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Paul Asay

Movie Review

In 1969, the United States sent a couple of guys to the moon. And for the next few years, high-powered rocket ships trundled back and forth between here and there, lightening the lunar surface of about 800 pounds worth of rocks.

Then, in 1972, the pilgrimages petered out.

Why, you ask, did NASA shut down the missions?

Are you sitting down? ‘Cause this is really shocking.

OK. The reason NASA stopped shooting ships at moon was … budget considerations.

Apollo 18 emphatically disagrees with that notion, crossing out the words budget considerations and inserting hostile aliens.

Maybe director Gonzalo López-Gallego will address the Social Security shortfall in his next movie.

But I’m meandering off point.

The movie claims to be a compilation of secret footage from a secret mission to a sorta-secret spot on the moon. The mission was so secret that they put silencers on the Saturn rocket, told all the hundreds of folks involved that they were just “pretending” and forced everyone along Florida’s space coast to turn the other way when it took off. It was so secret that the Feds confiscated countless home telescopes, worrying that casual star gazers might home in on their super-secret work and post the results to TMZ. It was so secret that one can only assume that the special commemorative patches created for the mission—prominently displayed in the film—were promptly incinerated when someone realized that creating commemorative patches to honor a secret mission was a really, really bad idea.

It was so secret that even the astronauts themselves didn’t exactly know what their mission was—until they started digging around in all that lunar dirt. Once they did that, they uncovered ….


Really. They dug up rocks. And they hooked up some spy equipment. And they took some pictures. And then they—

Hey, is something moving over there?

Positive Elements

Growing up in the 1970s, every kid wanted to become an astronaut. Those astronauts were considered to be real-life heroes back then, and Apollo 18, thankfully, doesn’t dispel that heroic aura. The astronauts here embody personal courage, compassion and self-sacrifice.

It takes a lot of gumption to fly to the moon, given the fact that if something goes wrong up there, there’s not much you can do about it. But mission commander Nathan Walker goes above and beyond even that, walking around the lunar surface when he knows full well that alien baddies might be lurking behind any ol’ rock. And when he has an encounter of the far-too-close kind and becomes infected with some sort of lunar virus, he tells his astro-companion, Benjamin Anderson, that it’d be best if he just saved himself.

Ben’s having none of that, of course, and does what he can to save his friend and commanding officer. And when word comes down (up) from Houston that the United States plans to leave both guys on the moon’s surface—thinking that they might bring back whatever’s bothering them—John Grey, who’s piloting the orbiting capsule, will have none of it. He goes against direct orders, in fact, knowing that following them would be a death sentence for his fellows.

Spiritual Elements

Curiously, the Christmas carol “We Three Kings” plays during the credits.

Sexual Content


Violent Content

[Note: Spoilers are contained in this section.]

During their moonish escapades, Nathan and Ben stumble upon the corpse of a Soviet Union cosmonaut, who was also apparently sent up in secret. (I’m sure a lunar lander from Lichtenstein was just out of sight over the horizon.) The guy didn’t look like he had much fun his last few hours: His face is horribly disfigured, and when Nathan and Ben visit his lander, they see that the place is spattered with blood.

At first, our astronauts think that’s the big secret the government’s been keeping from them. But it turns out that it’s the moon’s rocks that are the real deal. You see, they’re alive, and Nathan somehow gets one in his suit—where it turns into a crab-spider-like thing and burrows into his body. We see the large wound it makes in his side while he feels it inside him and then gorily removes it with a pair of forceps. Ben tries to examine the moon-walking rock, but Nathan smashes it into smithereens with a hammer. I guess you could call that “first contact.”

Alas, removing the rock doesn’t do much good for Nathan. Bits of the alien get into his bloodstream, causing nasty splotching on his skin and making his eyes bloodshot. They also make him moody, so he takes out his frustration on the cameras located in the lunar module—leading to a big fight with Ben. And then to another violent conflict while they’re trying to escape. Ultimately, Nathan, screaming all the while, is claimed and captured by the lunar residents.

He comes back—just as Ben’s about to push the Soviet lander’s ignition button. Nathan tries to bash his way inside with his hammer; and Ben sees creatures swarming around his friend’s face inside his helmet … shortly before Nathan’s head explodes.

Blood drips. Spaceships crash.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and four or five s-words. A smattering of other terrestrial crudities include “b‑‑tard,” “d‑‑n,” “h‑‑‑,” “d‑‑k” and “pr‑‑k.” Jesus’ name is misused nearly 10 times, and God’s is abused about a dozen—most of the time paired with the “d‑‑n.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

An astronaut mentions that he had a few beers at a cookout. “Maybe more than a few,” he says.

Other Negative Elements

Nathan talks about pepper juice burning his nether region.


In real life, our National Aeronautics and Space Administration has seen better days. Its shuttle program has wrapped, its budget has been cut and interest in its programs—that so captivated America in the ’60s and ’70s—is dwindling. To prop up public enthusiasm for space exploration, then, NASA is partnering with almost every movie that knocks at its door, up to and including Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

But after some initial discussion and aid, NASA backed quickly away from Apollo 18. “The science was just so off the wall that eventually we felt, ‘You guys go ahead and make your movie,'” said Bert Ulrich, NASA’s liaison for multimedia, film and television collaborations.

Did I mention that the agency willingly worked with the makers of Transformers?

I think that’s an important point to remember here.

Apollo 18 is a strange, silly bit of cinema that peppers us with violence and serious profanity while offering just three small moon pebbles as compensation: 1) Astronauts are brave. 2) Never trust the Department of Defense. 3) Always check your space suit for rocks.

Beyond that, there’s not much to recommend this mission. To anyone. For anything. This is one trip to the moon that should’ve stayed secret.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.