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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 the 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, the last man to fly into space before NASA was disbanded, spends his days raising his gifted daughter Murphy and increasingly cynical son Tom with the aid of his aging father-in-law Donald, 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 inhabitable 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:

  • Ace Pilot: Cooper. At first only an Informed Attribute, he later proves this to be true when docking onto the wildly rotating Endurance without losing consciousness and when pulling off the Spaceship Slingshot Stunt around the black hole.
  • 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.
  • Adult Fear: Watching your children grow up without you while they think you're dead.
  • 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 bombarded with 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's perfectly capable of editing 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 suffered this twice. First Dr. Mann cracked Cooper's visor and took out the emergency packs. Later, Cooper is teleported out of the black hole and floats in free space nearby Saturn, only to be rescued by one of NASA's scouting Rangers.
    • Humanity is suffering this on Earth. The reason why the Blight will eventually kill every human on Earth isn't starvation. 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 Amelia 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 the present-day 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. Kelly: 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 Tom (presumably) 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). Really, out of the main human characters, only Cooper and Amelia are alive and active at the end, and Amelia's status is ambiguous due to the time distortion on Edmund's planet.
  • Apocalypse How: Ongoing Planetary/Societal Collapse turning into a Planetary/Species Extinction (dominant species, natural), as failing crops endanger the survival of the human race. Eventually 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, Coops 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 her to 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 – Astronomy: Heavily Debated. 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.
    • That said, 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 not be habitable by humans for numerous reasons. 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).
  • Artistic License – Biology: One of the major plot devices in the film is the existence of a world-scale blight depopulating the world. While such a situation is theoretically possible in Real Life, the chances of it occuring are extremely small as it would rely on several factors relating to the need of oxygen to be massively drawn down from the atmosphere. 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 which are all direct clones (such as common fruits like bananas, apples, and oranges).
  • 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).
  • 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 a 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 Kerr black hole, Gargantua would look asymmetrical due to its spin in real life. But in the film it is symmetrical, like a Schwarzschild hole. 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 what there would need to be for waves that big. The probe debris being that close together is also unlikely, especially since it is all invisible a moment before it.
    • Objects spin around their centers of mass. After it was damagd by Mann's failed attempt to enter, the Endurance was no longer symmetrical, and it would not spin around its former center, where the central hatch was located. Therefore, Cooper would not be able to dock it, no matter how fast his module was spinning around its own center of mass.
    • 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.
      • Mann's 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.
      • 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.
      • 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 Mann's accident).
      • 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.
      • Although the crew of the ship is correctly seen subjected to G-forces as they spin up to match the Endurance for docking, the G-force seems to increase as the ship spins faster and faster - whereas in reality the G-force would be relative to the acceleration rate of the spin, which did not increase at all during the maneuver.
  • 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 was a sham; his real motivation was Plan B all along because he couldn't solve the gravity equation and kept up a facade of optimism up until his deathbed.
  • Based on a True Story:
    • The sequence when Cooper docks with the out-of-control Endurance is evocative of a 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. The spin was so violent, both crew members could've blacked out, which Brand in the film actually does.
    • 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 saved the astronauts' asses on several occasions and closest thing they showed to hostility is a little back-talk which they were programmed for. TARS even goes into the middle of a black hole, to get the information that can save humanity.
  • Big Good: The Bulk Beings constructed the wormhole that made the evacuation possible.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cooper does get to reunite with Murph one last time, except so much time has passed for her that she's an old woman on her death bed by then. Edmunds was already dead or died shortly after Brand, who was in love with him, arrived on his planet, as she's seen burying him near the encampment. 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.
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: Not so much alien as robot, but TARS and CASE move around with a gorilla-like gait normally. When they need to move fast, they rotate all four of their sections to roll in the desired direction.
  • Bookends: Old Murph (Ellen Burstyn) has the first and last lines of dialogue in the movie.
  • Broken Ace:
    • Cooper had to leave his family for possible dead 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, broke 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:
    • It turns out that Professor Brand was lying to nearly everyone about "Plan A." He believes that everyone still on Earth is doomed; eventually Earth does succumb to the dust bowl and part of humanity is saved by Murph, though 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; of the other astronauts' fate nothing is revealed other than Miller's data and Edmunds' habitable planet.
