Since Man started looking up at the sky many thousands of years ago, eclipses have freaked us out.
For a very long time, people gazed at the sun and moon lining up in the middle of the day and said, “Aw HELL NO. That CANNOT be a good sign.”
We are smarter now (more or less) but eclipses still hold a level of fascination. As we await the last total solar eclipse of our lifetimes on Aug. 21 (unless some medical technology gets REALLY good REALLY fast), here are five movies in which eclipses play a role.
“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968, dir. Stanley Kubrick) This might be a bit of a stretch, as the opening scene is a line-up of celestial bodies that is very eclipse-like but might not actually technically be an eclipse. Still, it looks amazing and serves as a visual allegory for the movie’s general theme of discovery, revelation and evolution.
“Dolores Claiborne” (1995, dir. Taylor Hackford) Kathy Bates (in a role she has long said was her favorite) and Jennifer Jason Leigh confront memory, abuse, murder and the total solar eclipse which enabled all of it in this rock solid Stephen King adaptation. But Dolores, don’t look directly at it, lady!
“Ladyhawke” (1985, dir. Richard Donner) In this somewhat forgotten, somewhat goofy fantasy gem set in 13th century France, Matthew Broderick is a thief who falls in with a werewolf (Rutger Hauer) and a werehawk (Michelle Pfeiffer) whose opposing changes are controlled by dawn and dusk. An eclipse, as you might imagine, allows for everyone to get on the same page (even though, as has been pointed out, this eclipse takes place the night after a full moon, which is impossible -- yes, so are werewolves, but you see what I am getting at). Also features a really cool impalement by thrown sword.
“Dragonslayer”(1981, dir. Matthew Robbins) Peter MacNicol made his film debut as sixth century sorcerer’s apprentice Galen Bradwardenwho must fight the amazingly-named Vermithrax Pejorative, a dragon which has been consuming local virgins offered up for sacrifice. The climax featured an eclipse for no particular reason.
“Fantasia” (1940, dir. Various). Generations of kids probably heard Igor Stravinsky’s game-changing piece “The RIte of Spring” here first, as a total eclipse closes the segment, complete with earthquake and new mountains.
There are plenty more. What is your favorite?