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Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is an employee contracted by the Korean-based company Lunar Industries to extract helium-3 from lunar soil to fuel nuclear fusion reactors on Earth. He is stationed for a three-year term on the Sarang base, with only a robot named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company, and his only contact with Earth being recorded transmissions he occasionally receives from his wife and three-year-old daughter. Two weeks before completing his assignment, he begins to hallucinate, causing him to crash a lunar rover into one of the helium-3 harvesters.

Then it gets worse.

The first feature film directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie's son), Moon was shown at the 2009 Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals.

Jones has released a Spiritual Successor with 2018's Mute, and he hopes that he will able to develop a full trilogy of films set in the Moon universe.

MAJOR SPOILERS follow. As the film depends heavily on twists and reveals for its impact, spoilers are unavoidable. If you want to keep your surprise, watch the film first, then come back here. And don't click any of the icons on the top of the page. You Have Been Warned.


  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The film takes place in the not-too-distant future in which 70% of the world's energy is generated by fusion mined from lunar helium-3. We've also got the technology to mass-produce clones with three-year lifespans and memories inserted from another person.
  • Advertised Extra: Due to the limited number of characters, Kaya Scodelario as teenage Eve receives top billing despite having only a minute or two of screen time. To a lesser extent, Dominique McElligott, who plays Tess, is only seen in a handful of flashbacks and videos.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Subverted excellently. The production sets up GERTY as a close cousin of HAL 9000 from 2001, and seems to be keeping a terrible secret from Sam. In the end, however, GERTY was programmed to help Sam, not protect the mining operation. When Sam begins to figure things out, GERTY helps him do that as well.
  • Artificial Gravity: Outside the base, gravity on the lunar surface is appropriately low, but inside the base, it appears to be standard Earth gravity. The DVD commentary admits this was done for practical reasons.
  • Artistic License – Space:
    • An early version of the film poster (such as the one on this page) carries the tagline "950,000 miles from home, the hardest thing to face... is yourself". The Moon's distance from Earth varies between about 226,000 and 253,000 miles over the course of its orbit. Later posters fixed the distance to 250,000 miles, and given this fact it might have been a simple Tyop on the Cover.
    • Along the same lines, Earth as seen from the Moon in actual lunar photographs is nowhere near as big as it appears in this film.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Sarang.
  • Asteroid Miners: Although the Moon is a tad bigger than the average asteroid.
  • Backup Twin: A whole warehouse of identical backup clones, in fact. (A scene from Mute suggests there were a total of 160, counting the four who had died before the start of the movie.)
  • Base on Wheels: The helium-3 harvesters are large, mobile mining vehicles that is big enough to house the truck-sized moon rovers.
  • Big Sleep: The clones think they're being put to sleep for the trip back to Earth. Well, they're half right.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The pre-recorded "sleep chamber" technician says "goodbye" in Korean — but the way he says it implies that it is the speaker (the tech) who is leaving, and the listener (Sam) who is staying behind.
  • Bits of Me Keep Passing Out: As a result of Clone Degeneration.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sam 1 succumbs to the Clone Degeneration, but Sam 2 escapes back to Earth and the mashup of newscast voices heard before the film cuts to the end credits imply that he successfully exposed Lunar Industries' evil scheme, and Mute confirms it.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Happens to Sam 1 when his body begins to break down.
  • Brain Uploading: Sort of. Sam has "memory implants" — "uploaded, edited memories of the original Sam Bell." We're not sure what or what doesn't get uploaded though.
  • Cabin Fever: Sam has this; he's been talking to himself and seeing weird things. He appears to initially believe that the new Sam is this.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Sam may have a three-year contract, but he isn't really meant to go home. Ever.
  • Cassette Futurism: Downplayed in the sense that it still does contain technology that is very much 21st century. However, it still plays through in the sense that many of the equipment are large, bulky, rugged and used which is akin to many real-world mining industries. Justified as the location is set on a mining installation.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: Staged satellite failure and the fact that Sam's stationed on the far side of the Moon prevents real-time contact with Earth.
