Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Todd Douglas Miller|
|Music by||Matt Morton|
|Edited by||Todd Douglas Miller|
|Box office||$8.7 million|
Apollo 11 is a 2019 American documentary film edited, produced and directed by Todd Douglas Miller. It focuses on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, the first spaceflight to land humans on the Moon. The film consists solely of archival footage, including 70 mm film that was previously unreleased to the public, and does not feature narration or interviews.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2019, and was released theatrically in the United States by Neon on March 1, 2019. Apollo 11 has received acclaim from critics and grossed over $8 million.
CNN Films approached director Todd Douglas Miller in 2016 to make a film for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. At the time, Miller was just completing The Last Steps, a documentary about Apollo 17. Miller's conception of the film was centered on a direct cinema approach; the final film contains no voice-over narration or interviews beyond what was available in the contemporary source material, similar to the 2010 documentary Senna. 
In May 2017, cooperation between Miller's production team, NASA, and the National Archives and Records Administration resulted in the discovery of unreleased 70 mm footage from the launch and recovery of Apollo 11. The large-format footage includes scenes from Launch Complex 39, spectators present for the launch, the launch of the Saturn V rocket, the recovery of astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins and the Apollo 11 command module, and post-mission efforts aboard the USS Hornet. The documentary included this footage alongside conventional footage from 35 and 16 mm film, still photography, and closed-circuit television footage.
Miller's team used the facilities of Final Frame, a post-production firm in New York City, to make high-resolution digital scans of all available footage. Specialized climate-controlled vans were used to safely transport the archival material to and from the National Archives in Washington, DC. The production team cataloged over 11,000 hours of audio recordings and hundreds of hours of video. Among the audio recordings were 30-track tapes of voice recordings at every Mission Control station. Ben Feist, a Canadian software engineer, wrote software to improve the fidelity of the newly available audio. British archivist and film editor Stephen Slater, who had synchronized audio recordings with 16 mm Mission Control footage in earlier projects, performed the task of synchronizing the audio and film. The production team was able to identify "Mother Country", a song by folk musician John Stewart, in lunar module voice recordings. The song was subsequently featured in the film.
Neon acquired worldwide theatrical distribution rights to the film in July 2018. In 2019, an edited version of the film, cut down to 45 minutes for exhibition in museum IMAX theaters, was released as Apollo 11: First Steps.
In its opening weekend, Apollo 11 grossed $1.6 million from 120 IMAX theaters (a per-venue gross of $13,392), finishing 15th at the box office. In its second weekend, the film gave up most of its IMAX venues to newcomer Captain Marvel, but played in a total of 405 traditional theaters and made $1.3 million, finishing 10th at the box office. It continued to hold well in its third weekend, grossing $1.2 million from 588 theaters, just a 2% drop.
Upon its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, the film received positive reviews from critics, who mostly praised the quality of the film's footage. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 98% based on 102 reviews, with an average rating of 9.07/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Edifying and inspiring in equal measure, Apollo 11 uses artfully repurposed archival footage to send audiences soaring back to a pivotal time in American history." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
In a positive review for IndieWire, David Ehrlich complimented Miller's ability to make the Moon landing sequence feel unique and thrilling, and stated that the clarity of the footage "takes your breath away". In another positive review, Owen Gleiberman of Variety called the footage "quite spectacular", and many critics compared the documentary to Damien Chazelle's 2018 Neil Armstrong biopic First Man in their reviews. Glenn Kenny of The New York Times called the film "entirely awe-inspiring" and wrote, "Although we know how the mission turns out, the movie generates and maintains suspense. And it rekindles a crazy sense of wonder at, among other things, what one can do practically with trigonometry." Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave the film four-out-of-four stars, calling the film "an adrenaline shot of wonder and skill.... Films this completely imagined and ecstatically realized are so rare that when one comes along, it makes most other movies, even the good ones, seem underachieving. Any information that you happen to absorb while viewing Apollo 11 is secondary to the visceral experience of looking at it and listening to it." Paul Mavis for Movies & Drinks, wrote, "Apollo 11 not only thrills you like a rollercoaster ride, it brings back to life an exceedingly brief moment in the American timeline where brash and wholly warranted confidence in our technological superiority created a miraculous, quantum leap forward for us as a (mostly) unified nation."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Sundance Film Festival||February 2, 2019||Special Jury Award for Editing||Todd Douglas Miller||Won|||
|US Documentary Grand Jury Prize||Todd Douglas Miller||Nominated|
- Footprints on the Moon (1969 film), a 1969 documentary film by Bill Gibson and Barry Coe, about the Apollo 11 mission
- For All Mankind, a 1989 documentary film by Al Reinert about the Apollo program (1969 – 1972)
- Kenny, Glenn (February 27, 2019). "'Apollo 11' Review: The 1969 Moon Mission Still Has the Power to Thrill". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- "Apollo 11 (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
- Kamp, David (December 9, 2018). "The Found Footage That Provides a Whole New Look at the Apollo 11 Moon Landing". Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
- Horton, Adrian (February 27, 2019). "'We felt a huge responsibility' – behind the landmark Apollo 11 documentary". The Guardian. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
- Dick, Jason. "How the National Archives helped 'Apollo 11' get a fresh look". Roll Call (February 28, 2019). Retrieved March 3, 2019.
- McNary, Owen (July 20, 2018). "Neon Buys 'Apollo 11' Moon Landing Documentary". Variety. Variety Media. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
- "Apollo 11: First Steps 2D IMAX". NASA JPL. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 3, 2019). "'Dragon 3' Keeps The Fire Burning At No. 1 With $30M Second Weekend; 'Madea' Mints $27M". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 11, 2019). "'Captain Marvel' Tramples Internet Trolls & Skyrockets To $160M Opening". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 17, 2019). "'Captain Marvel' Rises To Second Best 2nd Weekend In March With $69M+ – Sunday AM Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
- "Apollo 11 (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
- "Apollo 11 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
- Ehrlich, David (January 25, 2019). "Apollo 11 Review: Astonishing NASA Doc Takes You Back in Time". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
- Gleiberman, Owen (January 24, 2019). "'Apollo 11' Review: A Heady Documentary Drawn From the NASA Vaults". Variety. Variety Media. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
- Seitz, Matt Zoller (March 1, 2019). "Apollo 11 Movie Review & Film Summary (2019)". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
- Mavis, Paul. "Apollo 11 (2019)". Movies & Drinks. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Debruge, Peter (February 2, 2019). "Sundance Winners: 'Clemency,' 'One Child Nation' Take Top Honors". Variety. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
- Official website
- Apollo 11 on IMDb