A Trip to the Moon, a 1902 short film, is largely responsible for getting the world excited about seeing movies. Directed by French director Georges Méliès, this film came at a time when film was a minor novelty. Méliès tried to sell copies of the film to fairground exhibitors and was met with universal rejection because they couldn’t believe the high price and length (13 minutes) of the film. He eventually gave a copy for free for a single screening and the audience loved it, staying in the theater watching it until midnight. Is it still good today? Well, objectively, not really. But it’s fun and entertaining, and it’s only 13 minutes long. It’s also a fun little piece of cinematic history that’s neat to experience 115 years after it was released.
The film is silent, although not meant to be watched silently—showings originally had accompanying music and a live narrator to explain what was going on. Some versions available today, such as the one on Netflix, include narration, which really adds to the movie. Silent versions, accompanied only by music, are available as well on YouTube and other places. If you’re going to watch this, I’d encourage you to watch one of the narrated versions.
The plot shows a professor as he explains his plan for space travel and a trip to the moon. He brings a little group of explorers, and they crash land on the moon and begin exploring. They meet the Selenites, strange moon creatures, and are captured. They escape, return to earth, and there’s a parade to honor their scientific achievement. Also, one of the Selenites is captured and placed in a zoo, because that’s apparently what you did with intelligent aliens back in 1902.
There’s an almost childlike innocense in this short film, harkening back to a day when using the medium to tell even very simple stories was groundbreaking. It was not made to make the viewer think or feel something—it was made purely for a small bit of entertainment. It won’t change your life in any way, but it will make you smile.
It’s hard to believe that a film of 13 minutes was originally considered too long to hold audiences’ attention. That shows how far the medium came even by the 1920s. And the uproarious reaction from audiences is probably partially responsible for convincing a fledgling film industry to start telling real stories instead of showing little novelties. Years later, director Méliès would admit that A Trip to the Moon was not his best film, but it was probably his most important.
A Trip to the Moon is simple, whimsical, and a lot more fun than I expected, and as I said, it’s only 13 minutes long. I’d recommend it to anyone from children to total film buffs. It’s also widely available, so watching it is easy. Check it out!
Runtime: 13 minutes
Director: Georges Méliès