I do not understand why most space movies contain sound.

For Example: The Martian (2015), Moon (2009) Armageddon (1998) etc. These movies contain sound in space which does not make sense.

Well, there are a few space movies which are accurate in the sound thing: Interstellar and Gravity etc.

So why do most movies contain sound in space although that is completely unrealistic?

  • 14
    Because it's expected from the average viewer. I'm afraid it really comes down to that. ALIEN (1979) "In space no one can hear you scream." As amazing as that tagline is, even that couldn't teach people... Commented May 21, 2016 at 13:08
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    @MeatTrademark This can easily be understood as no one can hear your scream, because the nearest people are milions kilometres away. Also I'm not sure if a tagline of a movie (even a popular one) can teach people anything. Commented May 21, 2016 at 14:05
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    Sounds in space bothers you because it is unrealistic. Does everyone being followed around by an invisible symphony orchestra playing stirring music also strike you as unrealistic? Commented May 21, 2016 at 19:25
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    The Martian? When?
    – cde
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 20:47
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    I can't recall any illogical sound in the Martian. Just because there shouldn't be any sound in space does not mean there is no sound in a spaceship. When you burn you rockets of course you'll hear it reverberating through the ship's structute
    – slebetman
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 11:52

3 Answers 3


Because audiences expect it, and will enjoy the movie less if it's missing.

Sound is a very crucial form of information transmission for humans; we rely on sounds non-stop to process our environment, often without even realizing it. Movies take advantage of those often subconscious sound cues to bring out the intended emotions in a scene. They also rely on sound as a quick way to convey certain actions or events without having to waste dialogue.

For better or worse, we have been conditioned to expect some of those audio cues in certain points in a movie. Weapons make noise, explosions make noise, rockets make noise, etc.

If a filmmaker were to film, for example, a space battle without sound, it would have significantly less impact than the equivalent battle within an atmosphere, because our brains would find the noiseless environment eerie and unnerving. In fact, the few movies that have successfully portrayed the silence of space (such as 2001) were specifically going for that emotional response.

To be fair, it's somewhat strange that people single this aspect of space movies out of the dozens of mistakes we take for granted all the time. Guns don't work the way they do in movies; injuries don't work the way they do in movies; cars rarely work the way they do in movies; computers don't work the way they do in movies; explosions don't work the way they do in movies. Sound in space is just one more thing on that very long list.

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    ...once... just once in my whole life did I stand up in the middle of that fabulous scene in 2001 & yell at everybody to put their bloody popcorn down... & will they let me forget it? :)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 18:31
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    @Tetsujin: Eejits who eat in cinemas (i.e. almost everybody there) are the reason I won't go. Disgusting to hear some fat git gorging himself! Commented May 22, 2016 at 11:47
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    If I see one more "expert" hacker infect a network by opening up a terminal and typing "launch worm", I'm probably going to scream.
    – Basic
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 12:32
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    @Basic: What if launch is actually a alias to a shell, and worm a elaborate script he customized earlier for infecting this network specifically?
    – DrakaSAN
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 13:17
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    Note that there is an in-universe explanation for sounds in a space battle, even explicitly mentioned in some works: The computers on board of the spaceships track the movements of other ships and the projectiles and beams they fire, and they produce the appropriate sounds to help the pilots get a better feeling of the situation around them.
    – vsz
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 9:57

There is sound 'in space', up to a point.

Sound can't propagate through a vacuum, because you can't make anything vibrate.
Sound can be propagated through objects that happen to be surrounded by vacuum, and/or the air inside those objects - wearing a spacesuit, you can hear the machinery in the suit, or someone tapping on it, or the radio mounted in it. If you were walking on Mars, you'd be able to hear your own footsteps.

On floors that vibrate (Sci-fi metal!), you could hear the footsteps of people nearby. You could certainly hear the engines of any ship you were in.

I don't remember any scene in The Martian with unrealistic sound - everything audible makes sense from Watney's (or someone else's) perspective.

EDIT: As commented, Mars isn't technically a vacuum, but the atmospheric pressure is less than 1% of Earth's, so human-audible sound wouldn't travel over any meaningful distance. People wearing helmets can still hear things, as described above.

(Aside, the ship-blowing-over thing in The Martian is the only really wrong thing in that movie because of this. They even make the point later, where a tarp will work because of the thin atmosphere).

EDIT2: On further reading, the density of Mars' atmosphere is about 7% of Earth's because it's almost all CO², so you actually could hear loud sounds over a few metres.

  • Just left a comment to this effect then I read your answer. You said it better than I did.
    – slebetman
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 11:54
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    Sounds from walking on Mars are not relevant. Mars has an atmosphere. Granted it's thinner than Earth's, and not breathable, but there is at least a gaseous medium through which sound waves could propagate. Now if you said walking on the Moon, that would be valid. Commented May 22, 2016 at 14:17
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    The Martian is mostly on Mars, not in space.
    – njzk2
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 15:20
  • @njzk2 - Yeah, my point was that sound on Mars would work pretty much the same as it does here, possibly a bit muted due to the thinner atmosphere, but not the same as the silence of space, which you'd also experience on any body without an atmosphere, such as the Moon. Commented May 22, 2016 at 18:00
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    @DarrelHoffman - The atmosphere on Mars is so thin (less than 1% of Earth's) that "a bit muted" is a considerable understatement. Sounds would be inaudible; it's functionally equivalent to a vacuum for human hearing. Also, that was part of the original question.
    – FLHerne
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 21:18

In movies, it is extremely common to have a "virtual microphone" which is much closer to the action than the camera. If a football movie included a conversation between a couple players that was filmed using a telephoto lens from 200 feet away, it would generally be absurd to suggest that the dialogue should sound like it would sound from the point of view of the visual observer (including a 0.2-second delay). Instead, the sound should be as perceived by the characters who are the center of attention. When several characters in the scene merit attention, sound that would be audible at any of them may be audible to the audience.

It's entirely plausible that firing the weapons on a space fighter might cause significant vibrations in the frame which would be perceived as sound to anyone inside. The sound may not be audible to any other participant in the battle, but it would be difficult to really convey the idea that each participant would be hearing a different set of sounds. It's much easier and practical to let the audience hear sounds that some involved character would hear.

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