    • It turns out that this, too, is staged - and one of Sam #2's last actions on the moon is to disable the signal blocker, allowing any future Sams to utilize the Live Feed instead.
  • Clones Are People, Too: Both clones act like normal human beings, despite Lunar Industries' treatment of them.
  • Clone Degeneration: Each clone breaks down after three years. The DVD commentary states Lunar Industries figured three years was the longest they could expect someone to "want" to work on an isolated Moon base, so they designed the clones to last just that long. The company probably did this also in order to ensure that each clone doesn't live long enough to start explore the base more thoroughly and possibly find out the truth. It leads to use of Blood from the Mouth and I'm Cold... So Cold....
  • The Computer Is Your Friend: GERTY subverts this, despite initial appearances to the contrary.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Lunar Industries appears to be run by them. They apparently have no moral qualms with creating a reserve army of slave labour and covering it up back on Earth.
  • Creepy Monotone: GERTY's voice isn't quite monotone, but it's always very mild and soothing. It's only the fact that he's a robot in a sci-fi story (and his resemblance to a certain other famous AI) makes him seem untrustworthy to the viewer.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: More or less averted. Things don't end well for Sam 1, but they weren't going to anyway.
  • Cyber Cyclops: GERTY sees the world through a HAL-esque camera lens, but he speaks to Sam through a digital smiley face that changes through a variety of simple expressions. Yields an unsettling contrast between the caricatured simplicity of his avatar and the unfathomable, expressionless eye.
  • Deadly Euphemism:
    • The "rescue team" and "return vehicle".
    • Being "put to sleep" for the return ride home.
  • Deface of the Moon: We see more than one shot of the tracks the harvesters are leaving behind. They're on the far side of the Moon to avoid visibly defacing the Moon from an Earthbound perspective, and to avoid confusing wildlife.
  • Discovering Your Own Dead Body: Inverted when the older clone agrees to die in the rover crashed against the harvester so the newer Sam can escape to Earth in the transport while the newly activated clone stays at the base.
  • Double Vision: The classic split screen shot, Over the Shoulder, and some fancy computer effects all get used.
    • In one scene, the Sams play Ping Pong with each other, in one long locked-off side-on shot of the table. This is a throwback to the style of shot used in earlier Double Vision movies, in which double exposures put two instances of the same actor on screen at once, but confine them to their own respective halves of the screen. However, the Sams' Ping Pong game subverts audience expectations by having each clone cross into the other's half of the screen over the course of the shot.
  • Dying Alone: Alone, and isolated on the far side of the Moon, and with the knowledge that your entire "life" is a sham. Ouch.
  • Economy Cast: To the point it borders on Minimalist Cast. The only character we really see "live" in shot is Sam — everyone else appears on a video screen or in a flashback, is a robot, or is in a silhouetted suit. If it wasn't for Kevin Spacey's voice acting, this would be a film starring one person. (And Spacey's voice was added in post-production.)
  • Faking the Dead: Not exactly "faking", but Sam 1 volunteers to be left in the crashed rover, so that the "rescue team" wouldn't realize Sam 2 was escaping.
  • Fanservice: We see Sam in the shower. Special mention goes to the many gratuitous shots of Sam's rear end.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: The first sign of Sam 3 waking from stasis is the twitching of the fingers of his right hand.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first scene, Sam is wearing a shirt that says "Wake me when it's QUITTING TIME."
  • Funny Background Event:
    • We get occasional brief glimpses of GERTY's back; looking closely reveals a Post-It note reading "Kick Me". Sam 2 makes a point of removing it after giving poor GERTY a forced reboot.
    • The base has readouts for four harvesters. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Luke, which is broken-down during the entire film, has been crossed-out and "Judas" written-in.
  • Granola Guy: Three years of solitude has apparently turned Sam from a Hair-Trigger Temper hothead to this.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Sam #2, and he knows it.
    • Early on:
      Sam #1 (On Sam #2): He's really angry. He actually kind of scares me.
      GERTY: What is it about Sam that scares you?
