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Film / Interstellar

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"We must confront the reality that nothing in our solar system can help us...we must reach far beyond our own lifespans. We must think not as individuals...but as a species. We must confront the reality of interstellar travel."

"We've always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments — these moments when we dared to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known — we count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all of that. Or perhaps, we've just forgotten that we are still pioneers, that we've barely begun, and that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us — that our destiny lies above us."
Cooper, teaser trailer

Interstellar is a 2014 science-fiction drama film directed by Christopher Nolan, written by him and his brother Jonathan Nolan and starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Topher Grace and Casey Affleck. While primarily a science-fiction film, it features Real Life research performed by guest executive producer and renowned astrophysicist Kip Thorne (who's best friends with Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan).

It is 20 Minutes into the Future and, though most either don't know or refuse to acknowledge it, Just Before the End. Many gadgets, machines, and substances once taken for granted are no longer cost-efficient or widely available and the world is experiencing a global Dust Bowl as one vital crop after another falls extinct to unstoppable blights. In this Crapsack World, widower Joseph Cooper (McConaughey), the last man to fly into space before NASA was disbanded, spends his days raising his gifted daughter Murphynote  and increasingly cynical son Tomnote  with the aid of his aging father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow), and his nights reminiscing on past glories — both his own and his civilization's.

And one day, his daughter's strange experiences with a "ghost" lead him to a secret government facility where he learns the Awful Truth: the blights are accelerating, and within a generation, they will not only destroy all food crops but render the very atmosphere un-breathable. But the good news is that NASA still exists in secret, and Professor Brand, his former mentor and now a high-ranking NASA leader, has a plan: to send one last crew of explorers through a wormhole in Saturn's orbit, in search of a team of scouts who claim to have discovered habitable worlds.

And as the only man left on Earth with actual experience in space, Cooper is uniquely suited to lead this mission.

This film provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: SSTO VTOLs have been built, as well as cryogenic sleep pods, Uterine Replicators and conversant AI Robot Buddies. They're just not common because of the Second Dust Bowl (which also has robotic harvester machines), meaning most people drive 2014 cars, beaten to hell by decades of wear and tear.
  • Abstract Scale: TARS has settings from 1 to 100% for humor, honesty and other human characteristics.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: The NASA officials laugh when Cooper asks for assurances that they're leaving, and not in the trunk of a car.
  • Adaptation Distillation: TARS has less dialogue in the novelization, and several of his funny lines and scenes with Cooper are cut or shortened, making CASE's comment about TARS being the much more talkative one almost into an Informed Attribute.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • The novelization, while naturally very close to the movie, provides more insight into several of the characters, such as Mann's deception and what ultimately happened to characters like Tom and Edmunds.
    • One of the more common complaints about the characters in the movie is that, in the film, Cooper occasionally comes across as blatantly caring more for his daughter than his son, and not thinking about Tom nearly as much as he does Murphy. The novelization, while still emphasizing Murphy more (justifiably, since she is more important to the plot than Tom), evens it out better.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Several characters occasionally address/refer to Cooper as "Coop."
    • Cooper addresses TARS as "Slick" multiple times.
    • Cooper, and some others, refer to his daughter Murphy as "Murph".
  • After the End: The Earth is being devastated by dust storms; humanity relies on a dwindling supply of corn after the blight has killed off all other crops; governmental and military organizations have disbanded just to produce enough farmers to sustain the population; and technology is scavenged to make use of solar panels. The only hope left for humanity's survival is to move to a different planet.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Briefly played with and lampshaded, but ultimately averted.
    • Cooper is alarmed when TARS states that his Honesty setting is set to 90%, but TARS explains that Brutal Honesty isn't always preferable. Ultimately Cooper trusts the robots and they never betray him or the mission. This also allows him to joke about the astronauts being "slaves for [his] robot colony".
    • We even get a scene that almost mirrors events of 2001, where CASE gets a message to relay to Cooper containing information that would hinder the mission; he would have been perfectly able to edit the message to remove the ending, but instead he shows it to Cooper and company in full.
  • Alien Geometries: Discussed. And finally seen firsthand when Cooper enters the singularity.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelization gives Cooper a first name, Joseph, as well as his wife, Erin.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen:
    • Cooper suffers this twice. First, Dr. Mann cracks Cooper's visor and takes the emergency oxygen packs out of his suit, leaving him to die.
    • Later, Cooper is teleported out of the black hole and floats in free space near Saturn, only to be rescued by one of NASA's scouting Rangers. with minutes left in his oxygen supply.
    • Humanity is suffering this on Earth. The reason why the Blight will eventually kill every human on Earth isn't starvation; rather, its uncontrollable growth will reduce the level of oxygen to the point where everyone will suffocate to death. It's already starting to happen when Murph is an adult.
  • America Saves the Day: The entire mission is under NASA control and we see the US flag mounted on Mann's planet.note 
  • And I Must Scream: When Cooper is inside the Tesseract, before he understands what's happening, alone and screaming and banging on the walls that are all around him, it appears like he will be trapped there in that non-space forever.
  • And the Adventure Continues: In the end, Cooper, at Murph's insistence, sets out on a new voyage through the wormhole, alongside TARS, in order to find Brand and CASE on the new planet.
  • Anti-Intellectualism: Much of Earth has embraced this, given the increasing scarcity of resources and economic downturn.
    • Cooper's son is ruled out as a college candidate before he's even in his senior year of high school because the school authorities reason he's of more use as a farmer, given the decline of time- and labor-saving machinery and chemicals that keep the need for agricultural workers at unprecedentedly low levels in today's real-life USA.
      Principal: Frankly, the world doesn't need any more engineers. We didn't run out of trains or television sets or satellites. We ran out of food.
    • Cooper's daughter Murphy, being obviously too smart for such treatment, has it even worse.
      Ms. Hanley: Murph is a great kid. She's really bright, but she's been having a little trouble lately. She brought this in to show the other students. The section on the lunar landings. [...] If we don't want a repeat of the excess and wastefulness of the 20th century, then we need to teach our kids about this planet. Not tales of leaving it.
  • Anti-Villain: While both Professor Brand and Dr. Mann aren't exactly evil, both are capable of doing pretty horrendous things to reach their own goals. In the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains, Professor Brand, lying for the sake of perpetuating the species, is a Well-Intentioned Anti-Villain, while Dr. Mann, desperately trying to survive while attempting to complete Brand's plan, is a Woobie Anti-Villain.
  • Anyone Can Die: Thanks to time running differently with the gravity distortion done by Gargantua, Donald, Professor Brand, and (according to the novelization) Tom are dead from old age by the end of the movie, and Murph is on her death bed. Then you have Doyle (hit by a massive tidal wave), Romilly (blown up by Mann's trap), Mann (head bashed in and sucked into space), and Miller and Edmunds (both killed before anyone reached their planets—Miller via tidal wave and Edmunds via rockslide). Only four major characters—Cooper, Amelia, and the robots—are alive and active at the end, and Amelia's status is ambiguous due to possible time dilation shenanigans.
  • Apocalypse How: At the film's start, Earth has already suffered a Class 1 in terms of the societal impact (society is still operating in a diminished capacity, with technology being scavenged, and with governments and militaries disbanding just so there's enough farmers to sustain the remaining food crops whilst organizations like NASA still function), and a Class 4 in terms of the biosphere (all of humanity's plant-based food sources are either extinct or on their way out the door). The catastrophe is ongoing throughout most of the film's time frame, but the final end result is stated to be at least a Class 5: the microorganism which is causing the apocalypse will eventually consume all plant life, reducing the oxygen and nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere, meaning all oxygen-breathing species will die.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Dr. Mann, while not exactly remorseful about murdering his colleagues, nevertheless tries to lionize his actions and misguidedly comfort the dying Cooper.
  • Arc Words:
    • Dylan Thomas' poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night".
    • "90 percent" (referring to TARS's honesty setting, with the explanation that Brutal Honesty is not always the way to go, and the subsequent agreement among the crew to stick by this). At the end, Coop rebuilds him and ups his honesty to 95%.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Attempted by Murph. After Tom is too stubborn to leave his farm, despite the health risks to him and his family, Murph coldly asks him, "You gonna wait for your next kid to die?" It only serves to piss Tom off and, with quiet rage, demands that she leave.
  • Artificial Gravity: Actually a major plot point, as the key for NASA to successfully implement Plan A—evacuating humanity through giant space colonies—requires understanding the quantum nature of gravity to have the colonies achieve lift. And portrayed relatively well. Plan A and the Endurance both feature spinning to simulate gravity.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • One of the major plot devices in the film is the existence of a world-scale blight wiping out all plants and thus depopulating the world. Such a situation is impossible in Real Life. Historically, blights of this nature only happened on a much smaller scale (such as the potato blight which caused the Great Irish Famine in eastern Britain and Belgium; the mainland cultivated multiple crops whereas one-third of Ireland had been forced to rely on potatoes through mainland-government policies. In comparison, two-thirds of the entire world at present is dependent on wheat, rice, and corn). Moreover, crop scientists are always specifically aware of the potential of disease, and develop new varieties to deal with them, even in crops that are all direct clones (such as common fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges). And the blight shouldn't be so devastating towards wild plants, since wild plants have greater genetic diversity (giving them greater potential to develop resistance) and tend to grow in mixtures of multiple species (making it harder for diseases to spread, compared to the monocultures that many crops are grown in).
    • The engineered microbes, originally intended to produce fixed nitrogen compounds, are described as breathing nitrogen, which is nonsensical. No Earth organisms do that, because none could. See Artistic License Chemistry below.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry:
    • The conditions on Mann's planet are the exact opposite of what they should be. Chlorine is rather heavy and should have drifted to the surface instead of staying in the higher elevations. The film does imply a plausible reason, as Mann was lying about these conditions and no one caught the mistake.
    • Despite being a common misconception, land plants don't generate the world's oxygen, which is mostly generated by algae in the ocean. And it would be fairly easy to concentrate oxygen from the atmosphere to supply people with it, even if the atmospheric oxygen content were to significantly drop (which it wouldn't do on the order of decades, but centuries to thousands of years).
    • The nitrogen gas that makes up roughly 78% of our atmosphere has a triple covalent bond that's the second strongest of diatomic molecules (after carbon monoxide). Highly-specialized microbes could 'fix' nitrogen (break the bonds and bind it into more complex molecules), but nothing could respire with it - the process absorbs more energy than it could be used to release.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • While it makes for a very interesting scene, frozen clouds, as they are displayed, are just not very likely, namely due to the implication that they were actual clouds formed from water vapor or similar substances. It is scientifically possible for ice mountains to form like that, but it's unlikely that they would take the shape of clouds in the process.
    • The incredible time dilation of Miller's planet may seem to be an exaggeration — indeed, for a non-rotating (Schwarzschild) black hole, such dilation is impossible. But for a rotating (Kerr) hole, as described in Kip Thorne's The Science of Interstellar, the time dilation level in the film is actually possible — if the conditions are just right. The black hole must be spinning near the speed of light for the effects to be as strong as in the film. The real problem with the black hole comes from its visual appearance in the film. As a fast-rotating Kerr black hole, Gargantua would look highly asymmetric due to its spin in real life, looking very different from how it does in the filmnote . Thorne, who would otherwise never agree to unscientific elements in the film, had to concede this small but noticeable inaccuracy to Nolan so that audiences would not be confused by an asymmetric black hole.
    • There is no realistic way the solid surface of the water planet would be that smooth if there are tidal and rotational forces as powerful as would be necessary for waves that big. The probe debris being that close together is also unlikely, especially since it is all invisible a moment before it.
    • Several of the orbital maneuvers performed by Cooper defy real-life orbital mechanics. Of particular note is the sequence where Cooper attempts to dock with the damaged Endurance, where several such inconsistencies appear in rapid succession.
      • Objects spin around their centers of mass. After it's damaged by Mann's failed attempt to enter, the Endurance is no longer symmetrical, and would not spin around its former center, where the central hatch is located. Therefore, Cooper would not be able to dock it, no matter how fast his module is spinning around its own center of mass. If the Endurance has failsafes for such a contingency, the movie doesn't mention them.
