Is the 1995 film Apollo 13 on-topic? The primary plot of the film (the crew of a crippled spaceship struggle to survive and stay on course after a disaster) fits a classic SFF mold, but it is not fiction - rather it is pretty much a straight retelling of an actual space mission/disaster with only light dramatic license taken.

Obviously, questions about the historical facts of the real Apollo 13 mission belong on either History Stack Exchange or Space Exploration Stack Exchange, but I can think of two classes of questions I could see asking about this film right here on SFF Stack Exchange:

  • Questions about the dramatic license taken in the film, such as whether the ship control panels displayed in the film have the same sets of buttons, knobs, and blinkenlights that the real panels did.
  • Behind-the-scenes questions about the film, such as how the zero-gravity scenes were filmed or whether any of the actors received training from NASA on space mission operations.

Are any of these kinds of questions appropriate here?

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    Gut feeling is telling me it’s off topic and you’d be better off asking over on Movies & TV. However, I’ll let someone more knowledgeable than me on this answer it.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Jun 23, 2021 at 22:01
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    @theLethalCarrot spot on. None of the dramatic licence is science fiction or fantasy, so it's definitely off topic. Behind the scenes stuff is still on-topic on M&TV as well.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Jun 23, 2021 at 23:14
  • I should note that any questions specific to the Apollo 13 mission itself are generally on-topic at Space.SE. You can ask about the movie in the context of what really happened (case in point).
    – Machavity
    Jun 24, 2021 at 22:36

1 Answer 1


No, because the film is a retelling of quite real events. (The only fictional element in the script is a argument among the astronauts over who was responsible for the accident; everything else actually happened—although not necessarily as dramatically as in the movie.) It is therefore off topic, since there are no science fictional (or fantastic) elements, only actual science. Asking how a realistic film differs from the actual events that inspired the film is not on topic here.

Moreover, if there were a question just about the special space effects in Apollo 13, that would still not be topical on its own. However, if there was a question about, say, how zero-gravity effects have been created in Hollywood films and how the use of the effects have developed over time, that could be a bit different. If we are talking about this kind of special effect—something that is primarily used in science fiction contexts—I think it should be reasonable to include more realistic space films that used the same effect in their scope. That is, in a question about the evolution of zero-gravity effects through 2001: A Space Odyssey, Mission to Mars, etc., it would seem pointless to exclude consideration of Apollo 13 (which may have represented an important technical advance in how the space scenes were filmed) solely because that particular example was not actually part of the science fiction genre.

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    FWIW on your second point, whilst something like that should be on topic here those sorts of questions are usually better received on M&TV and they have a few experts over there. Not saying it has or even should be asked over there of course.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Jun 24, 2021 at 8:09
  • I agreed with everything up to the point where you said that generic special effects questions would be on topic. They wouldnt be here, but they would be on Movies:SE
    – Valorum
    Jun 24, 2021 at 12:57
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    Re zero gravity: Apollo 13 is arguably not very useful for answering that question anyway, because they mostly didn't use special effects for that. They used real zero G on an airplane that NASA uses to train real astronauts.
    – Kevin
    Jun 26, 2021 at 1:54
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    @Kevin Filming on the Vomit Comet is still a special effect.
    – Buzz
    Jun 26, 2021 at 2:40
  • @Buzz: Well, by that logic, TNG used a "special effect" to portray Picard as bald (i.e. they filmed an actual bald man).
    – Kevin
    Jun 26, 2021 at 2:44
  • @Kevin true, and don't forget the crazy way they filmed Data's cat. They used...an actual cat! Jul 2, 2021 at 18:56

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