    • Possibly Tom later on in the film, due to the stress of 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.
    • Subverted by Coop, who never fails to be Murph's hero. Though Murph is the catalyst of the re-ignition of humanity's space faring, she does stop looking for her dad; when he does return, she tells him that she filled her life by surrounding herself with family that love her, telling him 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The wristwatch Cooper leaves for Murph as a Memento MacGuffin he later uses 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 on Murph's room.
    • Cooper was Murph's ghost the whole time.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Both Cooper and Murph know the Morse code, which will be important later, when Cooper communicates with Murph via books and wrist watch.
    • Cooper and Murph's penchant for scientific pursuit leads to the latter to collaborate with NASA as well.
  • 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. Since KIPP found enough data to prove that Mann's planet was uninhabitable, Mann had him prepare a "hypothetical" set of perfect data that he used to forge real data, shut KIPP down before he could send any of his findings to Earth, and booby-trapped him to explode if anyone tried 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 decided to return to Earth, (but still help the others get settled on Mann's planet before he left), Mann decided to kill him and Make It Look Like an Accident to the rest of the crew so that he could still keep the rest of them as companions. When that failed (thanks to Cooper surviving and Romilly dying by inadvertently setting off the bomb), Mann decided "Screw This, I'm Outta Here!" and tried to steal the Endurance and abandon all the remaining crew on his planet.
    • On a less personal level, he also betrayed the Lazarus mission (which he led) and all his fellow humans by succumbing to his cowardice and falsifying the data about his planet, which put the entire Endurance mission at risk and almost destroyed 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. However, it was discovered fifty years before the events of the movie, and afterwards ignored 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 was completely out of reaction mass and needed to leave behind a bit more weight in order to escape the black hole.
  • 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 couldn't see their obviously mechanical appearance could be forgiven for assuming they were 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 was an unhelpful waste of money, which was true enough before the wormhole opened, but it's not clear whether they claim it's outright impossible (as some real life Moon Landing conspiracy theorists do).
  • 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 was just them granting present-day humans their Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
  • Continuous Decompression: When Cooper's visor cracks we hear a continuous hissing sound.
  • Cool Car: Cooper's 2013 Dodge RAM 3500 Cummins dually 4x4 pick-up. Even though old, battered and rusty, it still has the power to chase down a drone and still is 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 that one 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.
  • Crazy-Prepared: TARS, who apparently disabled the autopilot docking feature from the Ranger 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.
    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.
  • Cry into Chest: The heartwarming moment when they wake 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 one comes up.
  • 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 quote's 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".
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • The original twelve astronauts were chosen based on their skills and their lack of any familial connections. Everyone failed to consider that this meant they would have nothing to lose by falsifying the data and claiming their world was habitable when it wasn't.
    • Dr. Brand was very straight-faced after Cooper exchanged "good-byes" with TARS as the latter detaches and drops into the black hole ("see you on the other side, Cooper" "See you there, slick!"). It was not until CASE announces Ranger 2 (Coop's ship) be detached that she panics and pleads her case - only to get the 90% rule response from Cooper before he detaches despite her protest.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Dr. Mann. He knowingly forges data about the planet he's hibernating on because it turned out to be uninhabitable and he was too scared to perform a Heroic Sacrifice. And the film uses its "one F-word per PG-13 film" to the most beautiful effect after it's revealed:
    Coop: You fucking coward.
    • Also, after essentially killing Cooper, he tries to stay and watch, but admits he can't do it. He then tries to tell Cooper he'll stay on the comms and talk to him so he's not alone as he dies - but again, he realizes he can't listen to Cooper die, and turns off the comms.
  • Disappeared Dad: Cooper to Tom and Murph after the first act. Admittedly, if a father is going to abandon his children, Cooper had one of the most noble excuses you can get—attempting to save humanity. (However, since he deliberately wanted to spare her from the knowledge that Earth is doomed as a kid, she wouldn't have realized this until she was older, meaning she spent years thinking her dad had 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 wasn't secure, he ignores her and does it anyway: 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 124 years old, so the entire journey for him has taken several decades. 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), then, on Murph's urging, he then 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 Brand get separated.
