top of page
  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

The Right Stuff (1983)


  • Phillip Kaufman, Writer/Director

  • Bill Conti, Score

  • Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, USAF

  • Fred Ward as Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, USAF

  • Dennis Quaid as Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, USAF

  • Ed Harris as John Glenn, USMC

  • Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard, USN

  • Lance Henriksen as Walter "Wally" Schirra, USN

  • Scott Paulin as Donald K. "Deke" Slayton, USAF

  • Barbara Hershey as Glennis Yeager

  • Veronica Cartwright as Betty Grissom

  • Mary Jo Deschanel as Annie Glenn


  • The Right Stuff was released on October 21, 1983 based on the book of the same name.

  • The film would make an estimated $21.1 million domestically during its run on an estimated budget of $27 million.

  • The Right Stuff received overwhelming acclaim from critics.

  • Roger Ebert named The Right Stuff best film of 1983, writing, "There was a lot going on, and there's a lot going on in the movie, too. The Right Stuff is an adventure film, a special effects film, a social commentary and a satire... it joins a short list of recent American movies that might be called experimental epics: movies that have an ambitious reach through time and subject matter, that spend freely for locations or special effects, but that consider each scene as intently as an art film... It's a great film." He later named it one of the best films of the decade and wrote, "The Right Stuff is a greater film because it is not a straightforward historical account but pulls back to chronicle the transition from Yeager and other test pilots to a mighty public relations enterprise". He later put it at #2 on his 10 best of the 1980s, behind Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull.

  • Gene Siskel, Ebert's co-host of At the Movies, also named The Right Stuff the best film of 1983, and said "It's a great film, and I hope everyone sees it." Siskel also went on to include The Right Stuff at #3 on his list of the best films of the 1980s, behind Shoah and Raging Bull.

  • The Right Stuff would be nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Shepard), Art Direction, and Cinematography, and win for Film Editing, Original Score, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing.

  • In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

  • The Right Stuff currently holds a 96% among critics on RT, a 91 score on Metacritic, and a 4/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: The intangibles it took for some men to strap themselves to a bomb for the glory of exploring where we've never gone before.

Plot Summary: The Right Stuff" is a captivating film that takes audiences on an exhilarating journey through the early days of the United States' space program. Set during the Cold War era, the movie chronicles the true story of the first seven American astronauts who, with courage, determination, and a touch of bravado, sought to conquer the final frontier.

As the astronauts engage in grueling training, endure life-threatening missions, and navigate the complexities of fame and heroism, "The Right Stuff" paints a vivid picture of their sacrifices and triumphs, and showcases the raw human spirit that drove these pioneers to boldly venture into the unknown, highlighting their camaraderie, resilience, and unwavering determination. "The Right Stuff" celebrates the indomitable human spirit and the daring individuals who paved the way for future generations to explore the cosmos.

Did You Know:

  • According to NASA, the mysterious "fireflies" observed by John Glenn on his first orbital flight were actually condensed ice crystals from the small hydrogen peroxide rockets used for altitude control illuminated by sunlight. Upon use, many of them formed a particulate cloud around the spacecraft and attached themselves to the skin of the vehicle as well. This was confirmed by astronaut Scott Carpenter on the next Mercury flight when he banged on the craft's side, causing more of the flakes to break free and become visible.

  • While several of the lead actors chose to meet their real-life counterparts, Scott Glenn elected not to meet with Alan Shepard. Scott said he wanted to get down Shepard's character and nuances by observation and by hearing others' points of view. After filming, the real Alan Shepard wrote writer and director Philip Kaufman and commented on Scott Glenn's "spot-on" performance - except for "not being nearly as good-looking as he was."

  • It is generally believed that Gus Grissom was not at fault in the real-life hatch-blowing incident on the Liberty Bell 7 capsule. Kickback from the manual activation switch caused a tell-tale bruise to form on the hand activating it, and Grissom never developed the bruise. Wally Schirra, at the end of his Mercury 8 space flight, deliberately activated his own hatch to demonstrate how the bruise formed and exonerate his comrade. The most likely explanation for Grissom's hatch blowing is that the external release lanyard came loose as it was only held in place with a single screw - a design that was changed to be more secure for subsequent flights. N.A.S.A. apparently believed in Grissom's innocence as well, as he remained in a prime rotation spot for subsequent Gemini and Apollo flights. There is also significant belief among astronauts of the time that, had he not been killed in the Apollo 1 fire, Grissom would have been the first man to walk on the moon.

