The Astronaut's Wife

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The Astronaut's Wife
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rand Ravich
Produced by Andrew Lazar
Written by Rand Ravich
Music by George S. Clinton
Cinematography Allen Daviau
Edited by
  • Tim Alverson
  • Steve Mirkovich
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date
  • August 27, 1999 (1999-08-27)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$75 million [1]
Box office$19.6 million [1]

The Astronaut's Wife is a 1999 American science fiction thriller film directed and written by Rand Ravich. It stars Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron.


The film was released on August 27, 1999. It received negative reviews from critics and was a box office bomb.

This was Samantha Eggar's final film appearance before her retirement in 2012


Spencer Armacost (Johnny Depp) is an astronaut working for NASA, and his wife Jillian (Charlize Theron) is a second-grade elementary school teacher. While he and Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes) are walking in space on a mission there is an explosion that knocks out their communication with the command center.

They land but when their spouses arrive to see them they are in the hospital; both asleep until they recover. Armacost eventually wakes up without problems, but Streck has a medical emergency requiring him to have an electrical cardioversion. Neither speak about the in-flight emergency. Armacost accepts a position with a New York-based company, McClaren. At a farewell party, Streck's aggressive behavior catches Jillian's attention before he suddenly dies from what NASA attributes to a stroke. At the Streck house Natalie Streck (Donna Murphy) electrocutes herself in the bath with a radio.

In New York at a party, Jillian asks Spencer to tell her about the space walk incident. He answers while he starts to make love to her. At home he makes aggressive love to her. She finds out she is pregnant, and at an ultrasound discovers she is having twins. She tells the doctor that earlier in her life, after her parents died, she sought psychiatric care because she started to see her loved ones dead, including herself.

Sherman Reese (Joe Morton) has been terminated from NASA because he continued to insist that something was wrong with Spencer, though all tests came back normal. Reese confronts Jillian to warn her, and she leaves in fear, wanting to believe he is crazy but knowing he is right about Spencer being different. Jillian calls Reese and he tells her that Natalie was pregnant with twins at the time of her suicide. Jillian asks what the autopsy showed about the twins and Reese tells Jillian that he needs to meet her in person to show her. Spencer intercepts him, and he goes missing. As a backup plan, he has sent her a key to a self storage locker that has a VHS video cassette that explains that there was a signal in space near Spencer and Streck when they lost contact with NASA. He believes the signal was an alien that wanted to get to Earth and traveled as a sound wave through space, taking over Spencer's body. He believes it will use her twins to pilot the McClaren plane that it is designing that disables warfare machinery. Jillian attempts a medical abortion but is thwarted by Spencer who slaps her. She throws herself down a flight of stairs and wakes up in the hospital. Spencer tells her that the twins survived the fall and intimidates her to keep her mouth shut about what happened.

In a dream, Jillian sees her sister, Nan (Clea DuVall), killed by Spencer when she questions why he has Reese's briefcase. Jillian leaves the hospital on her own but Spencer follows her because of his connection with the twins inside her. At home, Jillian barricades the door and goes into the room where she dreamed her sister was killed. She sees her body on the floor, but then it is gone, presumably a vision. When Spencer breaks his way into the apartment, she has flooded the kitchen floor with water, with a radio in the sink and an extension cord plugged into the wall. She holds the ends of the cords in each hand and tells Spencer to stay away from her. She notices bloody nail marks on Spencer's hand and she knows that her sister really is dead, as she dreamed. She tells Spencer she does not know who he is, that he killed her sister and her husband. He tells her he did, and that he lives inside of her now. Water begins pouring down from the ceiling, as Jillian turned on all of the water in the bathroom upstairs. Spencer is engulfed in the water, Jillian lifts her feet off the wet floor, connects the cords and electrocutes the alien. The alien leaves Spencer's body and transmits into Jillian.

Jillian has remarried and her twin sons are off on their first day of school. Her sons look back before boarding the bus with a look on their face before they smile and are on their way. Jillian assures the stepfather that he is now their father.



Box office

The film was a box office bomb. Domestically, it grossed $4 million in its opening weekend, and finished with $10.7 million; it made an additional $8.9 million in foreign markets, bringing its total box office gross to $19.6 million. [1]

Critical response

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 15% based on 59 reviews, with an average rating is 4.26/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Despite the best efforts of its talented leads, The Astronaut's Wife moves at a snail's pace and fails to generate enough intrigue to keep viewers engaged." [2] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 37 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". [3] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D" on an A+ to F scale. [4]

Joe Leydon of Variety wrote, " Rosemary's Baby gets an extraterrestrial twist in The Astronaut's Wife, an aggressively stylish but dramatically flaccid drama that plays like an upscale reprise of a '50s sci-fi potboiler," [5] while Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly rated it C+ and wrote, "The movie is far from incompetent; it simply has too few surprises to justify its indulgent atmosphere of malignant revelation." [6] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the direction is better than she expected but the writing is "ridiculously derivative," [7] while Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle stated, "The movie might not be perfect, but it deserved better than to be dumped into theaters. I rather enjoyed it." [8] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times described it as "a moderately diverting thriller that builds suspense and entertains effectively". [9]


The Astronaut's Wife was nominated for Best Film at the Sitges - Catalan International Film Festival in 1999.

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  2. "The Astronaut's Wife (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  3. "The Astronaut's Wife". Metacritic . Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  4. "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Astronaut" in the search box). CinemaScore . Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  5. Leydon, Joe (1999-08-30). "Review: 'The Astronaut's Wife'". Variety . Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  6. Gleiberman, Owen (1999-09-03). "The Astronaut's Wife". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  7. Maslin, Janet (1999-08-28). "'The Astronaut's Wife': After a Space Jaunt, He's Odd, But Still Loves His Wife". The New York Times . Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  8. LaSalle, Mick (1999-08-28). "'Astronaut's Wife' Almost a Blast / What's a woman to do when her husband returns from space an alien?". The San Francisco Chronicle . Retrieved 2015-06-16.
  9. Thomas, Kevin (1999-08-30). "Movie Review : Theron's at the Controls in 'Astronaut's Wife'". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2015-06-16.