  • 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 the only major crop not extinct is corn. Even the baseball playing is suckier now.
  • Eldritch Location: Several throughout the crew's, and later Cooper's journeys.
    • The wormhole itself is represented as an instantaneous passage between two points in space separated by millions of lightyears, 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 1/60 000 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 flys 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.
  • E = MC Hammer: Professor Brand's gravity equations are spread across several blackboards at his workplace and seem to hold lots of integrals.
  • 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.
  • 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: When Murph finds out that her father is the "ghost" that communicated with her in her childhood and when she discovers the solution to Brand's equation. Then she shouts out of joy a real eureka, throwing the papers everywhere in the facility.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: The "ghost" in Murphy's room communicated in Morse by dropping books. Murphy interpreted 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 attempted to perform a Heroic Sacrifice so that Brand could make it to Edmunds' planet, and Cooper and TARS are heading out to reunite with her, since each of them is the only human being that the other has left.
    • Cooper and TARS. The first time they met involved TARS tasing Cooper for trespassing and taking him in, 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.
  • 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 managed to survive.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Murph says that she calls the mysterious happenings in her bedroom the work of a 'ghost' because it felt like a person. Turns out she's right, it was 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.
    • 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 his joke, because that is his plan.
    • While leaving home Cooper says to Murph that "Once you're a parent, you're the ghost of your children's future". And in the end it is revealed that Cooper was Murph's ghost.
    • When Cooper agrees to 90% honesty with Dr. Brand after asking TARS about why not 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 mentions that nature is never evil — destructive and terrifying, but never evil. Cooper mentions that this means that evil is what they (humans) are bringing with them. Dr. Mann's selfishness/insanity nearly kills the entire species.
    • Cooper's father-in-law tells professor Brand that Murphy will make a fool out of even him in the future. Brand was indeed a fool for giving up and lying and Murphy is the one that comes up with the solution to Brand's Gravity problem.
    • 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 repeatedly tells Amelia that when it comes to the time, he'll save her. At the end, TARS conspires with Cooper to send Amelia towards Edmunds while they plunge themselves into the Black Hole.
  • 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" spread time in physical dimensions in snippets of Murph's timeline, that they did it so that it was understandable to Cooper and made him easier for him to communicate with Murph. The sympathy that he feels from this fact and considering that he deduced 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.
  • 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: "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.
  • 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.
    • Romilly is stiff and awkward after 23 years of isolation on the Endurance. Luckily for him, he spent a good portion of that time in cryosleep, but it wasn't enough.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Cooper's attempt to dock the Lander with the Endurance, while the Endurance 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.
  • 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 as the mission into the wormhole takes place beyond a past-tense reference to the Russians.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Downplayed. At the end, there seems little effort involved for Cooper to hijack the glider that will take him to Brand. The guards take notice only after Cooper is gone.
  • Hate Sink: Mann's betrayal and the damage it does to the mission makes him the film's only real villain.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Downplayed. At the end of the film, Cooper steals a one-man scoutship to go after Brand.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Much discussed throughout the movie. Played straight with many of the astronauts of the Lazarus Mission, defied by Dr. Mann who refuses to die alone on his planet and endangers the entire mission to try and return home, subverted with both Cooper and TARS as they discover the black hole's singularity has a portal to the extra-dimensional spacetime structure allowing Cooper to make minimal contact with Murph in the past.
  • 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 — a few 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 Brand admits she screwed this up after the fact.
    • The same can be said of Amelia, while they were on Miller's planet. Despite Cooper issuing four warnings that the next wave was approaching, which she could plainly see, she still insisted on trying to recover the recorder. And doesn't seem to realize how pointless it was, until she falls and gets pinned beneath the wreckage. Which made her indirectly responsible for Doyle's death, since he sent CASE to save her and had to manually override the shuttle's outside hatchmere seconds before being swept away by the tsunami.
    • 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 got in the way.
  • I Hate Past Me: With time traveling involved, this is bound to happen. When Cooper enters the Time/Space anomaly at the heart of Gargantua, he's screaming at himself, calling him an 'idiot', when he sees him leaving Murphy before his mission.