      Sam #1: How he flies off the handle! I can see it now. I see what Tess was talking about.
    • And later...
      Sam #2: I've got a temper. I need to do something about it.
      Sam #1: Yeah, you do.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Both Sam and GERTY, in some form. Sam 1 sacrifices his life, and GERTY his memory, to allow Sam 2 the chance to get home.
  • Hollywood Healing: Early on in the movie, Sam burns the back of his hand when he turns the water on too hot and puts a bandage on over it. After he crashes the rover, the bandage inconspicuously disappears. Subverted in that it's actually Freeze Frame Foreshadowing to there being more than one Sam; when Sam 2 retrieves Sam 1 from the crash, Sam 1 still has the bandage on. Sam 1's head injury is also another clue towards this.
  • Homage: According to creator Duncan Jones, he deliberately tried to recreate the look, style, and feel of classic sci-fi films such as 2001, Silent Running, Alien, and his childhood favorite Outland, taking its Race Against the Clock stake.
  • Human Popsicle: This is what the "Return Vehicle" is supposed to be. And how the unawakened clones are kept.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: GERTY needs to get Sam to erase his memory and reboot him.
  • Info Dump: A commercial at the beginning establishes why Sam is on the Moon.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • At the beginning of the film, Sam wears a shirt that says "Wake me when it's QUITTING TIME." It is later shown that every Sam clone is equipped with one of these shirts. The phrase itself is a pretty sick joke. Each clone will be woken up when it's "quitting time" for the previous one.
    • The use of "I Am the One and Only" as his alarm is pretty sick, too. At first it was poetically fitting because he is literally alone on the station, but it later becomes ironic with the revelation of the true nature of the job.
    • Early on in the film, Sam comments in a video message about how he's been talking to himself. Later on, he literally does.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Sam #2 and GERTY. Sam #2 even tears the "Kick Me" post-it note off of him before leaving as a sign of respect.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sam #2 has a terrible temper. Sam #1 used to be like this before he moved to the base.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: The "rescue team" is sent in to retrieve the corpse of Sam 1 from the lunar rover, and to kill Sam 2 if they think he found out about it.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Several of them. Actually, most of the score is like this, but there are a few parts that make it more prominent.
  • Matching Bad Guy Vehicles: Due to the "Eliza Unit" being an extermination team sent to kill the two Sam clones for knowing the truth, the space vehicle they use to arrive on the base is black.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of the lunar base, Sarang, means "love" in Korean and "nest" in Malay.
  • MegaCorp: Lunar Industries.
  • Mind Screw: Everything seems just fine until Sam reaches for his space suit...
  • Minimalist Cast: Sam, GERTY, and Sam are the only characters on-screen, outside of pre-recorded videos and hallucinations, until close to the end of the film.
  • Mirror Match: Sam 1 and Sam 2 brawl several times. The effect is unsettling.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: GERTY was programmed to be helpful. The company probably didn't realize GERTY would be that helpful.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Sam comes to realise that he and GERTY are more similar than he first assumed.
    Sam: GERTY, we're not programs. We're people. Understand?
  • The Other Darrin: In-universe. Not exactly used, but the Trope Namer is referenced. At one point we see a clip of Bewitched being played, where two characters are discussing Darrin. Darrin was, of course... replaced.
  • Peace & Love Incorporated: Lunar Industry Ltd. is the biggest supplier of clean helium-3 energy to 70% of the world. They even name their main base on the Moon Sarang, Korean for "love".
  • Pompous Political Pundit: The film had a talk radio host who sounded a lot like Rush Limbaugh at the very end (after Sam returns to Earth in an ore hopper, and supposedly tells the world what happened to him up there), who ridicules Sam's story thusly:
    You know what, he's one of two things. He's a whacko or an illegal immigrant. Either way, they need to lock him up. Line two!
  • Posthumous Character: Tess is revealed to have been dead for some time.
  • Race Against the Clock: There's even a timer to when the "rescue" team arrives.
  • Red Herring: GERTY is intentionally designed to resemble 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000 (right down to the Creepy Monotone) so that the audience immediately suspects that he is evil. In fact, he is the closest thing that the Sam clones have to a friend, and he ultimately helps Sam 2 escape the lunar station to start a new life on Earth.