      • The accident causes the Endurance's orbit to decay enough to cause it to enter the planet's stratosphere. This would require an external force to act against the ship's direction of travel. No such force was applied in the movie. And assuming the Endurance's orbit was indeed sufficiently high to be stable before the accident, it would then need to have been slowed down significantly in order to fall so quickly into the stratosphere (again, no such force was applied during the accident).
      • In order to enter the stratosphere at all, the Endurance would have needed to be in such a low orbit that it would already be grazing the stratosphere. This in itself would have made the orbit decay and destroy the ship well before anyone returned to it.
      • A small boost from Cooper's ship is apparently enough to not only deflect the Endurance out of its sub-orbital trajectory but enough to get it to interplanetary velocity by mistake.
  • Artistic License – Space:
    • Kip Thorne, one of the world's leading experts in astrophysics, put an amazing amount of research into the film, but this film is the first place many viewers will have seen it. And some of it — the Time Travel in particular — is bleeding-edge theoretical, and may be disproved in the future — especially as Thorne was actually able to use Double Negative's (the CGI effects company that worked on the film) resources to make significant theoretical advances. Of particular note is a disagreement between Thorne and Roberto Totta over those advances.
    • There is at least one major aspect of the film that is pure artistic license. A planet orbiting a black hole's accretion disk would, for numerous reason, be uninhabitable for humans. For starters, while accretion disks do give off radiation, very little of it is visible light of the sort that humans would need; most of it is deadly X-rays and gamma rays. The planet would also be at risk of being torn apart by the black hole's tidal force (that is, the difference in the pull of gravity on different sides of the planet).
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Bulk Beings apparently went through this. They are implied to be the ultimate fate of humanity in the distant future.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: The space scenes are in widescreen, and the spaceship scenes in 21:9 to emphasize the largeness and grandeur of the former.
  • Awful Truth: Professor Brand's Plan A, to move the remains of humanity on Earth to a new planet, was a sham; his real motivation was Plan B, to abandon the humans on Earth and restart humanity on the new planet because he can't solve the gravity equation with the limited information available to him on Earth. He's been keeping up a façade of optimism until his deathbed.
  • Based on a True Story:
    • The sequence in which Cooper docks with the out-of-control Endurance is evocative of an emergency that occurred during Neil Armstrong and David Scott's 1966 Gemini 8 mission, when a thruster failure while practicing docking and rendezvous caused the spacecraft to spin violently out of control, which Armstrong was able to recover from. It also harkens back to the Soviet mission Soyuz T-13, in which spacecraft rotation had to be matched to dock with a derelict Salyut 7.
    • Mann's fate is evocative of (although not nearly as graphic as) the horrific 1983 Byford Dolphin diving bell incident.
    • The genuine recollections of Dust Bowl survivors.
  • Benevolent A.I.: TARS and CASE save the astronauts' asses on several occasions, and the closest thing they show to hostility is a bit of snark, which they were programmed for. TARS even goes into the middle of a black hole to get the information that can save humanity.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Hugh Mann is essentially this, serving as the biggest obstacle to the Endurance crew's mission to find a new home for humanity. He tricks the crew into traveling to the planet he's on, even though he knows it is inhospitable, just so he can be rescued. He later decides to keep Cooper from leaving by killing him and claiming to the rest of the crew that his death was an accident, and though that fails, a trap he set in KIPP kills Romilly. At this point, he decides to maroon Cooper, Brand, and the robots on his planet, and leave by himself to restart humanity on Edmunds' planet. This ends up killing him and almost destroying the mission, and any hope for either Plan A or Plan B along with it.
  • Big Good: The Bulk Beings constructed the wormhole that make humanity's evacuation from Earth possible.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cooper does get to reunite with Murph one last time, but so much time has passed for her that she's an old woman on her deathbed by then. Edmunds was already dead before the Endurance mission ever began, as Brand, who's in love with him, learns when she arrives at his planet; she's seen burying him near the encampment. Doyle, Romilly, and Mann are dead. Life on Earth is implied to have succumbed to the dust as predicted (though the nitrogen-breathing bacteria responsible may still endure in some form, assuming they can find something to eat besides plants). Humanity itself, however, survives through thousands of people on massive space stations built by Murph and NASA, with the Cooper station orbiting Saturn on its way to the wormhole and, eventually, to the habitable planet where Amelia is located.
  • Bookends: Old Murph (Ellen Burstyn) has the first and last lines of dialogue in the movie.
  • Brick Joke: Cooper gives Murph a watch and says that they'll compare their relative time once he gets back. When they finally reunite at the end, she's still wearing the watch and Cooper takes a moment to look at it.
  • Broken Ace:
    • Cooper had to leave his family for possible death as he ventured out to find a suitable planet.
    • Mann is described multiple times as "the best of us" and "remarkable". However, by the time the Endurance crew reaches his planet and awakens him, all those years by himself, believing that he would die, have broken him and caused him to Go Mad from the Isolation.
  • Broken Faceplate: What happens to Cooper after Mann's Use Your Head attack.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Professor Brand becomes this to everyone who learns the truth—but especially Murph, Cooper, and his own daughter Amelia—when it comes out that he was lying to nearly everyone about "Plan A." He believes that everyone still on Earth is doomed. Earth does eventually succumb to the dust bowl and part of humanity is saved by Murph, but it's not thanks to him.
    • Judging by the way Dr. Mann is described as the best that NASA has to offer, and the fact that he went on a possible suicide mission in the first place, he must have been a respected and idolized astronaut. In spite of it all, he makes a false report that endangers the entire human race just to save his own skin.
    • Possibly Cooper to Tom later on in the film, due to the stress of Tom not seeing his father for years and losing his firstborn child. When Murph tries to convince him to follow her advice based on something having to do with their father, Tom notes that their grandfather was the person who really raised him, not Coop.
    • Briefly Coop to Murph as well, when, after years of already resenting him for leaving, she learns that Plan A is a sham and comes to fear that her father knew about it and abandoned her, Tom, and the rest of humanity to die. However, she eventually realizes that her father was her "ghost" all along and was giving her the info she needs to save humanity, and he becomes a Rebuilt Pedestal as a result. However, she does move on from waiting for her dad after this; when he does return, she's glad to see him but tells him that she has filled her life by surrounding herself with a family that love her, and that he should seize the opportunity that being still young gives him.
  • Centrifugal Gravity: The Endurance has a ring of modules that spin fast enough to provide the sensation of gravity.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: Murph detects an error in Professor Brand's methodology and he appears to take offense, leaving in his wheelchair instead of waiting for her to push him. Turns out Brand realized long ago he can't solve the gravity equation and is only pretending to.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The wristwatch Cooper leaves for Murph as a Memento MacGuffin; he later uses it to communicate the gravity equations to her. Before that (or after that depending on the moment you focus on in the movie), both the dust from the storm and the books in Murph's room.
    • Cooper (from the future) turns out to have been Murph's "ghost" the whole time.
  • Chekhov's Hobby:
    • Both Cooper and Murph know Morse code, which is important later when Cooper communicates with Murph via books and wristwatch.
    • Murph's shared penchant with her father for scientific pursuit and her talents as a Child Prodigy result in Professor Brand taking her under his wing, and she grows up to work with NASA just like her dad.
  • Chirping Crickets: Cooper's playlist is full of it.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Mann betrays everybody who was ever on his side:
    • While it is only implied in the film proper, the official novelization and official prequel comic both confirm that Mann betrayed his Robot Buddy, KIPP, years before the beginning of the movie. Since KIPP found enough data to prove that Mann's planet was uninhabitable, Mann had him prepare a "hypothetical" set of perfect data for his planet that he used to create forged data, shut KIPP down before he could send any of his findings to Earth, and booby-trapped him to explode if anyone tries to access the archives that would reveal his deception. He did all this to a robot who was programmed to be his loyal helper and companion.
    • He also betrays the entire Endurance crew who comes to rescue him. Once Cooper decides to return to Earth (but still help the others get settled on Mann's planet before he leaves), Mann resolves to kill him and Make It Look Like an Accident to the rest of the crew so he can still keep them as companions. When that fails (thanks to Cooper surviving and Romilly dying by inadvertently setting off the bomb), Mann decides, "Screw This, I'm Outta Here" and tries to steal the Endurance and abandon all the remaining crew on his planet.
    • On a less personal level, he also betrays the Lazarus mission (which he led) and all his fellow humans by succumbing to his cowardice and falsifying the data about his planet, which puts the entire Endurance mission at risk and almost destroys the possibility of either Plan A or Plan B—and thus, the future of the human race.
  • Classified Information: The Endurance mission in its entirety, especially the wormhole. It was discovered fifty years before the events of the movie, and afterwards ignored by everyone but NASA until Just Before the End.
  • Cold Equation: Cooper does a Heroic Sacrifice by detaching himself from the Endurance to ensure Brand's safe onward travel to Edmunds' planet, as the Endurance is completely out of reaction mass and needs to leave behind a bit more weight in order to escape the black hole.
  • Comforting Comforter: Cooper gently pulls a blanket over Murph while she sleeps in the truck on their way to the mysterious site.
  • Coming in Hot: Cooper decides to slow down the shuttle by skimming off the atmosphere of Miller's planet. This makes the other crewmembers a bit nervous as they've never experienced this maneuver (aero-braking) firsthand.
  • Computer Voice: Downplayed with the robots, whose voices are indistinguishable from human voices, except for a slight metallic twang from what are presumably low-quality speakers. Anyone who can't see their obviously mechanical appearance could be forgiven for assuming they're hearing a real person speaking over a phone or intercom.
  • Conflict: A rare example of man vs. nature extreme enough to be a Cosmic Horror Story. Despite its role in saving humanity, Gargantua functionally acts as the main antagonist for most of the film. Between its relativistic effects on time causing emotional torture for the protagonist and its gravitational effects on nearby planets almost killing most of the cast, the black hole drives the plot forward as a sort of uncaring cosmic enemy. Because the central conflict is between human beings and a massive black hole in a relatively hard science fiction work, the Bittersweet Ending the movie receives is about as much as anyone can hope for.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Apparently, the USA's education system, out of desperation to keep peoples' attention on Earth instead of "Why don't we leave?", has corrected federal textbooks to say that the moon landing never happened and was just a ruse to bankrupt the Soviet Union. The textbooks seem to at least propagate the idea that leaving Earth is an unhelpful waste of money, which was true enough before the wormhole opened, but it's not clear whether or not they claim it's outright impossible (as some real-life Moon Landing conspiracy theorists do).
  • Continuous Decompression: When Cooper's visor cracks, we hear a continuous hissing sound.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • NASA's secret base is within a night's drive of Cooper's farm.
    • Try calculating the odds of finding a lone astronaut floating in space just in the nick of time - but also note that the bulk beings who brought Cooper into the Tesseract also created the wormhole in the first place. Spitting him out right where the spacers would find him instead of just dropping him off inside the station itself is just them granting present-day humans their Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
  • Cool Car: Cooper's 2013 Dodge RAM 3500 Cummins dually 4x4 pick-up. Though old, battered, and rusty, it still has the power to chase down a drone and is still running decades after Cooper's departure, surviving countless dust storms and farm use.
  • Cool Plane:
    • The Ranger is a VTOL Space Plane with a fighter jet aesthetic that chariots our heroes wherever they need to go.
    • The bulkier and less sleek-looking Lander, designed to haul heavy scientific equipment, proves its own worth when Dr. Mann steals the Ranger and Brand uses the Lander to rescue Cooper.
  • Cool Starship: The Endurance: its modules contain machines and supplies which can keep a crew alive in deep space for decades, it can send and receive messages back through a wormhole, and it can spin to create artificial gravity. And it has some sleek-looking smaller ships to ferry its crew to planetary surfaces.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: When telling the NASA officials that he doesn't want to leave the secret base in a trunk of a car, Cooper covers Murph's ears so she doesn't realize the trouble they got themselves into.
