Written, directed, and co-produced by Richard Linklater, ‘Apollo 10 1/2’ is an animated coming-of-age film. The storyline is set in the Houston area in the days leading up to and during the historic Apollo 11 Mission. The protagonist is Stan, a fourth-grader with a very active imagination, while an older version of him (Jack Black) serves as the narrator. As he grows up in what is arguably at the heart of human advancements, Stan imagines himself being recruited for the eponymous lunar mission.
The film is based on Linklater’s childhood and those of his siblings, friends, and several others who lived in the area at the time. If you have watched ‘Apollo 10 1/2’ and loved it, here is a list of recommendations of films you might enjoy. You can watch most of these movies similar to ‘Apollo 10 1/2’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
7. Stand by Me (1986)
‘Stand by Me’ is the quintessential movie about childhood, friendship, and nostalgia. It is based on the 1982 novella by Stephen King titled ‘The Body.’ Set in the summer of 1959, the film revolves around four boys — Gordie, Chris, Vern, and Teddy — and their journey to find the dead body of a missing youth around the fictional town of Castle Rock, Oregon. Both ‘Apollo 10 1/2’ and ‘Stand by Me’ are wistful homages to bygone times. They celebrate the past and what it meant to the protagonist. The narrator in ‘Stand by Me’ is the older version of one of the protagonists, Gordie, who has grown up to be a writer.
6. Only Yesterday (1991)
This Studio Ghibli gem tells the story of Taeko Okajima, a 27-year-old woman who visits Yamagata from Tokyo to stay with her elder sister and the latter’s in-laws. During her travel and after she reaches her destination, she becomes heavily nostalgic about her childhood. She looks back to her past with wistfulness, recalling the first experiences of romance and heartbreaks, puberty, and the exasperation with studying. Meanwhile, her adult self deals with issues such as her job and love life. Like ‘Apollo 10 ½,’ ‘Only Yesterday’ enunciates the inherent bittersweet aspect of the past.
5. Crooklyn (1994)
Director Spike Lee wrote the script for ‘Crooklyn’ along with his siblings Joie and Cinqué Lee. The semi-autobiographical film is set in 1970s Brooklyn and tells the story of the Carmichael family from the perspective of daughter Troy. In ‘Crooklyn,’ Lee showcases the near-surreal life in Brooklyn through eccentric characters and humorous situations. The central character grows up significantly in the course of the film, especially after a tragedy hits the family, and she has to step up and take care of her younger siblings. Like ‘Apollo 10 ½,’ ‘Crooklyn’ underscores how the surroundings affect a person in their formative years.
4. Minari (2020)
Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung’s ‘Minari’ borrows its title from a type of water dropwort, which is used in a variety of ways. It serves as a metaphor for the Yi family and their struggles to build a home for themselves in rural Arkansas. Like ‘Apollo 10 1/2’ and several other entries in this list, ‘Minari’ is semi-autographical. It explores the proverbial American dream through the perspective of a South Korean family – the Yis.
Just as ‘Apollo 10 1/2’ is to Houston, ‘Minari’ is a love letter to Arkansas. Both films spend time exploring the contemporary social ills, but the focus remains on the core themes of the respective movies. In ‘Apollo 10 ½,’ it’s moon landing, and in ‘Minari,’ it’s immigration.
3. The Tree of Life (2011)
Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ is a magnificent display of Malick’s titanic capabilities as a filmmaker. It is at once metaphysical and grounded in reality. Since its release, there has been much speculation about what seems like autobiographical aspects of the film. Like ‘Apollo 10 1/2,’ ‘The Tree of Life’ is mainly set in 1960s Texas and focuses on the protagonist’s youth, his relationship with his family, and his attempts at self-discovery. ‘The Tree of Life’ revolves around the O’Brien family within the context of the history of humanity and planet Earth.
2. Persepolis (2007)
If ‘Apollo 10 1/2’ is about the inaugural moon landing, ‘Persepolis’ documents another important event of human history: the Iranian Revolution of the 1970s. Like ‘Apollo 10 ½,’ ‘Persepolis’ is an animated film. It’s an autobiographical story of Marjane Satrapi, who made the film with Vincent Paronnaud. The stories of the revolution and the subsequent years are told through flashback sequences. The film candidly depicts the struggle of the Iranian people against the Shah of Iran and how the religious conservatives gradually took over the country.
1. Boyhood (2014)
‘Boyhood’ is a remarkable film in terms of both conception and execution. It is one of Linklater’s finest creations. Some of the themes of ‘Apollo 10 ½’ are present here as well, including childhood, imagination, and family. The film follows Mason Evans Jr. and documents various aspects of his life from ages six to eighteen as he grows up in Texas. Linklater and his team shot the movie in stages from 2002 to 2013, with the same actor – Ellar Coltrane – playing Mason Jr. in different stages of the character’s life.