  • Retirony: Sam has two weeks left before he can go home to his wife and baby daughter, and then the rover crash occurs... which leads to him learning that he's actually a clone with implanted memories, "his" wife is dead, "his" daughter is now a teenager whose entire childhood he missed and who's being raised by a different fathernote , and his "retirement" involves his being incinerated and replaced by a new clone.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Yes and no. While GERTY takes the form of a mobile entertainment center with two disembodied arms, he also appears capable of genuine human emotion, to the point of a comforting shoulder rub. He can't lie worth a damn, though he does have a "shifty eyes" emoticon to show when he's "thinking" about something.
    • And for some reason, his creators actually saw fit to provide him with a depressed/teary-eyed emoticon.
  • Robot Buddy: GERTY plays the trope to somewhat creepy effect with his monotonous voice and suspiciously placating demeanor, but in the end, he really is just there to help Sam.
  • Say Your Prayers: Sam 2 does it towards the end when he's inside the pod that will take him to Earth, before he has a realization and stops the doors to go set up a harvester into crashing and un-jamming the direct communications for the next Sam.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Episodes of Bewitched and The Mary Tyler Moore Show are played on a TV set.
    • Sam tending plants and the relationship he has with his Robot Buddy GERTY are nods to Silent Running.
    • The moon base has an octagonal corridor based on the one seen in the Discovery ship from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which also featured the A.I. HAL 9000, who served as an inspiration for GERTY.
    • Sam hallucinating his grown up daughter prior to the accident is meant to homage Kris Kelvin seeing manifestations of the people he knew in Solaris.
    • Sam 2 mockingly calls Sam 1 "Geppetto" when the latter is more focused on crafting the wooden model village instead of listening to him.
    • Sam's clones, being artificial humans with a very short lifespan and implanted memories, are inspired by the Replicants from Blade Runner.
    • Outland has been the biggest influence on this movie for being one of Duncan Jones' childhood films: the look of the spacesuits and the Alien-esque Used Future aesthetics, the mining operation for a callous MegaCorp, and more overtly the Race Against the Clock aspect of Sam having to hurry before a "rescue unit" (in reality a clean-up team sent to kill both Sam clones and restore the status quo in the base) arrives with a large screen on the wall indicating the time running out before its arrival, and the one member of the Eliza Unit that we see onscreen being an astronaut carrying a rifle like Ballard when he goes outside to try kill O'Niel.
  • Shown Their Work: The DVD commentary mentions several things:
    • The model-miniatures were filmed at a frame rate calculated to simulate one-sixth gravity when played back at normal speed.
    • The computer-generated dust and debris from the harvesters are likewise animated to reflect the lower gravity and lack of atmosphere.
    • They're harvesting on the far side of the Moon to avoid changing the reflectivity of the Earth-facing side, which might mess up nocturnal wildlife on Earth.
    • The base is so rugged because it was built using lunar materials. Very little of the building materials were actually flown up from Earth.
    • The rescue ship's design reflects the need to pick up harvesters for repairs.
    • Earth is visible when Sam makes his video-phone call to Earth because he had to drive the rover around the curve of the moon to get line-of-sight for radio.
  • Space Is Noisy: Mostly averted. Wide exterior shots on the Moon are mostly silent. We do hear some noises in close-ups — the engine noise of the rovers, rocks falling in the wake of the harvesters, hatches opening, and so on — but this could be justified in that they have the POV of a human in a pressurized compartment.
  • Space Isolation Horror: The protagonist is stuck on the far side of the Moon all by himself, with very little communication with the world and the claustrophobia starting to drive him loopy... this is before finding out just how horrifying the Corrupt Corporate Executive cabal he works for truly is (without going into spoilers, suffice to say he's more expendable than he expected to be).
  • Stealth Pun: Sam is the man in the Moon.
  • Stock Footage: The "commercial" for Lunar Industries at the start of the film contains mostly stock footage because the indie film production couldn't afford anything else.
  • Straw Man Political: The radio Talk Show host at the end is implied to be the conservative version. The final line of the movie is, "You know what, he's one of two things. He's a wacko or an illegal immigrant — and either way, they need to lock him up. Line two!"