  • Crapsack World: Earth has become this, with governments and economies having collapsed, humanity suffering a planet-wide famine and NASA itself being shut down only to be brought back to conduct the interstellar voyage in hopes of finding new worlds to colonize before humanity dies out. It's so crapsack that there are no more militaries. Everyone is too busy starving to fight. There are also no more MRI machines, which Cooper says in a discussion with Murphy's teacher would have saved his wife by finding the tumor that killed her — and it's said that NASA was forced to bomb civilians, though the circumstances surrounding that are not elaborated upon.
  • Crisis Catch And Carry: CASE rescuing Amelia, who is unable to move fast due to the high gravity and having to slog through water in a spacesuit.
  • Cry into Chest: The heartwarming moment when the crew wakes Dr. Mann from his cryonic sleep and he starts sobbing Manly Tears into Cooper's chest.
  • Danger Deadpan: Cooper for much of the mission stays remarkably calm and collected, especially when doing vital tasks. On the other hand, the 23-year Time Skip gnaws heavily at him. And by the time he's passed through the black hole and reunited with an elderly Murph, he almost breaks down entirely.
  • Darkest Hour: About two-thirds of the way through the movie, in which Professor Brand reveals to Murph that (he believes) humanity has been doomed all along, Mann turns out to be lying about his planet being habitable and nearly kills Cooper, and Murph and her brother are estranged by his refusal to abandon his farm, dooming his own family.
  • Days of Future Past: The Crapsack World mentioned above is in many ways the Dust Bowl and Great Depression of the 1930s on a global scale, and with crop blights that not only destroy the food supply but also threaten to make the atmosphere unbreathable. The documentary films at the beginning and towards the end only enhance the effect by treating the Blight as a historical event.
  • Dead All Along:
    • Subverted with Laura Miller. She is dead by the time the Endurance crew reaches her planet; however, due to severe time dilation there, Brand speculates that, by this planet's time, she only arrived a couple of hours before they did, and probably only died minutes before they landed.
    • Played straight with Wolf Edmunds. Once the crew gets through the wormhole, they learn that Edmunds—who was sending the "thumbs-up" signal for his planet—stopped transmitting three years prior (i.e. a year before the Endurance left Earth). When Brand reaches his planet at the end of the movie, she discovers that this is because a rockslide crushed his habitat, including his beacon and his stasis pod, and killed him, meaning that, regardless of which order the crew visited the planets, she never had any chance of seeing him again. Still, Brand was right to believe in her love for Edmunds, since his planet is the only one of the three that is actually habitable.
  • Deadly Dust Storm: One of the effects of the blight is that frequent dust storms plague the remaining population. They get so bad that people have to wear breath masks and goggles when storms happen.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • TARS, the sarcastic robot.
    • Cooper, the sarcastic human. Not surprisingly, leads to some good old-fashioned Snark-to-Snark Combat between the two.
  • Deathbed Confession: As he's dying, Professor Brand admits to Murph that Plan A was a Motivational Lie, and that Plan B was always the intent of the mission.
  • Death by Irony: When Dr. Mann cracks Cooper's faceplate and leaves him to die, he quotes Brand's usage of "Do not go gently". Minutes later, Mann triggers his own demise while trying to commandeer the Endurance, and it was anything but "gentle".
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Debatable, since Cooper and Brand are each more like The Not-Love Interest to each other; however, at the same time it's shown that Cooper is planning to fly to Edmunds's planet to seek Amelia out, it's also revealed that Edmunds died long ago.
  • Death World: Miller's planet, thanks to Gargantua's gravitational forces causing mountainous waves to frequently sweep the surface.
  • Deus ex Machina: Subverted. The ending seems to only be the result of sheer luck, but it's actually thanks to very careful planning and intervention by incredibly powerful beings from the future.
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • The original twelve astronauts were chosen based on their skills and their lack of any familial connections. Everyone fails to consider that this means they would have nothing to lose by falsifying the data and claiming their world is habitable when it isn't.
    • Dr. Brand looks slightly puzzled but mostly straight-faced as Cooper exchanges goodbyes with TARS when the latter detaches and drops into the black hole ("See you on the other side, Cooper" "See you there, Slick!"). It's not until CASE announces that Ranger 2 (Coop's ship) is about to be detached that she panics and pleads for him not to do it... only to get the 90% rule response from Cooper before he detaches.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Dr. Mann. He knowingly forged data about the planet he's hibernating on because it turned out to be uninhabitable and he's too scared to perform a Heroic Sacrifice. After this, the film uses its "one F-word per PG-13 film" to the most beautiful effect after it's revealed:
      Cooper: You fucking coward.
    • Also, after essentially dooming Cooper to die, Mann tries to stay and watch so he won't have to die alone, but admits he can't do it. He then tells Cooper he'll stay on the comms and talk to him, at least... but realizes he can't listen to him die either, and turns off his comm. This actually turns out to be vital to Coop's survival, since it means that Mann doesn't hear it when Coop gets his long-range transmitter back and calls Brand to come and save him.
  • Disappeared Dad: Cooper to Tom and Murph after the first act. Admittedly, if a father is going to abandon his children, Cooper has one of the noblest excuses you can get—attempting to save humanity. (However, since he deliberately wants to spare them as kids from the knowledge that Earth is doomed, Murph wouldn't have realized this until she's older, meaning she spends years thinking her dad left her because the excitement of piloting again was more important to him than his family, and that she'd led him there.) Doesn't stop him from considering it to be the biggest mistake of his life—especially once he figures out that Plan A was a sham, and that all the humans currently still on Earth will likely die.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Dr. Mann sets off a brief and very sudden chain of events that ends in his death when he attempts to commandeer the Endurance. After Amelia tries to warn him that the airlock isn't secure, he ignores her and opens it anyway. Thus, 1.) the sudden vacuum pulls a light fixture free and smashes it into the back of his head, killing him instantly; 2.) his body gets sucked out into space immediately afterward...3.) right into the ensuing explosion.
  • Distant Finale: Cooper is freed from the tesseract at a point in time that a human space colony has now been built in the orbit of Saturn. The doctors there tell him he's now chronologically 124 years old, so the entire journey—which, in terms of his time out of stasis, probably only seemed like a year at most to him—has taken over three-quarters of a century by the rest of humanity's standards. He is given a tour of a historical recreation of his farm, reunites with Murphy (on her deathbed -- she spent several years in cryonic sleep in order to survive long enough to reunite with her father at the colony), and then, on Murph's urging, steals a 22nd Century Ranger to take it back through the wormhole to reunite with Brand.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: The first stanza of the Trope Namer poem is frequently quoted, particularly by Professor Brand, as justification for doing whatever is necessary to preserve the human race, even perpetuating a lie and dooming everyone stuck on Earth. It is ultimately used on a memorial for the Lazarus and Endurance astronauts.
  • Dream Intro: The second scene turns out to be a Nightmare Sequence of the hero crashing his space plane.
  • Dwindling Party: Doyle, Romilly and Dr. Mann die in succession. Then Cooper and TARS get separated from Brand and CASE.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: Once upon a time, metals and energy were so abundant that humanity tinkered with A.I. robots and even traveled to Mars. Now humanity is so resource-starved that building or even just maintaining MRIs is no longer feasible, the only profession that is (seen as) important is farming, history is rewritten to curtail curiosity in anything other than farming, and the farming itself is failing as crop after crop becomes extinct. Even the baseball playing is suckier now.
  • E = MC Hammer: Professor Brand's gravity equations are spread across several blackboards at his workplace and seem to hold lots of integrals.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The NASA facility. When Cooper arrives, you can briefly see a sign indicating that the base is actually NORAD, having been repurposed when the military was disbanded.
  • Eldritch Location: Several throughout the crew's, and later Cooper's journeys.
    • The wormhole is represented as an instantaneous passage between two points in space separated by millions of light-years, yet it is possible to see through the "aperture" from multiple angles due to its spherical shape in physical space, allowing probes to scan the far galaxy in all directions to identify potential new worlds for humans to settle. Later when the Endurance passes through, it takes a noticeable amount of time to make the trip, and while inside, the crew witnesses a prolonged passage of other stars and galaxies on the way. Also, the ship's controls do nothing inside, because it's not physical space.
    • Miller's planet at first appears relatively earth-like and normal, but two big differences play a key role in the plot: time passes at approximately 1/60,000th of the Earth's rate, due to the extreme bending of space that occurs as a result of the planet orbiting right outside the event horizon of a black hole, and the surface (which is a uniform ocean only two feet deep across the entire planet) is regularly swept with literal mile high tidal waves, again due to the planet's close proximity to the black hole. It's also uniformly well lit like a slightly overcast day on Earth, but the planet has no sun - that light is caused by the black hole again, due to light bending around it from all directions.
    • The black hole, both inside and out. On the outside it appears as a blacker-than-black sphere surrounded by a nimbus of light from all directions, which makes sense - the gravity causes such extreme distortions in local space that all light is literally wrapped around it. On the inside, Cooper flies through a stream of particles that steadily increase in size and speed which destroy his ship, forcing him to eject, which lands him inside the Tessaract. Also, his ship's systems mostly fail and he has no control because like the wormhole, the inside of the black hole is not physical space.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Murphy feels this way, due to her brother teasing her about Murphy's Law. Her father corrects her and says it's a Meaningful Name. Namely, that the law is not just about bad things inevitably happening, but about how good things inevitably happen too, even if they are unlikely. "Anything that can happen will happen."
  • Emergency Cargo Dump: In order to escape from the black hole, TARS and Cooper manually control the Lander and Ranger craft to act as boosters for the Endurance. In order to lighten the Endurance enough so it can escape, the plan is to eject the Lander once its fuel is spent. What Cooper doesn't tell Brand is that the Ranger will also need to be shed, and him along with it.
  • Enigmatic Institute: None other than NASA. They are secretly still funded (even though the official story dismisses their accomplishments as propaganda) in an effort to find a habitable world and a means to reach that world before the Blight renders Earth uninhabitable.
  • The Epic: It fits the outline of a classical Graeco-Roman epic to a T. The story opens In Medias Res, the hero goes on several (somewhat) episodic adventures (Finding NASA, exploring the three planets, fighting Mann and finding a way to send the Endurance home...), which take place across a great length of time and there's even a rough analogue to the required journey to the underworld inside the black hole. Chris Nolan seems quite conscious of this since his previous film Inception closely parallels this structure as well.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Twice for Murph: first when she realizes that her father is the "ghost" that communicated with her in her childhood and again when she discovers the solution to Professor Brand's equation. The latter is a literal example, since she actually shouts "EUREKA!" as she tosses the papers in delight.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: The "ghost" in Murphy's room communicates in Morse by dropping books. Murph interprets it as "stay". Later, it is revealed that the ghost is Cooper himself who knows she can understand Morse.
  • Explosions in Space: Happens when Dr. Mann docks the Ranger with the Endurance without securing the airlock first. Justified, since the explosions originate first from the fractured Ranger, then from one of the Endurance's engine pods. It's also realistically soundless.
  • Explosive Decompression: This happens when Dr. Mann tries to open the airlock while his ship was not perfectly attached.
  • Expositing the Masquerade: When Cooper and Murph arrive at the mysterious NASA camp, the officials reveal to him that they have been researching gravitational anomalies for almost 50 years.
  • Expo Speak: Lots on board the Endurance, explaining things concerning the mission to Cooper, despite the fact that he has every excuse to understand high-level physics.
  • Extinct in the Future: Thanks to the Blight, all food crops save for corn have gone extinct.
  • Extremely Dusty Home: Cooper's house, because of the dust storms, to the point where it's become customary to set the table with the plates and cups upside-down until the meal is ready to be served.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • At the baseball game, numerous people somehow fail to spot a gigantic dust cloud until it's almost on top of them.
    • The waves on the water planet are only visible when the plot requires them to be, despite being so massive they can be seen from orbit. Also, when the crew is digging around in the water, there is no way the probe debris would be that close together with waves that powerful tossing it around. Finally, when the crew is looking for the probe wreckage, they proclaim they should be right on top of it when their robot steps on it and digs it out... at which point the camera pans to reveal that they're surrounded by brightly-painted pieces of metal they should have been able to see with ease. It also floats to the surface right after they proclaim they can't see the wreck. Though it's possible the water being drawn up into the advancing wave exposed them as the water receded.