  • I Lied: Professor Brand's Wham Line to Murphy right before he dies in 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 tells him 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"), she kisses him in delight after solving Professor Brand's equation, and the end of the movie reveals that she got involved with someone, since she has children and grandchildren.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted with Tom's first child Jesse who died from lung disease.
  • Info Dump: Dr. 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.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: The crew's visors are transparent with no protective coating.
  • 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). Though no Rocket Punches happened when close quarters combat ensued.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Dr. Mann is trying to enter the Endurance's airlock despite Cooper 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 due to Cryonics Failure 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.
  • Last-Name Basis:
    • 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.
    • Edmunds, Mann and Miller are only ever 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, there is the theme music playing softly in the background. When we see Tom switching 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 reach 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 notice her, it's too late to send her back and both 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 does a truck mow through a cornfield in dramatic fashion.
  • The Lost Lenore:
    • Cooper reveals that his wife died of a brain tumour in the opening portions. The fact that doctors were not able to save her 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 seems 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) left Cooper in a four-dimensional representation of every moment his daughter's room/library 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'd resolved to "deal with" Cooper to keep him from leaving, hoped to still continue the mission/Plan B afterwards with the rest of the crew by heading to Edmunds' planet with them, so that he wouldn't be alone again. Since they, of course, would never cooperate with him if they knew he murdered Cooper, Mann planned to claim that Coop had fallen off one of the cloud-cliffs, and that Mann had tried to save him. However, Mann doesn't seem to have considered the fact that the crew would certainly have been angry with/suspicious of him for forging the data, which he would inevitably have to admit in order to continue the mission on Edmunds' planet.
  • 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 Cooper detaches himself from the Endurance to ensure Brand's safe onward travel to Edmunds' planet, he does so with a remark to 90% honesty. Apparently he lied about the fact that resources weren't enough for both of them to survive.
    • 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 expedition's 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 inhabitable 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!
  • Missing Mom: Cooper mentions to the school Principal that his wife died from a cyst in her brain.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: A 4 overall, though most of the movie could easily be considered closer to 5. While the physics and space travel are highly accurate based on our current understanding of the universe, once Cooper goes into the Tesseract and receives the resulting Mind Screw, the plot becomes driven by the work of future humans wielding technology far beyond the understanding of people today, rather than modern-day science.
  • 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.
  • Mr. Exposition:
    • Dr. Brand, shortly after being introduced, informs the protagonist and the audience about the history that has lead 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 awakes in hospital, the doctor is giving Cooper Infodumps about where he is and what happened to him.
  • 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.
  • 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 reestablish the human race in another habitable planet so that more humans can live on in a different planet (Plan B, or the utilitarian "many" plan). Turns out that Brand and Dr. Mann sided with the utilitarian "Plan B," but even so, their utilitarian point of view are proven wrong at the end of the film thanks to Cooper's love to his daughter and manipulation of time and space to save not only his daughter, but a large number of humans on Earth and, ultimately, the species. The ending heavily implies that both Plan A and Plan B played out.
  • 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) did say goodbye to their loved ones before they left, they assumed that they'd be back within several years. It was almost a century before Cooper reunited with people from Earth, and Brand never reunited with them at all. As such, this was naturally bound to occur:
    • For Cooper: Donald and Tom. Donald died somewhere in the 23-year-Time Skip while the crew was at Miller's planet, and (according to the novelization) Tom died over a decade before Cooper reached the human space colony at Saturn.
    • For Brand: Her father and Edmunds (her former lover). Her father died while the crew was on the way to Mann's planet, and Amelia (and the entire crew) had been unable to send messages out for a long time. Edmunds died three years before the Endurance crew crossed through the wormhole (when his signal stopped transmitting) due to a rockslide that crushed his pod while he was in cryosleep.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: The lone woman on the mission has her presence 'justified' by being Dr Brand's daughter. Murph likewise feels the effect of this; while valued for her intelligence, she's got Dr Brand knowing her father to thank for her position at NASA.
  • New Meat: Cooper's crew has only practiced on simulators; This may explain why Doyle froze at the Ranger's hatch when he saw the giant wave approaching and Romilly had 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 Amelia's recommendation that they travel to Edmunds' planet next, because Amelia'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. 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.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Cooper and Amelia clearly share a special bond that he doesn't have with Romily or Doyle. They're probably not in love, considering Cooper is still grieving for his dead wife and Amelia has a boyfriend on one of the planets.
