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Who Is the Most Reluctant Astronaut in Movie History

With Don Knotts’ classic comedy The Reluctant Astronaut airing on AMC this Monday at 10PM, we thought it would be a good idea to compare Knotts’ intrepid space explorer Roy Fleming to some of Hollywood’s other astronauts… specifically, by determining (scientifically, of course), how reluctant they were, on a scale of zero to five “Knotts.” Five is the most reluctant; one Knott is pretty brave. Let’s get to it, shall we?

1. Bruce Willis as Harry Stamper ( Armageddon , 1998): Since Harry Stamper is a professional oil driller drafted by NASA to destroy a deadly, evil asteroid, you’d think he’d be pretty reluctant… But you’d be wrong. Though it takes about half the movie to get Harry into space, it takes him and his crew of maverick cohorts a very short time to agree to risk their lives to save the Earth. Harry, in particular, takes little convincing, and has to spend the majority of the time convincing everybody else in the film that heading out to certain death is a super idea.

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2. James Brolin as Colonel Charles Brubaker ( Capricorn One , 1978): This is a tricky one, as technically, Brolin’s character is a very enthusiastic astronaut. However, the mission he and his crew are drafted for, faking the first manned Mars landing, is one that he spends the entire movie trying to destroy. Though the astronauts are told they have to participate, they quickly realize that NASA will actually murder them if they follow orders. So they rebel, and try to take down the plot from the inside. One point off for actually wanting to go into space, but otherwise, pretty reluctant.

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3. Keir Dullea as Dave Bowman ( 2001: A Space Odyssey , 1968): One year after The Reluctant Astronaut was released in theaters, American audiences were treated to a much darker (and, without any slight to Knotts’ movie, more realistic) take on space travel. Though the Dave at the end of Kubrick’s classic might, in retrospect, be pretty reluctant to go on a mission with killer computer HAL, the Dave at the beginning of the mission is pretty much gung-ho. He’s an experienced astronaut who is concerned about his mission, but otherwise, ready and willing to do all the things an astronaut does.

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4. Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell ( Apollo 13 , 1995): Has any astronaut in film history wanted to go in space as badly as Tom Hanks’ Jim Lovell? I can’t think of one… Lovell spends the entire movie wanting to go into space, and constantly having his hopes dashed. He watches a spaceship explosion, risks his marriage, gets grounded, and still, the entire time, all he wants to do is going into space. It also helps that most of the events in the film were real, and the real life Lovell, as well, had no qualms about strapping himself onto a rocket.

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Zero Knotts

5. Don Knotts as Roy Fleming (The Reluctant Astronaut, 1967): We couldn’t finish off a list of cinema’s most reluctant astronauts without talking about Don Knotts himself, could we? I don’t think I’m ruining much here when I tell you that there is no way in heck that Knotts’ character wants to go into space, and spends the entire movie trying to get out of it. I also don’t think I’m ruining much more if I tell you he isn’t quite successful in that regard. You can check it out for yourself on Monday, April 14 at 10pm | 9C. This movie gets five out of five possible Knotts. Click here for the full schedule on AMC.

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