  • Fallen Hero: Dr. Mann. Once a hero of humanity, now a deranged backstabber towards Cooper and his crew.
  • Fallen States of America: As conditions around the world crumble, the US is shown as hanging by a thread. With dust bowls, dwindling resources and food shortages commonplace, there's just enough semblance of order and authority to keep everything from tumbling down. Still, there's enough for the government to supply NASA with the necessary equipment and manpower. The US somehow manages to gather enough money and resources while Cooper is away that by the time Cooper returns there's an explicitly American colony orbiting Saturn.
  • The Fettered:
    • Cooper, through his bond with his family.
    • Brand becomes this as well after the visit to Miller's Planet, which at first gets dismissed by the other characters.
  • Fiery Redhead: Murph, who is as brilliant as she is mercurial. More literally when she sets Tom's crops on fire to cause a distraction and sneak back to his house.
  • Fight to Survive: Humanity is fighting to survive After the End, looking for a home for the species with the crops failing and the atmosphere's oxygen content in a downward spiral.
  • Fire-Forged Friends:
    • Cooper and Brand. She's a bit of an Ice Queen towards him at the beginning of the mission, and he is furious with her for her screw-up on Miller's planet. By the end of the movie, Brand has saved Cooper's life, Cooper has attempted to perform a Heroic Sacrifice so Brand could make it to Edmunds' planet, and Cooper is heading out to reunite with her since each of them is the only human being that the other has left.
    • Cooper and the robots, especially TARS:
      • The first time they meet involves TARS tazing Cooper for trespassing and apprehending him, and the two of them getting right up in each others' faces. After engaging in Snark-to-Snark Combat throughout the mission, the movie ends with Cooper repairing TARS and the two of them leaving the space habitat together to go find Brand and CASE.
      • Though it's a less pronounced example due to CASE being The Quiet One, Cooper gradually builds a rapport with him, too. CASE is initially shown to plead with Cooper—who performs quite a few awesome but reckless flight maneuvers—to be more cautious, but as Coop gradually demonstrates his flying chops, CASE trusts him more and becomes quicker and more willing to take more risks himself. This culminates in CASE encouraging Coop to go ahead with the highly-risky docking of the Endurance when the latter briefly hesitates, and this exchange after the former successfully flies them around Gargantua:
        Cooper: Nice reckless flying, CASE!
        CASE: Learned from the best.
  • Fold the Page, Fold the Space: On the way to the wormhole, Romilly does some exposition talk to explain the wormhole idea to Cooper. Interestingly, the movie refers to the hole as a sphere rather than a tunnel, which seems scientifically correct.
    Romilly: So they say you want to go from here, to there (holds up a blank sheet). But this is too far. So a wormhole bends space like this so you can take a shortcut through a higher dimension (folds paper and pierces it with a pen). Okay so, to show that they've turned 3-dimensional space into 2 dimensions, which turns a wormhole in 2 dimensions? ... A circle. What's a circle in 3 dimensions?
    Cooper: A sphere.
    Romilly: Exactly. A spherical hole.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The beginning already informs us that humanity manages to survive.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Quite a bit towards the "ghost"'s identity:
      • Murph says that she calls the mysterious happenings in her bedroom the work of a "ghost" not because she's afraid of it, but because it feels like a person. Turns out she's right, and it is a person... namely, her father reaching out to her from the future.
      • After being woken up by Cooper's nightmare in the beginning, Murphy even mentions "I thought you were the ghost", and it turns out he was the ghost all along.
      • While leaving home, Cooper says to Murph, "Once you're a parent, you're the ghost of your children's future". Cooper is Murph's ghost in his future, and is able to use this to play a vital role in her future.
    • Professor Brand tells Cooper about the Lazarus Missions, arguing that Lazarus rose from the dead. Cooper muses that Lazarus had to die first; cue Professor Brand not smiling at this, because that is his real plan.
    • During takeoff, TARS cracks a joke to Cooper about blowing him out the airlock. Later, Dr. Mann's improper docking causes him to blow himself out the airlock, because TARS disabled the docking autopilot to prevent him from seizing the Endurance.
    • Cooper agrees to 90% honesty with Dr. Brand after TARS explains why this is his own honesty setting as opposed to 100%. Later, Cooper uses the same honesty factor when he drops into the black hole after lying to Brand about the availability of resources for both of them.
    • Doctor Brand states in a conversation with Cooper that nature is not evil—destructive and terrifying, but never evil. He responds that this means evil is what they (humans) are bringing with them. Dr. Mann's selfishness/insanity nearly kills the entire species.
    • Cooper's father-in-law, Donald, agrees with Professor Brand's offer to mentor Murph by commenting that she's already making a fool out of her teachers, so she might as well come and make a fool out of him, too. Indeed, the Professor gave up on solving Plan A before the story even started and has just been counting on enacting Plan B to save the species, while Murph is the one who comes up with the solution to Brand's own gravity problem and makes Plan A possible.
    • Cooper complains about the complacent attitude of the farming people, fooling themselves into believing that next year everything is going to change. Turns out his son Tom becomes one of those complacent farmers, repeating the mantra verbatim. Tom's complacent nature is made clear from the beginning when they have a flat tire and an Indian drone flies by. Cooper and Murphy are immediately on its tail to capture it to harvest its solar cells while Tom is more preoccupied with the tire.
    • TARS tells Brand that he wouldn't leave her behind. Near the end, TARS conspires with Cooper to leave themselves behind in the black hole to send Amelia towards Edmunds's planet.
    • When the crew arrives at the Endurance and successfully docks the Ranger for the first time, we get a lingering shot of it from the outside and see the clamps lock themselves around the ship seals, showing what a perfect seal looks like. When Mann later steals the Ranger and tries to dock it (which he has to do manually, since TARS turned the autopilot off), we again get a shot of it from the outside and see the clamps repeatedly trying and failing to close, since he has imperfect contact with the Endurance. As Coop and Brand both plead with him not to open the hatch, get two more shots showing the clamps still attempting in vain to lock, emphasizing that yes, the docking is definitely imperfect and something horrible is definitely about to happen.
    • After Murph sets Tom's crops on fire, she returns to her old bedroom to try to figure out the secret behind it that's been bugging her since she was a kid. One of the first things she picks up and takes a look at is the watch Coop gave her. The second hand on the watch is not working properly; it appears to be stuck, wobbling up and down repeatedly. Those wobbles are not random, but are actually Morse, as this is where the future Cooper, her "ghost", left the quantum data for her. This has already happened in her timeline (he changed the watch from the Tesseract at a time shortly after he left, when she was still a child), but at this point in the movie, Cooper hasn't done this yet in his own timeline. Murph doesn't realize its significance, and that her father is her "ghost", until these things are also revealed to the audience when Coop is in the tesseract.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With:
    • The wormhole. How is a hole drawn on paper? A circle. What's the three-dimensional form of a circle? A sphere. This is also a hint that They don't really understand humanity that well; Cooper mentions that he would have expected a wormhole to be, well, a hole.
    • When Cooper enters the black hole with TARS, he deduces that the "aliens" have spread time into physical dimensions as snippets of Murph's timeline so that it's understandable to Cooper and makes it easier for him to communicate with Murph. The sympathy that he feels from this, and the fact that he deduces it so easily, makes him think that the creators of the black hole are futuristic humans who chose Murph (and him to a lesser extent) to be bookmarks and catalysts for humanity's exploration of space.
    • During the parent-teacher conference, Cooper asks an offhand question about where all his taxes are going, since militaries have been disbanded. It's some time before it's revealed that NASA is still operating in secret.
  • Gainax Ending: Many parallels can be drawn between the ending of this film and the infamously obscure ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, although this movie gives its ending a lot more context.
  • Genre Throwback: During an interview at CinemaCon, Nolan mentioned that the film was designed to be made in the vein of the Sci-Fi films he grew up with, like Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Get Out!: The dramatic moment when adult Tom evicts his sister from his farm when the latter tries to convince him and his family to leave because of health issues: "Get out... and don't come back."
  • The Ghost: Miller and Edmunds. Neither character appears on-screen, though their actions, and their eventual fates, greatly influence the Endurance team's journey.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The tidal waves on Miller's planet, which kill both her (before the crew ever even arrives at her planet) and Doyle.
  • Godzilla Threshold:
    • Cooper's attempt to dock the Lander with the Endurance, while the ship is spinning out of control and falling into the atmosphere. It's a suicidally-risky maneuver, but if they lose the Endurance, they lose any remaining chance of saving humanity.
    Cooper: Get ready to match the Endurance 's spin with the retro-thrusters.
    CASE: It's not possible.
    Cooper: No... It's necessary.
    • Dr Mann tries to smash Cooper's helmet with his own. When Cooper points out he has an equal chance of cracking his own helmet, Mann replies that a 50/50 chance is the best odds he's had in years.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation:
    • Dr. Mann, to the point of lying about his planet's habitability, attempting to kill Cooper, setting a trap which kills Romilly, and docking his Ranger with Endurance while ignoring all warnings Cooper and Brand give him. Also, he gave in to selfish temptation from the isolation, as he knew that he would be never be rescued if his world was not habitable — meaning all the Endurance's colony supplies would have been good for was keeping him alive a few more years.
    • Namely the cause of his delusions seems to ironically be his position as The Ace, the star of all mankind and patriarch of future mankind along with all the expectations and pressure that came with it from within and without. HIS planet was supposed to be the right one because how can it not be? Similarly, any decision he makes is the correct one and any collateral damage is justified by his "righteous cause to save humanity". Of course reality is very different and utterly unforgiving, especially when opening the hatch of an improperly docked ship.
    • Downplayed for Romilly. He's stiff and awkward after 23 years of isolation on the Endurance (he spends a good portion of that time in cryosleep, but it isn't enough), but he's still sane and sober enough to continue functioning mostly normally and remains helpful to the crew up until his death.
  • Government Conspiracy: While the day-to-day bureaucracy just focuses on keeping the population fed, the higher-ups know Earth is going to die and have secretly recommissioned NASA to develop a means to save the species.
  • Great Offscreen War: The film never goes into explicit detail, but it appears some sort of military conflict erupted about a decade earlier related to the food situation. It is indicated that Amelia's father was (supposedly) dismissed from NASA for refusing to use its resources for military purposes. Other than the appearance of an Indian drone, there is no reference to any other countries beyond a past-tense reference to the Soviets.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Downplayed. At the end, there seems to be little effort involved for Cooper to hijack a Ranger to go find Brand. TARS "hides" in the hangar simply by reclining on the floor, and a staff member walks right past him without even noticing. TARS then stands up and lets Cooper into the hangar, and the two of them just walk right up to one of the Rangers, get in, and fly off. Someone takes notice only after they're gone.
  • Hate Sink: Mann's betrayal and the damage it does to the mission makes him the film's only real villain. Subverted, however, in that he is an Anti-Villain who went insane as a result of being isolated on his planet.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Discussed often throughout the movie:
    • Played straight with most of the astronauts of the Lazarus Mission, three-quarters of whom traveled to planets that they found to be completely uninhabitable, and thus are doomed to never be rescued and die there.
    • Defied by Dr. Mann, who refuses to die alone on his planet and endangers the entire mission just to survive.
    • Attempted but subverted by both Cooper and TARS, who let themselves fall into Gargantua so Brand and CASE can continue, but are saved by the Bulk Beings, who first place them in a tesseract that allows Cooper to make minimal contact with Murph in the past and give her TARS's data to save humanity, and then, after that's completed, send them back through the wormhole to a location where they can be rescued by the Cooper Station.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Downplayed. At the end of the film, Cooper steals a one-man scoutship to go after Brand.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: Initially discussed heavily, then played straight once the data necessary to safely transport humans en masse is finally acquired. The survival of the human race as well as most of Earth's lifeforms depends on finding a suitable planet for them to live on.