  • 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.
    • This is also describes 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 with 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. 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. As well as explaining Murph's ghost and the various gravity anomalies seen in the first act.
  • One-Word Title
  • Orwellian Editor: 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.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Discussed by Murphy on her death bed. She sends Cooper away, so he wouldn'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. 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 of 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.
  • Pick Your Human Half: TARS and CASE act like (remarkably levelheaded) humans; they look like refrigerators on stilts.
  • 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.
  • 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 made an unscientific speech about that topic and is bashed for that. She was 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.
  • 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 was 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 (while just Romilly and TARS stayed 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 sober and serious 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.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 lifetime with; this gives him 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: CASE, but especially TARS, in personality, 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.
  • 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.
  • Running Gag: TARS's settings. Humor (100% - brought down to 75%), Honesty (90% because Brutal Honesty is not safe) and Trust (Lower than Cooper's, apparently) we're brought up by Cooper. TARS also mentioned he had a discretion setting - but Cooper countered that he didn't have a Poker face. When Cooper rebuilds TARS after the black hole drop and rescue, He set the humor setting to 60% (threatening 55%) and honesty to 95%.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: 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 dusty dystopia of Earth to the vastness of space, it would be very hard to say it doesn't look pretty.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism:
    • Dr. Mann set 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 contradicted 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.
    • Among the books in Murph's collection is Stephen King's The Stand — kind of relevant, given the post-apocalyptia 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 was found floating near Saturn.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. 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.
  • 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 far away 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 more 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 otherworldy 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.
  • Starfish Robot: TARS and CASE have a very unique non-humanoid design. They're essentially large slabs divided into 4 vertical sections that lets them swing about with great force and further divide these sections into ever-smaller pieces to simulate limbs.
  • A Storm Is Coming: We see the family seek cover from one of the huge dust storms that are harassing the farmers.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: A Quiet Romilly is rebooting KIPP (Mann's robot) when TARS suddenly shouts
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 during the film, in reference to getting data about the unobservable parts of black holes: Dr. Brand keeps time as a constant on his gravity equation because he doesn't know better though he actually solved it but had no possible way to prove it right without solid data, so he gives up on saving the Earth and plans to start humanity elsewhere.
  • 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.
  • Time Travel: One of Kip Thorne's theories is that black holes can be used for time travel. When Cooper and TARS passed the black hole, he fell into the fifth dimension and went back in time to just before he left for the mission. However, unlike other instances of time travel, Cooper can only interact with the past in minimal amounts.
  • Time Skip: First by 2 years. The next by 23 years. And the last by more or less 60 years. In the end, Cooper is told he is 124 years old, despite still looking 40-ish.
  • 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.
  • 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 but there was zero hint of attraction between them before.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Brand should have listened to Cooper and hurried back to the Ranger, especially since she could see that the next wave was practically on top of them. Instead, she insisted on trying to retrieve the data log anyway and Doyle dies saving her.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Fettered: Cooper, through his bond to his family. And after the visit to Miller's Planet, also Brand. Which at first gets dismissed by the other characters.
  • The Unfettered: Dr. Mann, who is frequently refered to as "the best of us". Which alternatively could be interpreted as being The Last Man, the pinacle 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 appart.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Mann. The Endurance crew came 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 did 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 for 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 (i.e. doing his job), and then rigged him with a bomb to explode if anyone tried 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. 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. Luckily for Mann, he succeeds.
  • 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.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: In the epilogue, Dr. Mann is still remembered as one of the heroic astronauts who led humanity into the stars, despite being revealed as a insane coward who nearly dooms all of humanity.
  • Wait Here: 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.
  • We Need a Distraction: Murphy is setting Tom's crops on fire to cause a distraction and sneak back to his house to evacuate his wife and kid.
  • Wham Line: Several.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Cooper's relationship with his son as well as daughter-in-law and grandson seems to be thrown aside in favor of his bond with his daughter. Given the timeskips, it's probable that he died 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.
    • 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 doesn't serve that purpose.
  • 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 Edmund'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 Edmund, 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.
  • 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: There's a minor case when 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.