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October Sky

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
October Sky Movie Poster Image
Inspiring tale for older tweens and up.
  • PG
  • 1999
  • 108 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 18 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes include curiosity, empathy, integrity, and perseverance. Emphasizes the importance of following your dreams, no matter how impossible they might seem. Also underlines the necessity of hard work and creativity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Homer works hard for his achievements, despite some rather challenging odds. His father isn't supportive and is sometimes harsh, but it's made clear that he does love his son underneath it all. Homer has a wonderful teacher in Miss Riley.


A boy is beaten in public by his stepfather. There's a brief glimpse of a dead body, as well as a potentially scary mine cave-in. Someone shoots at a character through a window (no injuries). Some accidents with the test rockets.


Some talk of kissing and putting the moves on girls, but nothing is really shown.


Includes a couple of uses of "s--t," as well as "damn," "hell," "ass," etc. Characters also say things like "goddamn" and "swear to God."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking; a minor character is an alcoholic. Brief glimpse of smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that October Sky is a moving drama based on a true story centers on a very difficult, tense father-son relationship. Ultimately, the movie is about following your dreams, no matter how unachievable they might feel. In one scene, a drunken stepfather beats up one of the main character's friends; there's also some surprisingly strong language for a PG-rated movie (including "s--t") and a few mild sexual references.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byfritzsky April 9, 2008
Adult Written bydmo64 November 19, 2012

Great movie, not for elementary students.

This is a great move. It teaches about history, 1957 Soviets beating U.S. into space with Sputnik, and what life was like in a coal town. The story is also gr... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008


Am I the only one who didn't really like this movie? Well, I thought it was decent, wholesome family entertainment, but had a feeling of 'been there d... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byTwilightgirl137 June 29, 2010

Rockets up for October Sky

It was good. This movie had very good highlights in it! Homer didn't care on what his father said. He continued to build rockets. In the end, his dream cam... Continue reading

What's the story?

OCTOBER SKY is set in 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made orbiting satellite. Thanks to their teacher Miss Riley (Laura Dern), Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his high school friends peer up into the clear sky over their tiny West Virginia coal mining town to see its tiny spark drift across the stars. Homer dreams of being a rocket scientist. His father, John (Chris Cooper), the mine supervisor, does not understand Homer's longing for a wider horizons. But others do. Miss Riley roots for "the unlucky ones." Homer's mother who covers the kitchen wall with a mural of the seascape she longs to see. Homer's friends are glad to be a part of something new and important, and the community is proud to have a hero.

Is it any good?

This true story of a boy from a small town who dreams of becoming a rocket scientist is one the best films of the past year and one of the best family movies ever made. We know from the beginning where the story is going, just as we knew with Rocky. The triumph of the underdog is one of literature's most enduring themes. As long as it is done well, audiences are happy to go along. It is never done better than it is here in October Sky. The script, the production design, and the acting are all superb.

Gyllenhaal's expressive eyes show his simultaneous longing for the stars and for his father's approval. Cooper makes a role that could have been a one-dimensional tyrant multi-layered and complex, even sympathetic. Plot twists that might seem heavy-handed or melodramatic work because we know they really happened, and because these characters make us believe. We care so deeply about them that when we see real home movie footage of the real-life Homer's experiments we feel as though they are a part of our family.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how in October Sky, Homer, not a great student and not especially strong in math, becomes so inspired by an idea that he begins to think in new ways. Has that ever happened to you?

  • Why it was hard for John to support Homer's ambitions? Why did his mother see it differently? Do you think Homer made the right choice in going to work in the mine -- and in leaving it?

  • How does the movie portray the way that "nerds" are treated in school? Do you think people are evaluated differently in school from how they are once they get out?

  • How doe the characters in October Sky demonstrate curiosity, empathy, integrity, and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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For kids who love dramas

Our editors recommend

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