  • Honor Before Reason: The reason why Tom wants his family to stay at the farm.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The crew agrees to land on Miller's planet, as she has been transmitting positive signals for years. However, as the planet is within Gargantua's gravity distortion, time there runs extremely slow, to the tune of one hour to every seven years outside, so they won't have long to assess viability. It never occurs to them that Miller likewise couldn't have been there very long by her planet's time—a couple of hours at most—and thus her signal is repeating because she simply hasn't had long enough to transmit anything else. Cooper is furious, and (after the fact) Brand admits she screwed this up.
    • The same can be said of both Brand and Doyle while they're on Miller's planet:
      • Despite Cooper issuing four warnings that the next wave was approaching, which Brand can plainly see, she still insists on trying to recover the data recorder, and doesn't seem to realize how pointless it is until she falls and gets pinned beneath the wreckage. This makes her indirectly partially responsible for Doyle's death, since he sends CASE to save her and has to manually override the shuttle's outside hatch...mere seconds before being swept away by the tsunami.
      • However, Doyle is also partially responsible for this; after CASE gets Brand back to the Ranger and they both jump in, Doyle doesn't immediately jump in after them, and instead spends a few seconds gawking at the giant wave about to crash down on them. By the time he turns back to try to get in the Ranger, it's too late, and Cooper had to forcibly close the outer hatch so the water doesn't get in and kill them all, trapping Doyle outside and causing him to be killed by the tidal wave.
    • In spite of being the "best" astronaut that NASA has to offer, Mann doesn't seem to know that opening an imperfectly sealed airlock will result in violent decompression. Apparently his mental breakdown gets in the way. The novelization clarifies that a part of him does realize that it's a bad idea, but he's worried that if he backs up and abandons the imperfect seal he already has to try to re-dock and get it perfect, it'll give the Lander (which has experienced pilot Cooper and both robots on it) the opportunity to dock ahead of him, and thus he'll lose control of the situation. Mann seems to see docking with an imperfect seal as merely a risky maneuver that could still work out okay, rather than the guaranteed-suicidal move it actually is.
  • I Hate Past Me: With time traveling involved, this is bound to happen. When Cooper enters the tesseract thanks to the Bulk Beings, he's screaming at himself, calling his past self an "idiot", when he sees him leaving Murph before his mission.
  • I Lied: Professor Brand's Wham Line to Murphy right before he dies in the hospital.
  • I Like Those Odds: When Mann tries to break Cooper's helmet faceplate with a headbutt using his own faceplate, Cooper tells him he has a 50-50 chance of killing himself. Mann simply replies that those are the best odds he's had in years.
  • Implied Love Interest: The movie never specifically states that Getty is Murph's boyfriend, and at one point she refers to him as her friend. However, they seem to be quite close (since Murph apparently told him about her "ghost" at some point), she kisses him in delight after solving Professor Brand's equation, and the end of the movie reveals that she gets involved with someone at some point since she has children and grandchildren.
  • Info Dump: Professor Brand explains past warfare, NASA's classification, the blight, Earth's eventual demise, and the Lazarus and Endurance mission details in a single scene.
  • Informed Attribute: We're told that Dr. Mann is the best that NASA has to offer, yet he doesn't seem to understand that an imperfect docking seal will have fatal consequences. By contrast, both Cooper and Brand understand this instantly. Mann has apparently become so insane that he's forgotten basic protocols. Indeed, the novelization shows that he's too far into his Villainous Breakdown at this point to really think it through; see Idiot Ball for the details.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: The crew's visors are transparent with no protective coating.
  • Interface Spoiler: A rare film example. The subtitles refer to Murphy as "YOUNG MURPHY" before the idea of time dilation is brought up, implying that the ten-year-old we're seeing isn't the only version of Murphy the audience will see.
  • Internal Retcon: In the future of Interstellar, textbooks take on an anti-intellectual bent by claiming that the space program of the 20th century was faked as propaganda to bankrupt the Soviets.
  • I Shall Return: Cooper promises this to his daughter and keeps his word when returning as the ghost and later to her deathbed.
  • It's All About Me: Dr. Mann turns out to be suffering from this; at least part of his breakdown is prompted by the fact that the planet he landed on turned out to be unsuitable for habitation, and he seems to be convinced that he's both the only one who can find the right planet and is entitled to be the only one who can find the right planet.
  • Jump Jet Pack: Small rockets are part of the protagonists' space suits as gauntlets (presumably a successor to real-life astronaut propulsion units). Cooper uses his as an Improvised Weapon in his struggle with Mann.
  • Jump Scare: The death of Dr. Mann as he gets abruptly and violently killed by depressurization before he can finish the docking process.
  • Just Before the End: Thanks to the mass extinction of plant life from the blight, the oxygen levels in Earth's atmosphere are slowly but surely dwindling, and will eventually reach the point where life on Earth is no longer sustainable. In the words of Professor Brand, the last people to starve will be the first people to suffocate. By the final act, the storms on Earth are getting worse and the scientific research efforts working on a Homeworld Evacuation are losing ground as the protagonist still struggles to achieve his mission. He does succeed in the end, though.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Dr. Mann is trying to enter the Endurance's airlock despite Cooper's and Brand's repeated warnings that he didn't dock securely...
    Dr. Mann: This is not about my life, or Cooper's life. This is about all mankind. There is a moment— [the airlock explodes]
  • Killed Offscreen:
    • Miller who probably died when her ship was hit by the Giant Wall of Watery Doom.
    • Also Edmunds, Brand's former significant other, who seems to have perished in a rock slide many years prior to her arrival (almost certainly when he stopped transmitting, which was a year before the Endurance mission leaves Earth).
  • Last-Name Basis:
    • Joseph Cooper is almost always referred to as Cooper or by his nickname "Coop" rather than his first name. His son even nicknames his grandson "Coop" in his honor.
    • Wolf Edmunds and Laura Miller only get their first or full names stated once or twice, and Mann's first name is All There in the Script; otherwise, they are referred to by their last names, which is Truth in Television (usually) for space flights.
  • Left the Background Music On: When Cooper plays the video message Tom left for him, the theme music plays softly in the background. When Tom switches his camera off, the music stops immediately, making it seem like it was part of the message.
  • Lens Flare: We are treated to a spectacular one when the team reaches Saturn. There are also some horizontal flares in the earlier scenes on Earth.
  • Little Stowaway: When Cooper refuses to take Murph with him to the mysterious location, she hides under a blanket in his car. By the time Cooper notices her, it's too late to send her back, so they continue the journey together. This receives a Call-Back later when Cooper drives away to go on the mission and checks the same blanket, only to find a box there instead of her.
  • Living Is More than Surviving: According to Matthew McConaughey, this is part of the setting, with humanity being alive but having grown so cynical and focused on merely surviving the Crapsack World that nobody other than the film's protagonists is truly trying to find ways to make things better.
  • Logo Joke: The opening logos are tinted in a dusty sepia tone, reflecting the arid and brown state of Earth in the film.
  • Lost in the Maize: Played with. Twice in the movie, a truck mows through a cornfield in dramatic fashion.
  • The Lost Lenore:
    • Cooper reveals that his wife had died of a brain tumor. The fact that the doctors could have saved her for want of a MRI machine is implied to be a big part of his motivation to go on the mission.
    • Amelia is revealed to have one in Edmunds. He may or may not be alive, but she's partially motivated by the chance of seeing him again. He's confirmed to be dead in the epilogue.
  • Madness Mantra: Professor Brand and Dr. Mann seem to use Dylan Thomas' poem Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night as one. Brand even manages to squeak it out as his dying words.
  • Magical Library: Just replace "magic" with "Time Travel". Crossing Gargantua's event horizon (with help from the wormhole's makers) leaves Cooper in a four-dimensional representation of every moment his daughter's room/library has ever had, all honeycombed.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: While never made explicit in the film itself, the novelization reveals that Mann, once he's "dealt with" Cooper to keep him from leaving, hopes to still continue the mission/Plan B afterwards with the rest of the crew by heading to Edmunds' planet with them, since he desperately doesn't want to be alone again. Since they, of course, would never cooperate with him if they knew he murdered Cooper, Mann plans to claim that Coop fell off one of the cloud-cliffs and he tried and failed to save him. However, Mann doesn't seem to have considered the fact that the crew would certainly be angry with/suspicious of him for forging the data, which he would inevitably have to admit in order for them all to leave his planet and continue the mission on Edmunds'.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Cooper makes a tearful goodbye to his daughter Murphy before he leaves.
      Cooper: [tearfully] Murph, I love you. Forever.
    • He outright bawls when viewing the messages left to him in the 23 years while he was on the water planet.
    • Again, Coop goes all teary when meeting his daughter on her death bed.
    • Dr. Mann sobbing into Cooper's chest after waking up from cryonic sleep.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • When Brand finds out Cooper is about to detach himself from the Endurance to ensure her safe onward travel to Edmunds' planet, he hits her with two.
      • He brings back the reference to Newton's third law ("The only way humans have ever figured out of getting somewhere... is to leave something behind").
      • When Brand cries that he told her there were enough resources for both of them to make it, he responds with, "We agreed, didn't we? 90% [honesty]."
    • When Brand is making her somewhat bizarre speech after returning from Miller's Planet, she is repeating a lot of the words Cooper said to Donald on the porch of his house when explaining why he is going to leave on the mission to another galaxy.
  • Meaningful Name: In spades, per the typically unsubtle Nolan tradition.
    • The Endurance, which - besides its obvious implications championing the human psyche's resilience - is also the name of Ernest Shackleton's expedition ship. Bonus points for Mann's planet being an Antarctica-like Single-Biome Planet, with the Endurance orbiting it while the crew go off to search for Mann.
    • Amelia Brand, the only female astronaut on the Endurance, is a callback to Amelia Earhart: the first female aviator to fly across the Pacific solo. At the end of the movie, Brand also successfully lands on an habitable planet — and her whereabouts to the general public are unknown.
    • Murph Cooper, whose name's meaning is blatantly discussed when Cooper explains that Murphy's Law actually means that anything could happen. Against all odds, Cooper ends up in a pocket dimension when he passes through Gargantua. He manages to transmit critical gravitational data TARS gleaned from the black hole to Murph through her room, so she can solve Brand's equation and save humanity.
    • Dr. Hugh Mann, who eschews principle for base survival instincts when he realizes that his planet is unsustainable.
    • The Lazarus Project, in a round-about way. Meaning to be about humanity's capacity to come back from the brink (existential "death"), it also fits in that Dr. Mann, the sole surviving member of the space-bound part of the project, is awoken from his cryo-pod, which was set to keep him asleep until it terminally malfunctioned or someone came-literally "awakening the dead". This one also gets a Lampshade Hanging — Cooper, concerned, notes that "Lazarus had to die first", as well as quipping to Mann that he "rose like Lazarus from the grave" when they opened his hibernation chamber (as Mann was not expecting to be woken up ever again).
  • Meanwhile, in the Future…: Cooper, in the Tesseract, decades ahead of Murph's childhood and adult storylines, watches as he is powerless to stop himself from leaving his daughter for the Endurance mission. He soon realizes that he was never meant to change the past, only to help move it along, so that his daughter could save the human race. He proceeds to send a message to Murph, her adult self discovers the message, and as he leaves the Tesseract, he "shakes" hands with Dr. Brand as she enters the wormhole.
  • Mind Screw: Four-dimensional wormholes and fifth-dimensional time and space manipulation are only the crux of the topics here. This movie is not just rocket science; it goes beyond rocket science!
  • Missed Him by That Much: Miller has been dead for years by the time the Endurance crew arrive at her planet and send a Ranger down to rendezvous with her. However, Brand later reasons that because of the extreme time dilation the planet experiences due to its proximity to Gargantua, only a few minutes pass on the surface between Miller's death and the Ranger touching down.
  • Missing Mom: Cooper mentions to the school Principal that his wife died from a cyst in her brain.
  • Mood Whiplash: After the emotional drama of Cooper leaving his family, and the spectacle of the launch, a robot cracking jokes.
