October Sky

February 19th, 1999


more trailers October Sky

Still of William Lee Scott, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chad Lindberg and Chris Owen in October SkyStill of Laura Dern and Jake Gyllenhaal in October SkyStill of Chris Cooper and Jake Gyllenhaal in October Sky

The true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's son who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to take up rocketry against his father's wishes.

Release Year: 1999

Rating: 7.7/10 (36,646 voted)

Critic's Score: 71/100

Director: Joe Johnston

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern

In 1950's mining town called Coalwood, Homer Hickam is a kid with only one future in sight, to work in the local coalmine like his father. However in October 1957, everything changes when the first artificial satellite, Sputnik goes into orbit. With that event, Homer becomes inspired to learn how to build rockets. With his friends and the local nerd, Homer sets to do just that by trial and a lot of error. Unfortunately, most of the town and especially Homer's father thinks that they are wasting their time. Only one teacher in the high school understands their efforts and lets them know that they could become contenders in the national science fair with college scholarships being the prize. Now the gang must learn to perfect their craft and overcome the many problems facing them as they shoot for the stars.

Writers: Homer H. Hickam Jr., Lewis Colick

Jake Gyllenhaal - Homer Hickam
Chris Cooper - John Hickam
Laura Dern - Miss Riley
Chris Owen - Quentin
William Lee Scott - Roy Lee
Chad Lindberg - O'Dell
Natalie Canerday - Elsie Hickam
Scott Miles - Jim Hickam
Randy Stripling - Leon Bolden
Chris Ellis - Principal Turner
Elya Baskin - Ike Bykovsky
Courtney Cole-Fendley - Dorothy Platt (as Courtney Fendley)
David Dwyer - Jake Mosby
Terry Loughlin - Mr. Dantzler
Kaili Hollister - Valentine Carmina

Taglines: Sometimes one dream is enough to light up the whole sky.

Release Date: 19 February 1999

Filming Locations: Fountain City Elementary School - 2910 Montbelle Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

Opening Weekend: $5,905,250 (USA) (21 February 1999) (1495 Screens)

Gross: $32,481,825 (USA) (25 July 1999)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The location of the slag dump where the Rocket Boys actually tested their rockets still exists. It is now a large grassy field. It is located in the actual town of Coalwood, WV which still exists today. They erected a replica test stand, launch pad, and "shed" after the movie brought the rocket boys story back into the public light. Every year the town of Coalwood celebrates the Rocket Boys with a festival every October called "October Sky Festival".

Continuity: When Roy Lee's stepfather is beating Roy Lee up, after getting released from the jail, and John Hickam tells Homer to get into the car, Jake Gyllenhaal (Homer Hickam) is not the one getting into the car, it is his body double.

Quentin: They watched us get arrested. We're practically ex-convicts. They'll never dance with us.
O'Dell: Jesus, Quentin, you don't know anything about women.

User Review

A film that hits close to home....

Rating: 9/10

"October Sky" is a film that will steal your heart, fill your mind with vivid imagery, and lift your spirit. The tale of Homer Hickham and his dream of creating a rocket seem so simple at first, especially when the film is set in a mining town, where the future is as clear cut as the lumps of coal in the mine. But Homer cannot follow in his father's footsteps. With the encouragement of Miss Riley,(a friendly teacher), members of his father's staff, and his friends, Homer attempts to make his dream a reality.

Yet as in any true to life story, there are many stops along the way. Director Joe Johnston lowers us into the coal mines, where we witness the chilling plight of miners stooped beneath a ceiling of rock. With lit helmets and bent posture, they resembled alien insectoids more than humans in the darkness. The hacking coughs of the miners and the blackened faces were a constant reminder of the danger the miners faced in their work.

Contrasting the mine shaft's lugubrious load are the images of Homer and his friend's rocket launches. Underneath the blue bowl of sky, rockets are placed upon a pad and launched into the stratosphere...And nothing can match the scene when Homer sees Sputnik for the first time.

Yet what makes the film so endearing is the relationship between the characters. Homer's father is a classic hardened man...but he has a soft side as well. We see that he does love his son, despite their many arguments. The love and support of Miss Riley is evident as well. Best of all, the film is uncomfortable. It doesn't tie everything up in a nice bow. It tears at you, lifts you up. It keeps an air of reality, which is important in a film like this.

This film can be considered a complete work. At first, I was disappointed that the film did not continue with Homer's life. I didn't want it to end. Then I realized...that's what a good film does to a person. If it has done its job, you won't want it to end. And "October Sky" accomplishes just that.