 5, 2020). "Peabody Awards: 'American Factory,' 'Dickinson,' 'Watchmen' Among Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  37. ^ Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming Nominees/Winners 2020 Emmy Awards|Television Academy
  38. ^ Television Academy
  39. ^ Outstanding Cinematography For Non Fiction Programming Nominees/Winners 2020 Emmy Awards|Television Academy
  40. ^ Outstanding Picture Editing For Nonfiction Programming Nominees/Winners 2020 Emmy Awards|Television Academy
  41. ^ Outstanding Sound Editing For Non Fiction Programming Nominees/Winners 2020 Emmy Awards|Television Academy
  42. ^ Outstanding Sound Mixing For Non Fiction Programming Nominees/Winners 2020 Emmy Awards|Television Academy

External links[edit]