  • Moon-Landing Hoax: The "Federally corrected" textbooks denounce the Apollo missions, and at least some education officials have bought into it.
  • More than Three Dimensions: The film features unseen higher dimensional entities going through a lot of trouble to provide higher dimensional travel for humans on a dying earth.
  • Most Definitely Not Accompanying Us: When Cooper decides to travel to the mysterious location provided by the ghost's coordinates, Murph wants to tag along, but Cooper denies her request. She then sneaks into the car and hides under a blanket.
  • Mr. Exposition:
    • Professor Brand, shortly after being introduced, informs the protagonist and the audience about the history that has led the Earth to such a dire situation and NASA's attempts to save humanity.
    • Romilly, from describing how a wormhole looks and behaves (from without and within), to stating numerous times that information cannot be garnered from a black hole, fits the bill of Mr. Exposition Scientific Advisor.
    • In the final chapter, when Cooper wakes up in the hospital, the doctor gives him Infodumps about where he is and what happened to him.
  • Multigenerational Household: Cooper lives with his two children and his elderly father-in-law.
  • Multipurpose Monocultured Crop: Corn, by default rather than choice. It's the only field crop left that hasn't been wiped out by the Blight. Yet.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: Discussed by Dr. Mann.
    Dr. Mann: What does research tell us is the last thing you're gonna see before you die? Your children. Their faces. At the moment of death, your mind is going to push you a little bit harder to survive. For them.
  • The Needs of the Many: Discussed and deconstructed. The film looks at whether or not humanity on Earth should establish space colonies and abandon Earth (Plan A), or abandon humanity on Earth and re-establish the human race in another habitable planet so that more humans can live on a different planet (Plan B, or the utilitarian "many" plan). Turns out that Professor Brand and Dr. Mann sided with "Plan B," but even so, their utilitarian point of view is proven wrong at the end of the film thanks to Cooper's love for his daughter and manipulation of time and space to save not only her, but a large number of humans on Earth and, ultimately, the species. The ending heavily implies that both Plan A and Plan B are playing out.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Downplayed.
    • Part of the reason that the lone woman on the mission, Amelia Brand, is included is that she's Professor Brand's daughter. However, she is also a legitimately vital part of the crew in her own right; as the biologist on board, she's the expert on and in charge of caring for the fertilized eggs of Plan B. She's the only human member of the crew to make it to Edmunds's habitable planet (with only the non-human CASE there to help her) and is heavily implied to have started enacting Plan B there, which would have been much more difficult for any of the other crew members to do.
    • Likewise, Murph only gets to meet her eventual-mentor Professor Brand, who brings her to NASA to be educated, thanks to him knowing her father. However, the Professor is still quick to notice her intelligence after meeting her, and specifically seeks her out on her own merits after her father is gone to take her under his wing.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: Cooper's father-in-law gives Cooper a call on CB, refusing to explain the situation on his end but instead requests him to come down to the farm and see for himself. Cooper does and sees the harvesting machines acting up, which could have been explained on the CB already.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Though the astronauts (definitely Cooper, and presumably the others as well) do say goodbye to their loved ones before they leave, they assume that they'll be back within several years. Doyle and Romilly die, it's almost a century before Cooper reunites with people from Earth, and Brand never reunites with them at all. As such, this was naturally bound to occur:
    • For Cooper: Donald and Tom. Donald dies somewhere in the 23-year-Time Skip while the crew was at Miller's planet, and (according to the novelization) Tom dies over a decade before Cooper reaches the human space colony at Saturn.
    • For Brand: Her father and Edmunds (her former lover). Professor Brand dies while the crew is on the way to Mann's planet, and at that point, Amelia (and the entire crew) have been unable to send messages out for a long time. Edmunds died three years before the Endurance crew crosses through the wormhole (when his signal stopped transmitting) due to a rockslide that crushed his pod while he was in cryosleep.
  • New Meat: Cooper's crewmembers have only practiced on simulators on Earth prior to the Endurance mission. This may explain why Doyle freezes up at the Ranger's hatch when he sees the giant wave approaching, and why Romilly has trouble adapting to conditions on the Endurance.
  • Nice Guy: Romilly, Doyle, Getty (Murphy's doctor friend/maybe-boyfriend), and CASE are probably the most notable examples.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: After the disastrous attempt at establishing a colony on Miller's planet, Cooper rejects Brand's recommendation that they travel to Edmunds' planet next, because Brand's in love with Edmunds and goes on a rant about love, making it sound more like The Force than a human emotion, which causes Cooper to think she might be biased. He instead chooses Dr. Mann's planet because Mann has been frequently described as "the best of us" and is still transmitting. It turns out that Edmunds' planet is the only one of the three that can actually sustain life, and Mann has gone insane. This ultimately gets Romilly killed, and almost dooms the colonization project.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Stable Time Loop requires Mann's betrayal, which makes it necessary to drop Cooper into the black hole.
  • Nightmare Sequence: The second scene turns out to be a bad dream, in which the hero crashes his space plane.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: When most people are simply trying to survive, fashions are more or less on par with the present day, if not having regressed. And apparently, this extends well into the 22nd Century, complete with spacesuits resembling modern fighter pilot attire. In fact, Cooper wakes up initially thinking he's back on Earth merely 23 years later simply by the aesthetic.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: When Brand gets trapped under wreckage before the Giant Wall of Watery Doom, she urges them to leave her. Instead Doyle sends CASE to rescue her, only to get killed because of this—and him spending too much time standing and gawking at the giant waves—delays his own escape.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • After landing on Miller's planet, Brand notices what appear to be mountains in the distance, until Cooper realizes that the "mountains" are actually waves. However, they also notice that the waves are receding, so nobody panics...until they look behind them and see the ones approaching.
    • Also the look on Brand's face as Cooper moves to dock with the spinning Endurance after Mann's failed desperate attempt to commandeer it.
      Brand: Cooper, what are you doing?
      Cooper: Docking.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Much of the soundtrack uses this as the central instrument. It's particularly effective in one dramatic chase sequence later in the film.
  • Once More, with Clarity:
    • The early parts of the film are spliced in with interviews with elderly people living in a "Dust Bowl". Given that they're speaking in English, with US accents, the viewer may well assume that they are talking about the USA's Great Depression-era Dust Bowl.note  The ending scenes reveal that those interviews were part of a museum exhibit on Cooper Station about life on earth in the first part of the film.
    • When Cooper is in the tesseract and realizes that he's Murph's "ghost", we get this for the various gravity anomalies seen in the first act, which are shown to have been caused by him using gravity to interact with Murph's bedroom. We even see some of the same scenes again, such as the binary dust lines, with this new context.
  • One-Word Title
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • Tom's first child, Jesse, dies from lung disease. And Cooper likewise ends up outliving Tom.
    • Discussed by Murphy on her death bed. She sends Cooper away so he won't have to see her die.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Professor Brand to Murph, as he wishes to cultivate her genius; she grows up to work as an astrophysicist in NASA under his tutelage. Since her father and his daughter both left on the mission, they become like a surrogate father and daughter to each other. Her image of him is completely dashed when he confesses on his deathbed that he had always intended to restart the human race at the expense of Earth's current inhabitants.
    • Also, Donald, who is charged with taking care of Murph and Tom while Coop is away. Tom particularly seems to regard him as his primary father figure after years of not hearing from Coop.
  • Past Experience Nightmare: The opening scene suggests Cooper is haunted by the experience of having crashed a plane when he was a pilot.
  • Pick Your Human Half: TARS and CASE act like (remarkably levelheaded) humans; they look like refrigerators on stilts.
  • Placid Plane of Ankle-Deep Water: Miller's planet has an ocean that only comes up to the astronauts' knees. Gargantua's gravity pulls the rest of the water into mountain-sized tidal waves.
  • Plot-Demanded Manual Mode: After the navigational hub has been destroyed by Dr. Mann's failed docking maneuver, Cooper has to perform the Spaceship Slingshot Stunt around the black hole manually. Not a problem since he's an Ace Pilot and this was the type of situation he was hired for.
  • Politically Correct History: The history textbooks have been rewritten to denounce the Apollo missions as federal propaganda to support the government's anti-intellectual bent.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • TARS is Properly Paranoid about Dr. Mann and prepares accordingly, but never thinks to voice this concern to his fellow crew at any point. Had he done so, Romilly may have survived and the Endurance wouldn't have been badly damaged by Mann's failed docking attempt. Based on the way robot programming often works, the fact that they do this on their own initiative, and the fact that CASE (who also knows about it, since the robots are in constant contact with each other) reveals it as soon as it becomes relevant to the current conversation, it's possible they don't bring it up beforehand because nobody asks them about it.
    • When Cooper and Brand try to warn Mann not to open the hatch of his vessel to the Endurance because the robots have turned off the automatic locking and thus he would be propelled into space as soon as he does so, their calls just consist of them repeatedly telling him not to open the inner hatch without explaining why, failing to convey the danger he's in. Had they started explaining the danger as soon as they call him, he might have listened to them.
  • The Power of Love:
    • Cooper's love for his daughter enables him to literally transcend time and space to give her younger self the information required to save humanity.
    • Brand believes in her love for Edmunds. She makes an unscientific speech about that topic and is bashed for it. She turns out to be right.
  • Practical Effects: Nolan is known for choosing practical effects and on-location filming over CGI animation.
    • The giant dust clouds were created on location using large fans to blow cellulose-based synthetic dust through the air.
    • The film's spacecrafts, as well as the robot companions, are almost entirely physical models/miniatures, and pretty much every scene (except for exterior space shots, of course) was shot in a real location.
  • Precision F-Strike: Cooper bitterly growls out "You fucking coward!" when he realizes that Mann faked his reports just to be rescued. (A second one was cut - badly, it's rather obvious - from Cooper's "... because of your arrogance..." to get the rating.)
  • Properly Paranoid: TARS, who disables the autopilot docking feature of the Ranger offscreen at some point prior to Mann stealing it, which turns out to be vital in foiling Mann's plan to commandeer the Endurance—which would have left the remaining heroes stranded in space/on a lifeless world.
    CASE: [Mann] doesn't know the Endurance docking procedure.
    Cooper: Well, the autopilot does.
    CASE: Not since TARS disabled it.
    Cooper: (Beat) Nice! What's your trust setting, TARS?
    TARS: Lower than yours, apparently.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Discussed by Cooper as a possible outcome of his and Murphy's accidental visit to the secret NASA base camp.
  • The Quiet One:
    • Romilly is a mild example pre-Time Skip, coming across as slightly introverted but certainly not awkwardly so. However, it's played much more straight after the others return from Miller's planet (from which just Romilly and TARS stay behind); due to the severe time dilation, Romilly has, by his clock, been alone for 23 years, and by then has become shaken and awkward. He definitely seems more solemn and serious (though he's still as helpful as before) for the rest of his time in the movie until he dies.
    • CASE is a robot example; unlike TARS, CASE only makes a few, more mild jokes throughout the film, and only seems to speak if directly spoken to or if relaying important information to the crew. In fact, he probably gets the least amount of dialogue out of the four members of the surviving crew. Cooper lampshades this:
      Cooper: Ready, CASE?
      CASE: Yup.
      Cooper: (Beat) You don't say much, do you?
      CASE: TARS talks plenty for both of us.
  • Raster Vision: Used for some (but not all) video screens.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: The second trailer uses "Evey Reborn" from V for Vendetta to amazing effect.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Played with, as an elderly Murphy tells her dad that even though she's happy to see him finally and never gave up hope, she is reserving her final moments for the big family she spent her life with; this gives him the perspective to live his life (as he is still a man in his prime) and gives him the drive to look for Amelia.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: TARS and CASE in personality, especially TARS, though averted in appearance. They even say hello to each other.
  • Roaring Rapids: The first world is a Logical Extreme version of this: the entire world is really a water world with a shallow bottom but has massive tidal waves every hour due to gravitational forces.
