- Acceptable Targets: A Russian anti-satellite missile test triggers a series of Disaster Dominoes that sets back every country's space program by decades. In Real Life, China was the only country to have conducted an anti-satellite missile test that created a space debris problem, it just wasn't as serious as this.
- Base Breaker: While Cuaron didn't suffer of this as bad in Mexico as his fellow countryman Eugenio Derbez for doing Instructions Not Included, he suffered some backlash in his native country just because he didn't make a movie who could take place in Mexico, with a more realistic, depressing and cynical plot, and instead he did an unrealistic (for Mexicans, anyway) sci-fi flick about astronauts. This is possibly the cause why Cuaron decided not to thank his country when he won the Oscar as Best Director, when this is culturally a norm for Mexicans for do so when winning a prize overseas. Ironically, the film somewhat still fits with the traditional Mexican tropes regarding this, except with a bigger budget.
- Crowning Music of Awesome:
- Hell Is That Noise: The frequent horn-like crescendos used as the Leitmotif for the satellite debris. When you hear it, you know something is about to go wrong.
- He Panned It, Now He Sucks: An odd one with Neil Degrasse Tyson, who actually did like the movie but still felt compelled to point out its numerous scientific errors, which many fans couldn't see past.
- HSQ: Extremely high. The film can almost be panic-inducing due to its relentless pacing and intense visual style.
- Narm: Some of the lines can be pretty clunky. "No more just driving," anyone?
- Narm Charm: Stone howling like a dog could have gone horribly wrong, but instead it's a very emotional quasi-Sanity Slippage moment.
- Nausea Fuel: All the spinning camera shots can make a person dizzy.
- Sci Fi Ghetto: Defied. The film earned high scoring reviews from critics, became a box office smash and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, 7 of which it won (including Best Director for Cuarón). It still played straight (albeit in less degree) in Mexico, Cuaron's homeland.
- She Really Can Act: As odd as it sounds to say about an actress with a long career before the film that included an Oscar win, many had this reaction to Sandra Bullock, as she was mostly regarded as a lightweight romantic comedy star (with said Oscar being for The Blind Side, prime Oscar Bait of the maudlin kind).
- So Cool It's Awesome: For many who've seen the film.
- Tainted by the Preview: A number of detractors and reviewers have decried the movie's "lack of scientific accuracy" based merely on the presence of sound in the trailers, and on using those same, pre-release trailers to make snap judgments about the nature of the emergency, the fact that the ISS, the Hubble, and the Tiangong are in the same orbit, or that an astronaut being flung into outer space could possibly be panicked.
- Too Cool to Live: Double Subverted with Kowalski. At first he seems to die due to his Heroic Sacrifice. But then, he shows up later while Stone is attempting to get the rocket started. And then it's revealed to just be a dream/hallucination on Stone's part.
- Visual Effects of Awesome: This movie justifies both IMAX and 3D movie-making. It has been advised to see this movie in both formats.
- The Woobie: Dr. Ryan Stone.
- Aningaaq isn't having a great day either.