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: For the story to unfold, the evil-corp aiming to capitalize on clone slave labour has to ignore several glaring security holes. The worst of these is the misbehaving (to their standards) AI. Others include inadequate isolation of the workforce from restricted areas, inadequate isolation of communication channels, inadequate surveillance measures, etc.
    • GERTY's behavior seems to be the result of the classic security blunder, "security through obscurity." GERTY's programmers made no active attempt to restrict or lock up the information that Sam is a clone, beyond arranging events to make it unlikely Sam would ever think to ask about it. (If he has every reason to believe himself to be the original Sam, he has no reason to say, "Gerty, am I a clone?")
  • Tears from a Stone: Sort of. After GERTY tells Sam the truth, his emoticon becomes a sad face, and then sheds a few crudely animated tears. Important in that it's the first sign that GERTY genuinely cares about Sam.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Not quite, but Sam is very nearly spaced when the rover crashes and is depressurized. Luckily, he gets his helmet on in time.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Sam's discovery that he is in fact a clone.
  • Took a Level in Kindness:
    • Sam used to be quite aggressive, but his three-year solitary stint on the Moon made him a milder person. The newly awakened Sam 2 shows exactly how prone to anger Sam 1 used to be.
    • Sam 2 himself grows nicer as the film progresses; by the end, he's willing to stay on the Moon to give Sam 1 a chance to escape to Earth and never once considers taking the storage pod for himself until Sam 1 suggests it.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Sam starts losing his teeth (and vomiting blood) as his short-lived clone body breaks down.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer shows two Sams, though it does not provide any sort of indication of the actual plot twists. However, it's cut alongside several clear hallucinations, making it look like Sam is either trippin' balls or some sort of Solaris thing is going on.
    • The tagline similarly spoils and conceals the plot, as "The hardest thing to face... is yourself" is a clear reference to Sam's cloning, but could also be more of an existential crisis he's going through due to being isolated for so long.
  • Typeset in the Future: The film features Eurostile (and particularly Eurostile Bold Extended) throughout its set design and on-screen UI.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Subverted. After the initial crash in the rover, we see Sam wake up in the infirmary with Gerty telling him he crashed. Since Gerty and his robotic arms seem to be confined to the base, the audience is left wondering exactly how was Sam's unconscious body recovered from the crash site. Turns out it wasn't, and Gerty is talking to a different Sam about a different (fake) crash.
  • Unobtainium: Helium-3, which is actually abundant in the lunar regolith and is considered a plausible energy source.note 
  • Used Future: GERTY and the mining equipment.
  • Vader Breath: Heard at times when Sam is in his spacesuit/rover.
  • Video Phone: Sam is watching and receiving video messages. Once he finally escapes the jammers, he can use a Video Phone live.
  • The Voice: We never see the real Sam Bell, we only hear his voice offscreen.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Of the Blood from the Mouth kind. Yes, that's a tooth.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Sam is essentially a biological robot that is mass-produced and disposed of when each model is no longer useful.
  • Which Me?: Sometimes happens in Real Life analysis of the movie, as Sam 1 and Sam 2 are actually the fifth and sixth clones to be revived. Earlier drafts of the script actually called them "Sam 5" and "Sam 6", but the filmmakers switched to "Sam 1" and "Sam 2" to make things clearer. And either way, "Sam 1" is still a clone; there's a regular human who came first, called "Original Sam" by the filmmakers.
    • During the ending's Info Dump, "Sam 2" is explicitly referred to as "Clone 6", though.
  • You Didn't Ask: Implied with GERTY. For example, GERTY never even hints Sam is a clone until Sam actually asks him point blank if he's a clone or not. Even then, the first time a Sam asks the question, GERTY responds by changing the subject.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Sam says this exact phrase to GERTY once. GERTY responds with his smiling face!
  • Your Days Are Numbered: The clones are designed to die after three years.

Wake me when it's quitting time...


Video Example(s):


GERTY tells the truth

After having a run-in with a clone, Sam starts to question if he's the real Sam Bell. GERTY then confirms his doubts.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / TomatoInTheMirror

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