  • Robot Buddy: TARS and CASE. Interestingly, they are not designed in the typical "humanoid" design, but rather in a quadrilateral fashion (which makes them look like mini-Monoliths when standing still). A prequel comic expressly states that one purpose for the robots is to provide a 'person' for the otherwise alone astronauts to interact with.
  • Rocky Mountain Refuge: All that is seen remaining of the federal government is NASA, who appear to have relocated to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The trailer presents a rather Romanticist view of space travel — "our destiny lies above us." This is also the contrast between Plan A and Plan B.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Though a lot of tragic things occur in the film, it's ultimately a story about idealism, sacrifice and perseverance in the face of seemingly impossible odds. The threats to Earth and the dangers of space exploration bring out some of the bad sides in people, but also often show humans at their best, noblest and bravest when the chips are truly down. To the film's credit, even the extremely common A.I. Is a Crapshoot trope gets averted, with both of the robot characters of the film being very noble, self-sacrificing and even good friends with their human masters, despite being realistically playful and snarky.
  • Rule of Drama: The fact that the house can communicate with the truck via radio is very well established, so when Murph comes running out crying after her father it shouldn't have been much trouble to call him back for a proper goodbye, considering the circumstances. However ignoring this gives great drama for the scene and film.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The wormhole that gives humanity hope of survival in the face of a global blight is near Saturn. Saturn was the Roman god of agriculture. And then there's Doctor Mann.
  • Rule of Threes: Three planets through the wormhole have astronauts sending "thumbs-up" signals for possible habitability. Naturally, it's the third planet the protagonists go to that proves to actually be habitable.
  • Running Gag: TARS's settings. Humor (100% - brought down to 75%), Honesty (90% because Brutal Honesty is not safe), Discretion (unknown, but not a poker face), and Trust (lower than Cooper's, apparently) are mentioned. When Cooper rebuilds TARS after the black hole drop and rescue, he set the humor setting first to 75%, then to 60% after TARS makes another joking death threat (threatening 55% when he makes another joke), and honesty to 95%.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Doyle and Romilly.
  • Say My Name: Several examples, but Cooper's in the finale stands out.
  • Scavenger World: While life for common people in America is looking pretty comfortable and ordinary, most advanced technology that is still around are leftovers. When Cooper sees an old surveillance drone flying at low altitude he wants to salvage its solar cells and use its computer to control farming machines. NASA is housed in an old nuclear base and the robots are old military equipment.
  • Scenery Porn: Egads. From the dusty dystopia of Earth to the vastness of space, it would be very hard to say it doesn't look pretty.
  • Science Is Good: The decline of science is largely responsible for the famine. It is only when a curious former pilot and a rag-tag team of NASA astronauts leave the planet to find a new Earth in outer space that humanity has any hope of survival.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism:
    • Dr. Mann sets one of these as a booby trap in his robot, KIPP, set to go off if anyone tries to access KIPP's archives (which would reveal the real data, which contradicts the stuff that Mann forged). The bomb ends up killing Romilly.
    • TARS pretends to start a destruct sequence while Cooper is tinkering with his settings.
    Cooper: Humor... 75%.
    TARS: Confirmed. Auto self-destruct in T-minus ten... nine...
    Cooper: Let's make that 60%.
  • Semper Fi: Discussed. When TARS is introduced (via dragging Cooper and Murph into custody), he's programmed to act like a very moto and aggressive US Marine, even though, to Cooper's annoyance, the Marines were disbanded a while back.
  • Sensor Suspense: Downplayed. On Miller's planet, they manage to find the position of Miller's spacecraft but cannot spot the vehicle. Then CASE reaches into the shallow water and pulls up debris parts.
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Star Wars — Protagonist in two-seater spaceplane with robot buddy in the back.
    • From the robots shaped like monoliths to the score, the film is a love letter to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even some of the dialog from Dr. Mann is oddly similar to that of HAL's. It's a bit of foreshadowing that Mann is going to be the character that will cause problems later on, rather than TARS and CASE that audiences would be expecting. Then there's an In-Universe example of the wise-cracking robot making a joke about blowing the team out of the airlock.
      • Mann trying to enter the airlock with a vessel that can't seal with the entrance is also similar to Dave Bowman's dilemma in 2001. However even though Mann has his space helmet, unlike Bowman he dies because he can't seal the airlock properly before opening the inner hatch.
    • Among the books in Murph's collection is Stephen King's The Stand — kind of relevant, given the post-apocalypse of Earth.
    • Early in the film, Cooper refers to his son Tom by the nickname Servo.
    • In the movie Contact, McConaughey's character gives Jodie Foster's character a compass before she goes on her space voyage, and tells her it might just save her life (which it eventually does). The same actor in a similar movie performs the same gift-giving act with a similar gift that turns out to have similar plot results.
    • Both of the Robot Buddies on the Endurance are named after characters from famous science-fiction novels. TARS is named after Tars Tarkas from John Carter of Mars, and CASE is named after Henry Case from Neuromancer.
    • The scene of Cooper's launch (partly replaced by him driving his pick-up with launching sound effects) is a homage to Solaris (1972) (where the launching of the cosmonaut is totally replaced and symbolized by long shots from a car on a Japanese highway). Also the oceanic planet, of course.
    • Donald's (John Lithgow's) comment "I want a hotdog" calls to mind the conversation about hotdogs in 2010: The Year We Make Contact, in which Lithgow played one of the characters.
    • Romilly's explanation of travel through a wormhole - folding a piece of paper in half and pushing a pen through it - mirrors Weir's explanation of the gravity drive in Event Horizon.
    • Like in 3001: The Final Odyssey, the protagonist is found floating near Saturn.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • A lot of the movie draws from Kip Thorne's theories of wormholes and portrays them accurately. Kip Thorne is an executive producer on the film. Moreover, the portrayal of other physics is also accurate, at least in comparison to most sci-fi movies/tv shows. Gravity doesn't suck, space isn't air and isn't noisy, and the engines are fired only when they need to be. Even the insane time dilation on the ocean planet is plausible — Thorne worked out that the time dilation could exist if the planet were deep inside the black hole's gravity well and if the black hole were spinning extremely fast. Really the only thing one could get worked up over is how much fuel the spacecraft are using and the existence of the "ice clouds".note 
    • The film's black hole is often cited as the most realistic depiction of a black hole ever, as it was based on the actual equations which model black holes. It should be noted that lower-quality renderings have been made before for scientific papers and the like, but Interstellar is likely the first time such an equation-based rendering has been made at a photorealistic level of fidelity.
    • To acquire inspiration for real-world space travel, Christopher Nolan invited former astronaut Marsha Ivins to the set.
  • Sigil Spam: Like its real-life counterpart, the (redesigned) NASA logo is everywhere.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Matt Damon. Although we do see his character, Dr. Mann (he is the astronaut on the take where there is an explosion on the planet's surface), we don't see his face, and his name was practically absent from many of the posters and trailers.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The story is based on the plight of a few idealists trapped on a cynical, dying world. However, the optimists win out in the end — only by risking their lives for their ideals do they succeed in saving humanity.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The second world is a frozen-over planet where even the clouds have turned to ice. Even the days and nights are nothing but 134 hours of ice, ice, and more ice.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat:
    • Cooper and TARS, many times, owing to their mutual Deadpan Snarker personalities. Between the two of them, they provide a very large fraction of the humor in the film.
      Cooper: A sarcastic robot. What a great idea.
      TARS: I have a cue light I can use when I'm joking, if you'd like. (flashes light)
      Cooper: That'd probably help.
      TARS: Yeah, you can use it to find your way back to the ship after I blow you out the airlock. (flashes light)
      Cooper: (Beat) What's your humor setting, TARS?
      TARS: That's 100%.
      Cooper: Bring it on down to 75, please. (Doyle smirks at him)
    • Cooper and Brand have several moments of this, too.
      Brand: This crew represents the best of humanity.
      Cooper: Even me, eh?
      Brand: You know what, we agreed, 90% [honesty].
      Cooper: (Nods) There you go.
  • Space Is Noisy: Much like Gravity and Dead Space as a whole, averted to all crazy extents. Sound effects are muted, most cases of the usually strong and vibrant music, excluding a few key scenes, are muted in these situations as well, and tense outer space situations are played in near-silence with very minimal dialogue.
  • Space Madness:
    • Mann has a pretty bad case of it, though it's more the isolation that has taken its toll on him.
    • Romilly gets a mild case when he starts to fret about how thin the spaceship hull is, with all that nothingness behind it. Cooper soothes Rom by giving him his recorded nature sounds to listen to.
  • Space Plane: The Ranger can VTOL straight to space cruising around the stratosphere without refueling. Curiously, it's still launched from Earth on a staged rocket, which seems unnecessary if it can achieve SSTO on a planet with 130% the gravity of Earth.note 
  • Spaceship Slingshot Stunt:
    • The Endurance slingshots the black hole in order to get up to the speed needed for the onward flight to Edmunds' planet.
    • Before the arrival at the wormhole, they make a flyby of Mars, which could have slightly given it velocity.
  • Speaks in Binary: The coordinate to NASA's secret base was communicated by the "ghost" to Cooper via binary codes.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • The film acts as this towards Inception. Time passing by at bizarre speeds, a father being separated from his children in a faraway location, a Tragic Villain who almost screws up the team's goals, Nolan being in the Sci-Fi genre again, etc. Of course, the main difference is that the scale is much grander than Inception's smaller focus. Even lampshaded by Nolan himself in a couple of interviews.
    • The film is a more practical and straightforward version of 1997's Contact, which also deals with an otherworldly message that triggers a drive for space exploration. In Interstellar's case, they actually have the logistics for space travel and Cooper speculates that the messengers are advanced futuristic humans, whereas in Contact, the beings basically provide the means and are extraterrestrial.
  • Stable Time Loop: Not only does "Ghost" Cooper direct past Cooper to the secret NASA base, but the n-dimensional space from which he sends the message was/is/will be created by Humanity's distant descendants, who only survive the Second Dust Bowl due to the quantum math Cooper sends to Murphy. He also returns to the initial trip through the wormhole to touch Brand's hand via gravitational anomaly.
  • A Storm Is Coming: We see the family seek cover from one of the huge dust storms that are harassing the farmers.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Romilly is quietly rebooting KIPP (Mann's robot) when TARS suddenly starts shouting:
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: The 5D Bulk Beings, whatever they are, are not bound by linear time, as well as having the power to manipulate gravity across vast, intergalactic distances. Cooper is certain they're future transhumans establishing a time loop to ensure that humanity survives.
  • Suicide Mission: It's revealed that 12 astronauts were sent through the wormhole and only those who ended up on the most promising planets stood a chance to be picked up by a rescue team due to resource scarcity.
  • Supernaturally Young Parent: After travelling in the vicinity of the black hole Gargantua and being subjected to its Time Dilation effects, Cooper visits his daughter Murph on her deathbed decades later (from her perspective) when she's already an elderly woman and he's still a middle-aged man.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • On Miller's planet, there is no life and nothing to sustain it, because not enough time has passed there to allow evolution to do its thing, and also likely because the violent tidal waves would make it quite difficult for complex life to survive there.
    • NASA chose Lazarus mission crew members with no strong attachments to leave behind. One of them turns out to have no higher priority than his own survival and is willing to jeopardize the entire human race for a better shot at living.
    • Earth society might be slowly crumbling and the people starving due to the blight, but that doesn't mean all aspects of civilization have vanished. Ignoring the NASA facility which operates in secret (and where apparently you can still buy drinks in old-fashioned cups with plastic lids and straws), people are still driving cars and trucks (suggesting fuel sources still exist), there is still electricity and there is still some form of internet.
  • Swords to Plowshares:
    • Happens en masse after a series of blights ravages several major crops, causing worldwide starvation. Most of the world's militaries are effectively dissolved in the aftermath, with their equipment and personnel going toward much-needed crop production.
    • At the beginning of the film, Cooper and his children scavenge a defunct Indian surveillance drone for parts, hoping to use them to aid in farming.
  • Take the Wheel: While chasing the drone, Cooper tells his son to take the wheel while he calibrated the remote control.