  • During the weekend of April 4, 1999, Gus Grissom's lost Liberty Bell 7 capsule was located and recovered on the ocean floor ninety miles northeast of the Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas. It underwent a restoration and went on a national tour before being placed in a permanent exhibit at the Cosmosphere, a space museum in Hutchinson, Kansas. The hatch, which many thought would have proved or disproved Grissom's contention that it blew open on its own, has not been recovered. Inside the capsule the restorers found a large number of Mercury dimes that Grissom had brought along as souvenirs. During the bar scene before Grissom's flight, two rolls of dimes can be seen on the bar.

Best Performance: Sam Shepard (Chuck Yeager)/Ed Harris (John Glenn)

Best Secondary Performance: Scott Glenn (Alan Shepard)/Dennis Cooper (Gordo)

Most Charismatic Award: Ed Harris (John Glenn)/Mary Jo Deschanel (Annie Glenn)

Best Scene:

  • Breaking the Sound Barrier

  • Pre-Flight Testing

  • The Glenns

  • Mercury Press Conference

  • Coming Together

  • Shepard Waiting to Launch

  • Grissom's Controversy

  • Don't Keep the VP Waiting

  • Glenn's Orbits

  • Testing the Lockheed NF-104A

  • End of Mercury

Favorite Scene: The Glenns/Coming Together

Most Indelible Moment: Don't Keep the VP Waiting/Glenn's Orbits

In Memorium:

  • Clarence Avant, 92, American Hall of Fame music executive and film producer (Save the Children, Jason's Lyric), founder of Sussex Records, lifelong best friend of Quincy Jones, and mentor to Jim Brown, Babyface, Jimmy Iovine, and many others.

  • Magoo, 50, American rapper (Timbaland & Magoo) and songwriter ("Up Jumps da Boogie").

  • Butchie, 76, American artist, actor (Dawn of the Dead) and stuntman.

  • Darren Kent, 36, English actor, writer, and director (Game of Thrones, EastEnders, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Theives).

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Chief Scientist: Our Germans are better than their Germans.

Alan Shepard: Dear Lord, please don't let me fuck up.

Chuck Yeager: I'm a fearless man, but I'm scared to death of you.

Glennis Yeager: Oh no you're not. But you oughta be.

John Glenn: Annie, listen to me, OK? You listening? If you don't want the Vice President or the TV networks or anybody else to come into the house, then that's it, as far as I'm concerned. They are NOT coming in, and I will back you all the way, a hundred percent on this. And you tell them that, OK? I don't want Johnson or any of the rest of them to set as much as one TOE inside our house.

Annie Glenn: OK.

John Glenn: You tell them that- that Astronaut John Glenn told you to say that.

Alan Shepard: Request permission to relieve bladder... Gordo... Gordo?

Gordon Cooper: Look, the man has got to go! Now it's either that or we get out the lug wrench and pry him out...

Chief Scientist: [with resignation] Do it... in the suit.

Gordon Cooper: José, permission to wet your diapers anytime son.

Chuck Yeager: Monkeys? You think a monkey knows he's sittin' on top of a rocket that might explode? These astronaut boys they know that, see? Well, I'll tell you something, it takes a special kind of man to volunteer for a suicide mission, especially one that's on TV. Ol' Gus, he did all right.

Gus Grissom: [listening to the NASA recruiter] Say, Hot Dog; what the hell does "astronaut" mean, anyway?

Gordon Cooper: [thinks for a moment] "Star Voyager"

Gus Grissom: "Star Voyager" Gus Grissom. I kinda like the sound of that.

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 5.25

Impact/Significance: 6.75

Novelty: 7.25

Classic-ness: 7.5

Rewatchability: 6

Audience Score: 8.7 (84% Google, 90% RT)

Total: 41.45

Remaining Questions:

  • N/A

35 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page