Film of the Day: A Trip to the Moon

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The famous moon landing in Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon
The famous moon landing in Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon

A movie for every day of the year – a good one


1 September

Generally speaking I’m going to choose historical events rather than movie events as a peg off which to hang the Film of the Day. But today is the first one so why not make an exception?

Debut Screening by George Méliès of A Trip to the Moon, 1902

On this day in 1902, the great showman, illusionist and restless inventor George Méliès gave the first showing of Le Voyage dans la Lune. It was the Star Wars of its day and a huge international hit. If it wasn’t the first sci-fi film ever made, it was, along with the Parisian’s other films, one of the first. It can also claim to be one of the first special effects movies. And on top of that it was also the first work to be designated as a World Heritage film by Unesco.



A Trip to the Moon (1902, dir: Georges Méliès)

Méliès took the basic idea from Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (a gun club shoot a spaceship at the moon) and mixed it with HG Wells’s The First Men in the Moon (when they get there they find a highly civilised society) and turned it into a 17-minute feast of colour (hand-tinted), drama and special effects. Regardless of whether or not you think it still stands up, the image of the capsule hitting the Moon square in the eye is iconic – and the capsule itself strongly prefigures Nasa’s, which wouldn’t be designed for more than 50 years. Martin Scorsese drew heavily on the story of Méliès for his 2011 film Hugo, casting Ben Kingsley as Méliès.



Why Watch?


  • Completely iconic – and Méliès’s most famous film
  • Genre movie-making, sci-fi movies and grandiose special effects films start here
  • It’s the film that sent Méliès bankrupt (after Edison copied it, made a fortune and wouldn’t pay any royalties)
  • This is what Scorsese was getting so excited about when he made Hugo


© Steve Morrissey 2013



A Trip to the Moon (restoration of the hand-tinted version) – at Amazon

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A Trip to the Moon (1902) Short, Action, Adventure | 780min | 4 October 1902 (USA) 8.2
Director: Georges MélièsStars: Georges Méliès, Victor André, Bleuette BernonSummary: An association of astronomers has convened to listen to the plan of Professor Barbenfouillis, their president, to fly to the moon. With the one dissenting voice quashed by Barbenfouillis and the other members, the plan is approved with Barbenfouillis choosing five others to accompany him. Most of the preparation for the trip is in building the vessel and launching mechanism, which resemble a large bullet and a large gun respectively. Hitting the moon in the eye, the six land safely at their destination. They find that much about the moon is wonderful and fantastical, but also that much is not what they would have liked to encounter as it is life threatening. They have to find a way to get out of their alien predicament to get back home safely. Written by Huggo


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