  • Tattered Flag: The Lazarus missions mark their habitat with a US flag along with a mission flag. Naturally, after years exposed to the elements of an alien world they become extremely tattered. At the end of the movie, Dr. Brand is shown burying her dead lover under a rock cairn next to his destroyed habitat with its tattered flag, then is shown walking to her own functioning habitat with intact flags flying.
  • Team Killer: Dr. Mann. He almost destroys Cooper's visor and kills Romilly with a booby trap.
  • That's No Moon: Upon landing on Miller's water world, Brand notices what appears to be mountains in the distance. Moments later, Cooper takes a second look:
    Cooper: Those aren't mountains. They're waves!
  • Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Invoked by Doyle, and then Mann, during the film, in reference to getting data about the unobservable parts of black holes, which would help Professor Brand solve his gravity equation. In fact, he's actually already solved what he could by the time the story even begins, but has no possible way to prove it right or finish it without solid data, so he gives up on saving the Earth and plans to start humanity elsewhere.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Cooper has this after he uses a black hole as a catapult.
    Cooper: Well, this little maneuver's gonna cost us 51 years.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: TARS jokes about doing this to the crew. This winds up being Mann's ultimate fate, though he brings it on himself.
  • Time Dilation: Miller's planet orbits so close to Gargantua (the black hole) that one hour is equal to seven years outside. When Cooper and Brand returned, 23 years had passed on the Endurance and on Earth. After the shock sets in, Brand realized that the transmitter was still giving the "thumbs up" because from its perspective, it had only gotten there a couple hours ago, and that Miller likely died only minutes before the Endurance arrived.
  • Time-Passage Beard: Helps to show how Tom has aged. In the video messages Cooper watches, Toms changes from teenager to young adult without beard to adult with beard.
  • Timeshifted Actor:
    • Murph is played by Mackenzie Foy as a child, Jessica Chastain in her mid-30s and Ellen Burstyn as an old woman.
    • Tom is played by Timothée Chalamet as a teen and Casey Affleck as an adult.
  • Time Skip:
    • First by 2 years, when the Endurance travels from Earth to Saturn to enter the wormhole.
    • Next by 23 years, 4 months, and 8 days, which is how long half the crew spends on Miller's planet in "real" time (though, thanks to Time Dilation, from their perspective, they're only there for a few hours).
    • Lastly, by more or less 60 years. Unlike the previous example, we don't see the direct effects of this until the denouement. At this point, Cooper is told he is chronologically 124 years old, but biologically, he is still only 40-ish.
  • Time Travel: One of Kip Thorne's theories is that black holes can be used for time travel. When Cooper and TARS enter the black hole, they fall into the fifth dimension thanks to the Bulk Beings and are able to see every moment Murph has ever had in her bedroom throughout her past, spread out as physical dimensions. Cooper is able to use this tesseract to send TARS's quantum data to Murph in the past. However, unlike other instances of time travel, Cooper can only interact with the past in minimal amounts.
  • Title Drop: "We must confront the reality of interstellar travel" is said by Professor Brand in a video log to his daughter Amelia.
  • Title-Only Opening: This is the first film directed by Christopher Nolan since The Prestige to feature an opening title card.
  • Token Minority: Romilly, though there is a black school principal also.
  • Token Romance: In the denouement, Murph and Getty kiss out of nowhere. Granted, it's implied to be a while after she first figures out the equation, and there's been a little bit of Ship Tease between them, but it's still sudden. Though Getty looks rather surprised himself, so perhaps the workaholic Murph couldn't spit it out.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Brand should have listened to Cooper and hurried back to the Ranger, especially since she can see that the next wave is practically on top of them. Instead, she insists on trying to retrieve the data log anyway and Doyle dies saving her.
    • Doyle as well in the same situation, since he freezes up and gawks at the approaching wave multiple times instead of continuing onward. The first time, Cooper has to tell him to keep moving, and the second time, it costs him his life; even after Brand and CASE have already gotten into the Ranger, Doyle doesn't immediately jump in after them, but still keeps staring at the wave, and gets locked out of the Ranger and swept away.
    • Mann really should have listened to the three separate warnings telling him not to open the airlock.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: As the trailer's space scenes feature just Cooper and Brand, when the mission starts with four crewmen, you can already draw some conclusions as to what happens later on. The trailers also depict Mann's pod exploding, debris spewing from Endurance, and the waves of Miller's Planet.
  • Tranquil Fury: Cooper, when lecturing the educators on how his wife died because humanity rejected "useless machines". His tone perfectly conveys both how pissed off he is at their attitude and how drained he is, indicating he's encountered this sort of thing a lot and knows darn well that showing much emotion isn't going to do a bit of good.
  • Transhuman Aliens: Cooper believes that the mysterious fifth-dimensional aliens are in fact humans from the distant future.
  • Trippy Finale Syndrome: In the film's climax, Cooper winds up in a Tesseract, a cosmic plane of existence created by the Fifth Dimensional Beings who helped create the wormhole that allowed the team to travel. While he is there, he and TARS are able to transmit the proper equation to Murph (via her bookshelf through morse code) to solve Professor Brand's gravity equation and successfully propel humanity into space.
  • Trouble Entendre: Dr. Mann tells TARS that the broken KIPP needs a "human touch" to fix. When Romilly manually unblocks a section of KIPP's memory (showing the falsified research) it triggers an explosive trap, killing him.
  • True Companions: The four survivors of the Endurance mission—Cooper, Brand, TARS, and CASE—to the point that, once Cooper gets the chance to say goodbye to Murph on her deathbed at the end of the film, he and TARS leave Cooper Station together very soon afterwards (rather than sticking around to get to know anybody else there, including his family members) to go find Amelia and CASE on Edmunds' planet.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: After the Endurance takes off, the storyline splits up into two lines, following Murph's story on Earth as well as Cooper's journey in space.
  • The Unfettered: Dr. Mann, who is frequently referred to as "the best of us". Which alternatively could be interpreted as being The Last Man, the pinnacle that traditional morality can reach in the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. And like Nietzsche's Last Man, his cold rationality is unable to deal with the problems and he ultimately falls apart.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Mann towards multiple parties:
    • The Endurance crew comes to rescue him and, as he puts it, "literally raised [him] from the dead". In fact, since Mann's planet was uninhabitable, they shouldn't have even come there in the first place, and only do so because Mann faked his data to make it look like the planet could sustain human life. Mann repays them by 1) trying to kill Cooper to keep him from going home, 2) actually killing Romilly (indirectly) when Mann's booby trap in KIPP blows him up, and 3) attempting to steal the Endurance and continue the mission on his own while leaving Cooper, Brand, TARS, and CASE marooned on his planet.
    • This also applies to his treatment of his Robot Buddy, KIPP. The robots are programmed to be loyal to their human masters, and the entire Endurance crew appreciates and values their robots, TARS and CASE, forming good friendships with them. By contrast, the novelization and prequel comic reveal that Mann threatened to shut KIPP down multiple times before actually doing so to keep him from transmitting their true findings to NASA (which is just KIPP doing his job), and then rigged him with a bomb to explode if anyone tries to access the real data in the archives.
  • United Space of America: The colony Cooper finds himself in at the end is a piece of rural America orbiting Saturn, with NASA still overseeing things. Furthermore, the final shot is of Brand at her extraterrestrial base camp with an American flag flying.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Cooper/Brand. After sharing many horrors together, they reach an understanding. So much so that Cooper leaves the stability of the earth colonies to go find her.
  • Used Future: Most everything looks worn-out, battered or generally dated for a film set in the future. This is meant to convey the deteriorating conditions on Earth, which make the relatively well-maintained NASA facilities and craft stand out more. The 22nd-century scenes by contrast, look considerably cleaner.
  • Use Your Head: Mann headbutts Cooper's visor in the hope of cracking it, even though his visor is just as likely to crack as Cooper's. Mann lucks out when Cooper's visor fails first.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: This is quite possibly the most philosophical movie Nolan has made yet. Being reasonably familiar with astrophysics certainly helps in understanding what's happening, but the most basic ideas are explained in fairly simple terms in the movie. When it comes to interpreting the meaning of anything, you're left completely alone.
  • Viewers Are Morons: The accretion disk of the black hole in the film does not display the Doppler effect of light, because Christopher Nolan thought the audience would not understand why it was brighter in the foreground than in the background.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: At the end, Cooper wakes up in a hospital bed after passing out floating in space near Saturn.
  • We Need a Distraction: Murphy sets Tom's crops on fire to cause a distraction so she can sneak back to his house, evacuate his wife and kid, and visit her old room one last time.
  • Wham Line: Several.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Cooper's relationship with his son Tom, as well as the daughter-in-law and grandson whom he never meets, seems to be thrown aside in favor of his bond with his daughter. Given the time skips, it's probable that he dies of old age and that his descendants are in the room with the rest of Murphy's family in the end. In any event, he isn't seen or mentioned in the finale of the movie, though the novelization expands on it by confirming that Tom died over a decade before Cooper arrives at the station.
    • Seeing as it would have been physically impossible to evacuate everyone on earth, not without building thousands if not hundreds of thousands of ships the size of the colony, the finale avoids the issue of how many had to be left behind — and, indeed, whether any group other than Americans even made it off the planet.
    • The Indian Drone is collected in an exciting scene and then that subplot is shooed aside. Presumably, they stripped it for parts. The film never explains why an Indian Drone has been flying over the US for 10 years, and if it's meant to tie in with the gravitational anomalies, it isn't made clear or elaborated on at all.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Zig-zagged with the robots TARS and CASE. Technically, they are merely pieces of equipment, serving as a combination of calculator, manual labor and bodyguard. However, all of the astronauts form various attachments to them, and at one point debate whether it would be moral to ask TARS to sacrifice himself for the mission. Notably, the robots have sentient traits (humor, honesty, trust), but their settings have to be calibrated by humans.
  • Why Are We Whispering?: TARS asks Cooper why he's whispering, as the rest of the crew has been placed in suspended animation and can't overhear their conversation.
  • Word Salad Philosophy: Amelia tries to convince the crew to go to Edmunds's planet and presents them with the dilemma that Edmund's planet looks the most suitable for life but went silent, while Mann is the better scientist and is actively transmitting. When told to come clean about her romantic feelings for Edmunds, she thinks that she can maintain her credibility by going on a poetic rant describing love as a force of nature, like destiny. Being surrounded by scientists, she's calmly removed from the discussion because of this. In the context of certain philosophies it makes a lot of sense, but the way she presents her argument in the context of physics makes it sound more like Insane Troll Logic.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: After Mann accidentally blows the airlock, CASE calculates the Endurance to be spinning at 68 rpm, or more than one rotation every second. Based on the visuals, it's closer to one rotation every four seconds, making it about 15 rpm.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Miller's planet is so close to the black hole's gravitational pull that an hour on the planet is roughly 7 years Earth time, causing Time Dilation. When Cooper and Brand return to the Endurance, 23 years have passed for Romilly who stayed behind.
  • You Already Changed the Past: When Cooper first plunges into the black hole, the first thing he affects in Murph's past is pushing the books to the floor; he then sees himself saying goodbye to Murph, sending himself a desperate message of "stay"; he then forms the binary code message with the dust; and finally he is able to communicate more directly with Murph via the hands of the watch he gave her, though she doesn't recognize the message itself until she's well into adulthood. Finally, while he's leaving the black hole, he has a trans-dimensional handshake with Amelia. In the outside timeline, none of these events occur in that order.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: A minor case: Sometime during or after landing at Mann's planet, TARS and CASE decide on their own initiative to disable the automatic docking procedure for the landers and the Endurance, just in case any of the humans try doing something stupid. It ends up indeed saving humanity from destroying itself.

Cooper: Everybody ready to say goodbye to solar system?
Romilly: To our galaxy.
Cooper: Here we go.


Video Example(s):


What are you doing here?

When Cooper refuses to take Murph with him to the mysterious location, she hides under a blanket in his car. By the time Cooper notices her, it's too late to send her back, so they continue the journey together.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / LittleStowaway

Media sources: